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International takes over Sparrows Point union, ousts its president

National union plans to liquidate Local 9477's property. Assets include over $400,000 in cash. A BREW EXCLUSIVE.

local 9477 building

The Steelworkers Hall on Dundalk Avenue was the scene of a coup by national union officials.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW), has placed the local representing Sparrows Point and other unemployed Baltimore steelworkers under “administratorship” – and ousted all but one local official.

Last Thursday, Joe Rosel Jr., president of Local 9477, was escorted out of the main hall at 540 Dundalk Avenue by Baltimore City police – after Rosel attempted to enter his office.
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FULL TEXT OF GERARD’S LETTER BELOW
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Rosel was told not to return to the building by James Strong, subdistrict Maryland director of the USW, according to multiple sources. Since RG Steel declared bankrutpcy last May, Rosel led efforts, ultimately unsuccessful, to find a new operator for the steel mill.

The International has not announced its takeover of Local 9477, nor provided any information to members about the status of the local, which had represented 1,800 steelworkers at Sparrows Point and about 250 workers at satellite facilities, all of whom have lost their jobs.

Despite the veil of secrecy, The Brew has obtained a letter from Gerard declaring that the Pittsburgh-based International planned to “close out the affairs of the Local and eventually cancel its charter” over the next few months.

$400,000 in Cash

In the letter, Gerard declared that all elected local officers “are hereby suspended from Local Union office” and “an Administratorship is established over the affairs and property of the Local Union.”

Leo Gerard confers with RG Steel CEO V. John Goodwin last year when Sparrows Point was still operating. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Leo Gerard (right) confers with RG Steel president John Goodwin last year when Sparrows Point was still in operation. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

This procedure allows the International to take over the assets of 9477 which, sources tell The Brew, include more than $400,000 in cash (mostly from members’ dues) plus two buildings.

The local owns 540 and 550 Dundalk Avenue situated on 3.2 acres of land. The buildings and land are assessed at $2.1 million.

The buildings were opened in 1952 and 1958 when Sparrows Point was the largest steel mill in the world and employed more than 22,000 unionized workers.

They have been used as membership halls with offices and facilities for banquets, prizefights and other events.

“Turn Over All Records”

Gerard and Strong told five elected officials  – Rosel, vice president Chris MacLarion (who had earlier resigned), treasurer Eddie Bartee, recording secretary Sandy Wright and zone committeeman James Blankenship – to “turn over all records, property and effects of the Local Union that are in your possession or control.”

Financial secretary Mike Lewis has been retained by Strong, together with two secretaries who will be paid a salary from local funds. One of the secretaries, Audrey Rossi, is married to International staff representative Frank Rossi Jr.

Gerard said the International was “winding down the Local’s affairs” because “it is the experience of the International that workplace closings and the associated rapid loss of membership creates significant stress within Locals.”

He said that the decisions necessary to close down a local are “often difficult for Local Union Officers with understandably strong emotional ties to a workplace and a Local Union.”

No Reflection on Performance

Gerard added: “Allow me to emphasize that the imposition of this Administratorship does not reflect in any way on your performance as officers.”

Joe Rosel was a longtime representative of the International at Sparrows Point before he was elected local president last April in an election supervised by the U.S. Department of Labor, which had filed charges against prior Local 9477 officials for violating labor election laws.

Rosel’s effort to find an operator for Sparrows Point after the mill was sold to liquidators last August is known to have been an irritant to the International, which had agreed to the discharge of the RG Steel workforce – both at Sparrows Point and at mills in Ohio and West Virginia – with little pushback.

Because the Steelworkers constitution requires a hearing before an administrative takeover, USW staff representative Denny Longwell will conduct a hearing this Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the union’s Sub-district office at 7939 Honeygo Blvd. in White Marsh.

Union Services to End

The five ousted union officers were told they were “welcome and encouraged” to attend the hearing and “present any information regarding the placing of Local 9477 under Administratorship.”

There has been no notification of the hearing to the membership of Local 9477. “This is all just for show,” asserted one well-informed member, saying the administratorship will allow the International to strip the local of its assets without any say by local members.

Another source told The Brew that, with the removal of local officers, members will no longer receive any services from the union regarding their pensions, health benefits or other issues tied to their former employment.

Jim Strong did not return a phone call today seeking comment about the Administratorship. Rosel and other former 9477 officials did not respond to a request for comment.
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“In Solidarity” – FULL TEXT OF GERARD LETTER TO LOCAL 9477 OFFICERS:

 

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  • doyoutrustrg

    All the union members served by Local 9477 should attend the meeting at Honeygo Blvd Weds. at 9:00 for information and a rally, not just the officials who were invited. That’s part of the reason we were rolled over on, we didn’t ” STAND UP FOR STEEL” and certainly were less than well informed!

    • bocephusjr

      I agree! People should stop complaining on facebook and the Brew and start standing up for their rights!!!!! A VERY large group of members should attend and let the International throw us out just like they threw out the elkected representatives!  Shame on you Jim Strong.  Who the F—K  do you think you are? Didn’t WE pay your salary. You’re the one that should be fired for the incompete job that you have been doing!!!

  • molteniron

    Are you telling the membership we are STILL paying two secretaries their full salary? The international is no better then RG-Steel. No one is working at Sparrows Point and paying any dues and we still have two secretaries doing what may I asked? OH that right, its MRS Rossi wife of Frank Rossi the staff rep. Go figure!  Why hasn’t the membership been notified about this hearing? I’m going…the question is… are you going??? JIM STRONG why do we need him. Stop stealing the local $$’s. Close up shop.

  • bocephusjr

    All of that money was made by Steelworkers that worked at the Sparrows Point Plant.  It belongs to the Steelworkers in the State of Maryland. Why did the International sell us down the river so quickly?  Do you think that that was their plan all along.  Strong is getting pretty good at shutting things down. Lucky for the Baltimore Zoo employees, they decertified from the International union. Strong shut down Breyers Ice Creme… He’s batting zero!!! He is a zero!!!@

  • unioncaught

    The gang of six paid union reps took as much money as they could for themselves before the international came in. This gang of six was elected In April on hope and change. Instead in May after massive layoffs, they remained in their cushy office jobs making huge salaries. Their President Joe Rosel was always asking for more money from the membership hinting that he is in talks with a potential buyer. His gang sat there quietly hoping the motions would pass in order for them to bleed the treasury dry even more. The international should have acted on these misdeeds many months ago. There is no justification to have Mike Lewis who is part of this gang representing the membership in anyway. He was only a financial secretary for a couple months before the shutdown. What is needed is a Federal Investigation on our local, Let’s hope the Federal Bureau of Investigation goes over these books to make sure none of these so called union officials had any wrong doings. 

    • bocephusjr

      JCirri the Justice Deparment investigated you for corrupt elections, so I’m sure the Federal Bureau of Investigation would like to investigate you for using your position to have company paid coordinators come to your house and put on siding, new windows and build you a new deck.

    • LV5491

      Who do you think was going to try to help you if you didn’t have a local union? Unioncaught you are a very lonely person.

  • stopusernames

    What a damn shame. Mark Reutter was once a fine reporter who made sure he had all sides of a story before he published. That’s not what he is doing here. In his heart he knows that. But some steelworkers are reading his posts and blogging all over themselves, so Reutter keeps writing. A couple months ago, on the Mark Steiner Show, Reutter said Joe Rosel was ”delusional” for thinking the plant could be saved. Now Joe is suddenly Reutter’s champion because Rosel supposedly was fighting for a future for the plant, but the big, bad International wanted to shut it down. Garbage, Reutter and The Brew.

  • BigBossman1

    Sitting back with a Big Grin on my face

  • My2Cents69

    Nobody read the last part of the article i guess. It’s the most important detail. YOU ARE POSSIBLY LOSING YOUR PENSIONS AGAIN!  Wake up and fight back. Guys that lost their pensions before went back to work to build up a little something so they can retire and are you telling me that they wasted their time again? We need more info on this.

    Anyone that has a big grin on their face should be ashamed and should not comment here. NOBODY WINS, NOT EVEN YOU!.  Thousands have lost their career and pensions and what makes you happy? Nothing you say can and will make any sense. I read the whole article. All I see is sadness. Read below taken from the article….

    “members will no longer receive any services from the union regarding their pensions, health benefits or other issues tied to their former employment.”

    If this happens AGAIN and the US government does AGAIN but continues on with the agenda that people who work need to get free shit……Its all downhill from there!!! 

  • Mark Adams

    Why did Baltimore City Police get involved in the union’s removal of local officers? Have they replaced Pinkerton?

    • baltimorebrew

      We were told they were called in by the USW Subdistrict people – that’s to protect them from the local’s own president.

      FYI: City police were also stationed around the union hall last August when the union informed steelworkers that their jobs at Sparrows Point were lost. There were no incidents or arrests in either case.
      -MR

    • williamsway

      Balto. City Police got involved because the union hall is in the Cities jurisdiction. Mentioning “Pinkerton”….you sure do go way back when you mention that name.

  • Barnadine_the_Pirate

    “Because the Steelworkers constitution requires a hearing before an administrative takeover, USW staff representative Denny Longwell will conduct a hearing” a week AFTER the administrative takeover.

    Interesting interpretation of the word “before.”

  • unioncaught

    Some of the gang of six are finally speaking up against the international.  There isn’t one local union official that listened to the members concerns about the international signing away all our agreed benefits. These local union reps made nearly $1000 a week while their members were in welfare lines and facing foreclosures. What was this gang of six doing besides trying to get jobs with the international this whole time. Now some of this gang are upset they were not hired by the international.

    • LV5491

      Did you speak Up or Just Complain? You Do alot of complaining but what do you do to help the situation?

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