USW takes over Local 9477
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 12:25

Control of the USW Local 9477 union hall at 540 and 550 Dundalk Ave. has been taken over by the USW international. photos by Roland Dorsey

Local officials are removed; police intervene

by Nicole Rodman

The United Steelworkers (USW) international union, parent organization of USW Local 9477, has placed the local union  under administratorship.
    Under the terms of the administratorship, the international union has taken control of the union hall at 540 and 550 Dundalk Ave. and removed all but one local union official.
    According to Jim Strong, subdistrict Maryland director of USW, local 9477 financial officer Mike Lewis, as well as two clerical workers not affiliated with USW, have been retained to help collect records and handle financial obligations.
    Local 9477 president Joe Rosel Jr. was reportedly escorted from the Dundalk Avenue union hall last Thursday after attempting to enter his office.
    According to Baltimore City Police Department Public Affairs Officer Detective Jeremy Silbert, on Feb. 14 officers responded to the union hall “for a report of an individual acting disorderly.”
    According to Silbert, the individual, whom he did not identify as Rosel, was removed from the location but not arrested.
    For his part, Rosel had no comment when contacted by The Eagle.
    In addition to Rosel, Local 9477 treasurer Eddie Bartee, recording secretary Sandy Wright and zone committeeman James Blankenship were also removed from their positions.
    Vice president Chris MacLarion had already resigned at the time of the takeover.
    In a letter to Local 9477 officers obtained by The Baltimore Brew, USW president Leo W. Gerard wrote that USW is taking over the local because “it is the experience of the International that workplace closings and the associated rapid loss of membership creates significant stress within Locals.”
    He added, “Administrative procedures necessary to close out the affairs of the Local ... are often difficult for Local Union Officers with understandably strong emotional ties to a workplace and a Local Union.”
    Gerard also noted that “the imposition of this Administratorship does not reflect in any way on your performance as officers.”
    In remarks to The Eagle on Tuesday, Strong explained that the decision to take over the local union was not made in haste.
    As Strong explained, according to USW policy, once a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) Notice is issued, USW usually takes over the local union.
    As per U.S. Department of Labor regulations, a WARN Notice is issued within 60 days of a plant closure to alert employees that a plant is closing and layoffs are imminent.
    In the case of the former  RG Steel mill, a WARN Notice was issued on May 24 of last year.
    As Strong explained, however, USW held off on taking over Local 9477 at that time to allow time for RG Steel, the union or, subsequently, new owner Hilco, to find a new operator.
    “There was still some hope a new owner would come in,” Strong said.
    On Dec. 12 of last year, it was reported that North Carolina steelmaker Nucor had purchased the steel mill’s cold mill facility and was planning to move its equipment elsewhere, effectively ending hopes that the mill would return to operation.
    It was at that time, Strong explained, that the decision was made for USW to take control of the local union.
    Placing Local 9477 under administratorship, Strong retained one local official, financial officer Mike Lewis, to help wind down operations at the union hall.
    According to Strong, the hall holds 60 to 70 years of records that USW must preserve or destroy before closing down the facility.
    Strong indicated that some of the records may go to the University of Pennsylvania. He has also been working with retired CCBC Dundalk labor studies professor Bill Barry, who has shown interest in the records.
    Other documents containing sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, will be destroyed.
    Other obligations, including previously arranged hall rentals, will also be honored before the union hall is closed for good.
    “I have instructed Mike [Lewis] to continue to do what we’ve normally been doing,” Strong explained.
    Strong was also quick to explain that, despite the takeover, the union will still be assisting former steelworkers with such issues as pension claims and benefits information.
    “We are still going to be assisting our members,” he said, noting that the main difference now would be that he himself will have to authorize all expenditures.
    As for the $400,000 in the local union’s account, funds have been placed into an escrow account.
    While there is no timeline for closure of the hall, the property will likely eventually be put up for sale, Strong noted.
    For his part, Strong noted that he grew up in Baltimore and, while he never worked at Sparrows Point, he is sad to see it go.
    “It’s tragic that it happened but it has happened,” he said.
    As the USW constitution requires a hearing prior to an administrative takeover, a hearing was set to be held at the USW subdistrict office at 7939 Honeygo Blvd. on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m.