USW continues to wind down Local 9477 affairs
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:29

Dundalk Avenue union hall site set to be sold

by Nicole Rodman

    After the closing of the Sparrows Point steel mill last year, the United Steelworkers (USW) international union took control over the USW Local 9477 in February, placing the local union chapter under administratorship.
    As part of the arrangement, the international union also took over the union hall at 540 and 550 Dundalk Avenue.
    At that time, most of the Local 9477 officials were removed, with the exception of financial officer Mike Lewis, who was retained to help with preserving records and dealing with financial obligations.
    Since that time, union officials, including Lewis and Jim Strong, subdistrict Maryland director of USW, have worked to close out the affairs of the Local 9477 and prepare the hall for eventual sale.
    According to Strong, who spoke with The Eagle last Wednesday, USW is still in the process of going through the 60 to 70 years worth of records at the Dundalk Avenue steel hall.

Strong noted that, while financial records are being retained, records pertaining to the history of the local union will be sent to the USW archives in Pittsburgh.
    As the local union’s business is being wrapped up, financial obligations are also being dealt with.
    While the local does have money still in the bank, Strong explained that these funds are being used to pay the bills that continue to accrue.
    “We have a tremendous monthly liability in maintaining the hall,” Strong said, noting that the gas and electric bill alone comes to about $10,000 per month.
    In addition, he noted, USW must continue to pay phone bills, property taxes and the salaries of the two remaining employees working to close out the local union’s business.
    While USW does take in a small amount of income from continued hall rentals, most of the funds to cover these expenses come from the local union’s bank account.
    Once the local union’s business is concluded, Strong explained, any remaining funds will be put into escrow.
    As for the Retirees of Steelworkers United Local 9477, which meets at the union hall, Strong noted that USW has committed to providing or paying for a location for the group to meet for the next five years.
    As Strong indicated, this could include finding a new home for the retirees’ group or selling the union hall on the condition that the group continue to be accommodated.
    As USW winds down business at the local union hall, it is looking toward the eventual sale of the buildings.
    As Strong explained, the timeline and terms of the sale will be determined by the international USW headquarters in Pittsburgh.
    “I know that we have a real estate company on retainer,” Strong said, explaining that USW will eventually contact the real estate company to begin the sale process.
    As Strong indicated, there has been some local interest in the union hall, though there have been no formal discussions.
    Among those making inquiries into the property was a local longshoremen’s union.
    Another group that had inquired into use of part of the union hall property was Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).
    Americorps NCCC is a federal service program  for young people ages 18 to 24.
    Last December, Americorps opened its new Atlantic Region Campus training center in the former Sacred Heart of Mary School building.
    As hundreds of new members will be training  at the facility located in a residential area with little available parking, Americorps is seeking a satellite parking lot where members can park and be shuttled to the Sacred Heart facility.
    According to Americorps representative Sam McKenzie, Americorps inquired about using part  of the union hall parking lot as satellite parking.
     “The price wanted for the lot was way more than  anticipated or could be accommodated,” McKenzie said, declining to disclose the price quoted.
    According to Strong, Americorps had been in talks with Local 9477 officials prior to the takeover by the international union.
    It was the local union that provided a figure to Americorps, he explained.
    While he did have discussions with Americorps after administratorship, he noted, no deal was made, as Americorps was looking for a longer-term lease than the union could accommodate.
    “Our plans are to wind things down and put the property up for sale,” Strong noted.
    As for how the presence of asbestos in the Dundalk Avenue union hall buildings will affect a potential sale, Strong was unable to say how the international union will handle the issue.
    “We know that’s an issue there,” he said, noting that he could offer no further information.
    Strong also offered an update on the potential relocation of the memorial to steelworkers who died in workplace accidents at Sparrows Point.
    The monument is currently located outside of the union hall on Dundalk Avenue.
    Strong indicated that he will be meeting with a number of people this week, including representatives from St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church in Edgemere and a park in Old Dundalk, to discuss possible sites for the monument.
    Once the monument is relocated, Strong noted, there will likely be a rededication ceremony at the new site.
    As Strong explained, “We want to make sure that the monument is located in the right place, so that it can be preserved.”