To the Editor:
Last week, I received a request to contribute to the “Steel Legacy Project,” sponsored by Tradepoint Atlantic, the developers of the former Bethlehem Steel site and the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
I support any effort to preserve memorabilia and memories of the mill where tens of thousands of us proudly worked, many even sacrificing their lives and health to feed their families and make high-quality steel.
But, as this project commences, I wonder what lessons we will draw from the history that is collected. Way too often, the history of working folks is seen as unconnected to the present. So, the struggle of workers to survive unsafe jobs and meager wages and benefits—even as the corporations they work for amass excessive profits—is relegated to yesterday, as is the struggle to organize unions and engage in political campaigns to better the conditions of working families.
Amazon is now filling part of Bethlehem’s footprint. In 2018, the company accumulated $11.2 in profits but paid no taxes. Inside its “fulfillment” center at Tradepoint Atlantic, built with nearly $11 million in tax breaks and direct assistance from Maryland and Baltimore County, workers are stretched thin and not even expected by the employer to last three years due to the stresses and demands of the job.
So, for workers at Amazon and other companies setting up shop at Tradepoint Atlantic, organizing unions and winning a more level playing field with employers is not a battle to be commemorated in a museum. It just might be the difference between a decent future and a return to the conditions challenged by our forefathers and commemorated in the legacy project.
Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees