Inland Steel: Paternalism to GlobalismEvolution of the Organization of Maintenance Work at a U.S. Basic Steel Facility By Mike Olszanski Paper for L515 Work Restructuring Indiana University Northwest Fall, 2007
Olszanski 1 Thesis This analysis of an Indiana Harbor, Indiana integrated basic steel mill aimsto shed light on the evolution of the organization (and reorganization) of work inthe U.S. steel industry over the last century. From a family run, single plantoperation to a cog in the global wheel of trans-national steel giant Arcelor/Mittal,the Inland Steel facility on Lake Michigan has seen the implementation of many ifnot most of the various theories of work organization over the one hundred plusyears of its operation. As a union shop from its earliest days, the Inland mill wasthe home of the largest, most independent and one of the most militant locals inthe United Steelworkers of America (USWA, now the USW) Local 1010—oftencalled “The Red Local.”1 Though Inland was in some ways unique—a one-plant,family-run operation with an independent, militant Local Union adversary formany years, it is in many ways typical of the large vertically-integrated basic steeloperation that dominated U.S., and for many years world steel production duringthe 20th century. My analysis here utilizes the perspective gained in 33 years experience as amaintenance electrician at Inland steel and 20+ years as a union activist. I havefocused on the work I have done and know best at Inland—maintenance. I was anelectrician (Motor Inspector, Technician, later Inspector) in the #3 Cold Strip Millfor 31 consecutive years, from 1966 to 1998. From 1970 until 1998, I also servedas an elected local union representative in various capacities, including GrieverSteward, Executive Board (12 years) Vice President and President. I was alsochair of the first Environmental Committee at Local 1010 and an elected delegateto every biennial USWA Constitutional Convention from 1976 until the localstopped electing delegates in the early 1990’s.
Olszanski 2 I witnessed the end of the era of the internal labor market at Inland, andseveral stages of the reorganization of the work force. Changes in the maintenancedepartment mirrored to some extent the work changes implemented throughout themill, and the industry, and furnish specific examples of work restructuring atInland. Work restructuring produced dramatic productivity gains at Inland Steel,specifically in the 1980’s and 1990’s. A central fact emerging from this research isthat while steel capacity, production and sales rose, peaked and then leveled offaround 1980, the number of workers producing steel at this facility dropped to lessthan ¼ of its former number. As this analysis will show, Local 1010, from the organizing days of the1930s a militant, independent minded and left led local, was brought into line byUSWA leadership in the 1950’s cold war red purge, experienced a brief resurgenceas a leader of the Fight Back in the mid 1960’s and again in the 1970’s and 1980’s,but since 1988 was once again brought under the control of a largelycollaborationist USW International leadership, which has lacked the ideology orthe will to contest management’s drive to downsize the workforce and intensify thework. Thus a factor of some consequence in the rationalization, or what mightmore accurately be called destruction of the work force at the mill considered hereis the union response, or more accurately lack of response to management’srestructuring of work. By accepting without challenge the principles ofdownsizing the workforce through "attrition" and reorganizing work through the"team" concept, the union assured a dwindling membership in basic steel and aconsequent reduction in its own power.
Olszanski 3In addition, the abrogation by the steel companies of the earlier wages/productivitybargain meant the stagnation of real wages in basic steel, though productivityincreased several fold from the 1950s to the 1990s. And with the rejection of anykind of working class ideology, shorter hours as an antidote to unemployment wasswept aside as an important goal in collective bargaining. Thus the hugeproductivity gains in steel in this country of the past half century were largelygobbled up by hungry capitalists, rather than being distributed in any meaningfulway among the workers who produced them.2 While work restructuring has accelerated in today’s “global” economy, thebasis for management attempts to wring more surplus value out of the workers isas old as capitalism itself, and strategies employed by today’s capitalists hark backto the days of Adam Smith, and certainly were understood by Karl Marx and V.I.Lenin, as well as more recent political economists like Harry Braverman. Thatunion leaders knew, or should have known that much of this was coming fiftyyears ago goes without saying. That their self-imprisonment within the ideologicalorthodoxy of capitalism as an “end of history” prevented an effective response tocapital’s newly aggressive global neo-liberal assault on workers is understood by afew serious observers like Braverman, Alan Howard and others. How manyworkers and local leaders understand how and why restructuring has been andcontinues to be done is impossible to know. One can only work to raiseconsciousness whenever and in whatever manner is possible.
Olszanski 4 History , Philosophy, Myth On October 30th 1893, a year after Andrew Carnegie and his henchman Frickhad beaten the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AA) at theinfamous Homestead Steel Strike, Inland Steel Company was incorporated.Perhaps encouraged and emboldened by the crushing defeat of the AA inPennsylvania, Inland founder Joseph Block put up the initial investment, andJoseph E. Porter was the company’s first president. Block, who had amassed hisinitial capital in the used railroad equipment business, installed old steam boilersand a well-used engine from the defunct Chicago Steel Works at its new ChicagoHeights, Illinois Plant and Inland began converting scrap steel rails into farmimplements the following year—the same year the City of East Chicago, Indianawas chartered. The Heights plant employed 300. In 1901, the Lake Michigan Land Company, in order to stimulate localbusiness, gave Inland 50 acres in East Chicago, Indiana to build a steel mill. By1902, the sprawling Indiana Harbor Works on Lake Michigan was pouring steelingots, and in 1907 “Madeline” #1 blast furnace (named after Joe Block’sdaughter) poured the first pig iron in Indiana.3 Rather than pay constructionworkers on the blast furnace the prevailing wage, Inland built them a bunkhouseand hired a cook. Paternalism started early at Inland. By World War I (1918)Inland employed over 5,000, had produced a million tons of steel and was worth$57 million.4 Unique among U.S. steel mills, Inland would remain a Block familycontrolled company with one huge integrated basic steel mill at East Chicago andcontinue the old frugal habit of buying used and obsolete equipment for its mills onthe cheap, for a hundred years. Also unique in its sales approach, Inland cultivated
Olszanski 5small, specialty customers largely overlooked by the giants U.S. Steel, Bethlehemand the others, and boasted for many years that no order was too smallto fill in an expedited manner. Inland’s loyal customer base would reciprocate,seeing it through the depression of the 1930’s in fine shape. Advocates of management science and the nascent human relations schoolof personnel management, the paternalistic Blocks were employing corporatewelfare plans early on. A company doctor and on site emergency room tended tomill casualties from 1908 and Inland instituted its own safety department,awarding gold watches for safety suggestions. There was a Company relief andinsurance plan and a company picnic was instituted in 1910, the Inland FellowshipClub to “assist the unemployed” in 1914, a Christmas bonus in 1915 and a profitsharing and pension plan in 1919. U.S. Steel, employing welfare capitalism underthe so-called “American Plan”—designed to keep out unions—had establishedcompany paid pensions for its employees in 1911.5 Inland built employee housingas early as 1906, and the 100 home Sunnyside subdivision for supervisors in 1920.6Jack Morris and other Inland historians have argued that the Block family’s Jewishreligion motivated them to treat their employees well, but I can find no evidencethat working conditions at Inland were at any time superior to those at itscompetitors.7 In fact, when I sat on the 1977 Local 1010 negotiating committee, Ifound that Inland employees were well behind Bethlehem, U.S Steel and others interms of local working conditions. Employees of Inland’s competitors for yearsenjoyed pay for apprentices time in school, personal tools paid for by the company,and larger overtime meal tickets. Thus 1977 contract negotiations, and therevelations of Inland’s penny-pinching management considerably eroded the mythof Inland as a better or more compassionate employer than the rest. Years later,
Olszanski 6when I interviewed fellow maintenance employees, they were split on the questionof whether the workers had it better when the Blocks ran Inland. In any event, paternalism apparently did not satisfy the exploited andoverworked employees of Inland Steel. The AFL’s AA organized Lodge 56 atInland prior to the 1919 steel strike. To try to break the strike, organized byWilliam Z. Foster of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) William Z. FosterInland brought in Mexicans from the Texas border area. The strike was lost andthe Lodge survived but was weak and ineffective. Inland launched an EmployeeRepresentation Plan (ERP) or Company Union, but in June 1936 AA members andthe majority of the hourly workers joined the Congress on Industrial Organization(CIO) newly formed Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC) becomingSWOC Lodge 1010. At Lodge1010 “All members were organizers’” as BillYoung put it.8 Forty years later union veteran Young described the feeling at1010 when SWOC launched the first strike for union recognition against “LittleSteel” including Inland: “…after years of meeting secretly in the basement of anundertaker…the day of salvation came…when we walked out of the mill.”9 In 1926, the harbor Works was electrified, under the direction of electricalengineer Wilfred Sykes, who was made president in 1941. In 1928, Clevelandfinancier Cyrus Eaton tried to combine Inland and Youngstown Sheet & Tube tochallenge the corporate dominance of U.S. Steel. The deal failed.10 In 1935, Inland broke a then standing rule among steelmakers by"integrating downward"—acquiring Joseph T. Ryerson & Son steel service centerwhich stocked, warehoused and sold steel products. Quick delivery of small ordersmade Inland/Ryerson the supplier of choice for small customers, who kept Inlandafloat during the great depression of the 1930s, when other steel producers
Olszanski 7foundered.11 Inland in fact invested millions in new hot and cold rolling sheetmills during the 1930s, including new 76" and 44" hot strip mills, 72" and 44" coldstrip mills, annealing and pickling facilities. The expansion and modernization wasdirected by Sykes, who anticipated the "lean and mean" concept of workorganization by 50 years: "I like breaking in a new plant in a depression," he said."Theres nothing like it to whip your organization into shape."12 During thedepression years the Blocks claimed that "Every effort was made to provideemployment for as many of our men as possible," though wages were cut 10% in1931. The jointly funded "Good Fellowship Club" helped laid-off Inlanders "indistress," thus establishing the long-lasting myth of the extended Inland "family."13By December of 1941, Inland was producing 3.5 million tons per year of raw steelwith 14,000 employees. With the onset of World War II, the U.S. government built two 1,200 tonBlast Furnaces (Madeline A & B) and two coke batteries on Inland property—owned by the Federal Government but operated by Inland. This was to increasesteelmaking capacity to feed the Allied production of war materiel—particularlytanks built across the canal at the Cast Armour plant. After the war these wereturned over to Inland free and clear. Inland also acquired the Cast Armour plant,which became Inland Plant #4. A kind of corporate welfare was thus exploited byInland management to profit greatly from WWII.14 It was 1946—after the war—before Inland replaced wheelbarrows withmechanized payloaders and forklifts and Inland still utilized steam engines until1958, according to Morris.15 Though Michael Tennebaum, later an Inlandpresident, had patents on the phenomenally more efficient and productive basicoxygen furnace (BOF)16 steelmaking process in the 1950s, Inland built the last
Olszanski 8open hearth furnace in the country in the 1950s—once again employing obsoletetechnology in the face of the global modernization of steelmaking. It was duringthe 1950s and 1960s that the Japanese industrial dynamo would build its hugemodern steel mills and begin to outstrip U.S productivity by leaps and bounds.Inlands first BOF was completed in 1966, its second in 1973. The "heat" (batch) ofsteel that took six or eight hours to make in an open hearth, is produced in 50minutes in a BOF. Its first continuous caster started up in 1972, well behind mostof the industry. Number 3 Open Hearth shop would close in 1986, one of the last inthe country, featured in the Jean Shepard film, “The Phantom of the Open Hearth.17 1978-1979 were banner years as Inland produced 8.6 million tons andshipped 6.2 million in a year, while employment peaked at over 25,000 at theHarbor Works. But management was already complaining about Japanesesteelworkers productivity beating ours by a large margin. While Inland wouldfinally begin to modernize, it would be intensification of work that would drive theturn around of those statistics in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1980, Inland built the largest blast furnace in the world, #7, on 750 acresof Lake Michigan land fill. Using slag and waste from steelmaking, thrifty Inlandhad extended its property far out into Lake Michigan, creating its own land forexpansion. In September of 1996, #7 set a North American iron production record,pouring nearly 308,000 tons for the month. It produced 3.7 million tons of iron in1997. With state-of-the-art technology as well as economy of scale, it wouldproduce enormously more iron with fewer workers than any of the older blastfurnaces still in operation—9,500 tons per day, or as much in an hour as Madeline#1 produced in a day. The department’s union workers, led by leftist griever JoeFrantz would file grievances and launch a publicity campaign to try to win an
Olszanski 9incentive rate increase that might at least distribute a little of the gains to theworkers. Ironically, in a couple of years, Joe left Inland when he, and severalhundred more electricians were laid off.18 Part of the myth of the extended Inland "family" persisted for many years,especially among management—types, though the passing of top managementfrom the hands of the Blocks to those of professional head-hunters like the golden-parachutist Sandy Nelson, and the purging of management and supervisory ranksin the “Organizing for Excellence” (OE) manpower reduction campaign of the1980’s disabused most supervisors of their illusions about their place in the Inland“family.” The revocation by management of ISC Procedure No. 151.1, whichcontained a “salaried employment continuity provision——a promise of jobsecurity ‘in the wake of the Accelerating Total Quality (ATQ) work—reductioninitiative.’” of the 1990’s—sent new shock waves through the ranks of supervision.Explaining that “Employment continuity isn’t consistent with that requirement [tocut costs] because no possibility can be overlooked if Inland is to achieve world—class performance levels,”19 Inland renewed its commitment to downsizing theranks of supervision while dramatically illustrating the worthlessness of itspromises. From a peak of nearly 19,000 in 1979, Local 1010’s membership wouldfall to under 9,000 before the end of the 1990’s.20 In 1996 Inland Steel Industries Chairman Bob Darnall cited the importanceof Inland people in assuring the company’s success, and lauded us forimprovements in performance, while in the same breath he warned of moredownsizing, saying “the company has to look at all the options, including reductionof the workforce.”21 It had been different under the Blocks, or at least it hadseemed so, according to 32 year Inland veteran Electrical Technician Greg Saboff:
Olszanski 10 The Christmas parties and picnics. As a child I remember going to those and looking forward to working at Inland Steel. For our family it was: Number 1, the U.SA; Number 2, Inland; Number 3, wife and children --in that order. When I started I had that family feeling about it, instead of that cold, cruel industrial complex that it is today. The Blocks, or whoever was running their P.R. did that.22Thirty year electrical inspector Ernest Hardin agreed: There was a humanitarian trait about the Blocks which is no longer here. These days, they piss in your face and try to tell you its rain,23Also in agreement was Steve Ruschak, Electrical Technician with 38 years service:“The Blocks believed in a little bit of employer-to-employee loyalty.”24 By 1996,Inland’s philosophy according to 27 year mechanic Art Lorenzen was to“demoralize and eliminate workers.”25 “They apply true Taylorism,” said 25 yearmechanical Inspector Marty Popagain, “…decentralize and demoralize. Theyappear to have no long term goals—everything is short term.”26 Janitor EfusZeman, who’d been at Inland over forty years claimed the philosophy at Inlandhadn’t changed: “ Nothing’s new, here. It’s always been the almighty dollar. Theynever cared about the people.” 27 The work culture at Inland had clearly changed by the 1980’s. Charlie Page,with whom I worked for twenty years, retired at age 49, with thirty years service.“I’d have stayed longer,” he told me on his last day, “but it just isn’t any fun anymore.” 28 “I just hate coming to work any more,” is the way 27 year Electrician JackTauber put it, “every day they’re changing things—for the worse.” Jack has aspecial reason to resent Inland’s cost cutting philosophy. In 1983, management
Olszanski 11notified 222 bargaining unit (union) employees, who had already scheduled theironce in five years thirteen weeks vacation (arguably the best benefit The USWAever negotiated) that they had recalculated their entitlement date, and they wouldnot in fact qualify for their thirteen week vacation. Jack was one of them. He hadalready made plans and bought tickets for the best vacation of his life. He nevergot it. In 1983 contract negotiations, Inland demanded and got wage and benefitconcessions from the USWA, for the first time in history. The thirteen weekvacation was one of them.29 That same year, steelmaking capacity at HarborWorks was cut 30% (about 2.7 million tons/year) by shutting down olderequipment. But the remaining 6.3 million tons per year would be more fullyutilized, and the IN Tek and IN Kote joint ventures starting in 1989 would addback 1.5 million tons/year of very high value-added sheet and galvanized stripsteel, made with incredibly small crews of workers utilizing the very latesttechnology. 30 As was mentioned Inland employed 25,460 in 1979, of whom almost 19,000were members of (USWA) Local 1010—the largest local in steel. By 1993, theyhad cut the workforce in half, and were shipping 4.8 million tons of higher valuespecialty steels, with greatly improved "prime yield" and much less waste.31 In1995, Inland shut down the 100 year old 100” Plate Mill, and shipped it off to amuseum. The relic had run continuously all those years, with only brief downtimeto replace the huge manila ropes that coupled it’s ancient wound rotor electricmotor to the mill. A main duty of the Motor Room Tender (electrician) assigned tothe mill for all of those years was to pour 50 pound bags of potash into a huge “sliptank” filled with a potash & water solution that functioned as an enormous resistorcontrolling the speed of the 1890’s vintage AC motor.
Olszanski 12 And as CEO Bob Darnell said in 1996, the work force cuts were far fromover. Through its maintenance program, “IMPACT” recommended by consultantsFluor Daniels, who charged Inland millions to apply Taylorist time study methodsto maintenance mechanics and electricians, Inland hoped that “…through attritionthe company can reduce its craft workforce” still further, “to levels that arecompetitive with other steelmakers.”32
Olszanski 13 Work Organization at Inland Steel: 1940’s to 1980’s An integrated basic steel mill like Inland brings in iron ore, limestone andcoal at one end, and ships finished steel plate, structural shapes, cold rolled(sometimes galvanized or tin-plated) strip, and other specialized steel products outthe other end. In Inland’s case, as in Ford’s, vertical integration extended beyondiron and steelmaking proper, as the Blocks acquired a fleet of Lake Michiganshipping vessels, its own iron ore mines in Minnesota, and coal mines in SouthernIllinois. Inland Ryerson in Chicago warehoused and shipped finished steelproducts. At the Harbor Works, between 25 and 31 Departments, from the Coke Plantsand Blast furnaces where iron was produced, to the Open Hearths (later moreefficient Basic Oxygen Furnaces) where it was turned into steel, to the ElectricFurnace and Structural (Bar and Shape) Rolling Mills, to the Hot Rolling and ColdRolling Sheet Mills where the steel was finished were manned by employeeswhose seniority rights were for many years tied to their departments.33 Withindepartments, seniority sequences tied workers to a craft or production job ladder.This departmental seniority was used effectively by management to maintain botha racial and a sexual division of labor in the company. In order to transfer fromone department to another, an employee would forfeit any sequence anddepartmental seniority she34 had accrued, and basically have to start at the bottomof the sequence seniority ladder. This discriminatory seniority system wascodified in the Collective Bargaining Agreements negotiated with the USWA. 35 Itwas well known that the hot, dirty departments like the coke ovens were mannedprimarily by African Americans, the track gangs were mostly Mexicans, and therelatively clean finishing mills were almost all white. When white women were
Olszanski 14hired during World war II, most of them went to the Tin Mill—a fairly decentdepartment, relatively. When I first hired at Inlands Blast Furnace in 1963, the electrical sequenceconsisted of Helper, Motor Inspector 2nd Class, Motor Inspector Standard andLeader. One learned the craft on the job, and promotions were basically bysequence seniority. The Helper job, which consisted largely of changing light bulbsand repairing light fixtures throughout the department, was also known as LampTrimmer, a throwback to the days of kerosene lanterns. An apprenticeship wasestablished in the mid 1960s, with Inland and the USWA not in agreement overtesting for promotion. Training for apprentices would be largely financed by theFederal Government through the Manpower Development and Training Act of1962 (MDTA). Once again, Inland management proved itself not above takinggovernment assistance, even in times when profits were good. 36 The #3 Cold Strip Electrical sequence, where I worked from 1966 until Iretired, employed Motor Inspector Standards (MI’s, job class 18) Mill ElectricalControl Operators (MECO’s, job class 20) and Electrical Technicians (ET’s, jobclass 24). The apprenticeship agreed to with the USWA in the mid-1960’s addedseven more steps to the electrical craft, Vocational Motor Inspector (VMI) VIIthrough I (7 through 1) with lesser job classes and lesser pay. VMI’s were requiredto complete 2 years (four semesters) of the Purdue/Inland Electrical Trainingprogram, where classes were run at Purdue University Calumet Campus morningsand evenings to allow for swing shifts. The program was modeled on Purdue’sElectrical Engineering Technology (EET) major, and gave the apprenticespractically the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree in EET. As mentioned,government funding helped pay the bill. In addition to maintaining a passing grade
Olszanski 15at Purdue, VMI’s took a step test every six months in order to promote to the nextlevel. A third year of the Purdue/Inland program, concentrating in electronics, wasadded for training of MECO’s and Technicians, who were promoted based onwritten tests, seniority, and openings. An expansion was underway in #3 Cold Strip Mill in the mid 1960s,including a new Temper Mill, hot dip Galvanize Line, Shear Line, Recoil Line andAnneal. The electrical sequence doubled in size to keep pace. In practice, when Ihired into the department in 1966, Technicians were long service employees withthe most training, experience and ability, and acted as “crew leaders.” They seldomleft the motor room (electrical control house), issuing line-ups to the MECO’s,MI’s and VMI’s and answering trouble calls only of the most technical naturewhen called to assist the others. MECO’s were, in an older parlance “Motor RoomTenders” who also stayed in the motor rooms watching the operation of electricalequipment unless called to assist the MI’s and VMI’s. VMI’s were sent to answertrouble calls first, and called for help from MI’s when they needed it. Fromclimbing long flights of stairs to service overhead cranes, to searching for brokenwires in slimy, muck-filled basements, VMI’s did the nasty work. Though thenewest and usually youngest employees got the dirtiest, hardest jobs, we couldalways look forward to promotions, and with them, higher wages and easier,cleaner (though technically more challenging) work. “Seniority,” as I once told anew-hire, “looks better and better the longer you stay in the mill.” Part of theimplicit “bargain” offered Electricians (as well as other crafts and productionworkers) by Inland in these years was, do the hard, dirty work for low pay now,learn the craft, and you will be rewarded in your later years. Technicians typicallystayed well past the 30 year retirement age, many well past 40 years service.
Olszanski 16 Inland’s Internal Job Market Driving into work at Inland on Cline Avenue sometime in the late 1980’s, Iwas stunned by a billboard, declaring something like, “Join Inland Steel: A Job ForLife.” The advertisement was stunning because by that time it was an anachronism—something from out of the forties or fifties or sixties. Inland implemented itsinternal job market before the first contract was signed with the union. By the timeI went to work in the mill in 1963, the implied bargain described by Stone, Kerr, etal was a tradition: lifetime job security and a pension in return for thirty years ormore of loyalty to the company.37 The bargain was in fact codified in theCollective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Inland (and in fact all the basicsteel companies) and the USWA. Pay grades were based on a job ladder clearlyspelled out in a Manual of Job Descriptions and Classifications mutually agreedupon by the company and the union. Seniority promotional sequences assured thatover and above consideration of various qualifications like education, trainingand/or ability, length of service was the primary determining factor in moving upon the job. During my 33 years at Inland, I saw the Company strive to erode theprimacy of length of service, and the union struggle—albeit sometimes half-heartedly—to maintain it. The bargain with the employees had at some point intime become increasingly seen by management as an unwanted and unneededburden in its drive to become more competitive in a global steel market. AndInland’s bargain with the USWA—increasing productivity and industrial peace forunion recognition and increasing wages and benefits—was increasingly seen asunnecessary as the union, and the labor movement of the USA got smaller andweaker. By the 1980’s, when some out-of-touch publicist had the out-of-daterecruiting billboard erected, Inland was “rationalizing” “downsizing” seeking wage
Olszanski 17concessions from the union for the first time since the inception of collectivebargaining, and certainly not hiring except perhaps some electricians needed toreplace those few too many let go in its overambitious and overreaching drive toachieve absolute minimum maintenance crew size. The apprenticeship plan wasterminated in 1983. They had cut the maintenance work force a bit too deeply, andneeded to hire from the street perhaps a hundred or so. A similarly out-of-touchpublisher lauded Inland Steel as one of the 100 best employers to work for in 1984,when downsizing was eliminating supervision as well as bargaining unit (union)jobs at an ever-increasing rate.38 Incentive pay plans, based on tonnage produced by a unit (an individualrolling mill, furnace, or department) were negotiated with the union, beginning inthe 1940’s. Three full time local union officers dealt specifically with theadjustment and enforcement of job descriptions and classifications, base rates andincentives throughout the Harbor Works. The Job Description and ClassificationManual was a long and detailed document. It spelled out in minute detail thespecific criteria, such as training, education, physical difficulty, environmentalfactors like heat, etc., that were used to determine the pay grade attached to a job,and it relative position on the job ladder. More radical union members and officersof the local over the years—myself included—insisted the incentive plans hadalways benefited the company more than the employees, though the unionstruggled to police the incentive plans and minimize company abuses. Impassesover incentive disputes sometimes resulted in “frozen” plans, sometimes to thebenefit of certain groups of employees, more often to the detriment of othergroups. While operating personnel were on “direct” incentive plans, with higherrates, maintenance people, because our work did not directly influence output
Olszanski 18tonnage, were on “indirect” plans at considerably lower rates. The #3 Cold StripMaintenance employees (electrical and mechanical) were on an incentive plan thathad been frozen at around 10% (a very low rate, relative to that paid to productionand other maintenance employees) for the 31 years I worked there, due to anunresolved dispute with the union. Such a low percentage rate, especially whenfrozen, no longer functioned in any meaningful way to motivate maintenanceworkers. Inland always had its share of “rate busters” and “speed kings”. Attempts tocut crews on high incentive production units often induced soldiering on the part ofmany employees, but rate busters divided groups and prevented organized slowdowns from being effective. Of course slow-downs and work stoppages of anykind have been expressly forbidden in all USWA contracts from the 1940’s on, andunion representatives are responsible contractually to take affirmative action toprevent such job actions. From the 1970’s on the company cut crews relentlessly.
Olszanski 19 Union Response: 1010, The Red Local From its birth in SWOC days, Lodge (later Local) 1010 was organized andlargely led by leftists—primarily old Socialist Party, Trotskyist, and CommunistParty followers. As Needleman points out, it was “During these years of contractlimbo, Local 1010 gained its reputation as the most militant local, ‘the red local,’the anti-international local.”39 The local acquired the tag “the red local” early on,and it stuck throughout the 40’s and 50’s. This meant a constant tension betweenthe local and USWA District 31 and International leadership. It also meant that ifthere was to be a fight-back against the increasingly dramatic speed up, jobintensification, automation and job elimination practiced by the U.S. steel industry,much of it would be centered at Inland steel, where the battle lines were drawnbetween management and the red local. Both before and after the USWA negotiated contracts with Inland,workers and rank & file local union leaders employed direct shop floor actionto settle issues. During the 1940’s Philip Nyden describes an ethos in which,“The men thought nothing of stopping work and letting gondolas full ofmolten metal hang in mid air. In these situations, the rapidly approachingdanger that [the molten metal would solidify and] production would beinterrupted …acted as a time clock forcing the company to bargain with theworkers [and settle departmental grievances].”40 Yale scholar WillTanzman, quoting Nyden, describes this strategy as “ ‘instant strikebargaining’ negotiating with the threat of instant, small scale wildcatstrikes.”41 But in 1947, the USWA under Murray and District 31 Director JoeGermano put an end to wildcats at Inland. When Tin Mill workers struck
Olszanski 20over grievances, in violation of the contractual no-strike pledge, Inland firedthem all, with the full concurrence of the USWA International. The cold warand the USWA’s purge of militants and “reds” was underway. From 1953 to1964, conservative administrations brought 1010 firmly into the Internationalleadership’s camp, and the Local’s independence and militancy werebrought in check. 42 Nationally, the USWA would call strikes repeatedlyduring the 1950’s to gain wage and benefit increases including defined benefitpensions and medical insurance, but Local 1010 and the rest of the union’slocals and rank & file members would serve mainly as foot soldiers, withlittle input into the strategies employed or the long-term goals sought by theunion. The last industry-wide strike in steel, in 1959, staved off companyattempts to eliminate Article 2 Section 2 of the Inland CBA (2-B in the U.S.Steel Contract) that protected local working conditions or “past practice.”This language was later weakened, and in any event proved to be ineffectivein protecting crew sizes and preventing the combination and elimination ofjobs. In the Blast Furnace in the 1960’s supporters of 1010 president andaccused Communist John Sargent, head of the Rank & File Caucus at 1010,jokingly called each other “comrade” in the face of severe red-baiting ofSargent and the Rank & File. Opponents advised me to steer clear of the“commies.” A 1965 Local 1010 contract negotiating committee headed bypresident Sargent and Grievance Chair Jim Balanoff refused to sign the CBAapproved by the USWA International. It went into effect just the same.43
Olszanski 21 By 1971, I had joined the Rank & File Caucus, then led by Grievance ChairJim Balanoff. I was elected to the Local 1010 Executive Board in 1976, whenBalanoff’s Rank& File swept the election. The Balanoff administrationeffectively ended the second nearly ten year collaboration between 1010administrations, the USWA International, and Inland. The 1977 contractnegotiations, which for the first time included a right to strike (on local issues only)went down to the wire, including a strike authorization vote. Negotiated by alargely neophyte but militant 1010 committee including Jim Robinson, Mike Mezoand James Ross, the Local Agreement signed in 1977 was printed in a separatebooklet and distributed to every Local Union member. It contained significant,though essentially non-monetary improvements in local working conditions.Inland, as well as USWA International domination, was once again beingchallenged by Local 1010’s leadership. When Balanoff was elected Director of District 31, Vice President BillAndrews became the first African American president of the local. Inexperiencedbut quick to learn, Andrews at first enjoyed the strong support and advice ofBalanoff, as well as a cadre of experienced and militant trade unionists. During these years, there was little concern that Inland would “move”—youdon’t just pick up a blast furnace and move it to Mexico or Taiwan. And sinceInland had only one huge basic steel facility, they could not make money if it wereshut down. Therefore, the USWA and Local 1010 were in a relatively powerfulposition vis-à-vis Inland. Unfortunately, the International USWA leadership didnothing to exploit Inland’s vulnerability while it had the chance. Local 1010’sRank & File leadership behaved relatively aggressively, but was severely limiteddue to the USWA’s exclusive right to approve all agreements.44
Olszanski 22 In the mid 1980’s Rank & File steering committee members Cliff Mezo,Mike Mezo and Jim Robinson, citing what they said was a drift to the right ofpresident Bill Andrews, split off from the caucus, forming a new “Steelworkers”Caucus.45 While they vehemently denied it, the split was seen by the members aslargely racial, their motivation largely opportunistic, at least by those who stayedwith the Rank & File. I was elected Vice President in 1985. When President BillAndrews resigned to take a staff job with the USWA International in 1987, I tookover as local union president, as well as Chair of the Rank & File Caucus. Within a week of taking office as president of Local 1010 in 1987, I wascalled by Inland’s second in command in Labor Relations (I’ll call him Bill) whowanted to “get better acquainted, and bring [me] up to speed, on his vision of theteam relationship" which the company and union were supposedly cultivating.Within five minutes he was offering to fly me and “three or four of your guys” upto Michigan in the company jet for the weekend. I declined. Within three monthshe was offering a week in Japan at company expense. Dead set against the use ofunion office for personal gain, and especially the cooptation it engendered, I turnedthat one down too. This individual was unbelievably hypocritical. When agrievance committeeman was suspended for alleged “insubordination” whilediscussing a grievance with his foreman, I asked for an expedited hearing to clearup the matter, which was causing an already overloaded grievance procedure togrind to a halt, waiting to see whether in fact Inland could fire a unionrepresentative for contractual union activities. “Bill” refused, saying normalprocedures (which could take months) ought to suffice in this case. In the sameconversation——nearly in the same breath— he asked me to attend a “team”meeting with an Inland customer. Amazed in spite of myself at this outrageous
Olszanski 23doubletalk, I took nearly a minute to regain my composure. I then responded bysuspending all joint committee meetings until the union rep was back to work.“Gee, I’m sorry you feel that way,” or some such idiocy was “Bill’s” reply.“Bill” had been known by union representatives throughout his years with laborrelations as less than honest. His word was not to be trusted. With Bill, you wereadvised to get it in writing, and check the fine print. His nick-name was “snake.”Shaking his hand made you feel like washing yours afterward. When the top job inLabor Relations opened up in the early 1990s, Inland management had anopportunity to demonstrate the sincerity of its efforts to build a cooperativerelationship with the union. Bob Castle, whose qualifications for the job wereequal or superior to “Bills” (most felt he was the best arbitration lawyer Inlandever had) was also highly respected by all who knew him as a man of unquestionedhonesty and integrity. His word is his bond. “Bill” got the job, sending the loudand clear message that Inland’s idea of cooperation was really cooptation andchiseling . Castle subsequently left Inland for a lower paying job with a competitor.No one who had any dealings with Inland Labor Relations could fail to recognizethe message top management was sending to the union. It resounds throughout theharbor works to this day. Inland’s version of company union cooperation and participation teams wascalled “Gainsharing,” and included bonus money to grease the wheels. I was deadset against it, and had made my views clear from the beginning. I became presidentjust as the first departmental Gainsharing plan was coming up for a vote in theCoke Plant. My good friend James Ross, Coke Plant griever was supporting theplan, and expressed to me his view that the workers could “take the money andrun,” without conceding anything the company wanted in return. I tried to talk him
Olszanski 24out of it, expressing my view that such “team” efforts were anathema to the union,and would weaken and perhaps destroy it. We knocked heads on the issue, and thevote came down against it—by a razor thin margin of less than one vote. I hadinsisted on a 2/3 vote if I were to approve it, since the secret ballot includedsupervisors and non-union clerks as well as union members. At least nogainsharing plan would be implemented on my watch. In 1988, Inland approached the union and requested negotiations be openedon a proposal for fundamental work rule changes in what they said would be a newbar mill in Plant #4. Threatening to shut down The 10", 21" and 28" Mills, #2Bloomer and the Main Roll Shop, management offered to invest $70 to $100million in a state-of-the art Shape Products Division to produce "world class"structural and automotive steel. They wanted three things the local and themembers felt we could not give them: A re-opening of the contract before it hadexpired, a separate and significantly different contract for the new Shape Productsdepartment, and concessions on work rules, job combinations and eliminations,seniority and wages. They wanted a "skill-based" job reorganization featuringOperator/Repairman. Reaching consensus among all the union representatives ofthe affected departments, along with a nearly unanimous vote of the members fromthe affected departments, we refused to negotiate. A couple of months into histerm, my successor, Mike Mezo reversed this position and approved a newagreement for Shape Products that installed work rule changes designed tocombine and eliminate more jobs. The new investment went in at Plant #4.46 Losing a close 1988 election to Mezo, I was challenged for chair of theRank & File Caucus, which I held on to for a couple of years, handing it off to
Olszanski 25Rudy Schneider in 1991 when he ran for 1010 President. Within 2 years, the Rank& File caucus virtually dissolved. It had fallen victim to a combination of racialdivisions, lack of an influx of “new blood” (no new hiring for ten years) frustrationand lack of leadership, for which I must assume some of the blame.47 With the demise of the Rank & File Caucus, I believe it is fair to say thatLocal 1010’s leadership took a turn another to the right. Without a loyalopposition, the Mezo “Steelworkers” Caucus has elected many of the top officerswith little and sometimes no opposition for the past 19 years, and has raised nopublic objection to the USW International’s strategy of appeasement andcollaboration.48 Former 1010 Rank & Filer Jim Robinson now heads USW District7 (formerly District 31) and has been anything but critical of USW leadership. When crew cutting came to #3 Cold Strip Electrical in the 1990’s I was onceagain a griever steward and filed grievances. But the consensus among officers ofthe Local 1010 grievance committee, as well as the USWA staff representative,was that any CBA provisions protecting crew size had been long since eroded,and/or rendered ineffective by arbitration awards. Today for the first time in its history, downsized to one quarter of its formermembership, demoralized, dominated by the USW International, disabused of anysense of its own power and stripped of its militant leadership, Local 1010 mustdeal with a truly global corporation, instead of the one-plant, family-ownedcompany which was Inland Steel. Certainly, even the small degree ofindependence from the USW International exercised by 1010 in the 1970’s and1980’s is no longer an option. Whatever bargaining strategy with Arcelor/Mittal isadopted, neither the Local 1010 rank and file, nor its leaders are apt to have muchof a say in it.
Olszanski 27 I/N Tek and I/N Kote: Inland’s Capital Moves Inland reorganized as Inland Steel Industries, Inc., a holding company forInland Steel Company and Inland Steel Services, in order to separate the profitableservice-center from a (then) lagging steel producing operation, in May of 1986. Itcut steelmaking capacity by 30% by shuttering unprofitable facilities that year, butsimultaneously paved the way for a joint venture with Nippon Steel of Japan tobuild I/N Tek, a continuous cold rolling mill in the corn fields near New Carlyle,Indiana that would add back 1.5 million tons of finished steel capacity. TheAndrews administration of Local 1010, as well as USWA District 31 Director JackParton campaigned publicly for the new plant to be built on available land at theHarbor Works, but Inland and its new Japanese partner sought a fresh start at therural greenfield site, some distance from the influence of the Union and itsexperienced members. Like RCA moving from Camden to the rural south,management sought to move at least part of its capital to a union-freeenvironment.49 The USWA succeeded in wringing an agreement out of Inlandstipulating that the facility would open as a union shop, and Harbor Worksemployees would be considered for jobs there—if they could pass a battery oftests, including psychological “attitude” tests designed to weed out those whowould not make good “team players.” In fact, of course, union activists or thosewith strong union ideals would find it difficult to get hired at I/N Tek. Combiningfive formerly separate operations into one, the innovative facility replaced the old“batch” method of rolling and treating steel with a “continuous” process that neverstops. I/N Tek could finish steel that had taken 12 days at the Harbor Works inunder an hour, with far fewer workers. A second joint venture with Nippon, I/NKote was launched in 1989. I/N Kote consists of two galvanizing lines next door to
Olszanski 28I/N Tek, to apply the zinc coating to its cold rolled steel strip. 50 The new facilitiesemployed the latest labor-saving robotics, including Automatic Guided Vehicles(AGV’s) which carry steel coils from one area to another without human control.51Together they represent a nearly one billion dollar investment (1990 dollars). Both facilities were organized from the ground up as Japanese-style workunits utilizing self-directed work teams (I/N Tek calls them “Self-ManagedTeams”) “skill-based” job descriptions and classes and a structure quite similar tothe one employed at Indianas Subaru/Isuzu as described by Laurie Graham.52 Aharbinger of things to come for Inland and the basic steel industry as a whole, I/NTek and I/N Kote introduced a compressed set of job descriptions and pay grades,and sought to blur the distinction between bargaining unit (union) and supervisoryemployees. By picking the “right” employees (“team players”) from HarborWorks applicants, and farm kids who had never seen the inside of a steel millbefore, I/N Tek and I/N Kote were able to implement the new work organizationand culture with minimal resistance. Team players reaped rewards that couldinclude an expense-paid trip to Japan to study Nippon’s methods in the homecountry.53 Several #3 Cold Strip Electricians I worked with for a number of yearstransferred to the new facilities, and to a person they uniformly raved about thewonderful new cooperative work atmosphere there. When talking about work, theybecame so animated and exuberant, some of us who still worked at the Harborwere prompted to ask what they put in the water at New Carlyle, or what they weresmoking. One union activist mechanic I knew well got his transfer by answeringquestions as he suspected the “team-oriented” interviewers would like. Hesubsequently kept his mouth shut and his head down at the new facility. Together,
Olszanski 29I/N Tek and I/N Kote employ under 500, but produce around 1.5 million tons peryear of finished sheet.54 Maintenance Work Restructuring: the 1990’s Hiring into Inland’s Blast Furnace department in 1963, I worked at InlandSteel’s #3 Cold Strip Mill Electrical Maintenance Department for thirty-oneconsecutive years. I retired in February, 1999, just before Inland was acquired byISPAT. The mill was then purchased by Mittal, which acquired all the local basicsteel mills (ISPAT/Inland, Bethlehem, LTV) except U.S. Steel and National-Midwest. During the 1960’s I completed an apprenticeship training programholding the jobs of Vocational Motor Inspector (VMI) VII through I, then MotorInspector Standard (the standard journeyman job in the craft). I subsequentlyadvanced to Mill Electrical Control Operator (MECO) an above craft rated jobacquired though seniority and a test, then Electrical Technician (ET) the sequentialleader job also acquired by seniority and a test. The Purdue/Inland EET trainingprogram I had attended for 3 years closed its doors in 1986, along with theapprenticeship program. I worked my last two years (1997-1998) as an Electrical Inspector. This jobwas a straight day job that I finally got after threatening to file a grievance. Tryingto dissuade me from the job, a supervisor told me I would have to learn computers.“You’ll just have to train me,” I told him. The job, which Inland argued was onlyan “assignment” had been created, along with the new job of Planner, about tenyears earlier. These jobs, created as part of Inland’s Japanese-inspired Inspectionand Planning Method of Maintenance program, were originally assigned, in clear
Olszanski 30violation of the contract, to supervision’s favorites without regard to seniority oreven job rank. The creation of these desirable jobs and assignment on the basis offavoritism was in itself a powerful form of hierarchical control. These positionswere added, without increasing the total number of maintenance electricians, bycutting the crews actually assigned to answer trouble calls, repair and maintain theequipment—a use of technical control to redesign the jobs to get more output perworker. As a result of numerous similar grievances, Inland finally agreed to assignelectricians to the job based on seniority and passing a test.55 The new crop ofinspectors and planners with whom I came in included many loyal union brothers(no sisters) who had nothing but contempt and ridicule for “team” propaganda.We gave management no end of grief. One response to the assignment of inspectors and planners to write jobplans breaking down complex maintenance and repair procedures into elementarysteps which might be performed by semi-skilled workers (clearly an application ofthe detailed division of labor), came from a fellow Inspector, who has never takena Labor Studies class, or any college that I know of. He remarked, “Why, this ain’tnothin’ but that old Taylorism they invented a hundred years ago!” 56 In light of thechanges in the organization of maintenance work at Inland, it is clear thatTaylorist ideas remained alive and well in the mill, but like the swine flu virus,have adapted by changing form just sufficiently to temporarily overcome theresistance which continuously develops among the workers and our union to suchjob cutting and intensification schemes. One hoped the workers’ immune systemcould keep up with the disease spreading tactics of management. Unfortunately ithas not.
Olszanski 31 Over the years Inland, like other U.S. industrial firms, applied numerousschemes based on the so-called Japanese management style, which changed orattempted to change the organization of work. While management stressed theneed to improve product quality as a major goal of the programs, they made nosecret of the fact that increased productivity was an equally important goal,repeatedly citing the bogey of highly productive foreign competitors who werebeating U.S. firms in the marketplace. Since productivity is easily translated intooutput per worker hour, and speed-up and job eliminations are an obvious way toachieve increased productivity, management’s goal of producing more steel withfewer workers through work intensification has always been transparent. In the case of Inland’s so-called Inspection and Planning Method ofMaintenance, it was impossible for management to disguise for very long the factthat new bargaining unit jobs—Inspectors and Planners—would be created at theexpense of other maintenance jobs, resulting in immediate crew size reduction ofthe call crews. After a couple of years, as crews were cut even further it becameobvious that a long term goal was to reduce maintenance crews to the absoluteminimum. In cutting call crews, management finally revealed that they wouldeven accept some increased delay time (time a production unit is down forunexpected repairs) resulting from cutting crews to the bone. Motor inspectors, MECO’s and Technicians soon became aware of extraduties added to their jobs—more forms to fill out. The pace of work obviouslyincreased as three person crews (later two person crews) were expected tocomplete as much work as four did in the past. Those still answering calls tendedto see the Inspectors and Planners chosen by management to sit in the office or
Olszanski 32newly purchased trailers instead of helping with trouble calls, as partly to blamefor their increased work load. Wages and pay scales stayed the same, so there was no sharing of increasedproductivity gains. The new jobs were cleaner, less physical office jobs, but therewere few of them and they were subject to closer direct control by supervisionthan the jobs out on the floor. Forms of control I observed in my last months at Inland included: Attempts to apply the detailed division of labor to the electrical sequence.The planning function formally carried out by the electricians ourselves wasremoved and placed in the office in the form of planners, hand-picked andassigned the task of planning and assigning each job and furnishing step by stepinstructions for its completion by the work crew. In conjunction with the planner,the inspector was responsible for writing job procedures intended to break eachjob down into its most basic components, using the experience we had gained overa lifetime of craft work. Verbal orders were replaced more and more with written, specific line-upswhich specified in greater and greater detail exactly how each job should be done,and even how long it should take. New time sheets for electricians were devised and introduced on which eachelectrician must account for time spent on each job to the tenth of an hour. Writtenand signed reports were also required of each electrician, specifying in detailexactly what was done on each job and shift. In implementing this Japanese-style “inspection-maintenance’ program,Inland management relied heavily on propaganda to promote “team spirit” and
Olszanski 33attempt to get us to identify our interests as workers with those of the company interms of working more efficiently, “smarter,” faster, and ultimately eliminating thejobs of our co-workers. Close supervision, or micro-management, with a higher than previous ratioof bosses to electricians was used to keep a close eye on our every move. Bossesstarted to turn up at the lunch table just in time for the end of the traditional lunchbreak, to make sure no one lingered beyond our twenty minute lunch period, aswell as near quitting time, to make sure no one hit the showers early, even thoughit was impossible to leave the plant early as a swipe card system had beenimplemented which timed in and out times to the second. Some supervisorsexcluded inspectors and planners from this close scrutiny to reinforce divisionsbetween them and the rest of the crew; others tried to apply an even tougherstandard of time accountability to these privileged workers. (Direct or simplecontrol). Divide and rule strategies were implemented. Workers were assigned towork with others than their known friends, putting together people who didn’t getalong well in an effort to defeat “soldiering” and consequent control by the crewof the work pace. As always, an occasional foreman job was offered to bargaining unitemployees who kissed up to the bosses, and openings were rumored far in advanceto encourage competition for these jobs. In my experience, foremen promotedfrom the ranks were the worst, probably because they had sold out their solidarityand loyalty to the group for personal gain, thus compromising their integrity. Theyalso knew all the tricks, most having used them to great effect as union employees.
Olszanski 34 For as long as I worked at Inland the company continuously battled theunion on the issue of testing, attempting to use subjective rather than objective(multiple choice, true/false, etc.) tests, in order to be able to pick and promotefavorites. In this highly technical field, it was a constant struggle to ensure thatfairness was used in the selection and promotion of VMIs (apprentices) MIsMECOs, Technicians, Inspectors and Planners. Until the Federal Court orderedConsent Decree—and at Inland a special plant-wide seniority agreementnegotiated by the Balanoff administration—forced the racial integration of thecrafts and departments, sequence seniority was used to keep the crafts more or lessprivate clubs over which management exercised extra control. Even after theseimprovements, it was a constant struggle to ensure opportunities in the craft forwomen and minorities. Racism and sexism were constantly used to divide and rulein the crafts. Finally, in the late 1990’s, Inland hired a consultant firm to do a time studyof electrical and mechanical jobs—something few imagined possible in moderntimes. For weeks, our every move was monitored, timed and entered into a hand-held computer in order to determine our efficiency and “dead time” between jobsand calls. One of the immediate results was across-the-board crew size reductionsin electrical and mechanical sequences, which the union was still contesting withlittle success when I retired in 1998. With no response from either local orinternational leadership, workers on the shop floor were disorganized and dividedin our response to the newest and almost ludicrous management application ofTaylorism. Many thought of themselves as resisting by acting as usual—rushing toanswer calls and making repairs as quickly as possible so they could return to themotor room to sit and have coffee. This was, of course, precisely the “dead time”
Olszanski 35management sought to measure—and eliminate—so many workers unwittinglyassisted management in cutting crew size. Impacts on the two categories specified by the USW’s Charlie Richardson(Working Conditions and Union Strength)57 created by Inland’s Inspection Methodof Maintenance Program are as follows:Working Conditions Performance evaluation criteria for maintenance electricians under the newsystem was codified and monitored closely by requiring detailed reports whichwere archived in a central computer and compared to the performance of allmaintenance personnel plant wide. New technology (computers) were used to standardize, codify, simplify,quantify and keep track of jobs formally planned and carried out by skilledelectricians with little or no direct supervision. A major long term goal of management was obviously to deskill as manymaintenance and repair procedures as possible, enabling them to lower entry levelskill requirements or and/or use non craft personnel to do these jobs. Whilemanagement insisted this program would result in improved quality ofmaintenance, the use of fewer highly skilled craft people would seem to invite alowering of the quality of work performed. As mentioned above, the selection of Inspectors and Planners, their trainingand qualification has been closely controlled by management, with the clear aim ofundermining seniority, and with it, union solidarity. The local union’s belatedcontesting of selection and training procedures had only limited success. Trainingfor the new jobs was largely determined, organized and controlled by management,and included a great deal of the kind of team training described by Richardson in
Olszanski 36“Employee Involvement; Watching Out for the Tricks and Traps.” Absent anylocal union representation, trainees were placed in situations which tended toprevent “Acting Like a Union” strategies from being employed, though some of uswho accidentally found ourselves in this team training certainly did our best topromote union solidarity and identification in the face of the management strategyof encouraging the “we (Inlanders) are all in this together” philosophy with it’sresultant undermining of union identification and solidarity. On the first day of atwo week long training session, I told the group the cautionary tale about the“cowboy and the snake” warning fellow union members of the dangers of joiningmanagement’s team. For the rest of training, we (union members) continuouslyreferred to our team as the “Cowboys” as opposed to the “Snakes” of management. The variety of tasks performed by individual workers was reduced, byremoving as much as possible of the brain work to the office, to be done by thenewly-trained team of Inspectors and Planners. With smaller crews and trouble calls increasingly answered by one insteadof two or more electricians, social interaction among the workers is severelycurtailed. Often today, Maintenance Technician—Electrical (MTE’s) are alone inthe plant, as Technicians used to be on Christmas midnight “fire watch” turns,with only telephone contact with other maintenance people. Health and safety concerns abound, with electricians increasingly workingalone, even on highly dangerous jobs, and less skilled workers assigned to do workfor which they have inadequate training, skill and experience. Sub-contracting of maintenance work, while in theory limited under theCBA, has become more attractive to management as maintenance jobs aredeskilled.
Olszanski 37Union Strength The overall number of union members, as well as union jobs as a percentageof the total workforce was reduced as maintenance jobs were cut. Management continues to increase contracting out and out-sourcing ofrepair and maintenance work. Management can certainly use the archived job procedures contributed byskilled, experienced electricians to make it easier to keep the operation goingwithout us—as in the case of a strike or work slowdown. This program increased the proportion of critical skills falling outside thebargaining unit, and the potential for using unskilled or semiskilled contract, non-union personnel is therefore increased. Some new skills (Inspection and Planning) were created inside thebargaining unit. The USW must try to maintain and/or increase union control overthese highly skilled jobs. As mentioned, training for the new skills, as controlled by management, hastended to undermine the seniority system. This appears to have been a major goalin management’s use of training, along with promoting “team spirit” andconsequently undermining union solidarity. Control over how work is done was to some extent taken off the shop floor,as was mentioned. If management achieves its goal of winning over Inspectorsand Planners to the company “team,” it will also effectively take this control out ofthe hands of the bargaining unit. Social interaction among union workers was increasingly curtailed by thisprogram, with workers more and more isolated from each other during work hours.This was exacerbated by the overall reduction of the workforce throughout the
Olszanski 38mill, since there are fewer and fewer workers to be able to interact and the workstations are farther and farther apart. Jurisdiction, between departmental maintenance and the plant wide MobileMaintenance “bull gang” was greatly impacted by the program, which farmed outmore and more work to the bull gang. Production employees are impacted by this program as managementincreasingly pushes to have routine repairs and maintenance performed byoperating personnel. The operator/repairman concept is now firmly entrenched. The maintenance work changes implemented by Inland Steel at myworkplace in the 1990’s, while ostensibly aimed at improving the quality andefficiency of work, served to eliminate jobs, undermine union strength andsolidarity, increase management control and ultimately improve Inland Steel’sbottom line, at the expense of the workers. They encountered little resistance fromeither the USW International or the now relatively passive Local 1010 leadership. Concentrating on high value-added steel products and quality improvementin the production process, Inland’s “yield of prime steel” rose from 79.8% in 1996to 83.7% in 1997. Each percentage point of gain in yield translates to about $15million of increased profit.58 Steel production and shipments rose in the 1990’s, asdid profitability, along with labor productivity at Inland.
Olszanski 39 Thus “downsized,” “lean and mean,” and “rationalized,” Inland became anattractive property and was purchased by Ispat Internation N.V. (based in theNetherlands) in 1998. As Ispat Inland Inc., the company eliminated nearly 20%more of its workforce by 2002, to 7,800 employees, and Local 1010’s membershipdwindled proportionately. By then it was the sixth-largest integrated steel producerin the United States, producing about 5 percent of the nation’s steel. On October 25, 2004, Ispat Inland became part of a new, merged company,Mittal Steel: The deal announced by Ispat Inland on Monday has billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal first combining his two international companies, Ispat Inland and LNM Holdings. The merged company, called Mittal Steel Co., will then buy ISG for $4.5 billion in cash and stock.59 By 2005, the membership of USW Local 1010 stood at just 4000. Add tothis another 400 or so at I/N Tek and I/N Coat, and you have a figure lower thanwhat it was when SWOC Local 1010 was organized, during the Great Depressionof the 1930s.60 The November, 2005 contract at Mittal Indiana Harbor West 1010reduced job classifications from more than 30 to just 5, as it had at all other MittalUSA facilities. "The new agreements that were negotiated by the union and ourcompetitors contain many new approaches to how work is organized and managedthat are expected to improve productivity and labor costs," said William P.Boehler, Ispat Inlands director of industrial relations, in 2004. "Attempting toadapt these changes to our situation takes a good deal of time and discussion."61They managed. New job classifications are much broader and cover a wide rangeof duties. The phrase I learned as an eighteen year old new hire in 1963, “It’s not
Olszanski 40my job,” has little or no meaning anymore. To a large extent, every job is everyemployee’s job. In the electrical department, the jobs of Motor Inspector Standard (MI),Motor Inspector Weldor, Mill Electrical Control Operator (MECO), ElectricalTechnican, (ET) and the separate sequence job of Instrument Control Technicianwere combined into one new single job classification, Maintenance Technician—Electrical (MTE) at Labor Grade 4.62 With no apprenticeship or training program,the company hires trained electricians as it needs them.
Olszanski 41 Arcelor/Mittal: Inland Absorbed In October of 2004, Tycoon Lakshmi N. Mittal’s $4.5 billion purchase ofInternational Steel Group (ISG) absorbed the former ISPAT/Inland.In June of 2006, Mittal merged with Arcelor, becoming the world’s largest steelcompany, producing 49 million tons (about 10% of world steel production) with 61plants in 23 countries, employing 318,000 workers. The steel business is verygood these days, with Mittal Steel netting $3.5 billion in income on revenue of$28.1 billion in 2005. But Mittal is hardly satisfied. According to the InterrnationalMetalworkers Federation (IMF) Mittal announced 26,000 job eliminations inexisting plants in 2006 and have displayed, particularly in Eastern Europe andIreland, “…a lack of respect of agreements and an obsession with cost reductions,employee reductions and [further] increases in productivity.”63 Listed only as “USA, Indiana Harbor East and West” (which includesboth Inland and the old Youngstown/ LTV plant on the other side of the IndianaHarbor Ship Canal) the old Inland Steel plant has completely lost its identity withinthe enormous global Arcelor/Mittal corporate structure. 64 As of 2007, the old Inland #3 Cold Strip Mill (West) is completely shutdown, and people I used to work with there describe it as a ghost town. Next door,the slightly newer Inland #3 Cold Strip (East) still operates, with a much smallercrew. It is clear that an on-going process of rationalization continues, withArcelor/Mittal management shuttering its least productive facilities, shiftingproduction to the most productive, and continuing the process of down-sizing theworkforce. But, like the Block family and subsequent Inland Steel managementLakshmi Mittal tries to instill the myth of a paternalistic, caring management that
Olszanski 42looks out for the workers—in particular their safety and health and wants tocooperate with their union "partners" in improving the lot of their workers. Hestates: Arcelor Mittal sets Health and Safety above all other priorities and is committed to achieving the highest standards for our employees. We have instilled a strong safety culture at every level of the company that is supported by a robust set of safety standards. We are pleased and encouraged in joining our trade unions in Achieving our joint vision to be the safest steel company in the world. One of our first joint initiatives since the merger of Arcelor and Mittal was the undertaking of a global safety and health day on March 6, 2007 wherein management and trade unions from around the world simultaneously committed to achieving our safety and health goals.65 Yet a 2004 move to terminate Inland widows pensions hurt the new ownersimage on the eve of his acquisition. Mass demonstrations at the Harbor Works anda tough stance on the issue forced the company to back down.66
Olszanski 43 USW International Response 67 The USWA granted wage and benefit cuts in 1983 contract negotiations anda wage freeze in 1986, throughout the industry. In the U.S. steel industry as awhole, output per steelworker nearly tripled from 1987 to 2005, according toBureau of Labor Statistics figures.68 During that period the USWA failed to securea significant share of the increased profits flowing from this enormous productivityimprovement for its members, either in the form of real hourly wage increases or ashorter work week. The strategy of collaborating with steel management in anattempt to restrict steel imports, criticized by Howard, was a stop-gap measure atbest, and did not address the effects management’s push for job-cutting and workintensification. There has been no strike activity of any kind by the United Steelworkers(USW) or Local 1010 at Inland since 1959. That is to say, in 2009, it will havebeen fifty years since strike action was taken at the Indiana Harbor Works. The former USWA, now known as the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber,Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) , Amicus and theTransportation & General Workers Union (T&GWU) of the United Kingdomannounced in Ottawa April 18, 2007 the start of “…a formal process to preparethe ground for the creation of the first Trans-Atlantic trade union:” At a ceremony held in Ottawa at the USW’s Canadian National Policy Congress, representatives of the three unions signed an accord to set up a merger exploration committee which will be tasked with laying down a foundation for a legal merger within one year. The new union would represent more than 3.4 million members in the US, Canada, UK and Ireland. It would be the world’s biggest union and would be expected to attract other union organizations throughout the world into membership. During the exploration process, the unions will engage in coordinated campaigning and common approaches to collective bargaining with
Olszanski 44 multinational companies. This agreement follows a strategic alliance signed between Amicus and the USW two years ago. Amicus and the T&GWU will join together as one union with two million members after May 1, 2007 that will be based in London and called “Unite.” 69 "Global capital requires a Global response," states the founding statement of 70Unite. This is clearly the most important undertaking of the USW in a number ofyears. Initially, one hoped that U.S. union leaders, collaborating with theirostensibly more progressive and militant European counterparts would listen morethan talk, and learn the lessons a class-conscious labor movement had to teach. Theprestigious American Bar Association calls the merger "…the first truly globalunion and…the largest concentration of union power in a generation."71 In November 2006 the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC),representing 168 million workers in 153 countries, was formed in Vienna. As AlanHoward of Dissent Magazine put it, …fifteen years after the demise of the Soviet Union and well into the third decade of corporate-driven globalization, the international trade union movement was reorganized to eliminate its debilitating cold war political divisions and to enhance coordination across industrial lines made obsolete by globalization. The founding was “…hailed as historic by the few dozen people whofollow these things, which it may well be, though you probably missed thecoverage in your local newspaper.”72 But the ITUC’s unclear ideology orconnection to the IMF raises doubts. Since the AFL and CIO effectively endedglobal union organizing by their withdrawal from the then huge and powerful
Olszanski 45World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) during the cold war, real laborglobalism has been off the table.73 The new initiatives find a European trade unionbureaucracy little better equipped than the North Americans to face off againstascendant trans-national capital bent on aggressive implementation of a neoliberalagenda, which “seeks to apply in Europe the labor discipline it gets away with inthe United States.”74 A September 16-18, 2007 “IMF Global Arcelor Mittal Meeting” in Montrealwas attended by no less than 5 USW Local 1010 delegates, in addition to District 7Director Jim Robinson, USW president Leo Gerard and 33 other U.S. delegates.On the Agenda were heavy hitters from the International Metalworkers Federation(IMF) the USW as well as Arcelor/Mittal management. Among other issuesdiscussed, the delegates stressed the continuing reliance on "team" concepts tosolve workers problems. As a USW press release put it: The worlds largest steel company Arcelor Mittal and trade unions representing its employees from over 20 countries today announced a new and innovative approach to Health and Safety concerns in the company. Meeting in Montreal at the International Metalworkers Federations first world conference of Arcelor Mittal and its trade unions, the company and the unions committed themselves to a joint programme of education and training to raise health and safety standards throughout the company.75 The "new and innovative approach" lauded here sounds a lot like the sameold joint company union participation teams of the 1980s—a bankrupt strategythat has done the labor movement irreparable harm. The IMF and the USWjointly hosted the global conference. Trade unions from the following countriestook part in the company/union meeting: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada,Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Liberia, Luxemburg, Macedonia,
Olszanski 46Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago,United Kingdom, United States of America. The sketchy information available at this time suggests the gathering wasprimarily by and for unions, with at least part of the purpose being to strategizeapproaches to dealing with Arcelor/Mittal management. But the presence of anumber of Mittal management representatives on the agenda implies that it wasalso an attempt to do a company union partnership conference at the same time.The confused message is typical of the U.S. business union approach taken by theUSW in the past. Leo Gerard puts it this way: The size and scope of the company [Arcelor/Mittal] means that as unions we have to develop a global strategy. …the ultimate aim must be two fold, first a successful company that provides job security for its workers and second, recognition of the valuable role that unions play. Future challenges such as overcapacity in the steel industry and the threat of a race to the bottom are real issues that can only be dealt with at the international level.76 And only, should we add, by collaboration with Mittal management?77 The official statement of the IMF conference: “We recognize that asuccessful company provides job security,” draws into question the class-consciouscharacter of the IMF, as well as the new global alliance. Howard suggests the U.S.union bureaucracy is “ideologically exhausted.”78 Does this characterization applyto the Europeans, as well?
Olszanski L515 BibliographyAgreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor, Indiana, Chicago Heights, Illinois. September 1, 1965.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works, August 1, 1974.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1977.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1980.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1983.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1986.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1990.Agreement Between Inland Steel Company and United Steelworkers of AmericaIndiana Harbor Works. August 1, 1993.AGREEMENT between International Steel Group, Inc. and the UnitedSteelworkers of America, AFL - CIO – CLC December 15, 2002Agreement Between Mittal Steel USA and the United Steel, Paper, and Forestry,Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial, and Service WorkersInternational Union, November13, 2005.Allen, David. Editor. “End of Employment Continuity a Necessary Step.” In The Inland Steelmaker, Volume 42, Number 30, July 26, 1996. Front Page.Allen, David. Editor. “Four Key Efforts Hold Profit Potential.” In The Inland Steelmaker, Volume 42, Number 36, September 6, 1996. Front Page.
OlszanskiAmerican Bar Association (ABA). Agenda for 2007 Fall Meeting.http://www.abanet.org/intlaw/fall07/agenda_corpfinance.htmlArcelor/Mittal “Fact Book” available online at:http://www.arcelormittal.com/rls/data/pages/476/ArcelorMittal_Factbook2006_EN.pdfBenman, Keith. “Steel shakeout imminent Locals prepare for mega-merger.” NWITimes.com October 26, 2004. http://uswa1010.org/info/articles/times10-26-04.htmBeverage, William. Full Employment in a Free society. London: George Allen &Unwin Ltd. 1944.Braverman, Harry (1998) Labor and Monopoly Capital, the Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.CBS Reports: Inside the Union T.V. Documentary. Produced by Irv Drasnin. New York: CBS News. 1978.Cowie, Jefferson (1999) Capital Moves: RCA’s 70 year Quest for Cheap Labor. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.Fisher, Douglas A. Steel Serves the Nation, 1901-1951, The Fifty Year Story of United States Steel. New York: United States Steel Corporation. 1951Graham, Laurie. (1995) On the Line at Suburu-Isuzu. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.Graham, Laurie. (1997) “Permanent Temporaries” in Research in the Sociology of Work, the Globalization of Work. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press Inc. Editor Randy Hodson.Guzzo, Maria. "USW holding a mixed bag in contract negotiations: Mittal units amicable despite little progress." American Metal Market, July 7, 2005. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3MKT/is_26- 3_113/ai_n14812284
OlszanskiHardin, Ernest. Interview with author. October 31, 1996.Howard, Allen (2007) “the Future of Global Unions: Is Solidarity Still Forever?” In Dissent, Fall 2007. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=942. Inland Steel Industries, 1997 Operations Review and Business Highlights.http://www.prnewswire.com/cnoc/IADops.htmlJohnston, Rob. “Mittal: A Global Giant” in Metal World. No. 4 2006. pp. 18-22.Lane, James B and Olszanski, Mike.“Steelworkers Fight Back: Inland’s Local 1010 and the Sadlowski/Balanoff campaigns, Rank and File Insurgency in the Calumet Region During the 1970’s” Steel Shavings, Volume 30, 2000. Gary, Indiana: Indiana University Northwest.Levering, Robert, et al. (1984) The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley PublishingLlorente, Renzo. (1998). “Marx’s Critique of the Division of Labor: A Reconstruction and Defense” in Nature, Society and Thought: A Journal of Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Volume 11, No. 4. Erwin Marquit, Ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Pp. 459-469.Lenin, V.I. (1916) “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” in Collected Works Volume 22.Local 1010, USWA “A History of Local 1010” at USWA 1010 Website:http://www.uswa1010.org/history/1010history.htmLorenzen, Art. Interview with author. November 6, 1996.Luerssen, Frank W. CEO Inland Steel Industries. “Making the JointVenture Work” letter to the editor in New York Times, February 4, 1990.http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5D81E38F937A35751C0A966958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print.
OlszanskiMarx, Karl. (1867) Capital Volumes I & II.  New York: International Publishers.Morris, Jack H., Inland Steel Industries. Inland Steel at 100, Beginning a Second century of Progress. Chicago: Inland Steel Industries. 1993.Needleman, Ruth. Black Freedom Fighters in Steel. New York: Cornell University Press, 2003.Nyden, Philip W. Steelworkers Rank & File. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey Publishers. 1984.Olszanski, Mike. "Presidents Report," in Local 1010 Steelworker at Inland Steel Company, Volume 4 No. 2, February, 1988, P. 2.Olszanski, Mike. "We Will Not Negotiate!!! Summary of Shape Products Proposal Presented to the Union," in Local 1010 Steelworker at Inland Steel Company, Volume 4 No. 2, February, 1988,Olszanski, Mike. The 1010 Rank & File in SWOC/USWA Strikes: A SocialMovement Becomes a Bureaucracy, Research paper for L580 Strikes Class IndianaUniversity, Spring, 2004 at Calumet Regional ArchivesPage, Charles. Conversation with author on his last day at Inland. 1986.Parker, Mike (1985) Inside the Circle: A Union Guide to QWL. Boston: South End Press.Popagain, Martin T. Interview with author. Novemebr 6, 1996.Richardson, Charlie “Employee Involvement; Watching Out for Tricks and Traps.” And “Draft Code for Union Members in Joint Programs.” In Reader, L315 Organization of Work. Indiana University Northwest. Spring, 2001.Robertson, Scott. "Ispat, USW talks stall; union balks at extreme positions" American Metal Market, July 20, 2004 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3MKT/is_29-2_112/ai_n6130705