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John Cirri’s attempted comeback at Sparrows Point falls flat

A surprise attempt to regain the top union slot is rejected by the membership. Joe Rosel new president.

Above: John Cirri last January, when steelmaking was restarted at Sparrows Point.

A bid by a once-powerful union boss at Sparrows Point to regain his former position fizzled today as members voted overwhelmingly for his opponent.

John Cirri, longtime president of USW Local 9477 – who resigned last summer shortly before a federal judge found that his caucus had violated fair election practices – received only 196 votes.

Joe Rosel received 648 votes as president, while 245 votes were split among four other candidates, according to unofficial results released to The Brew tonight by the union.

Cirri cited health reasons for resigning from the presidency last July. He shocked many union members when he announced he would run for his old job, which one of his close allies characterized as his “rightful seat” at the steel mill.

DOL-Supervised Elections

U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar had ordered the U.S. Department of Labor to supervise today’s vote after he found that Cirri’s Red, White & Blue caucus had violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act by using their employer’s fax machines and e-mail system to promote their slate of candidates in 2009.

Rosel, a union contract coordinator who started working at Sparrows Point in 1978, ran on the platform of developing a strategy to end the mill’s “move from owner to owner and crisis to crisis.”

He had the backing of the Steelworkers Coalition, a group that had rebelled against Cirri’s tight control of Local 9477. He replaces interim president Jeff Mikula.

Jim Blankenship, a blast furnace operator who initiated the election-violation case, was elected zone committeeman for ironmaking.

Cirri’s loss means that he will continue as contract coordinator, which allows him to remain at the union annex building in a position appointed by the International USW. His Red, White & Blue caucus has disbanded.

New Officers Face Challenges

Other steelworkers voted into office today – nearly all of them from the Steelworkers Coalition – were Chris MacLarion as vice president, Mike Lewis as financial secretary, Eddie Bartee as treasurer, Sandy Wright as recording secretary, Sharon Pritchard as inside guard and Sharnetta Green as outside guard.

Tyrone C. Lewis was elected chairman of the grievance committee. Three trustees – Roxy Sadler, Paula Fleming and Frank Schorr – were elected, and one guide – Forrest Martin.

In addition to Blankenship, the other zone committemen are Vearnol Hazel, Boyd Fleming, Michael Baskerville, David Dearborn, Joe McDermott and Chris Paul.

The new lineup faces many challenges as RG Steel, owner of Sparrows Point, navigates through difficult financial times.

Just before Christmas, the company halted production at Sparrows Point because of a cash shortage. Operations resumed in late January after Cerberus Capital Management gave the company a $125 million cash infusion.

The sprawling Baltimore County plant is still running at a loss, but at a level that has diminished from as much as $1 million-a-day last year, according to well-informed sources.

The company has demanded changes in union work rules and more liberal use of outside contractors as it tries to stay afloat amid a market of flat steel demand and high raw material costs.

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