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International takes over Sparrows Point union, ousts its president

National union plans to liquidate Local 9477’s property. Assets include over $400,000 in cash. A BREW EXCLUSIVE.

Above: The Steelworkers Hall on Dundalk Avenue was the scene of a coup by national union officials.

Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW), has placed the local representing Sparrows Point and other unemployed Baltimore steelworkers under “administratorship” – and ousted all but one local official.

Last Thursday, Joe Rosel Jr., president of Local 9477, was escorted out of the main hall at 540 Dundalk Avenue by Baltimore City police – after Rosel attempted to enter his office.
Rosel was told not to return to the building by James Strong, subdistrict Maryland director of the USW, according to multiple sources. Since RG Steel declared bankrutpcy last May, Rosel led efforts, ultimately unsuccessful, to find a new operator for the steel mill.

The International has not announced its takeover of Local 9477, nor provided any information to members about the status of the local, which had represented 1,800 steelworkers at Sparrows Point and about 250 workers at satellite facilities, all of whom have lost their jobs.

Despite the veil of secrecy, The Brew has obtained a letter from Gerard declaring that the Pittsburgh-based International planned to “close out the affairs of the Local and eventually cancel its charter” over the next few months.

$400,000 in Cash

In the letter, Gerard declared that all elected local officers “are hereby suspended from Local Union office” and “an Administratorship is established over the affairs and property of the Local Union.”

Leo Gerard confers with RG Steel CEO V. John Goodwin last year when Sparrows Point was still operating. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Leo Gerard (right) confers with RG Steel president John Goodwin last year when Sparrows Point was still in operation. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

This procedure allows the International to take over the assets of 9477 which, sources tell The Brew, include more than $400,000 in cash (mostly from members’ dues) plus two buildings.

The local owns 540 and 550 Dundalk Avenue situated on 3.2 acres of land. The buildings and land are assessed at $2.1 million.

The buildings were opened in 1952 and 1958 when Sparrows Point was the largest steel mill in the world and employed more than 22,000 unionized workers.

They have been used as membership halls with offices and facilities for banquets, prizefights and other events.

“Turn Over All Records”

Gerard and Strong told five elected officials  – Rosel, vice president Chris MacLarion (who had earlier resigned), treasurer Eddie Bartee, recording secretary Sandy Wright and zone committeeman James Blankenship – to “turn over all records, property and effects of the Local Union that are in your possession or control.”

Financial secretary Mike Lewis has been retained by Strong, together with two secretaries who will be paid a salary from local funds. One of the secretaries, Audrey Rossi, is married to International staff representative Frank Rossi Jr.

Gerard said the International was “winding down the Local’s affairs” because “it is the experience of the International that workplace closings and the associated rapid loss of membership creates significant stress within Locals.”

He said that the decisions necessary to close down a local are “often difficult for Local Union Officers with understandably strong emotional ties to a workplace and a Local Union.”

No Reflection on Performance

Gerard added: “Allow me to emphasize that the imposition of this Administratorship does not reflect in any way on your performance as officers.”

Joe Rosel was a longtime representative of the International at Sparrows Point before he was elected local president last April in an election supervised by the U.S. Department of Labor, which had filed charges against prior Local 9477 officials for violating labor election laws.

Rosel’s effort to find an operator for Sparrows Point after the mill was sold to liquidators last August is known to have been an irritant to the International, which had agreed to the discharge of the RG Steel workforce – both at Sparrows Point and at mills in Ohio and West Virginia – with little pushback.

Because the Steelworkers constitution requires a hearing before an administrative takeover, USW staff representative Denny Longwell will conduct a hearing this Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the union’s Sub-district office at 7939 Honeygo Blvd. in White Marsh.

Union Services to End

The five ousted union officers were told they were “welcome and encouraged” to attend the hearing and “present any information regarding the placing of Local 9477 under Administratorship.”

There has been no notification of the hearing to the membership of Local 9477. “This is all just for show,” asserted one well-informed member, saying the administratorship will allow the International to strip the local of its assets without any say by local members.

Another source told The Brew that, with the removal of local officers, members will no longer receive any services from the union regarding their pensions, health benefits or other issues tied to their former employment.

Jim Strong did not return a phone call today seeking comment about the Administratorship. Rosel and other former 9477 officials did not respond to a request for comment.



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