It was the annual commemoration of Worker Memorial Day at the Local 1190 hall of the United Steelworkers. The commemoration is held nationwide on April 28 to recall the day in 1970 when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed, providing workers with a formal process for improving workplace safety.
But all is not perfect, according to Steelworkers, and the workplace requires constant diligence.
“We honor all of those who were hurt and who died on the job,” said Santo Santoro, a District 1 official with the United Steelworkers who is a former Local 1190 president. “Trouble is, I knew three-quarters of those guys who were hurt or who died as president of this local. It’s not a very pleasant thing when someone gets hurt in that mill.”
Santoro said workers have to be careful and avoid taking shortcuts in doing their job.
“It’s nice to see an individual get up, go to work, punch the clock, do a good eight hours work and go home to his family,” Santoro said. “On a lot of occasions, that didn’t happen.”
He said most of the injuries that used to happen in the mill were related to workers taking shortcuts, or workers who were fatigued from working double turns or extra hours and decided to try to get a job done without paying attention to safety issues.
Ken Aspenleiter, Local 1190 president, who represents workers at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.’s Steubenville works and the Mountain State Carbon Coke Plant at Follansbee, cares about safety, Santoro said, “and that means a lot to the people who work in that plant.”
Jim Ledyard, Wheeling-Pitt’s vice president, said he wants workers to ask themselves how they would have their child, their brother or their sister do a task.
“If we did that on every task, it would greatly reduce situations,” he said.
Jim Bowen, former director of the West Virginia AFL-CIO and a board member of Esmark representing the United Steelworkers, said safety is not a grievance or an issue to be bargained. Safety, he said, is a system of everyone working together.
Bowen said it doesn’t matter if an employee is frustrated from something that happened at home or by the high price of the gasoline he bought on the way into work.
“Frustration at the plant is what we have to be cautious of,” said Bowen, noting he’s been involved with Wheeling-Pitt workers as a USW official since 1977, having gone through two bankruptcies and different owners.
“We’re still here, and Lord willing, we will still be here,” Bowen said. “Hopefully, in the next few days, some of those frustrations will disappear and we will move forward.”
Bowen declined to expound on that statement after his speech.
Esmark announced Monday afternoon it would be releasing its delayed first-quarter earnings statement and year-end report on Wednesday, along with an investor conference call Wednesday afternoon.
On safety, Bowen concluded with what he said is a very important 10, two-letter word sentence: “If it is to be, it is up to us.”
Aspenleiter recognized state Sen. Jason Wilson, D-Columbiana; Lisa Duvall, representing Gov. Ted Strickland’s office; and Chris Gagin, representing U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Bridgeport; Follansbee Mayor Tony Paesano; and Jefferson County Clerk of Courts John Corrigan among others in attendance, including Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham, who led the singing of the national anthem.
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REMEMBERING?WORKERS — Ken Aspenleiter, left, president of Local 1190 of the United Steelworkers union, and Paul Cicero, the union’s safety chairman, adjust a wreath in front of the Steelworker memorial at state Route 7 and University Boulevard in Steubenville Monday afternoon. April 28 is the annual commemoration of Worker Memorial Day, marking the date in 1970 when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed.