“We’re fighting for our families,” shouted Steelworkers (USW) District One Director Dave McCall, speaking at the Saturday rally of hundreds of striking Husky Energy refinery workers in Lima, Ohio. “The right-wingers like to talk of ‘family values. Well, real family values, the right to be able to spend time with our families, is what this fight is all about, and we are united, strong & we’re be here one day longer than this company that wants to take that away from us!”

McCall was speaking to a spirited crowd of striking USW refinery workers and supporters at the Stand Up-Fight Back Solidarity Rally, July 14, in Lima, Ohio. 230 members of USW, local 624 have been on strike since May at the Husky Energy refinery there, mainly over “family issues,” including ending of forced overtime, hiring a full workforce, maintaining their right to flexible scheduling practices so that they can spend time with their families and numerous safety issues.

“Nothing is more important to us than our families,” stated local 624 President Mike Edelbrook. He then became emotional as he spoke of the support their struggle had generated in the Lima community. “A good friend of ours is a lady that cleans other people’s homes for a living, and she doesn’t make much money. But she came to us this week and donated $16 to the Solidarity Fund. It was what she could afford and she said that it was for the best of causes, for solidarity!”

“Solidarity Forever,” and other labor songs blasted out from the stage, which was framed by huge banners stating “Our Families Matter” and “Stand Up, Fight Back,” as the overflow crowd poured into the local Faurot Park. The stage and speakers platform was decorated with pictures, drawn by children at the union’s picnic, of strikers, pickets and families playing. The mood was one of joy and celebration, as the workers chanted, “One Day Longer” & “No Justice, No Peace.” Signs blossomed from the crowd; “Safe Refineries Save Lives,” “We’re United, We will Win” & “Our Families Are Most Important!” Besides strikers and their families, delegations poured in from Toledo, Mansfield, Cleveland, Findley, Bowling Green and Dayton, as well as other locals and friends from the Lima area, including a group from the UAW. Many of those delegations were from other tough USW fights, such as the AK workers from Mansfield and the Cooper Tire folks from Findley, Ohio. The Cleveland delegation also brought a huge load of food and supplies for the strikers.

“It gave me goosebumps watching all those folks coming in to support us,” said Tammy Grigsby, a local 620 striker. “It was just amazing that people would come all that way to help us when we need it. It’s something I know I’ll never forget. When they need help we’ll remember them, too. It just gave our morale a real boost.”

Boilerhouse worker and striker Paul Moss got tremendous applause as he quoted John F. Kennedy in his speech.

“Those that would cripple collective bargaining do a disservice to our democracy,” quoted Moss. “Unions are not narrow, self seeking groups. They’ve raised wages, shortened hours and, through collective bargaining, brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”

Moss, who is also a Baptist minister, went on to compare the local union’s fight to the Biblical story of David & Goliath, pointing out that David overcame great odds to win because he “had right on his side!”

Moss’s speech was appreciated by Larry Wisher, a 28 year worker, from the “cat-cracker” in the refinery.

“People are just tired of being mistreated by these big corporations. They think they can just roll over us. Husky doesn’t want talks, they want to bust our union, but we’re together and won’t let that happen!”

Retired former local 620 President Clarence Roller pointed out that current President Edelbrook and he are an “exclusive club,” since the local has only had to hit the bricks twice, when they’ve been leaders.

“We’re here for our kids, our families and our future,” said striker Chris Brown. “This really touched me, and I know it did others also. I think we’ve made a statement!”

The enthusiastic rally rolled into a big march, led by striker Mike Staller’s truck, that held a big pyramid with signs stating “Solidarity Forever,” “Stand Up, Fight Back” and a large American flag.

USW staff rep Pat Gallagher was optimistic for a positive resolution, pointing out the strength and unity of the strike, as well as the dignity of how the strikers and their supporters have conducted themselves. --------------------------

Bruce Bostick is a 30 year steelworker, former Chairman/Grievance Committee at the 9,000 worker USW, local 1104 in Lorain, Ohio, AFL-CIO delegate & worked as Strategic Projects rep for the USW on numerous strikes, lock outs and local struggles. He was a leader of the Natl. Steelworkers Rank & File Committee as well as coalitions on health care, for unemployed workers and against WalMart. He’s a regular contributor to People’s World, Steel Labor, Ohio AFL-CIO Bulletin & numerous labor/left journals.