Mansfield, Ohio’s locked-out AK Steel workers celebrated “One Year of Solidarity” on September 9 by staging a rally and throwing a picnic for a few thousand friends and supporters.

On September 1, 1999, AK Steel, formerly Armco, commemorated Labor Day by locking out some 620 members of United Steelworkers of America Local 169 after their contract expired. Barbed wire and paramilitary thugs with jackboots and billy clubs greeted the night shift workers who tried to enter the plant.

The locked-out workers report that these so-called private security guards continue to follow Local 169 members and their families around Mansfield, to and from the Union Hall and even like to stake out local schools in an obvious attempt to provoke violence and intimidate the workers.

AK Steel is also employing the use of “slap” lawsuits against the Union, its members, city officials and even a local police officer, in a blatant effort to financially pressure the Union and its supporters. The company has even sought an injunction to prevent the locked-out workers from requesting public information from the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Perhaps the most interesting tactic of economic terrorism came when AK Steel cut off $1000 a year surviving spouse benefits for a small group of surviving pre-1974 retiree widows. AK Steel is also demanding the repayment of insurance benefits from the workers it locked out.

The Mansfield News Journal reported that AK Steel’s payroll taxes are down dramatically as is their contribution to the City of Mansfield and the State of Ohio. Nevertheless, the company continues to receive a tax abatement from Mansfield despite the fact that they’ve fallen short of the minimum number of jobs promised due to their lock-out.

The key issue in the strike – at a time when U.S. workers are the most overworked in the developed world – is the company’s demand for unlimited mandatory overtime. The company’s strategy is to eliminate up to 20% of the full time employees and replace them through compulsory overtime by the remaining 80%.

The locked-out workers realize that this is a battle for their family, neighbors and community against a corporation dedicated to the proposition that greed is good.

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