Raw footage for "Where's I.W. Abel?" Made by Kartemquin and a rank-and-file steel workers caucus, the film documents the opposition of the rank-and-file to the no-strike agreement between Steelworkers President I.W. Abel and the ten major steel companies, made without a vote by the membership of the union. Featuring Staughton Lynd.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape rolls. Audio slate: Demonstration by Right to Strike Committee.
00:25Copy video clip URL Footage of strikers with protest signs mill about preparing to strike outside Conrad Hilton hotel. They tile on signs that read: Defend It. There is in activity as the small group of strikers organize, put their signs on, and wait. Footage of the hotel across Michigan Avenue.
02:24Copy video clip URL Footage of strikers congregating, talking; conversations are not audible. Various chit-chat.
03:35Copy video clip URL Audio goes away.
03:59Copy video clip URL Audio returns. Continued footage of strikers congregating, talking; conversations are not audible. Various chit-chat.
04:38Copy video clip URL Interview with one of the strikers who says they are striking to protest a recent agreement signed by union leader I.W. Abel at a conference in Pittsburgh where it was agreed that workers would not have the right to strike for local issues. On wages they agreed to a 3 percent increase–“nickels and dimes.” He says that at this rate of increase, by 1977 steel workers will be living in poverty. They’ve come down to do something about it. He says it’s deplorable that the workers will lose the right to strike. He says he works at Republic Steel Corporation. He feels strikes are important because they keep the corporations from making profits while steel workers are living in poverty. “At one time steel workers were the number one paid workers. Now we’re number 14. I was not at the plant when they had the big 1959 strike. But we must retain the right to strike. It’s the only thing we have to use as a club.”
07:00Copy video clip URL The man says that Republic Steel tried to get a permit, and they had workers from all over assembled for peaceful picket. The police came out with tear gas, ammunition, 10 people dead. The material — tear gas, ammunition — was purchased by Republic Steel. There was a productivity code established but it seemed one sided: it was the company saying how can we get more done. The union wants safer conditions. Most people oppose the no-strike pact. Most feel this agreement hasn’t been signed. They feel it’s hearsay and wasn’t signed by presidents of the locals.
09:41Copy video clip URL Continued footage of workers gathered, preparing to strike. They congregate across the street in Grant Park.
10:03Copy video clip URL Continued interview with the same striker. He talks about one of the most devastating aspects that caused the strike: a 150-dollar bonus paid to union workers that is dispersed over three years starting in October 1974 and ending in 1977. Spread out over three years means we get an increase of less than a dollar a week. One hundred and fifty dollars given out over 36 months is nothing! Who knows how far the cost of living will rise by 1977? He notes that he’s part of the grievance committee.
11:20Copy video clip URL Chit chat among video crew about the audio. Continued b-roll of the strikers.
11:44Copy video clip URL Black.
11:49Copy video clip URL B-roll of picketers heading to the picket site across the street – in front of the Conrad Hilton hotel.
13:17Copy video clip URL Interview with Al Samter who says they’re protesting over making this type of agreement. The method they used – this had to have plenty of discussion between Abel and executive board of steel companies for some time. Abel then called a meeting of local union presidents. In that invitation he never mentioned what the meeting was about. They came in cold not knowing anything about this drastic deal. The agreement was presented to them cold: this is what’s been agreed on and we want your approval. Three local union presidents voted against it. The local union presidents that voted for it either didn’t run again for were defeated in the next election. He notes there were 2,000 signatures on a petition presented to the national headquarters. He says they did that on the advice of an attorney, in case they decide to make this a court issue. They hope this will be a national issue. Right now it’s just a Chicago/Gary, IN issue. There are other local groups active. They’re trying to combine everyone to make this a national effort.
18:41Copy video clip URL Footage of the strikers picketing in front of the Conrad Hilton. They walk in a circle, holding their Defend It signs. They sing a union song. They chant: “Hey! Hey! Mr. Abel, no more deals under the table!” “What do we want? The right to strike!” “We need the right to strike!” Various wide shots, close ups of the strikers and police officers standing by.
32:05Copy video clip URL END