Where’s I.W. Abel?

Made by Kartemquin and a rank-and-file steel workers caucus, the video 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 Color bars.

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00:10Copy video clip URL American Steel workers picket on the streets of Chicago. Mike Olszanski says that the worker’s rights to strike are being sold out and they won’t take it lying down. The video takes a look at how those rights were lost and how they can be won back. I.W. Abel and management have been meeting secretly for years to figure out how to prevent their workers from being able to strike. They showed a film called “Where’s Joe?” just before telling the workers of the no-strike pact.

00:51Copy video clip URL Olszanski introduces himself and tells how he became involved in the Right to Strike committee. He notes the committee has discovered a lot in researching this issue and says he will share that insight throughout this program.

01:33Copy video clip URL A clip from “Where’s Joe?” plays, a propaganda film produced by I.W. Abel. A voice over says that I.W. Abel officials and management of steel companies met at a conference with an agenda to increase productivity in the steel industry. They says they are combating foreign steel intrusion.

02:16Copy video clip URL End clip. A steel worker interviewed says, “Yeah, I saw the movie ‘Where’s Joe?,’  and I think it’s a farce!” Another worker says we didn’t have a choice, we had to watch it. We were told to go to this place and watch the film.

02:40Copy video clip URL Another clip from “Where’s Joe?” The film asks, “Where are the 130,000 people we used to work with?”

03:08Copy video clip URL A steel worker interviewed about the movie says he thinks Joe left because of stepped up automation in the plants, men work at a rapid and unsafe pace trying to get production out and leave safety int he rear.

03:36Copy video clip URL Olszanski notes that the workers know the real reason for job loss and also knows that without the right to strike workers have no job security.

03:49Copy video clip URL Another clip of the movie blaming loss of jobs on foreign competition. Foreigners are increasing productivity and cost advantage over the US.

05:15Copy video clip URL Olszanski continues, asking why the industry is asking us workers to solve a problem it created. He says the movie notes that productivity is an individual matter: how fast and hard a worker works. He adds that a big factor in increasing productivity is increasing new technology. He notes the movie fails to mention that in the last 15-years the industry resisted applying new technology that would help increase productivity. Now, Japan plants use 80 percent oxygen process, while only 50 percent of American production is BOP. In the last 15-years America’s output of steel per man hour has nearly tripled. “Are they asking us to pay for their mistakes?”

06:07Copy video clip URL A clip from the movie: Edwin H. Gott, Chairman of US Steel and AISI, declares that “We have no intention of letting foreign competition take away our market.” He says they’ve invested 10 billion dollars over the last five years in new equipment, now they aim to increase productivity on the human side.

06:43Copy video clip URL In another clip from the movie, another executive adds that over the last 10 years our industry has enjoyed only a 2 percent productivity factor. We don’t want to settle for that!

07:15Copy video clip URL Olszanski notes that the Nixon industry did a special study on the steel industry. The study concluded that the low percentage increase was not due to the workers, but to inefficient equipment. The Japanese can under sell US firms because they are willing to accept a low profit rate. American firms take profits twice as high as Japanese firms.

07:47Copy video clip URL A worker, Buddy Hill, says if you can buy something for one dollar you’re not going to go down the street and buy the same thing for three dollars. That’s what’s happening here. Foreigners sell at a reasonable price. If the US wants to stop them all they have to do is compete with them in the marketplace.

08:56Copy video clip URL Olszanski adds that the companies what us to think we’re in this together, but when they talk about productivity they only talk about what workers can do to solve problems the companies created.

09:14Copy video clip URL Another clip from the movie. The narrator reminds the audience that in order for the steel companies to win workers must beat the competition on an individual basis.

09:44Copy video clip URL Hill adds that steel workers got scared and started to hustle to try and beat the competition. They did so well the company decided they were making too much money and cut the earning of the workers, noting a contract clause that says if they make a change in the mill to improve productivity the company has the right to change the incentive program. A worker made a suggestion to improve productivity and for his idea was awarded A ten thousand dollar bonus. But Hill adds that the company soon made that back because they were reducing everyone else’s pay rate by 80 to 100 dollars. The workers feel they don’t have any place to turn with their grievance.

12:08Copy video clip URL Olszanski notes that we’ve heard of similar events in other plants. Increased productivity results in less pay for the worker and greater profits for the company.

12:32Copy video clip URL Another clip from the movie. The narrator reiterates the problem of preventing foreign companies from out doing US companies is an individual problem. Worker against worker.

13:00Copy video clip URL Olszanski adds that the future is bleak if  the union’s no-strike pact is successful. Workers are suffering, accidents have increased dramatically, crews are cut, incentives are down.

13:27Copy video clip URL Hill says that working under the present union contract there’s more accidents than their ever were because they push men harder. The wife of another striking worker says her husband is always tired and that things are bad. The foreman tells him to work harder. His friend was killed on the job, which makes her scared for her husband’s safety. Another striker says companies just want to work workers harder to produce more without improving conditions in the mills.

14:38Copy video clip URL Another clip from the movie reiterating that this issue is a personal matter. Worker versus worker.

14:55Copy video clip URL Hill says they want us to get mad at the German worker or the Japanese worker, thinking we’re in competition with him. But you get nothing from your own company.

15:55Copy video clip URL Olszanski says by convincing us workers to focus on beating our foreign competitors, they think we’ll not see they are taking away our basic rights. Management tries to keep us weak and divided. They try to make us fight amongst ourselves and keep us from uniting. Now they’re trying to get us to fight against our foreign colleagues.

16:23Copy video clip URL Another clip from the movie. The narrator says the foreign workers know about the competition and they are out to win with knowledge and teamwork, eliminate waste, care of equipment, attendance, strategy, the same strategies we work on.

16:58Copy video clip URL Olszanski adds that the real contest is between workers and management, everywhere. We must stick together if we are to be successful in the right to strike campaign.

17:29Copy video clip URL Another clip from the movie. The narrator suggests that because foreign workers work harder they’ve taken over on all the fronts. An actor says that 9 out of 10 radios sold in the US are foreign made. He is shocked at how fast foreign imports took over the American market.

18:22Copy video clip URL Olszanski says that from their research they’ve discovered that a large portion of imports are not produced by foreign companies. They are produced by American corporations that build factories overseas to exploit cheap labor.  Combined, these companies have an output of over two hundred billion dollars. They take away US jobs in the search for easy profits. The plot to take away our right to strike is an attempt to maintain cheap labor. He adds that we are all too familiar about the companies’ scare tactics.

20:26Copy video clip URL A clip from the movie illustrating a scare tactic, trying to blame the loss of US jobs on the hedge cycle. Hedge buying, purchasing an over abundance of materials while the price is low to avoid increased costs later, creates an artificial demand for steel.

21:35Copy video clip URL Olszanski interviews a steel worker about hedge buying. The man says the union used to have one-year contracts and it wasn’t possible to hedge buy. Then we got two-year contracts with a one-year wage reopen that still allowed us to go out on strike. Then they maneuvered us into a three-year deal where they have plenty of time to stockpile. They created this hedge buying. Now it’s impossible for companies need production. They’re not able to over produce. This is our opportunity to change the situation, but now we don’t have the right to strike.

23:33Copy video clip URL Olszanski notes that if US companies don’t modernize and increase capacity by thirty percent “you and I will be out of a job.  But we could be out of a job anyway if we don’t have the right to strike. Only with the right to strike will be be sure to get our fair share of the benefits of modernization. If we give up our basic right to strike, nothing can be done to improve our situation. We can’t let I.W. Abel give away our only protection. We’re fighting now for our right to strike.”

25:11Copy video clip URL Footage of strikers striking fr the right to strike. A man sings a protest song accompanied by guitar.

26:12Copy video clip URL Alice Peurala, in a committee meeting, says our next piece of literature should take issue with Abel’s position not representing the steel workers. Hill adds that the man in charge of management doesn’t understand the workers from the worker’s point of view. He has no contact with us and our conditions, the dirty locker rooms, the hours. If he knew he would be the last guy to take away our right to strike.

27:21Copy video clip URL A striker says if this pact has been signed until 1977, who knows how high the cost of living will be then.

27:30Copy video clip URL A man at a committee meeting says there was a time when civil service jobs weren’t aloud to strike. Now they’re getting the right to strike and we’re losing the right to strike.

28:07Copy video clip URL Another man says this agreement extends to 1977. By then, at the rate cost of living is rising, steel workers will be living at a poverty level. We were the number one paid workers in the country. Now we’re down to number 14.

28:41Copy video clip URL Another man says the local union presidents who voted for this pact either didn’t run or were not elected in the last election. If we can’t get the ear of the international union on this issue, it’s possible this could be come an important court case.

29:25Copy video clip URL A man says we can change the direction of this union. The miners have gotten pretty far on this issue, too. They have problems of increased accidents, and black lung. Those workers are making big changes. We can do the same. A lot of people need to get involved, though.

30:32Copy video clip URL B-roll of steel workers petitioning. Strikers striking, singing protest songs.

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32:36Copy video clip URL END.



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