Raw footage shot 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 Raw footage. B-roll, demonstrators picket in front of the Hilton in Chicago.
00:34Copy video clip URL Interview with a demonstrator. She says her husband works in a steel mill. She feels it’s important for the wives to help support the worker’s right to strike. When asked why she thinks the right to strike is important, the woman says at the grocery store prices are going up. The new contract says they’ll settle for 3.5, and she knows prices are going up more than that. “In my husband’s department one fellow was killed. Another almost had his fingers sliced off. None of these conditions have been changed. They should have the right to strike, as their card in the hole.”
01:44Copy video clip URL She notes her husband works at Youngstown, in the tin mill. “When he comes home he says he’s tired, things are bad. Every day, since this friend of his was killed, I’m scared. It’s not safe where he’s working. He doesn’t have a guaranteed week. He works 3 days, 4 days. The only way they’ll get these guaranteed weeks and safety conditions and a decent wage is by having the right to strike.”
02:32Copy video clip URL The woman thinks other wives feel the same way, especially when they see that the money offered in their husband’s contracts isn’t enough to live on.
02:50Copy video clip URL She says if the workers didn’t have the right to strike the contracts would get worse and worse. “It seems to me without the right to strike there ain’t no point in having a union.” She sees it just as a way to bust the union, and that if you bust one union it’s easy to bust another. “When I go back to work I want my union to be able to stand up for me.”
03:32Copy video clip URL The interviewer notes the woman has a baby coming in a couple of weeks. “What do you think about what’s going to happen to your child when he grows up?” The woman says that’s one reason why she’s involved in the strike, to make a nice life for their child.
04:09Copy video clip URL Footage of the striking steel workers eating lunch on the sidewalk where they’re picketing. They stand around, commune, eat, chit chat.
04:59Copy video clip URL One demonstrator talks with other picketers. He says a stock report was released saying that Youngstown was off the preferred list. An article in Forbes magazine saying, “Trouble, Trouble, Trouble.” “How can a mill run at 100 percent capacity and still not make money? Then we were told the Board of Directors is composed of the head of the Firestone company and three or four bankers. It makes you wonder if there isn’t a funneling of money to make it appear the company is in financial difficulty. They bring contractors in to take the place of steelworkers who work for less than contractors do. And then they cry that costs are too high.”
06:54Copy video clip URL Footage of a news crew shooting the demonstrators.
07:17Copy video clip URL Various shots, footage of demonstrators walking in a circle in front of the Hilton hotel, demonstrating, clapping hands in rhythm and chanting: “2, 4, 6, 8 we don’t want to arbitrate; 2, 4, 6, 8 leave the strike, negotiate.”
08:47Copy video clip URL Static.
08:50Copy video clip URL Footage of a group of strikers in conference outside the hotel discussing how they will make themselves heard. One man notes that one of the opposing leaders has recently been sent a telegram to open the lines of communication and he’s not yet responded. They talk amongst themselves trying to decide if they want to go inside the hotel, where a health and safety conference is being held, for a discussion. Audio between the group is difficult to understand. They decide to go in and walk as a group down the sidewalk and into the hotel.
10:47Copy video clip URL Inside the demonstrators go up escalators and into a large event room where a conference in progress. Someone at the far end of the room stands at a podium and talks. A large sign behind him indicates the event is the United Steelworkers of America International Safety and Health Conference, September 24, 25, 26, 1973. Shots of the speaker at the podium (seen from the back of the room.) He addresses a room full of conference attendees. His voice is inaudible. Footage of the attendees seated and listening.
13:49Copy video clip URL Suddenly, one conference leader (from the podium) addresses the demonstrators. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but we’re trying to conduct and health and safety conference and it’s not going to be disturbed by you! If you don’t shut up you’re going to be thrown out.” Heated voices rise in unison. Loud, inaudible voices. Footage of attendees and demonstrators outside the conference room milling about.
15:30Copy video clip URL As the videographer rides up an escalator he comes upon a group in the hotel lobby in heated conflict. Conference organizers are yelling at the demonstrators to leave. Security guards are trying to keep order. The demonstrators are leaving. One conference attendee yells after the demonstrators: “When you’ve worked long enough to know about the unions, then come back.”
16:54Copy video clip URL Continued heated debate inside the hotel between strikers and conference attendees. Conference attendees call out, “Throw ’em out!” People stand around as though there’s a stand still. Footage of people standing around, uncertain of what’s happening next. The crowd murmurs among itself.
18:22Copy video clip URL Alice Peurala in the crowd is talking to a man, an opponent. She says they are all part of the steelworkers union and what they’re trying to do is persuade the powers that be that they need the right to strike. She adds, “we’re doing that by handing the delegates something to read.” She adds she came today to hear Mr. Abel speak and she heard him say, “We must resist the fact that the Nixon administration has not funded OSHA properly, that corporations are allowing conditions in plants to exist that threaten the lives of steel workers.” She adds that she believes the most effective way to resist that is to have the right to strike. The man she argues that the workers have a contract with the company, they have the right to approach the leaders at any time and if their demands are not met the workers have the right to shut down the plant. They woman disagrees. “They don’t have that right! We don’t have the right to strike on issues of safety. In Pennsylvania they do.”
20:34Copy video clip URL Footage of demonstrators standing around, some watching the woman and man argue back and forth. Various bits of conversation among strikers only occasionally are audible, the result of multiple conversations happening at once.
23:09Copy video clip URL END tape in mid action.