WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — Though it’s been 10 years since the doors of Republic Steel shut for good, some former employees and union members said their fight for the rights of the American worker isn’t over.
Sunday night, more than 100 of them gathered for a reunion. They said they’re troubled by the decline of unions around the country.
“I started at Youngstown Sheet at 23-years-old,” said retired Steelworker Cindy Jackson.
Jackson worked in steel mills around the Valley until she retired. Now she’s the president of the local chapter of SOAR – Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees.
“We all still believe in the labor movement. That’s what drives the country and that’s what drives the middle class, we don’t want a country that’s going to be rich and poor,” Jackson said.
Betty “Recee” Engram-Haynes worked in the mill that would later become Republic Steel when there was a strike and lock-out 27 years ago.
“Somebody just said to me the other day about, ‘I don’t really go for unions.’ That’s one thing. My union money works for me. When they like to shut down the plant they try to throw our pensions and the PBGC, the union fought for them, and now we all get paid,” Engram-Haynes said.
Denise Barber was on the executive board of Local Chapter 1375 for 15 years before Republic Steel closed. She now works in finance.
“They say people don’t want anymore, but people don’t want to work for nothing,” Barber said.
All three said though unions couldn’t save Youngstown’s steel industry, they’d like to see more young people actively participating in their union — or even starting one if a union doesn’t already exist at their jobs.
“A union is only as strong as its people because you’re the one being represented,” Engram-Haynes said.