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RG Steel and super seniority

September 2, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

To the editor:

I was somewhat surprised by the letter from Leslie Letusick complaining the union kept her and her husband in the dark since his layoff in June of this year ("Workers get few answers," Aug. 26.) She speaks of his 10 years of service at the coke plant and that the union has done little. I think she and her husband should visit our local and thank those who gave him super seniority.

In the 2008 layoffs, there were employees with 20, 30 and even 40 years of service laid off while her husband with his then-six years worked. They based this on job class 2 and 3 that most could have learned in a couple of days. I would wager in 2011, when the senior employees lost their benefits, neither one of them lost one moment of sleep. When Local 1190 was a strong local, seniority was sacred, never questioned - the senior man worked, period. I recall when the cold strip shut down, its employees would come to the furnace and bump jobs. Some had to be broken in. It was done because they were senior employees and seniority was sacred. No, she has no complaint. He worked four years longer then he should have. It would be ironic if the person working in his place had only a couple of years service and was a boss's son or daughter. I am a firm believer what goes around comes around.

She then thanked the president for "killing the steel mills." How on earth you can blame the president for RG Steel's poor business decisions is beyond me? RG started its largest facility in a soft steel market. They produced more product then there was demand. It was simple supply and demand economics. They were doomed from the start. They should have started a smaller facility such as the Mingo Junction works.

Production could have been controlled according to the order book. We had a relined furnace ready to go, and a good electric arc furnace and caster. If business conditions improved, we could ramp up production. If it got to the point where we couldn't meet demand, then start the next facility. That's what should have been done.

Now, those who destroyed the company are asking for a $20 million bonus for their failure. That money should be applied to the health care they ruined, but we couldn't do that because we would be "spreading the wealth."

Robert R.DeFrank


(Editor's note: The writer is a retired control room operator, on the No. 5 blast furnace.)

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