As Steelworkers Strike, Solidarity Is Strong With New Bedford Unions [OPINION]
Addressing a large crowd at the gates of ATI Flatrolled Products in New Bedford's South End, Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council President Lisa Lemieux delivered a stirring call to action.
"When we fight," Lemieux said, "WE WIN!" The crowd responded emphatically.
The crowd was gathered to show support for USW Local 1357, the New Bedford steelworkers who are on Week 11 of a nationally-organized strike against ATI. Despite being a multi-billion dollar corporation, ATI's executives and shareholders reap profits off the backs of their employee's labor while trying to claw back their healthcare benefits.
"Everybody's had a tough year," said Ward 3 City Councilor Hugh Dunn, who followed Lemeuix. "But when I think about people who maybe don't relate to us, I think about management at ATI. I think about management who stayed at home and collected bonuses while essential workers came to the job and didn't get a break. And then I think about the management that wants concessions from its employees who worked during a pandemic."
Mike Jackman, District Director for Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) was there to express the congressman's continued support for organized labor and the striking steelworkers, noting that Rep. Keating had walked the picket line with them before and will do it again. Jackman was followed by State Rep. Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford), who offered support and called out the "scabs," a term used derisively to describe people who cross the picket line to work.
"They aren't really working because they cannot replace you!" Cabral exclaimed. "They don't know how to work the way that you do."
The impressive turnout at the rally was a testament to the strength and solidarity of local labor. Healthcare workers, educators, and tradespeople came to walk the line with their union kin at 1357, as the union presidents presented donations to help the aggrieved workers get by and offered strong words of encouragement to continue their fight against the unrelenting greed of monied interests.
When I was joined on-air by John Camarao of Local 1357 at the outset of the strike, he made it a point to recognize that they weren't just fighting for themselves, but also to ensure that future steelworkers at ATI and their families don't fall victim to the company's long history of mistreating its employees.
As the working class of the SouthCoast and the country emerge from one of the bleakest moments in American history, they have emerged with a heightened sense of class-consciousness and a new appreciation for the value of their labor. Demonstrations like the one in New Bedford on Monday can give us hope that this consciousness can be mobilized to fight for the dignity of the American worker.
Marcus Ferro is the host of The Marcus Ferro Show airing Saturdays on 1420 WBSM from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.