The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Sparrows Point, Maryland:
“Redevelopment” Subsidy?

Nov 12, 2018

Baltimore County officials announced they will propose giving 87 million dollars of public subsidies to Tradepoint Atlantic for infrastructure improvements at Sparrows Point. Tradepoint bought all the mills and land in 2014 after RG Steel – the last owner of the mills – went bankrupt in 2012.

Tradepoint sold some of the steel-making equipment at “The Point” to other companies, tore down and sold the rest for scrap, and has been gradually leasing out the five square miles of land where Bethlehem Steel’s giant mill stood for over 100 years. They call this “redevelopment.”

Already FedEx, Amazon, Under Armour, Pasha Automotive auto-importing and other smaller companies have operations there, with much of the land yet to be leased out.

After Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001, every time the Sparrows Point mills were sold to new owners starting from Bethlehem (U.S.-owned) to International Steel Group/ ISG (U.S.), to Severstal (Russian-owned), then Arcelor-Mittal (Indian-owned), RG Steel (U.S.), and finally Tradepoint Atlantic itself, hundreds of millions of dollars were made. At the same time thousands of workers were laid off, stripped of all or part of their pensions and all of their company-subsidized health insurance, while the wages and benefits of the remaining active workers were reduced.

Years ago, the short-lived ISG was disbanded. All its mills, like Sparrows Point, were sold off to other companies or closed. Its founder and owner, Wilbur Ross, moved on to other things, including currently serving as President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce.

Arcelor-Mittal is now the biggest steel company in the world with operations in 60 countries.

So plenty of steel is still being made in this country – actually more than ever before – just not at “The Point” and other mills around the country that were shuttered.

Tradepoint now wants the tax-payers of Baltimore County, including thousands of retired Bethlehem steelworkers still living in the area on reduced pensions and health care, and tens of thousands of their children and grand-children, to subsidize the profits made off “The Point”. The politicians and the bosses of Tradepoint claim that this is the way to bring prosperity back to workers in the area.

This is just the continuation of wealthy bosses and bankers of the world enriching themselves at the expense of the working class.

Thousands of workers in the Baltimore area and elsewhere certainly need jobs – decent-paying jobs with good benefits. All the companies moving operations onto Sparrows Point can afford to provide such jobs, as well as Tradepoint Atlantic itself.

But no company will do this for the workers out of the “goodness of their hearts.” They seek only to make more money from workers’ labor. It still depends on what people do.