The Spark

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

Sparrows Point Steelworkers “Put Through the Mill”

Jan 23, 2012

Capitalism in the 21st century has been ruthless to steelworkers. Bethlehem Steel, which decades ago employed 25,000 workers at its Sparrows Point plant near Baltimore, was down to 4000 workers in 2001, when it declared bankruptcy. The company drastically reduced pensions and eliminated health benefits for retirees.

International Steel became the new owner in 2003, reducing the workforce to 2,530. Mittal took it over in 2005. The Russian company Severstal took it over in 2008. Then came a 7-month shutdown in 2010, with 2500 workers unemployed.

RG Steel took it over March 2011, reducing the workforce to 2200. December 23, two days before Christmas, RG bosses proclaimed financial difficulties and announced an immediate shutdown of major parts of the plant, laying off 750 workers. Will these layoffs be permanent or temporary? No one knows.

But this is what we do know: the decline in the steel industry is a sign of capitalism in crisis and decay. What an irony to decimate an industry that could produce steel and steel products for improving aged infrastructure and provide thousands of useful jobs.

It makes a mockery of Maryland officials who brag that our state’s unemployment rate is improving and things are looking up.