SHELBY — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on Monday visited Shelby where he was at the picket line, showing support for striking ArcelorMittal workers entering the second week of their strike at the city’s largest employer.
Time off, pensions and health care are among the issues.
“I don’t ever tell a company what it has to do, but…plenty of these people here have worked every day since Labor Day, every day, sometimes more than eight hours a day,” Brown told reporters during the Nov. 8 visit. “That is often a safety issue. They are seeing more injuries.”
Brown later said: “I have not seen anywhere the company forcing workers to work this many days in a row. I don’t know of anywhere else that’s happening. It’s possible. I just don’t know about it. But these are hardworking people. They care about their community and their families. They’re driving from Mansfield or Shiloh or Plymouth or Ontario or Lexington. Some further than that.”
“It’s just not in anybody’s interest that they work this many days in a row, no matter what they’re paid,” Brown added. “They’re obviously getting (paid) time-and-a-half on those days, and that’s good for their income, but it’s just not good for their health, not good for the community to work people that hard.”
Multiple attempts by the Daily Globe to speak to the company since Nov. 1 have been unsuccessful.
About 500 Shelby workers, who are part of United Steelworkers Local 3057, went on strike at midnight Oct. 31 after a new contract could not be reached with ArcelorMittal.
Brown was asked if he had spoken to anyone with the company.
“Four or five nights ago, I talked to the American CEO of this European-owned company,” Brown said. “We were talking more generally because the strike had just been called…I am always willing to talk to management on workers’ behalf. And to me, it’s always about the workers.”
During his stop in Shelby, Brown visited individually with many of the strikers, asking them, for example, how long they had worked at the Shelby steel plant.
Brown said that “management’s got to like this company.”
“They’re making good profits every month. These workers are productive…” he said also noting the company’s 131 years in Shelby.
“This company’s been good to this town, and this town’s been good to this company, and we want to keep it going,” Brown added.
Earlier, Brown noted the support in Shelby for the striking workers.
“You can see standing here for 30 minutes, the honking of horns and how many people in this community — virtually the whole community — is supportive of these workers,” he said.
Brown went on to address staffing at the plant. “It’s clear that they need to hire more people,” he said.
“They hire more people, it’s better for the community. It’s better for the local restaurants,” Brown said.
“You go down to the Vault and go to dinner on Sunday or go to an evening meal. It’s just better all around for the economy,” he said.
Brown added: “I am doing to do what I can to convince the company to hire people.”
Brown also noted the passage of the federal infrastructure bill and how it would help the Shelby plant.
“This is going to be a good next 10 years for the steel industry,” he said. “We are going to see more pipes made, more flat-rolled steel. We’re going to see iron ore companies doing better. Everybody in the supply chain, including ArcelorMittal in Shelby, should do better, and they ought to treat their workers that way.”
After Brown’s visit, Brian Sealy, staff representative/subdirector District 1 for the United Steelworkers, provided an update on the strike.
“As you can see, we’re still out here today, but we’re meeting with the company this afternoon to sit back down with them and go through things,” Sealy said in an interview. “We’re optimistic that we’re able to get this done. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow. But I think we’ll get there soon.”
Workers are not giving extensive interviews on the strike, though they are able to share how the strike is personally affecting them.
“I’ve got three kids, a wife, I’ve been married 21 years, I’ve been here 15 years,” said Scott A. Smith of Madison. “It’s been a good place to work….We all want to be at work. We just want a fair and equitable contract.”
“It does put a strain on some things, but we’ll get through it,” Smith added. “Hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
See shelbydailyglobe.com recent coverage of the strike, including photo galleries.