Steelworkers storm Mellon 'bank of marble'

By Denise Winebrenner, in People's Weekly World,
21 June, 1997

PITTSBURGH - Hundreds of steelworkers stormed the Mellon Bank Tower here June 12, demanding that one of largest stockholders in the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation (WP) help get the outlaw company back to the bargaining table. Some 4,500 members of the Steelworkers union (USWA) living in three states have been on strike against WP since Oct. 1.

USWA President George Becker, flanked by Pennsylvania AFL- CIO President William George and strike leaders from three states, led the march from Mellon Square to the Tower as bus and truck drivers flashed "Vs" or raised fists in solidarity.

But Mellon greeted them with an army of private cops, outfitted in suits and ties, who pushed, shoved and grabbed marchers as they approached lobby doors. Union leaders pushed into the lobby while building security locked the doors.

Pittsburgh police, who had been directing traffic flocked to the Tower on foot, horseback and mountain bike. They barred Jim McKay, labor reporter for the Post Gazette from entering the bank. Pittsburgh cops joined with Mellon security to form a wall between workers outside the bank and their leaders inside.

Angry workers pushed against the revolving door, demanding admittance. Larry Mallus, president of USWA 1190 in Steubenville, Ohio, the largest of the local unions on strike, grabbed a bull horn. He charged that Mellon profits were "lined in blood. Four hardworking men with families have died for your greed in this strike," he shouted while steelworkers from Yorkville, Ohio chanted, "Mellon's a felon. Mellon's a felon."

Wheeling-Pitt is controlled by WHX whose CEO is Ron LaBow, a notorious Wall Street financier and corporate outlaw. For more than a month, Becker and other union leaders have called on Mellon president and CEO, Frank Cahouet, asking for a meeting to discuss the cost to the bank of LaBow's stubborn refusal to negotiate seriously with the union. Cahouet has steadfastly refused and the June 12 action was meant as an opportunity for him to change his mind.

WHX stock has plummeted by 40 percent since the strike began and this at a time when stock prices for other steel companies as climbed nearly 10 percent. With over 300,000 shares of stock and fiduciary control of another million, Mellon is second only to Merrill Lynch in ownership of WP.

When they left the building Becker told demonstrators, "This is a conscious decision not to meet with us. Mellon is open for business and we are here to take care of business."

Becker said that while Mellon Bank was supporting LaBow, "they have no support in this section of the county. Our strike continues and our pressure on Mellon continues. We are fighting for everyone, every worker, every organized worker who has a defined benefit pension. We will be back!"

Wheeling-Pitt strikers will arrive in New York June 25 for three days of action focusing on Barclay's Bank and Merrill Lynch, both major WP investors. In addition to marches and rallies in the Wall Street area of Manhattan's financial district, members from the eight striking locals will leaflet and picket in the communities where leading officers of both companies live.

The strike, the longest in the modern history of the steel industry, has eight communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia reeling under the loss of a $5 million weekly payroll. Steelworker families in the Ohio and Mon valleys are going to food banks instead of the grocery store. To date, WP has squandered $150 million in their effort to break the USWA.

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