Judge Extends LTV Contract For Another Week

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For the second straight day, hundreds of local steelworkers boarded buses and made their way down to Youngstown, where a federal bankruptcy court judge was to make a ruling on the future of LTV Steel.

For the second straight day, however, no final ruling was made. Judge William Bodoh did make a decision to extend LTV's contract with the United Steelworkers of America until Dec. 12, thus ensuring that the approximately 3,700 workers in limbo would get a paycheck and benefits for at least another week.

This is considered to be a small victory for the steelworkers because the company was seeking to vacate the contract. Instead, LTV must now continue with its integrated steel operations that management had hoped to shut down, those include Cleveland's east-side mill and the Warren coke plant.

In the meantime, Bodoh will continue to hear testimony in the case, and ultimately the decision to close several LTV facilities remains in his hands.

"The steel industry can survive, and LTV can make it," U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said. "We can save the jobs and protect the retirees benefits."

Kucinich and U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette also made the trip to Youngstown on Wednesday. Both congressmen told the crowd of steelworkers that had gathered outside of the courthouse that they expressed their support of LTV and of the American steel industry to the judge. LaTourette said that an economic stimulus package being discussed in the U.S. Congress would secure a government-guaranteed loan.

"Our job was to make sure LTV understands that there is a $250 million federally guaranteed loan still available," LaTourette said. "By the testimony yesterday, they thought it was dead on arrival. Our challenge is to give it to them whether they like it or not."

Inside the courtroom, LTV management maintained that even a $250 million loan would not be enough to keep the company's steel operations going. Kucinich said that he disagreed with LTV's quick dismissal.

"You can survive with the help of the steel loan guarantee which we have taken steps to make sure that there is every chance to get," Kucinich said. "We believe that the steel loan guarantee is the linchpin to the survival of LTV in the year 2001 and beyond."

Wednesday's news was well received by the rank and file, but some workers, including 30-year LTV employee Jim Naelitz, remain skeptical.

"As for the company's stance that if they get $250 million, it's not going to help … If they keep the same management, I've got to agree with them," Naelitz said. "Because those boys can drain $250 million in no time."