Small Victory For LTV Workers, Retirees

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – LTV workers and retirees boarded buses early in the morning and went back to Youngstown on Wednesday to demonstrate in front of a federal bankruptcy court, 19/43 News' Bill Safos and Harry Boomer reported.

The issue being discussed inside the court was LTV's request to immediately throw out its collective bargaining agreement with the labor union so that it could stop paying benefits and pensions to all of its employees and retirees.

The judge recessed without coming to a decision on Wednesday and Thursday, but LTV, its creditors and the union were able to reach a verbal agreement that guarantees the company would keep providing benefits to its workers and retirees through the hot idle period lasting until at least Feb. 28.

The announcement of the agreement generated cheers from the workers assembled outside of the courthouse, who said that they feel as though they've been given a little breathing room.

Steelworkers, including retired LTV worker George Anderson, demonstrated in the cold weather all day long on Wednesday, but they said that they didn't mind.

"It'll be a lot colder than that if I lose my house, if I've got no benefits and healthcare," Anderson said.

The company's attorneys argued that LTV simply couldn't afford to pay the $4 million a day that retirees' benefits cost.

Employees, on the other hand, said that they need their benefits to survive.

"I think it's horrible that, out of the blue, they can just cancel this all out and leave people hanging," laid-off LTV employee Darryl Krakora said.

Lawyers for U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said that employee benefits would only help to make the company more attractive to potential buyers.

"Any buyer is going to want functional equipment and an available workforce," attorney Timothy Grendell said.

"It's just the right thing to do," attorney Martin Gelfand said. "It's the holiday season -- just six days before Christmas -- and it's just wrong to send all of these people into the world with no jobs or benefits. It's time to do the right thing."

Grendell and Gelfand are asking the judge to force LTV to continue to pay benefits for 60 days beyond the hot idle period ending in February.

Officials from both sides have said that potential buyers have expressed interest in LTV's eastside Cleveland mill, but they would not name the companies.

Company representatives and union representatives negotiated all day on Thursday, and court proceedings are expected to resume on Friday at 9 a.m.