A Violence-Marred Dispute Daingerfield Extensive violence has marked the strike at Lone Star Steel Co. In the first ten weeks local police Shad reports of some 20 shooting incidents in the area, and some 25 arrests had been made in that time stemming from confrontations that involved rock throwing and shots fired from passing vehicles. Also, several pickets have been struck by cars at gates of the plant. In the first week of the strike, last October, three striking workers were arrested for firing shots at two Texas Rangers who were dressed as workers and were driving a Lone Star Steel pickup truck past pickets. In January a non-striking Lone Star worker was killed by a shotgun blast. Two weeks later, two strikers were charged with assault with intent to murder after shots were fired at the truck of a worker leaving the Lone Star plant. Lately, since February, bomb blasts and bomb threats have occurred. At least six bombs have gone off at the plant. One exploded about 5 o’clock one morning, in an area where some 1,000 newly hired workers, who were not participating in the strike, were sleeping in tents provided by the company. In March a bomb was disconnected 10 minutes before it was set to go off in a company cafeteria where some 200 workers were eating. A clock wired to several sticks of dynamite was disarmed by plant security officers. Lone Star has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those guilty of bombing, sabotage, arson, or other acts of violence on company property which result in damage or injury. filed against him. But violence really comes in many forms. To the 2,627 strikers \(about 650 of them Negro, the local has been inteimportation of strikebreakers is violence upon them. Just as are the periodic searches of their cars by Texas Rangers and highway patrolmen, who have numbered as many as 50 at one time here. And so is what strikers call a double standard of justice, which they charge allows strikebreakers, but not union workers, to carry guns. VIOLENCE IS nothing new to disputes between Local 4134 and Lone Star Steel. In a 1957 wildcat strike \(that is, a strike not authorized by union leadwere overturned, and a pipeline was blown up. In truth, the 1968-69 strike really began in that 1957 dispute, when 1,500 men walked out of the Lone Star plant in protest of the company’s handling of grievances. The wildcat lasted 43 days, during which time the company hired strikebreakers and “permanently fired” all of the strikers. It was partially settled when the company agreed to rehire the strikers except for the walkout leaders. To decide who the instigators were, the company and the union agreed to arbitration. The arbitrator decided that the company should post a list of 200 names of persons it considered the instigators; each of the 200 would be allowed to be tried individually before an arbitrator if he felt he had been unjustly accused. Some of the 200 accepted discharge, some accepted the company’s offer to return to work .without back pay to the time the strike officially ended, and some took their cases to arbitration. Two years later the last of the arbitration cases was settled and the company ended up paying over $250,000 in back wages to falsely accused union people. But a tremendous blow had been struck to the union. The issue of a wildcat strike divided the local originally; some members had refused to walk off their jobs and, thus, had become “scabs” in the eyes of the strikers. The settlement that ended the walkout was even more divisive. To make matters worse, most of the union’s leaders were out of the plant for at least 18 months. Some never went back. So in 1958 when the weakened union went in to bargain a new contract with Lone Star Steel, which in those days was being led by Dallas financier and industrialist E. B. Germany, Local 4134 was in the position of a beggar, and the company knew it. For 18 months the two unequals bargained and finally reached an agreement in 1959. “They had gutted our contract,” a union leader says today. From 1956 until the contract of 1959, Lone Star Steel employees had enjoyed virtually the same wages and fringe benefits that steelworkers in the “basic steel” industry had. The contract came open again in 1964, and again Lone Star’s power at the bargaining table was superior by far. In other parts of the country, during those six years “basic steel” bargaining patterns had been making their biggest gains in the history of the industry. Thus, when the contract reopening came in the fall of 1968, with the union leaders feeling they had rebuilt a strong union and the company evidently confident because of its continued expansion, a strike appeared inevitable. For 18 months the local’s members had been preparing themselves and their families for a long strike. Lone Star obviously was ready, also, and even the 17 counties and 76 towns and villages where the union members lived appeared to have geared their economies for a war. At midnight Oct. 16 the picket lines went up and 2,627 East Texans were on strike. THE ISSUES were many, but they boiled down to one, “Was Local 4134 a union again and would it survive as a union?” The union was asking for a “basic steel” contract again, as it had had up between 1956 and 1958, and the company, “as a matter of principle,” was refusing. To come up to “basic steel” the union wanted joint administration and funding of a union-negotiated pension plan; improved hospitalization insurance, accident and health benefits; apprentice program; survivors benefits; work rules; a vacation bonus, an additional holiday; funeral leave; extended vacations for longtime employees; and trial witness duty pay. Wages were not an issue since Lone Star had kept pace with “basic steel” and was willing to do so again. Wages in the plant range from $2.621/2 an hour to $4.22. “They [company negotiators] made the statement that they could pay the additional cost for what we were asking, but they didn’t intend to,” Steelworkers Director Ward said. “They’ve never told us they couldn’t pay the price. They just said they didn’t agree with us in principle.” Lone Star is today a subsidiary of the conglomerate Northwest Industries which own a variety of enterprises ranging from railroads to farms. Yet, the management of Lone Star remains much the same as it was during E. B. Germany’s reign. The company’s chief products are oil and gas transmission pipeline and oilwell drill stem, although it manufactures other iron and steel products. Bomb casing is one of the “others,” and it has gotten the most publicity. Lone Star strip-mines low-grade iron ore in the tree-covered red rolling hills that surround the plant and brings in its coal from various sources. It manufactures its own coke and combines the iron ore, coke and scrap metal to produce quality steel which it mills into finished products. The plant first began production during World War II as part of the war mobilization. It was organized by the Steelworkers in 1948. The union gained wage parity with the rest of the industry in 1952. An 11-day strike in 1956 produced the essentially “basic steel” contract which expired in 1958. Lone Star’s expansion has been almost constant, and its facilities on the banks of a small lake just north of the Lake o’ the Pines and its work force have grown accordingly. The company sales volume now is well over $100 million annually.