“The fight’s not over till your dead. So for me, this isn’t over.”
Joe Rosel comes from a long line of steel workers. He held various jobs at the Mill, both as a laborer and as a member of the Point’s fire department. In his time at Sparrows Point Steel Mill, Rosel was not only a very active union member, but also the president of Local 9477. Rosel has many fond memories of the plant and regrets that it was not saved. What he does not regret, however, is how hard he fought to keep Sparrows Point alive and operating. (Written by Rebecca Borland, UMBC student)
My name is Joe Rosel, I’m the former president of local 9477, now I administer the hall, but I was the president of the local at the time the plant went down, unfortunately. What I thought I would do was take the job for the summer. It was a labor job, everybody started in the labor department, but the money was actually good. The money was so good. Now the job was tough.
You got taken around the plant to do the hardest labor jobs there were that mill labor people didn’t want to do. Running the jack hammer inside the hot mill furnace, inside the plate mill furnace. Go in the flues of the open hearth, you would go under the mill where all the dirt and everything collected that would have went out the smoke stacks, but over time, moisture would collect and you would be down in their shoveling and wheeling out iron oxide dust.
I had a bachelors degree too from Towson in the early 80’s, but what I found out was that I was making more money than my professors. So it was O.K. to have a college degree, but If i wanted to make money, I wasn’t going to make more money with my degree, than I was going to make down at the plant. My great uncle worked there for 46 years and my uncle, who’s 81, worked there for 40-some years.
This is my grandfather’s chit that he had to keep with him in order to get paid. You would take this with you to the payroll office and have to show them this in order to get paid. I keep this as a memento of my grandfather who worked down there 46 years. He died when he was 94 years old. But being the president of the local and fighting to keep this plant open, I kept this as a memento saying to myself, that it was a solemn oath to myself and my members that i would do everything i could to try to save and try to keep this plant open. Knowing the legacy and the history that were so important to so many people but not just me. I’m typical of a lot of other people and I wanted to remind myself everyday, so i kept it with me about what I was fighting for, which is basically not a job, but a way of life.
I have a scene of regret, I mean that the plant is being shut down, but the only thing I can say is, I can look in the mirror in the morning and say, I did everything I could and fought as hard as I could fight to try to keep that open.
The race isn’t over till you’re dead. The fight’s not over till your dead. So for me, this isn’t over. Maybe Sparrows point may go down and be redeveloped, but I feel it may still be redeveloped and have steel down there again. May not be the way that it is, but the possibility is, that one of the uses of that ground, because there is 3,000 acres and 4 square miles, is still in the future, a modern steel plant. Who knows? (Edited by Justin Ambrose)