Pete Ross

“A lot of the doctors’ and lawyers’ … parents got them where they are based on the money coming out of the plant.”

Pete Ross began his career at Sparrows Point Steel Mill in June of 1969, and remained at the mill until its closing in July of 2012. After working in a number of departments within the Mill, Ross began his involvement with the Employee Assistance Program in the 1980s. It was within the EAP that Pete Ross was most fulfilled and made his biggest impact at Sparrows Point.  As a director in the EAP, he aided workers in handling and overcoming alcohol and substance abuse in order to save their jobs and their families. He expanded the reach of this program, not only helping workers and families with addiction, but with workplace, financial, and relationship issues as well. Ross made himself available to help workers and their families at all times, both in and out of the plant, at times subverting management in order to help his fellow employees.

Since the Mill’s closing, Pete Ross has continued to be actively involved with the Sparrows Point steelworkers and their families.  Working with the union, Ross continues to help his fellow steelworkers transition to life without Sparrows Point.  Though he has no intentions of entering another profession, Ross is currently going back to school in order to complete a degree in chemical dependency. (Written by Kristin Blankinship, Kathleen Foster, John McGuire, Sarah PattersonandAndrew Woo, UMBC students)

I’m Pete Ross, I started working for Bethlehem steel at the Sparrows Point plant on June the 1st, 1969, and I ended my career there as the director of the Employee Assistance Program.

Now I’d always been in the people helping business through my neighborhoods and my community and all that, but at work I was focusing on fixing things – equipment – that’s the jobs I did throughout the majority of my employment down here at the plant. How I got involved with the Employee Assistance Program, because at the time I was working as an electrician in the Hot Mill, what they call a Control Tech, I developed over the years a problem myself with chemicals – drugs and alcohol – so when I decided to finally help myself and go through the program, the Employee Assistance Program was in existence at the time which started in the ‘80’s as an alcohol program, I went through it myself March the 1st, 1986, which – I just celebrated 27 years in recovery myself – but anyway, after coming out of treatment, 28 day treatment, I got involved with the program. And so it became a very, I’d say, healing process for me also because not only was I helping other people, but it helped me in the same process.

Now it was very traumatic the last 12 years for a lot of people mentally, because the company went through a lot of transitions. I’d been hearing, and a lot of other people for the last 20 years that the plant was going down and getting to the state that it was. The whole key is trying to help people transition to life without Sparrow’s Point, because that was a very vital piece of the community. Myself, I had several relatives that worked down there, a couple children that had worked there also, many, many relatives, neighbors, and most people feel that it was a very vital – that it had a very vital impact on them being able to support their families – I know it did mine, also. You know, put people through school, buy homes, just build a life.

Overall, it was just a beautiful experience for me, because I learnt a lot of things, developed a lot of skills – not only occupational skills, I learned a lot of people skills. I run into people constantly now that tell me how much I helped them and impacted their family and what they’re still doing, and so that’s kind of rewarding – like I said, I did the EAP stuff for 24 years. I guess the legacy that remains of the plant itself that it was a source of income and a lot of people had the opportunity – so-called uneducated or unskilled people – to go to a place and develop some skills and get some benefits and some income to not only support their self, but to take care of their families. It effected generations, I mean, I’m sure a lot of the doctors and lawyers or other people – well I know a lot of them, a lot of politicians whose parents got them where they are based on the money coming out of the plant. So overall, the 100 years that it was there, it impacted the whole community.  (Edited by Mary Wickless)