Retiree Refuses to Leave Latrobe Meeting

Article excerpt

As an officer with the United Steelworkers of America for more than three decades at Latrobe Specialty Steel Co., Bill Ehman always advocated retirees' rights.

Today, Ehman, 65, now a retiree of Local 1537, is still dumbfounded that he was arrested and led from a union meeting in handcuffs Thursday afternoon.

"I never believed it would happen. It's always been in our bylaws that retirees can attend meetings. It's our right," said Ehman, who was the local union president for 20 years and held other leadership positions.

Ehman was arrested at the American Legion in Latrobe, handcuffed and booked at the police station in Latrobe for criminal trespass about 4:30 p.m., after United Steelworkers officials summoned police, said Latrobe Police Chief Charles Huska.

Ehman was among nine retirees who tried to attend an afternoon meeting called by union leadership to review contract talks with the specialty steelmaker. The company's new owners and the union, representing about 400 workers, are attempting to reach an "early- bird" contract before the current pact expires in May 2008.

"There were so many police there you thought it was the Jena Six thing or something," said Ehman, referring to the police security at a civil rights protest in Jena, La., that same day.

Another union retiree, Ron Moyer, 61, of Loyalhanna in Derry Township, also was surprised.

"They called police, and the next thing you know, police cruisers from Derry, Ligonier, Latrobe and even state police start pulling in. Then, they take Bill out, handcuff him, put him in the back seat of the police cruiser and drive him down to the police station in the cruiser," Moyer said.

"We're just a couple of retirees trying to find out what's going on," Moyer said.

Moyer and the other retirees voluntarily left the meeting after police told them they should go or face arrest.

United Steelworkers District 10 International representative Dave Wolfe said he "feels sick" over the incident, but maintains the police were called to ensure order during the meeting.

"We had heard rumors that some retirees were going to show up and disrupt the meeting over a medical benefits issue dating back to 1994. …