It’s only natural that Pittsburgh steelworkers would want to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
But a U.S. Steel memo says workers in the Clairton, Irvin and Edgar Thomson mills who miss work Sunday or Monday “without just cause” will face “severe disciplinary action.”
Is it shocking or ironic that U.S. Steel would refuse to support a famous standard-bearer for a once-mighty American industry? Not at all.
Is U.S. Steel mean-spirited for refusing to adjust to this local need? Of course it is.
U.S. Steel’s threat to punish those of its workers who take a day off to watch the Super Bowl is unsurprising because mean-spiritedness was and remains still a prominent feature of America’s capital-labor conflict. After all, Henry Clay Frick, Chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, the predecessor to U.S. Steel, would have approved this measure if he were not a long-time resident of Hell and thus out of touch with current events. He was, as we know, the agent who brought about the bloody Homestead Steel Strike of 1892 and the infamous Johnstown Flood (1889). It is difficult to imagine Frick approving any decision that would put humane concerns before the interests of the capital he owned and managed. His ruthlessness distinguished him from his peers.
Lest we forget this dark past, we should keep in mind that the Pittsburgh Steelers football team celebrates the individuals who worked in Western Pennsylvania’s steel mills along with those who worked in the many industries related to steel making. The Steelers, like the Green Bay Packers, is more than a professional football team. The team celebrates a place, a city and a region. Like the Packers, the Steelers is an emblem for a place. It represents the identity of Pittsburghers even when they could care a damn about football. Capital, on the other hand, always lacks honor of this sort. It lacks this honor because it is intrinsically homeless. It has no place of being, a home and it thus lacks a commitment to the communities which it touches.
To be sure, some U.S. Steel executives will attend today’s game. It is prudent to expect that these attendees will not suffer sanctions for having done so. And they undoubtedly will attend the game on the company’s dime.