Bridgeville steelworkers union group to disband after 30 years
The upcoming meeting of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees in Bridgeville will be its last.
The local chapter is disbanding Tuesday, largely because of dwindling numbers.
SOAR, formed in 1985, has served as the political arm of the United Steelworkers, according to chapter President Virgil Colucci. He said he and fellow members stayed in touch with union activities and shared information about insurance coverage and issues that affected their golden years.
“When you shut a mill down, you lose your constituents,” he said.
Raised in the Muse section of Cecil, Washington County, he found employment at Cyclops Steel in Bridgeville in 1948 and stayed until retirement in 1990, about the same time the mill shut down.
Colucci watched the rise and fall of the industry and the union at the Bridgeville site, where Universal Stainless has operated since 1994.
At the Cyclops mill’s height, 1,700 union members worked there. While he was union president for about 18 years, there were 1,000, he said.
For decades, Colucci reported to his full-time job wearing a shirt and tie to represent the membership. But during his last three and a half years, when his union-rep job no longer could be funded, he returned to the plant.
“I went from a suit to a uniform,” said Colucci, becoming a gang leader in the scrap division, “where they cooked the steel and made ingots.”
The Bridgeville chapter was SOAR’s second chapter in Pennsylvania.
Membership in SOAR kept Colucci connected with his union brothers. But as membership decreased with many dying, he said, there was less reason for the others to meet.
“What are you going to do with that number of people?” he said about the half dozen remaining members.
One of the organization’s last acts will be donating its funds to the place where members have been meeting.
The Bridgeville Public Library will be the recipient of $400, money that had been used to pay dues to the national organization.
“We always met at the library on the last Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m.,” Colucci said. “It was either donate the money or have a party.”
The members, age 75 and older, chose to be generous instead with funds that came from SOAR nationally to support their efforts.
“We thought we’d be good to them,” said Colucci, of Peters, who is appreciative that the group was able to meet at the library for years free of charge.
Paul Antoline, library manager, was appreciative, too. The check showed that group members recognize the value the library provides, he said.
“They wanted to publicize the positive impact the library has had,” he said, “and generate the good news the library is here for the community.”
To Colucci, the donation was a way to do one last thing to make a statement about the organization’s principles.
“We’re ordinary people, nothing special,” Colucci said. “That’s the end of the ballgame.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or email@example.com.