BRACKENRIDGE: Myrtle Johnston, 80, of Harrison, remembers the day her father, Charles Love Smith, was killed when a cable snapped and crushed him in a mill accident at Allegheny Ludlum.
‘He was rushed to the hospital and died 45 minutes later in surgery,’ Johnston said. She was only 22 years old when the accident happened in 1943.
Johnston was among a Saturday crowd of almost 200 to remember loved ones at the company’s union, Local 1196. The Brackenridge and Natrona plant workers came together to unveil a monument.
Forty-three names – of 42 men and 1 woman – are enshrined on the monument, which will sit in front of union headquarters along Brackenridge Avenue.
‘This has been a long time coming,’ union President Randy Haas said.
‘Tragedy killed them. The shock was severe.’
Now safety is the number one priority for the company and union.
‘We don’t want to have to add any other names to the wall,’ Haas said ‘I know first hand your pain and sorrow as I had to bury my 17-year-old son after a tragic car accident in November,’ he said.
Allegheny Ludlum safety director Jeff Dierdorff said the company is committed to making the plants safer for all employees.
Denise Galliot Zellefrow is the granddaughter of Emile Gaillot and niece of Harry Gaillot. Both were killed in separate mill accidents many years ago.
‘My grandfather was killed in 1941 at age 66 after a beam fell across his chest,’ the teary-eyed woman said. ‘My uncle, Harry Gaillot, was killed in 1935 after he fell and was crushed because there were no rails to support him. He was only 25.’
Zellefrow said it has been the union that has worked to protect workers over the years.
The latest Ludlum fatality occurred in October when Kirk W. Steinhagen, 49, of Winfield, was killed in the Natrona melt-shop after falling more than 20 feet.
Andrew ‘Lefty’ Palm, state director of the United Steelworkers of America since 1982, agreed the company and union would work more closely together.
‘We’ve had a lot of fights with Allegheny Ludlum,’ Palm said. ‘But we’ve locked arms on this one (safety).’
Tim Browne, general manager of primary operations for Ludlum, said the company will ‘challenge the notion that some accidents are inevitable.’
State Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, and State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, have pledged to support legislation enforcing stricter safety standards.
William George, president of the state AFL-CIO, said the legacy of the dead will be for the workers to fight back.
‘Today we remember the dead,’ George said. ‘Tomorrow we fight like (heck) for the living.’
Leslie Suhr can be reached at [email protected]