Schennum: Okay. So I'm Jill Schennum, I am a volunteer interviewer for the Steelworker Archives and I'm talking to Iris Linares today,who is going to talk about her experiences as a child of a steelworker as well as her experiences with the United Steelworkers Union and Dislocated Steelworkers program and asbestos lawsuits involving steelworkers. So we're going to start out, Iris, talking about your growing 1:00up and your experiences as the child of a steelworker. Can you tell us when your father started working at Bethlehem Steel, how he started working there and how that related to your childhood.
Linares: Well my father started working at Bethlehem Steel back in 1950. He was in the United States Army in Puerto Rico during the SecondWorld War, and then when he got discharged, there was no employment in Puerto Rico so other than, you know, out in the sugarcane fields and he didn't want to do that, so he came to New York, him and his brothers, and his brothers found work in New York and he did too but he didn't like what he was doing. And a friend of his read in I guess one of the New York papers that they were hiring here in Bethlehem and they came down on a bus and I guess they filled out an application and they were hired. They lived in a rooming home over here on the South 2:00Side. And so he sent for us and got an apartment and we came in 1952. I was five years old. And (chuckles) it was funny because I had to get a vaccination before I went to school, you know, a couple other things we had to do before we went to school, and not speaking any English it was quite interesting. But at that time they didn't have bilingual programs so we kinda had to learn on our own. But the good part was we didn't come till like April-May I believe it was so we had that whole summer to play with kids and we picked up some of the language playing with the kids, and then we went to school.
Schennum: So you and your mom and your sibling--3:00
Linares: My brother.
Schennum: --moved into an apartment with your dad on the North Side of Bethlehem.
Linares: Right, on the North Side.
Schennum: And you had the summer to get ready before you started school.
Linares: Yeah. And then we went into after that they had public housing, my dad got into that and back then it was brand new, they just hadbuilt that and we moved in there and we were there for about 13 years before they finally bought their own home. And we moved out, had our own home, continued going to school. And he worked three shifts. It was funny growing up and having your dad, one week he'd work day shift, next week he'd work middle shift, and the third week he'd work the third shift. And then when he worked third shift he took us to school especially if the weather was bad, because at that time there was no school over there at Marvine, we were bused.
Schennum: You were bused to which school?
Linares: The South Side of Bethlehem Donegan [Elementary] School. And days that he was home he would drive us over to school. He'd pack our4:00lunch; he was a good father.
Schennum: What department did he work in at Bethlehem Steel?
Linares: Well from what I understand, in the beginning he was a laborer. What would that be, a CLS or something, CSL [labor gang thatworked with the furnaces and open hearths], yeah. He worked that. And he at that time, I guess, because he was a minority, that's what they got to do. But then when they finally changed it he became a bricklayer's helper and he ended at the end a janitor because he liked doing that. He liked doing that, he was happy doing that. But when we were teenagers we loved it when he worked middle shift (chuckles) because you know, we got, you know, kids get away with stuff when dad's not home so we loved that. And then we'd all make sure we'd you know, 5:00before he got home from work. It was fun.
Schennum: And he worked the swing shift the whole entire career?
Linares: Yeah, he never worked steady days or steady middles, it was always swing shift.
Schennum: And meanwhile, your mother was working while you were growing up.
Linares: Yes, she was working too. She worked at a sewing mill on the North Side of Bethlehem. They made blouses and she was a member ofthe Ladies Garment Workers Union. So both parents worked. It was fun growing up, yeah. And I could hear, you know, the Steel you could hear it from where we lived, could hear it all night and saw the, you know, smoke and fire, you know. When you drove by, you could even smell it. So it was fun, we kinda liked it.
Schennum: And what was your father's attitude about the union and did he hold offices in the union, United Steelworkers?6:00
Linares: I believe he was a shop steward for a short time and he would always go to the union meetings. I remember him saying, 'I've got aunion meeting, got a union meeting.' So he would always go. And I remember when they were on strike one year, I think it was 1958. I'm not sure.
Linares: 1958, '59. I remember when he was on strike and then he, he actually got another job landscaping and he worked that till thestrike was over.
Schennum: And what do you remember from that period of the strike? He got another job and were people worried at home?
Linares: Oh yeah, we were wondering, you know. He was worried what was he gonna do and you know, 'cause my mom wasn't making all that muchmoney. He had just bought the house and so, you know, he was worried about it. But he did do picket duty. I remember him saying 'I've gotta go do my picket duty,' and he did do that. But I learned a lot from him about the steelworkers. Especially when they got that consent 7:00decree, I believe it was.
Schennum: The 1974 Consent Decree [established goals for the greater representation of minorities and women in the steel industry].
Linares: Right. And then they were allowed to bid on jobs and get other jobs. And he was happy, he was happy, and so were all his friendsbecause they were like a family, all the Hispanics that worked there and came, you know, about the same time. So we all knew each other, we were invited to birthday parties that they had and they were invited to my house. So we were like a family.
Schennum: So even though many of his friends who were originally from Puerto Rico might have worked in the coke works, and he didn't, hehad close relationships with all of those.
Linares: Right, because they came over about the same time. And they lived in that rooming house that I told you so they knew each other8:00then too. And we still keep in touch with a lot of them, some of them are still living. But yeah, it was interesting. It was fun. I liked it.
Schennum: So growing up with your father active in the United Steelworkers and your mother a member of the Garment Union, what kinds ofvalues and attitudes about unions did you learn from growing up in that family?
Linares: Well I learned that without it, I mean it helped as far as the wages because they kept getting increases in their wages, and Iremember the strike and that was the main reason because they had-- And all the benefits they had. I mean we had the best healthcare and you know, the dentist and doctors and hospitalization. My dad was in the hospital twice when I remember as a kid and he never had any problems with that so he was happy because being a member of the union, he had benefits, his wages were good, you know, he could keep a 9:00home for his family, and we lived comfortably really for at that period of time. And then my mother being a member too, she also, you know, she, they didn't earn as much money as the men did but she was earning a living wage back then so it was-- And she had some benefits, so she was happy, we were happy. And so I myself said, you know, when I get my turn to work I want to work at a place that has a union. And I was very fortunate I did, so I was happy.
Schennum: I'm curious about chores at home and the sort of division of labor, the gender division of labor at home growing up. Your father10:00was working at the Steel, your mom was working, how did they divide childcare? You talked a little bit about you father driving you to school. Housework, care of the house and the yard, how were chores divided up in your household growing up?
Linares: Well first of all, when we were a little smaller, my grandfather was still living and he would come down and spend the summer andhe was our babysitter. And then my cousins that lived in New York came down and stayed with us too, so he took care of all of us, he was good. And then my mom didn't work that far so she'd come home for lunch and my grandfather had lunch for her. And then when my dad worked the middle shift, he had lunch for her, he'd even go pick her up and bring her home for lunch. So when they were both on day shift, my 11:00grandfather was there, he took care of us. And believe me, you couldn't get away with nothing with him. And my mother did most of the cooking. I learned later how to cook. My dad was fussy, you know, and I didn't like hearing, you know, 'you put too much of this in or you didn't do--' So I gave up the cooking for him. (chuckles)
Schennum: And did your brother cook?
Linares: No. We, you know, made our little breakfasts and we knew how to make eggs and cereal and stuff like that but nothing really big.But the chores, we had to cut the grass. And we lived in a neighborhood where we had some older people and we'd cut their grass and you know, earned a little extra money. 12:00
Schennum: And was that an important value for your parents to keep the lawn cut and the house looking nice?
Linares: Oh yeah. My dad was real fussy with that. You know, they came from a different area of Puerto Rico, I believe, because they werefussy. First of all, they didn't like loud noise, loud music; we weren't allowed to play loud music, we weren't allowed to make any noise. My mom was real strict about that. And you know, they were fussy about keeping our place clean and a great lawn. And car, oh my god, you had to clean your feet off before you got in the car because he was real fussy with that. But so we all took in, I would help him wash the car. And they definitely made us go to church and we all made our communion, we had confirmation. They made us go to church. We didn't go to Catholic school though. 13:00
Schennum: And did you go to the Holy Infancy Church?
Linares: No, because we lived on the North Side we went to St. Ann's and we were baptized-- Not baptized, we were baptized in Puerto Rico.We made our communion and our confirmation here. And they instilled that in us. We even had to go after school because back then the religious instructions were after school. And in the summertime they made us go too. So they were tough.
Schennum: But not to Catholic School, you went to public school.
Linares: We went to public school, but the religious instructions were after school and in the summer.
Schennum: Some children of steelworkers have described the impact of shift work on the family in terms of fathers having to sleep atdifferent times during the day. Was that something that affected you, do you remember that? 14:00
Linares: Yeah, that bothered us more in the summer. Not in the winter, you know, when you were in school because you were school while heslept, but in the summer that was really, it was tough. We had to be quiet. We found that sleeping late helped. We'd sleep late and then we had to be real quiet because he didn't get up till maybe 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. And then he'd do whatever he had to do and he'd go back and lay down again till about 9:00 and then he left. So we didn't like the third shift too much. (chuckling) And I don't think he did either. He liked the middle and the day shift.
Schennum: So then you yourself became a member of the United Steelworkers in that job that you went into. So can you describe a little bit15:00about what kind of work you went into?
Linares: Okay. Back in 1967, well it was there before '67. I think they opened up in 1958. There was a company called Durkee Foods and theymanufactured and bottled spices, black pepper, garlic salt. They also had a department that did extracts and a coconut department. And they toasted coconut and bagged coconut and mixed it and so that was my first job. I applied for it, and back then it was $1.25, $1.50 I think an hour back then, and that was a lot of money. And they were also chartered by the United Steelworkers. Our local was Local 5700. And so I 16:00started and I started on the middle shift and six weeks later I joined United Steelworkers of America. And I was on second shift for five years. And they had I guess an agreement or they set it up, whenever they would have their union meeting, they would stay over an extra hour. I guess their meeting started at 8:00 or something and it was probably over by 9:00 or 10:00, but they stayed. The president and all the officers stayed and they conducted a union meeting for us people on second shift, which was really nice. So once in a while I would go 17:00to the meetings. I didn't go all the time. But then toward the end of my five years, they needed a shop steward and I volunteered and that's how I got involved. And when I went days, you know, I still maintained, I keep continuing going to the union meetings. And they had, I guess a presidential election was coming up and they had a legislative committee and they were looking for, you know, anybody who would like to help out so I volunteered for that, and that's how I got involved with the United Steelworkers, in the legislative committee. But then as time went on, I ran for recording secretary and I was recording secretary until they closed in 1996. And I was on a couple 18:00negotiating committees. Prior to that though we had a long strike. I'm trying to think, it was during Watergate, so I guess it was Richard Nixon, his election, we went out on strike.
Schennum: And were you a shop steward at the time?
Linares: I was recording secretary. And we went out on strike and I did my picket duty. Besides the picket duty, I was there all the timebecause we would take coffee and donuts for the people that were there during the day and then the people that were there in the afternoon, we would take sandwiches and all that. So we were kind of busy, it kept us busy.
Schennum: And what were the issues that precipitated the strike?
Linares: Wages. The benefits were always good. We had good benefits and that's why a lot of people stayed. I mean, you know, it was like19:00Bethlehem Steel, once you got there that was your job for life because the benefits were so good.
Schennum: And what did you learn from that strike, from the experience of helping to organize and coordinate the strike at Durkee?
Linares: Well I'll tell you what, strikes aren't fun. You know, it's hard when you start hearing people saying, 'What are we gonna do whenI pay my car, when I pay my mortgage?' And then some of them had small children. And they did have a strike fund and they would get a certain amount of money but it wasn't a whole lot of money. but in order to get that you had to do that picket duty. If you didn't do the picket duty, you didn't get anything. So a lot of people, when they knew that we were going on strike, either started looking for other employment or, you know, had saved up enough money just to hold them over through the strike. That was the longest strike we ever had; it 20:00was 13 weeks. It was long and I guess the other ones they had maybe were 3, 4 weeks, but this was 13. And sometimes I wonder if maybe it was the / and the negotiating committee and the personnel people, you know, I don't know what it was but they could've settled it, I'm sure, sooner but they didn't. But the good thing about it, it was funny because we were so interested in this legislation and what was going on in Washington 'cause Nixon won, which was his second term, but then that's when that Watergate issue came up. So we were off, we would come to the, you know, the picket line and we'd talk about what was going on in Watergate when they were having the hearings and 'Did you watch this?' 'Did you watch that?' And then when we finally settled the strike and we had to go back to work, we missed the last 21:00portion of the hearings and we were kind of a little we shoulda hung in there another week or so.
Schennum: But it's interesting because you also have had a career in politics, right?
Schennum: You were a vice-chair for the Northampton Democratic Party, for example. And I wondered if your interest in Democratic politicsin Northampton County sprang out of your involvement with the United Steelworkers Union.
Linares: It certainly did. It had a big part of it because I was involved with legislation and I know how important it is to elect theright people so that you can get the right-- So that's how I got involved and that's why I'm still involved. (chuckles)
Schennum: I wanted to also talk to you a little bit about your involvement with the United Steelworkers Union because in talking tosteelworkers and in reading about the United Steelworkers Union one point that analysts make is that for a long time the United 22:00Steelworkers Union did not have many women in officer positions, so you're quite unusual that way. You probably were one of the only women representative at many United Steelworkers meetings?
Linares: In our local, prior to me it seemed like the recording secretary was always a woman and we, the plant, Durkee Food was men andwomen.
Schennum: Because there were many women employees there.
Linares: Exactly. So it was like 50/50, and so we got some representation and a lot of shop stewards were women.
Schennum: Was there a 50/50 representation?
Linares: Right, in our local. I'm just talking our local and so the women were really involved and became shop stewards.23:00
Schennum: And at Durkee how were the jobs split up by gender?
Linares: Okay. In the beginning when I first started in 1967 it was strictly, certain jobs were women's job, other jobs were men's jobs,like the warehouse was strictly men. That was all men that did that. The third shift which was all cleanup, they cleaned all the machines and the floors and stuff, that was definitely men's work. According to them. And all the other, the maintenance men, they were men. Most of the supervisors were men except in certain departments it was women.
Schennum: And those were departments where all the workers were women.
Linares: Exactly, right. It was this is women's work, this is men's work.
Schennum: And were there pay differences between what was classified as men's work and women's work?24:00
Linares: Yes, there was a difference.
Schennum: So men impacted pay and promotional opportunities?
Schennum: So my question is then working with the union, what were the kinds of issues that women brought to the union that were-- Whatissues did women workers have? Did they have issues about pay equity, promotional opportunities?
Linares: Well, believe it or not, in the beginning there really wasn't. I mean I think women were just happy that they were getting, youknow, the pay and we worked a lot of overtime so the women made, you know, money there. I don't think there really was a problem until like later on when you got younger women coming in because these women were, like I told you, since 58, they were already like in their late 50s and early 60s and some of them were almost getting their 30 years in, you know. So you started getting younger women and a lot 25:00of them started saying, 'I can do that job.' You know, you'd see these men doing these jobs and you're saying, 'I can do that job. You know, why should he be the only one that can do that job?' And then when the consent decree came in that helped us too, because then us women could bid on those jobs and they couldn't say no, that we couldn't do it. The guys weren't happy about it, believe they, they would say things to the women, especially the ones that went out in the warehouse, they were given a hard time. But they hung in there. And the cleanup, that wasn't too bad because, you know, women mop floors at home, I mean what's the difference in mopping there than at home. So those guys didn't do too bad, but the warehouse guys were bad. 26:00
Schennum: So there was a lot of resistance to women. And as a shop steward or as a union officer, did you have to represent women on sexualharassment cases or overworking in the warehouse?
Linares: Yes, 'cause there were a couple complaints. It never really got that bad that we actually, but there were some grievances filedagainst some of the men. But we settled them, and then eventually it got better. It got better, they accepted the fact and so. At the end we were doing practically everything. Even at the end I wasn't driving a forklift but I was driving one of those that you can walk. I don't know what they're called and I was using that. So at the end we were all doing everything and we were getting the same amount of money. It worked, it worked for us.
Schennum: Were there any other issues that were specific to women? For example, analysts who write about unions and women have talked about27:00women having issues around childcare for example, wanting schedules that would be able to coordinate with childcare at home or issues related to pregnancy. Did you have others specifically women's issues?
Linares: Well in the beginning the contract was written up really good where if you-- Because I myself had a child while I was workingthere. And I was out for almost a whole year. You know, it was fabulous. I didn't get paid but I was out. And then when I went back, of course I had to go back middle shift because I would've had to get a babysitter, you know, and so it worked out great because my husband worked day shift and I was working middle shift so I was there all day until he got home and then he took over. So that worked out good. 28:00And most of the women did that 'cause you could do that. That's one good thing about working there, you could change shifts, you know. If you needed to work middle shift from now on until who knows when, you put in a request and they left you do that.
Schennum: And your seniority would be considered in that shift--
Schennum: --and so the union would protect your right to do that.
Linares: Exactly. If you had maybe 15 years total there and you went to middle shift, you had high seniority because a lot of those peopleon middle shift were new. So you kept your seniority and everything so it really worked good. But then when that-- I go back to that consent decree-- then any woman who had a baby were only allowed six weeks and they had to go back because they wouldn't change the 29:00contract.
Schennum: Really? That was after the consent decree?
Linares: After the consent decree.
Schennum: And why is that; do you know?
Linares: Well because they thought, you know, you should be able to be back performing your job and you know, the men say 'We don't gettime off,' you know.
Schennum: Of course that was before the Family Medical Leave and Disability Act.
Linares: Exactly, it was all before that. Some of the women were quite upset that they didn't have the opportunity like I had. Theycould've stayed out but they might have had to quit and start over again. But they didn't do that. That was a little hard on a lot of the women, but it eventually worked out. But we had a good affair there. I mean we got along, everybody was really good. 30:00
Schennum: So then you were involved in negotiations with Durkee and then with the two companies that bought out Durkee?
Schennum: So that was a lengthy negotiation as part of that.
Linares: Well see, one thing, you know, when they first set up that contract, it was in there, the wordage or language was in there in casethey were to sell or you know, somebody would buy, they have to honor the contract and keep the seniority. I mean this was all written in that contract, and so whoever bought it had to go buy that contract, and that's how it was. But the last two companies that bought it-- Because the first one, they had in their language about the years of service. So you know, up to 15 years of service, so when the next 31:00company bought us, that 15 year window closed, we had to start new with the next company. So that's why we-- And then they had it for like five or six years and they sold it again. So the last company, they were bad. They sat down with us, the negotiating committee, and they wanted to see if we would take a cut in pay. That was the first thing. Some of the benefits, whether we could come down a little bit on benefits.
Schennum: On health and pension?
Linares: Yes. So we tried, we did everything we could, and at the same this same company went to the city, went to the gas company, went tothe electric company, 'Can you give us a hand, can you lower the prices,' or you know. And I was at a meeting and the people from the gas 32:00company or the city was there, the utilities, electric, they were all there and they were talking to them and they wanted, you know, some help because they were either gonna stay here if we, if they got our help, or they were going to leave to Iowa 'cause they had a plant in Iowa. And the city did a fantastic job giving them breaks, so did the gas company. We didn't take a cut in pay but the way we set it up, they would be saving money in the long run. In other words, we wouldn't get a raise for another maybe, we used to get it every two years, so the thing we decided to do was not get a raise, you know, stay at what we--
Schennum: Okay, so you were talking about your negotiations with the final company.
Linares: Right, and they were called Specialty Brands. And we also tried to cut down on the pension and we came up with all these numbers33:00that they would say not right away but in the long run.
Schennum: So it was a concessionary contract even though you didn't take a cut in wages.
Linares: Right. So they said okay and they went back to their headquarters in San Francisco 'cause that's where they were out of and theywere gonna make a decision between Iowa and Durkee. And it was really horrible because they showed it on TV. They would show us all sitting here in Bethlehem waiting for the decision, and it showed the people in Iowa waiting for the decision. It was really bad. There was a bad feeling there after that. So when they finally said that we were closing, I mean the mayor was very upset. He said he had bent over 34:00backwards, he couldn't believe that they did that. And so did the gas company; I mean everybody. So they then decided that they would give us all a lump sum, so we all got a lump sum. Those who had pensions coming, they could take their pensions. Because some of them were already collecting pensions, like I told you, the contract with the first company was 15, some people were old enough to start collecting that. And the same with the next company. The first company was called Durkee Foods, and then it became Glidden-Durkee. And then they sold to French's which is Reckitt and Coleman, I think their name now is Reckitt and Berkstein [Benckiser]or something like that. I probably have it wrong. And then Specialty Brands. And so they paid us all, you know, off lump sum. And anybody who stayed, and everybody stayed, 35:00you know. Some people were quite upset. We had a little problem, some of the people did do damage and some of them lost--
Schennum: So some people were very angry at Specialty.
Linares: Specialty Brands.
Schennum: So before Specialty actually closed the factory, after they made an announcement they were moving to Iowa, some employeessabotaged equipment or--
Linares: Equipment, cameras, all kind of things.
Schennum: Because people must have been extremely angry.
Linares: Oh, we were, we were, because like I just told you, we bent over backwards for them and that's what we got. And what was bad aboutthat, they were actually proven that they did this damage and they lost their jobs, and because of that they didn't get the lump sum, you 36:00know. They lost some benefits. It wasn't a whole lot of them but there were a few. It was a sad, you know. And the union tried to help them but you know, they had all kind of proof and there was nothing we could do. But most of the people stayed to the end, you know. I left I think it was in May and some of them stayed till June until they actually closed, you know, took the machinery out.
Schennum: And then you went from Durkee then to-- Were you eligible for your pension when you left Durkee?
Linares: No, I just got that lump sum. My 401, I had to roll over; I wasn't old enough.
Schennum: So Durkee had a 401(k) plus a vested pension?37:00
Linares: Correct, yes. In fact, I'm just gonna start receiving my pension now from Reckitt and Coleman and I won't get Durkee's for anothertwo years. But I will get--
Linares: Thank you. As long as they don't go bankrupt. We hope they don't go bankrupt.
Schennum: The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation [a U.S. government agency that acts as trustee for failed pension plans]
Linares: Exactly. But that's where I- So what I did was, you know, after I left, I still kept coming to the Steelworker's legislativemeetings and everything. I was still involved with the steelworker's down Union Hall there at VanBitner. So I, you know, was still involved with everything they did there.
Schennum: And in the legislative meeting of the Steelworker's you must have been one of the only-- Were you the only woman in that group?38:00
Linares: No, no, no, there was one other lady. I think there might have been some more. I don't remember but for sure there was one otherone that was actually an officer. I was also recording secretary of the legislative committee. And then there was another girl named Donna and she was involved too.
Schennum: Let me just ask you quickly about that before you-- What was that like being in such a minority in the legislative group of theUnited Steelworker's? It's, you know, very male and you're also a Puerto Rican woman. How did you experience that?
Linares: It was great. I mean the guys really were really supportive for us, you know, and the Steelworker's also had a thing called Womenof Steel. It was like a separate thing and we were involved in that and then that was mostly all women. And you know, we got to talk to 39:00them and they gave us ideas, we'd bring them back. And so that was a big help.
Schennum: So you found it very helpful.
Linares: Very helpful, yeah. So then when I got done, I was entitled to unemployment so I signed up for unemployment and I said to thelady, 'I want to find another job,' and this woman was so nice, she says to me, 'Tell you what, why don't you stay home, get all your work done at home. When you're all done, then come back and look for a job.' So that's what I did. I painted, wallpapered, I did all kinds of stuff, and then being involved with the Steelworker's down at VanBitner they were telling me that they had this dislocated workers' center. And because I lost my job and all my co-workers lost their jobs, that they probably could be entitled to go there to get help. And they 40:00said the reason they set that up is it's your co-workers, it's your peers, people like you, and so they asked me if I would like to do that and I said, 'Well I'd love to do that.' So that's what happened. Then they sat me down, 'Do you have a seniority list? Do you have an address?' Being recording secretary I had all that stuff. So I started making phone calls, I started getting people, we sent them letters, a lot of them came through the program.
Schennum: So you were mostly reaching out to Durkee's employees in the dislocated steelworker's program.
Schennum: And talking to them about retraining opportunities and--
Linares: Right. We brought them up, we said-- It was an excellent program. They would come in, we'd give them a handbook and show them how41:00to-- Because a lot of them, it'd been years since they'd actually applied for employment and things were changing. The applications and at that time they didn't use computers too much but filling them out properly, you know. So they were taught, we taught them how to do that, we taught them how to go to an interview, how to, you know, conduct it properly, and how to dress. I mean some of them needed a little help. (chuckles) And then too, the fact that you lost your job, you know, you're depressed, there's a lot going on in your mind and you're not too happy, and so we had little sessions with them about that. They came for a whole week and that's all we talked about that entire week, and it was good. And then we even had them come back for workshops-- Not workshops, I guess it was a jobs club, and then it would 42:00help them, tell them what jobs were out there. And they did, a lot of them were placed.
Schennum: And what did the Durkee that you worked with, what did they end up going into?
Linares: Well it just so happened at that time Pillsbury, which is no longer here either, but they were hiring and I guess they madewaffles and things like that, frozen foods, and they needed help, so a lot of women went there. Mostly women went there. And then some of the men went into warehousing. And some of them just went in just to feel and see what-- And some of them went kind of on their own, self-employed things.
Schennum: Owning their own businesses.
Linares: Their own business. But some of the women went to Crayola, Just Born [candy manufacturer]. I guess a couple of them went there.43:00But they got jobs and most of them got jobs where there was the union and they had benefits. That's what some of the women I worked with were single women, you know, they had to take care of themselves, they didn't have any husband or anything like that. So they needed a job. And I knew who they were so those were the ones that I first called, you know. And they came right away, they did. In fact I think some of them stayed at Pillsbury till it closed.
Schennum: And they were interested, they wanted to get union jobs also.
Linares: Oh yes, they did; they wanted benefits.
Schennum: They wanted the benefits that came with those jobs.
Schennum: Particularly if they were single mothers.
Schennum: Did you also work with ex-Bethlehem Steel workers in your role with the Dislocated Workers program?44:00
Linares: Yes, they came in too. It was a mixture of, you know. Once our people started to come in, they were mixed together and it was amixture of Bethlehem Steel employees and Durkee Foods.
Schennum: And what did you find in placing Bethlehem steelworkers? Did you find differences in working with the ex-Bethlehem steelworkersversus the Durkee workers?
Linares: There was a different, yeah, because a lot of those men were skilled, they had skilled jobs: electricians, you know, skilledlabor. And so it was a lot easier for them than for our people 'cause ours were more laborer. Our maintenance men got jobs, the non-skilled, it was either warehouses or, you know, that kind of work. But Bethlehem Steel, no, a lot of them were skilled workers and 45:00could get good-paying jobs.
Schennum: And what kinds of jobs did they get, the Bethlehem steelworkers that you can remember working with?
Linares: Some of them went to H.T.Lyons [mechanical contractors based in Allentown, Pa.], I guess, and what was the other-- They went tosome big places.
Schennum: That hired skilled electricians or carpenters.
Linares: Exactly. Offhand I can't remember all the places they went to. I think Mack Truck also was hiring at the time so some of them wentto Mack. There were opportunities for them because they has skills. They were good at it, some of them, plumbers and everything. I mean we had everything down at Bethlehem Steel, you know, but they did everything down there. Plumbing, carpentry, electrical, you know. Some of 46:00them worked in the office at computers. I mean some of them were really good at the computers; they taught me, a lot.
Schennum: You talked about some of the emotional adjustments the Durkee workers had to make, losing a job that you had worked at for yourentire career and through no fault of your own. What did you see with the Bethlehem steelworkers? Did you see emotional effects, did you see effects on family?
Linares: A lot of them I saw come in were very depressed. And some of them-- I don't know how to explain this, but it was hard on them. Youknow, they were so used to having that good pay and all those benefits and now they were losing them, I mean they lost everything and a lot of them would come in and I could see they were depressed. But some of them, no, some of them didn't, but some of them said, 'They did me a 47:00favor.' (chuckles) But others didn't feel that way. And you could see it. And when we did that, I think that was a whole day class about stress and finding new people and we even had people come in from Alcoholics Anonymous and a couple other financial institutions that would help them, you know, stay out of debt. Because that was another thing, some of them did turn to the alcohol because they were depressed and some of them went into debt and you know, they were afraid to lose their homes. So we had people come in and talk to them and help them with that situation. Now our people didn't have that too bad. Some of them were depressed but I don't think it was as bad as some steelworkers had it bad. 48:00
Schennum: So even though Bethlehem steelworkers had more skills to translate into the job market, it was also a harder hit in some ways.
Linares: Yes, it was.
Schennum: To lose their jobs at Bethlehem Steel, the higher paying jobs with excellent benefits.
Linares: That's right, it was very hard on them. And a lot of them, their wives didn't work. Their wives were, you know-- The ones that thewives were, 'I don't have to worry, my wife's a nurse, you know.' But you hear other guys, 'My wife never worked, you know.' So it was hard on them, very hard.
Schennum: Okay. And then that program--
Schennum: --closed, right?
Linares: Dissolved and then we, some of the guys went and worked at Career Link and they're there now and then some of them just retiredand did other things, you know. One of them was working in Hellertown for the borough, and the other ones just took their pension and were 49:00doing their own thing. But I still had to work 'cause I wasn't old enough so I took another, you know, a little bit of unemployment and did some work at home some more and this opportunity came in this law office of coming in and they did asbestos litigation and I was introduced and I was asked if I would be interested in working there. Of course I did-- While I was laid off I did go to class and computer skills and took some courses so that helped. And so they said, 'Well could you start out as a receptionist,' so I started out as receptionist and then when I started calling people, well I knew some of them, they were steelworkers, you know, people that speak my language. I would call them 50:00and we sent them letters, I took their, what we call intake, all their information, and when they started rattling off where they worked, what they did, you know, being at Dislocated Workers, I knew exactly what they were doing and they didn't do and did. And the first part of the thing is they have to go for an x-ray so I set them up for their x-rays. Now I'm, I do more than that.
Schennum: So the Peter Angelos Law Firm rapidly recognized your value to the firm so they gave you more responsibility.
Linares: I certainly hope so. They gave me more work. But I enjoyed the job; in fact, I enjoyed talking to them and calling them. A lot ofthem are old.
Schennum: So now did you begin working for Peter Angelos when he first opened a firm in Bethlehem or had it been open here for a while?51:00
Linares: I think the office originally was opened in Allentown and I believe he decided to go-- I guess he was gonna start filing all theclaims in Lehigh County but I guess someone talked to him that Northampton probably would be better because Bethlehem Steel was here in Northampton County, so he then moved the office to Bethlehem and that's when he started getting all the steelworkers.
Schennum: And he had really started as a lawyer with the United Steelworkers or a consultant with the United Steelworkers in Baltimore--
Schennum: --and had become involved in asbestos cases with Bethlehem steelworkers in Baltimore, right?
Schennum: So then he must have expanded to Bethlehem because of--
Linares: He also has offices in Tennessee that he does the same thing. Now he has one in Harrisburg. Any place, I guess, that's near a52:00steel mill.
Schennum: And your job there had been involved in the asbestosis class action suit.
Schennum: So can you just explain what that class action suit is.
Linares: Well actually it's not a class action suit, it's a personal injury. So each person, it's his case, it's his personal injury. Soit's divided up when the x-ray comes back, if it's asbestos, it'll say interstitial fibrosis, that's asbestos. But then he might have some pleural thickening around the sac of the lung; that's called pleural plaque. So asbestosis is a 4, pleural plaque is a 2. And some of them 53:00might have a problem breathing, their breathing is a little restricted so they might be an R. But most of the guys are either a 4 or a 2. And then of course asbestos does then, you know, cause lung cancer,bone cancer, other cancers. Plus they could get the worst thing, which is mesotheliomal. Now that's an 8. Lung cancer's a 7, other cancers are a 6. No colon cancer's a 6, other cancers are 5. So a guy could be a 7, 4, you know, 2R. Then that's how they make their settlements. It depends on your diagnosis code. But once like if you are a 4-2 and you've already have been receiving some settlement, if you were to get lung cancer, you know, down the road, we can go back to those 54:00companies and go again but this time for a lung cancer. So it's a long process, it takes years.
Schennum: And in beginning your work, did you and the law firm identify certain steelworkers or certain departments that you felt were moreat risk to reach out to or did the United Steelworkers let everybody know that this is something that would get checked or--
Linares: It was sent to every member of the United Steelworkers. And I think any employee that they addresses for. Because even supervisorsand foremen were also, are coming in. They also have the problem.
Schennum: And then people who were concerned that they might have had exposure would call up you and you would schedule an x-ray to55:00determine what the--
Linares: Correct. And then we have non-steelworkers also, I mean people that have worked at other plants maybe Bethlehem Fabs [Fabricators]that was another plant that was here. They were also members of the Steelworkers Union. And New Jersey Zinc up in Palmerton. I mean it's other places besides Bethlehem Steel.
Schennum: Because asbestos was used in all of that kind of manufacturing.
Schennum: And it seems like asbestos was really used throughout the Bethlehem plant, right. It wasn't limited to any specific area of theplant?
Linares: Throughout the plant. And even some of the offices. The Homer Research Center I understand there was stuff up there. It was used--I mean back then that's what was used for insulation and even your home, some homes had it, you know.
Schennum: And you said that even in some cases it might have been spouses of steelworkers who had exposure.56:00
Linares: Correct. We had some spouses that have-- In fact some of the wives are even worse than the husbands. And they got it because thegentlemen would bring their clothes home and she would wash it, shake it out, you know. I know when I wash, I shake it out so I'm sure she shook it out good, you know. And we have some kids that you know, they came home and hugged their daddies all full of this stuff, you know, or were there when mom was shaking it out. So it's serious problem.
Schennum: And for the personal injury lawsuits, that exposure had to occur before 1974?
Linares: Yes, yes, because in 1974 I believe the federal government made them put warning labels on their packaging.57:00
Schennum: So OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulations would have changed the way that asbestos was used then.
Linares: Right. They were still using it but then they had to wear masks and, you know, the full garment and stuff. But even with a mask Ithink it goes through.
Schennum: So you then in your job have contacted a lot of ex-Bethlehem Steel workers who now have some disease somewhere on the scalethat's related to their exposure to asbestos.
Schennum: And some of these workers are receiving checks as a result of the--
Linares: Yes. Settlements, we call that settlements. We call them settlements. But yes, they are. And even their wives, I mean after thegentleman passes away, the wife continues to receive. Some of them are so happy, you know; and then others are sad, 'I'd rather have my 58:00husband,' you know, because they died because of that. So it's sad to see because I've seen them when they first come in and I get all their information and I've been doing this for maybe four years and you get in contact with them, you get a little attached to them, you know. And then when they, you know, pass away, it bothers you. But uh, other than that, some of them are so sweet. Very nice. And then they'll tell me what it was like working down there. It wasn't-- I never took a tour of the plant. I took a tour after they had closed when I was with the Dislocated Workers. They said, 'Come on down, we'll show you,' you know. And I remember the soaking pits over here and sinter plant and this one that's still here, that Lehigh Valley forge. And it's not a very pretty environment so I can imagine what it was 59:00like, the rest of it down here where the blast furnace and that was.
Schennum: So the whole time you were growing up and your father was working at Bethlehem Steel, you never saw the inside of the plant.
Linares: No, no.
Schennum: And did your mother ever see the inside of the plant?
Linares: No, I don't think. We weren't allowed. I don't think they were allowed to bring anybody. One year I think when they had some kindof an anniversary, they opened it up so the city people could get tickets, but I never went. I wasn't interested. But it wasn't a very pretty thing.
Schennum: Okay. Well thank you very much.
Linares: Well thank you, I enjoyed this.Schennum: Good. 60:00
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Partial Transcript: Okay. So I'm Jill Schennum:, I am a volunteer interviewer for the Steelworker Archives and I'm talking to Iris Linares: today, who is going to talk about her experiences as a child of a steelworker as well as her experiences with the United Steelworkers Union and Dislocated Steelworkers program and asbestos lawsuits involving steelworkers. So we're going to start out, Iris, talking about your growing up and your experiences as the child of a steelworker. Can you tell us when your father started working at Bethlehem Steel, how he started working there and how that related to your childhood.
Segment Synopsis: After some initial technical issues, the interview begins with the interviewer, Jill Schennum, introducing the interviewee, Iris Linares, who has extensive connections to Bethlehem Steel. In the beginning of this segment, Linares discusses her father's immigration to New York from Puerto Rico, where he served in the United States Army, after World War II. After working with his brothers in New York, Linares's father found work at Bethlehem Steel through a newspaper advertisement. He then sent for Linares's family, who came to Bethlehem in 1952, when Linares was five years old. She recalls the difficulties of moving to a new place, including the lack of bilingual services. Linares and her brother learned to speak English from playing with the other neighborhood children. Throughout Linares's childhood, her father worked the swing shift at Bethlehem Steel, beginning with a labor gang, moving into the bricklaying gang, and ultimately working as a janitor. Linares fondly remembers, "And days that he was home he would drive us over to school. He'd pack our lunch; he was a good father." Note that the audio is somewhat quiet throughout the interview.
Keywords: Bethlehem (Pa.); Bethlehem Steel Corporation; bricklaying gangs; childhood; children; day shift; Donegan School; education; ethnic groups; family; home life; immigration; labor gangs; night shift; North Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); residences; shifts; social life; South Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); swing shift; unions; World War II
GPS: Location of Donegan School, a few blocks south of the Bethlehem Steel plant
Map Coordinates: 40.6107, 75.3602
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Partial Transcript: And meanwhile, your mother was working while you were growing up.
Segment Synopsis: In this brief segment, Linares shares that her mother also worked in a sewing mill during Linares's childhood. Her mother was a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Toward the end of this segment, Linares comments on the constant presence of Bethlehem Steel in the background of her life: "And I could hear, you know, the Steel you could hear it from where we lived, could hear it all night and saw the, you know, smoke and fire, you know. When you drove by, you could even smell it. So it was fun, we kinda liked it."
Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; childhood; family; International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union; North Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); unions
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Partial Transcript: And what was your father's attitude about the union and did he hold offices in the union, United Steelworkers?
Segment Synopsis: In this rich segment, Linares shares her remembrances of her father's involvement in the union and his participation in the 1959 strike. Although her father took another job as a landscaper in order to make money during the strike, Linares For example, he never missed "picket duty." Her father also taught her about the 1974 Consent Decree, which advocated for greater representation among people of color and women in the steel industry. Linares further recalls that her father and his friends from Puerto Rico were "like a family," because they had immigrated around the same time, lived in a boarding house together, and spent time together outside of work, attending birthday parties and such.
Keywords: Affirmative Action; coke works; communities; ethnic groups; family; gender; home life; immigration; residences; shop stewards; social life; strikes; unions; United Steelworkers of America; wages
Hyperlink: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains the 1974 Consent Decree
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Partial Transcript: So growing up with your father active in the United Steelworkers and your mother a member of the Garment Union, what kinds of values and attitudes about unions did you learn from growing up in that family?
Segment Synopsis: Since both of Linares's parents were union members, Linares learned about unions and their benefits as a child. She recalls that both of her parents were happy with their union involvement because of the good wages and benefits, including health insurance, that they earned. As a child, Linares remembers thinking, "And so I myself said, you know, when I get my turn to work I want to work at a place that has a union. And I was very fortunate I did, so I was happy."
Keywords: benefits; childhood; education; family; health; health insurance; home life; strikes; unions; wages
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Partial Transcript: I'm curious about chores at home and the sort of division of labor, the gender division of labor at home growing up. Your father was working at the Steel, your mom was working, how did they divide childcare? You talked a little bit about you father driving you to school. Housework, care of the house and the yard, how were chores divided up in your household growing up?
Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Linares describes how her family all contributed to the household. Since her mother and father both worked, Linares's grandfather helped raise the children. She remembers, "When they were both on day shift, my grandfather was there, he took care of us. And believe me, you couldn't get away with nothing with him." In terms of household chores, her father would sometimes prepare their lunches and take the children to school, though she adds, "my mother did most of the cooking. I learned later how to cook." Toward the middle of this segment, Linares discusses her parents' insistence on maintaining a nice-looking house and lawn, as well as keeping the car clean. She also adds that although she did not attend a Catholic grade school, her parents were keen on the family going to church at St. Ann's and receiving religious instruction after school and in the summer.
Keywords: child care; childhood; children; churches; day shift; education; ethnic groups; family; food and drink; gender; gender roles; home life; housework; music; North Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); religion; swing shift; transportation
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Partial Transcript: Some children of steelworkers have described the impact of shift work on the family in terms of fathers having to sleep at different times during the day. Was that something that affected you, do you remember that?
Segment Synopsis: Linares discusses the impact of her father's swing shift schedule on her family's home life. Although her father's schedule did not impact the children as much during the school year, she states that "in the summer that was really, it was tough. We had to be quiet. We found that sleeping late helped. We'd sleep late and then we had to be real quiet because he didn't get up till maybe 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon..."
Keywords: children; education; family; home life; shifts; swing shift
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Partial Transcript: So then you yourself became a member of the United Steelworkers in that job that you went into. So can you describe a little bit about what kind of work you went into?
Segment Synopsis: Linares discusses her first job working at Durkee Foods, a food manufacturer that was chartered by the United Steelworkers of America. She worked the middle shift at Durkee Foods for five years, during which time she joined the union and attended union meetings. Toward the end of her position at Durkee Foods, she served as a shop steward, which launched her career in the union.
After serving as a shop steward, Linares volunteered to serve on the legislative committee for the United Steelworkers Union. She later served as recording secretary until they closed in 1996. She also recalls a strike that coincided with Watergate, during President Nixon's term. She served on picket duty during the strike to advocate for better wages. She recalls the difficulties faced by working families during the strike, especially those with small children, although she adds, "they did have a strike fund and they would get a certain amount of money, but it wasn't a whole lot of money. But in order to get that you had to do that picket duty." She notes that the workers had time to follow the developments of the Watergate scandal while they were on strike, this free time was something they enjoyed, despite the hardships of the strike.
Keywords: benefits; careers; children; day shift; family; home life; laborers; politics; shifts; shop stewards; strikes; unions; United Steelworkers of America; wages
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Partial Transcript: But it's interesting because you also have had a career in politics, right?
Segment Synopsis: Linares explains that her involvement in the United Steelworkers of America influenced her interest in local politics. She served as the vice-chair for the Northampton Democratic Party and continues to be involved with politics.
Keywords: Northampton County; politics; unions; United Steelworkers of America
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Partial Transcript: I wanted to also talk to you a little bit about your involvement with the United Steelworkers Union because in talking to steelworkers and in reading about the United Steelworkers Union one point that analysts make is that for a long time the United Steelworkers Union did not have many women in officer positions, so you're quite unusual that way. You probably were one of the only women representative at many United Steelworkers meetings?
Segment Synopsis: Linares shares that her local at Durkee Foods was comprised of both men and women, so women tended to have more representation in their union. However, she further clarifies that "In the beginning when I first started in 1967 it was strictly, certain jobs were women's job, other jobs were men's jobs, like the warehouse was strictly men. That was all men that did that. The third shift which was all cleanup, they cleaned all the machines and the floors and stuff, that was definitely men's work. According to them. And all the other, the maintenance men, they were men. Most of the supervisors were men except in certain departments it was women." She also discusses the wage gap and promotional opportunities among men and women. However, when younger women entered the work force after the 1960s, she noticed more of the women saying, "`I can do that job.' You know, you'd see these men doing these jobs and you're saying, `I can do that job. You know, why should he be the only one that can do that job?'" She further adds that the consent decree also created more opportunities for women, who could then bid for different jobs. Nevertheless, she indicates that women who worked in the warehouse faced more difficulties from their male co-workers.
Keywords: Affirmative Action; gender; gender roles; harassment; laborers; politics; professional relationships; shifts; shop stewards; unions; United Steelworkers of America; wages
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Partial Transcript: So there was a lot of resistance to women. And as a shop steward or as a union officer, did you have to represent women on sexual harassment cases or overworking in the warehouse?
Segment Synopsis: Linares discusses gender-based harassment at work, indicating that "there were a couple complaints. It never really got that bad that we actually, but there were some grievances filed against some of the men. But we settled them, and then eventually it got better." She further adds, "So at the end we were all doing everything and we were getting the same amount of money. It worked, it worked for us." Here, she suggests the importance of the union for women workers.
Keywords: gender; grievances; harassment; shop stewards; unions; wages
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Partial Transcript: Were there any other issues that were specific to women? For example, analysts who write about unions and women have talked about women having issues around childcare for example, wanting schedules that would be able to coordinate with childcare at home or issues related to pregnancy. Did you have others specifically women's issues?
Segment Synopsis: This segment highlights the intersection of gender, care work, and reproductive labor. Linares discusses how the maternity leave policy changed before and after the Consent Decree. Prior to the Consent Decree, when Linares had a child, she was off for almost a whole year. She further clarifies, "I didn't get paid but I was out." However, her seniority and her union membership protected her, because when she returned to work, "of course I had to go back to middle shift because I would've had to get a babysitter, you know, and so it worked out great because my husband worked day shift and I was working middle shift so I was there all day until he got home and then he took over." However, after the consent decree, women were only allowed to take six weeks off after childbirth, at which point, they were expected to either go back to work or quit and try to start at the bottom of the ladder again. The interviewer notes that the consent decree predated the Family Medical Leave and Disability Act.
Keywords: Affirmative Action; child care; children; day shift; family; gender; gender roles; marriage; motherhood; professional relationships; shifts; unions
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Partial Transcript: So then you were involved in negotiations with Durkee and then with the two companies that bought out Durkee?
Segment Synopsis: In this nuanced segment, Linares discusses her role in participating in negotiations between Durkee Foods and its new parent companies, first Glidden-Foods, and later, Specialty Brands. According to Linares, despite the fact that the city of Bethlehem offered the new parent company a financial break and the workers negotiated a conciliatory contract, the company decided to go with a plant in Iowa instead, which devastated many of the workers. In retaliation, "some employees sabotaged equipment, and therefore lost their jobs. Linares was ineligible for her pension at the time, though she was paid her lump sum from her 401K plan. However, she adds that she will soon be eligible for her pension from Reckitt Coleman.
Keywords: benefits; health insurance; pensions; unions; wages
Hyperlink: Morning Call article, April 7, 1995 about Durkee decision to leave Bethlehem, and union reaction
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Partial Transcript: Let me just ask you quickly about that before you-- What was that like being in such a minority in the legislative group of the United Steelworker's? It's, you know, very male and you're also a Puerto Rican woman. How did you experience that?
Segment Synopsis: When asked if her minority status affected her experiences at work, Linares responds, "It was great. I mean the guys really were really supportive for us, you know, and the Steelworker's also had a thing called Women of Steel. It was like a separate thing and we were involved in that and then that was mostly all women. And you know, we got to talk to them and they gave us ideas, we'd bring them back. And so that was a big help."
Keywords: ethnic groups; gender; politics; unions; United Steelworkers of America
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Partial Transcript: Very helpful, yeah. So then when I got done, I was entitled to unemployment so I signed up for unemployment and I said to the lady, `I want to find another job,' and this woman was so nice, she says to me, `Tell you what, why don't you stay home, get all your work done at home. When you're all done, then come back and look for a job.' So that's what I did.
Segment Synopsis: In this long segment, Linares describes her career after losing her position with Durkee Foods. After receiving unemployment, Linares found work with the Dislocated Workers Center, where she helped retrain and replace dislocated workers. The center instructed unemployed workers on applying to jobs as well as "how to go to an interview, how to, you know, conduct it properly, and how to dress." Furthermore, they offered a series of workshops about available jobs in the area. Importantly for Linares, they also discussed the emotional impact of unemployment. She recalls, "And when we did that, I think that was a whole day class about stress and finding new people and we even had people come in from Alcoholics Anonymous and a couple other financial institutions that would help them, you know, stay out of debt. Because that was another thing, some of them did turn to the alcohol because they were depressed and some of them went into debt and you know, they were afraid to lose their homes. So we had people come in and talk to them and help them with that situation. Now our people didn't have that too bad. Some of them were depressed but I don't think it was as bad as some steelworkers had it bad." Toward the end of this segment, she discusses the kinds of work that retrained workers might hope to find at manufacturing companies, in maintenance, and with Mack Truck, Inc. Some of the skilled laborers from Bethlehem Steel were also able to find positions in plumbing, carpentry, and as electricians, although many workers had to accept positions for lower wages and without the same benefits that Bethlehem Steel had offered. The Dislocated Workers Center ultimately closed.
Keywords: benefits; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; business; careers; child care; factories; family; gender; home life; laborers; Mack Trucks, inc.; motherhood; office workers; social life; steelworkers; unemployment; unions; wages
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Partial Transcript: Dissolved and then we, some of the guys went and worked at Career Link and they're there now and then some of them just retired and did other things, you know...
Segment Synopsis: After the Dislocated Workers Center "dissolved," Linares filed for unemployment and began looking for other work. She was offered a job at Peter Angelos's law firm, which specialized in asbestos litigation. While she was laid off, she took courses in computer skills, which helped her to transition to her job as a receptionist at the law firm. While working as a receptionist, Linares realized that many of the firm's clients were former steelworkers who had been exposed to asbestos. The law firm recognized the value of Linares's background, and she was promoted to working on personal injury lawsuits, which entails helping clients to determine what kind of settlement they are entitled to based on their work-related health problems. Though the plant workers were the most affected, Linares points out that supervisors, foremen, and office workers were also exposed to asbestos throughout the plant, because it was used as insulation. Linares also adds that family members had secondary exposure to asbestos. She states, "In fact some of the wives are even worse than the husbands. And they got it because the gentlemen would bring their clothes home and she would wash it, shake it out, you know. I know when I wash, I shake it out so I'm sure she shook it out good, you know. And we have some kids that you know, they came home and hugged their daddies all full of this stuff, you know, or were there when mom was shaking it out. So it's a serious problem." Linares then discusses some of the nuances of the settlements that ex-steelworkers and their families received. Please note: toward the end of the interview, the second interviewer whispers ,"We're sitting on a sinter plant," in response to Linares description of the plant. He whispers again, possibly to indicate that the tape is almost out, before the primary interviewer quickly concludes the interview.
Keywords: Allentown (Pa.); Bethlehem (Pa.); Bethlehem plant; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; blast furnaces; death; family; foremen; health; Homer Labs; Northampton County; office workers; pensions; sinter dumps; soaking pits; Sparrows Point; unions; United Steelworkers of America