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Activist Steelworkers’ Local President Unseated

April 18, 1985

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A United Steelworkers official who promised to stick to union business won a landslide victory over a two-term local president whose activism on behalf of the unemployed angered working union members.

Mike Bonn, 44, who had been arrested in an Easter Sunday unemployment protest at a Pittsburgh church, vowed after his defeat by Don Conn to continue working for the jobless.

Both said Bonn was hurt by his involvement in the Network to Save the Mon- Ohio Valley and the allied Denominational Ministry Strategy, which blame local companies for the decline of steelmaking and for high unemployment in the Monongahela and Ohio River valleys.

The groups have used tactics like putting dead fish in safe deposit boxes and interrupting church services to make their point.

Bonn said Wednesday that one steelworker told him, ″Mike Bonn, I’m voting against you because all you worry about is those unemployed people.″

″They were mad at me so they said, ’Vote him out,‴ Bonn said. ″I don’t care if I lose every election the rest of my life, I’m going to do what’s right.″

Conn, 50, a local vice president who won by a 2-1 margin Tuesday, said he promised union members he would stay out of DMS and Network protests.

″I believe that we are a union and that our fight is with U.S. Steel and the people that are trying to take our jobs away from us,″ he said. ″I am just not a man that would take that fight to a man’s church.″

Conn takes over May 14 as president of Local 2227, which represents about 2,000 workers at U.S. Steel Corp.’s Irvin Works in West Mifflin. Conn plans to work with the executive board to draft new policies for the local, and said his goals include replacing confrontation with cooperation.

Bonn was one of four protesters arrested on disorderly conduct charges Easter Sunday in a demonstration outside Shadyside Presbyterian Church, which is attended by corporate executives.

Another Network activist, Ron Weisen, is up for re-election April 24 as president of Local 1397 in Homestead. His challenger, Ray Gottschalk, has criticized Weisen’s involvement in blue-collar protests.

Weisen, at a news conference outside Mellon Bank headquarters Wednesday, said he’s confident he will be re-elected.″The election’s not the problem,″ he said. ″This battle will keep up, whether we lose elections or not.″

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