The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 9, 2010

Labor groups pay tribute to Murtha

By MIKE FAHER

JOHNSTOWN — While Johnstown is no longer a steel town, the United Steelworkers have not forgotten U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

The union was one of three major labor organizations that paid tribute to Murtha on Tuesday, a day after the Democratic lawmaker died due to complications from gallbladder surgery.

Leo W. Gerard, United Steelworkers international president, said Murtha’s contributions began early in his legislative career.

“Shortly after his 1974 election, he got behind the legislation to establish the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. to insure private pensions,” Gerard said.

“He will always be remembered for the federal assistance to rescue Johnstown from the 1977 disastrous flood, saving steelworker jobs so the thousands returning to work were eligible for full pensions in their later years.”

Gerard added that Murtha, in 1979, co-founded a Congressional Steel Caucus “that continues today as one of the most effective legislative support groups for steel manufacturing jobs and policies to stop unfair steel imports.”

Also weighing in was Cecil E. Roberts, international president of the United Mine Workers of America.

Roberts called Murtha “a great friend of our nation’s coal miners” and said the lawmaker assisted both current and former members of that profession.

“Because of Rep. Murtha, thousands of dislocated coal miners received skills training in other occupations through grants he was able to secure for the UMWA Career Centers, so they could continue supporting their families,” Roberts said.

“Many more have received new miner training at the career centers so they could enter the coal-mining work force with the skills they needed to be safe, productive employees.”

Officials with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO added that Murtha “understood the struggles and challenges that working people face.”

“Millions of working families across Pennsylvania have benefited from Congressman Murtha’s leadership and service on their behalf,” the union said in a statement released Tuesday.

“Congressman Murtha understood that government has an active role to play in helping create the right conditions for job growth and economic prosperity for labor and business.”