On Satruday, January 5th, layed-off steelworker, Robert Jennings, 59, shot himself in a shed on his property in southern Pennsylvania. Sorrow and anger soon filled up the Facebook page of USW Local 9477:
"Damnit, this shit is messing with everyone."
"Sparrows Point was not just our job it was our life our family."
"The bastards that destroyed our jobs should all have to read this to their kids."
These are just a few of the comments from the Brother Steelworkers of Local 9477, family, and neighbors about the suicide of Robert Jennings, a veteran steelworker, who lost his job in the shutdown of the Sparrows Point mill in Maryland:
RG Steel began laying off workers at its Sparrows Point, Maryland steel mill December 23 as the company suspended its steelmaking operations. RG Steel, the country’s fourth-largest flat-rolled steelmaker, furloughed over 700 workers last Friday as part of its “cash conservation” efforts.-from article by Kate Randall, 30 December 2011 at wsws.org (http://www.wsws.org/...)
Jan 7, 2013
Chris MacLarion, vice president of Local 9477, added that he was “very afraid” that the Jennings suicide might not be the last.Full article here: http://www.baltimorebrew.com/...
“The younger guys can start over. But the long-term employee at Sparrows Point – the guys that came out of the old school – their attitude is, ‘I provide, I provide for my family.’ And now they can’t provide.”
Like Jennings who was 59, many of the lay-offed Steelworkers are older workers who have spent their entire lives producing steel to build America. And to make matters worse, demolition of the plant is set to begin using out-of-state crews.
Jennings' wife, Deborah explained her husband's suicide this way:
I think he just snapped. He was so sorry. He thought he was a failure You work your whole life for your dream and they take your job away from you.
Deborah went on to describe her husband:
Bob was a welder in the shipyard [who] loved everyone at the Point; nothing bothered him; he was happy.But she describes how he became more and more anxious as he faced the job market, and became increasingly stressed out over the new skills required. And then his hopes that a new operator would buy the Sparrows Point plant were dashed as word came that the plant would be demolished. Deborah continued:
I am not embittered, but I think the government, the Congress, no longer cares about steelworkers.Indeed, what sort of nation are we when the men and women who built America can be thrown out of work, given a few months of unemployment, and then left out in the cold to tender mercies of the "free market?" We owe them much more than this. None of them should lose their homes, medical care, or dignity. They have earned at least that much after years and years of service to their country. And that is exactly how I see it: Workers serve their Communities and their Country. Their Labor builds America.
This particular issue hits me hard. As some of you already know, I worked for eight years with people who suffer from chronic schizophrenia. Suicide was the number one threat to the lives of our residents. One terrible New Years Eve, I contemplated my own suicide thinking that I would be relieved to join the seven residents we had lost just in that one year.
Depression over life circumstances is a terrible thing. For me, it was many things: having lost my job as a heavy equipment operator to the Reagan/Bush recession, I was back in healthcare. It just didn't pay enough to support children as a single mother. The sense of shame at not being able to care for your family is overwhelming. And then there was a devastating illness in the family, and inadequate medical insurance. Eventually, bankruptcy and medicaid were the last resort. More shame. Plus the grief over a loved one desperately ill.
I want to say this to anyone contemplating suicide: HANG IN THERE.
In my deep depression, I could not see the possibility of happiness further down the road. That I would one day be a happy 62 year old woman, living contentedly with two beautiful dogs, camping, hiking, writing, once again being my activist self. Suicide is a permanent solution to what may truly seem like a permanent problem at the time. But things can get better, please believe that, and hang on.
Message from the Jeanne Jennings,
Daughter of Robert Jennings:
The BaltimoreBrew article concluded with some comments from Jeanne, used with permission. I won't reprint them here since I do not have that same permission, but will summarize:
Robert Jennings worked hard his whole life to provide for his family. He felt like a failure after he lost his job. She wishes that he would have let her care for him the way he had always cared for her. She wants everyone who is depressed to get help. It is too late for her family, but not for other families going through the same difficulties. She loves her father and is proud to be his daughter.
National: @800273TALK 800-273-8255
Condolences and messages of support for USW Local 9477 can be left at their Facebook page: