WEIRTON - A lifetime of service to West Virginia and its people was honored in Weirton Monday as people from up and down the Ohio Valley gathered to pay tribute to retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
A crowd of steelworkers, mine workers, public officials and others filled the ballroom of the Serbian-American Cultural Center to thank Rockefeller, D-W.Va., for his decades of service to the Mountain State, which he's called home for the past half-century, and its people, who have elected him to five consecutive terms in the Senate. The 76-year-old Rockefeller announced last year he would not seek a sixth term.
As part of the afternoon's honors, Rockefeller received the United Steelworkers' Lifetime Achievement Award and the "Man of Steel" award from the Cold Finished Steel Bar Institute.
ROCKEFELLER - The 76-year-old senator will not seek a sixth term in office.
USW President Leo Gerard noted Rockefeller's work over the years fighting on behalf of the steel industry, even in the face of numerous difficulties and obstacles.
While there were many defeats in the battle, he said, including the loss of thousands of steel jobs, those fights provided some opportunity for the steel industry to restructure instead of completely disappearing from the nation.
"I don't know that there (is) a steelworker in America that doesn't owe their job to Jay Rockefeller," Gerard said.
Michael Salamon, executive vice president of the Cold Finished Steel Bar Institute, noted many of those battles would not have been possible without Rockefeller's leadership and the formation of the Steel Caucus in Congress.
In the face of unfair trade practices by other nations, he said, Rockefeller stuck with the domestic steel industry and stood side-by-side with steel workers.
"Few members of Congress have been as tenacious on their behalf as Senator Rockefeller," Salamon said.
Rockefeller recognized many of those who have fought those battles by his side, including Mark Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911, Jim Bowen and others who he said have never backed down from fighting on behalf of the steel industry, whether in Weirton or in Washington, D.C.
"That's what this is all about," Rockefeller said. "We've always been a ferocious team. We do not mess around. We step on people who get in our way."
Those assembled also pledged to continue their fight on behalf of steelworkers in the U.S. and to work with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who has been selected to lead the Steel Caucus in the years ahead.
"The future is good with Sherrod," Rockefeller said.
Brown thanked Rockefeller for his guidance and friendship, and pledged to continue working on behalf of the nation's steel industry.