VALPARAISO | Retired steelworker and local activist Stephen Skvara is being remembered by his peers as an unsung hero who raised his voice for justice.
Skvara, 65, of Valparaiso, who died Feb. 19, was president of an Indiana Chapter of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, also known as SOAR, and also served on the group’s district executive board.
United Steelworkers District 7 Director Jim Robinson issued a statement describing Skvara as being among the union’s unsung heroes during his retirement years “when he raised his loud steelworker’s voice for justice on health care for everyone, retirement security for seniors and fairness to workers who lose their benefits in corporate bankruptcies.”
Robinson said at a 2007 AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Debate Forum in Chicago, Skvara asked a question which was nationally televised to more than 1 million people. Skvara said, “After 34 years with LTV Steel, I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?”
“Stephen Skvara’s question was applauded by us all,” Robinson said. “We needed answers and the presidential candidates then began talking more about the health care crisis all across America.”
Barack Obama was on that stage and heard Skvara’s voice, and today we have the Affordable Care Act, Robinson said.
“Our retired union brother will be missed for his helping make our steel community and nation a better place,” Robinson said.
USW District 7 Assistant Director Sal Aguilar described Skvara as “an example of the best of what we have to offer as steelworkers, people who dedicate their whole life to helping those less fortunate.”
“I think the most important thing in our office is that we are going to miss him more as a friend than as a steelworker,” Aguilar said.
Skvara began working in East Chicago at Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., which later became LTV Steel. He retired as an electrical repairman with 34-years-service after a disabling injury from an auto accident in 1997.
Skvara is survived by Sandra, his wife of 41 years, four children and a granddaughter.
Memorial donations may be made to Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, 5 Gateway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.