Jonathan Arizzola, a Navy veteran who deployed to Pakistan on a humanitarian mission, had suffered an electric shock in a separate accident at Gary Works the week before his death and had frequently told his wife it was getting dangerous there.
Arizzola died Friday night in an accident while working in a four-man crew assigned to troubleshoot a crane at the U.S. Steel slab storage yard in Gary. The 30-year-old Valparaiso resident was an electrician who worked at the mill for about four years, but was concerned with the deterioration of working conditions at the mill in Gary, his widow Whitney Arizzola said.
“He was constantly complaining about McKinsey group cutting back workers,” she said. “There was always some kind of close call with someone he worked with. I never imagined that something would happen to Jon, he was always the safest guy I knew.”
The United Steelworkers union has been protesting layoffs and the demotion of maintenance workers to labor gangs, including with a rally outside the mill gates. USW officials say the cuts have made the mill less safe, such as by having roving labor gangs work in parts of the 7-mile mill they’re unfamiliar with.
“Our company has decided that, to save a dollar, they’ll farm people out all over this mill which only increases the chances for accidents like these happening,” USW Local 1014 President Rodney Lewis said in a Facebook post to steelworkers. “They should instead be asking themselves if it’s high time they started listening to what we’ve been saying all along. Moving people all around a mill like chess pieces only promises to result in something tragic. Shutting down training when you need it the most is just bad business when you consider that we are ‘the company’s most important asset.’”
Bare-bones crews at Gary Works put steelworkers at risk for more accidents, Lewis said.
“Bad news is not an if, but a when,” he said. “As terrible as it sounds, haven’t we been saying that something was coming?”
U.S. Steel declined to comment on safety criticisms.
Arizzola had an 8-year-old son and a son who turns 5 this week. He had served as an electrician on the USS Peleliu amphibious assault ship and was very proud of the military, even recently buying a soldier’s meal at El Salto.
“All they care about is making money,” Whitney Arizzola said. “They don’t care that it affects other people. He has a 4-year-old who’s turning 5. They keep cutting when they should have a safer environment for people. It shouldn’t be all about the money.”
His loss has been hard on their family.
“I have no husband now, my children have no father,” she said. “I have no idea how I’m going to pay for my house or my car, any of our bills, I was a stay at home mother. I have no experiences, Jon was everything to me.”
A GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/2s8p4s2c has been set up to help his family.