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USW Negotiates Top Wage Increases at Solvay Marietta, Ohio, Plant

USW Blog - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 06:33

Local 1-4200 members at Solvay’s Marietta, Ohio, plant overwhelmingly ratified a four-year agreement in September that included wage increases of 3.1 percent each year for the first three years and 3.15 percent for the fourth year.

The new agreement also included increases in Sunday pay, vision benefits and the shoe allowance.  A new drug policy is in the contract. Both parties settled seven outstanding grievances that were in the system at the time of negotiations.

The local also beat back management negotiators’ concessionary language on contracting out, overtime opportunities, Sunday pay and work rule changes.

“Our raises came in better than the national average, and most of all, we didn’t give anything back,” said Local 1-4200 President Randy Irvine.

District 1 Staff Representative John Saunders said the membership is attuned to the regional and world economy, and was concerned about the site’s two largest customers—Apple and Boeing. Fewer orders are coming in and there is uncertainty regarding the quality of Boeing’s planes.

Photo caption: (L-R) Local 1-4200 member Gregory May, Local 1-4200 President Randy Irvine and D1 Staff Rep. John Saunders.

“Members looked at the total value of the contract,” Saunders said. “I think they understood that it was a good collective bargaining agreement and that they have good benefits that were developed over numerous contracts. Our local union negotiators have been creative in getting the members’ their piece of the pie.”

Saunders said that membership support for the negotiating committee was overwhelming. “The local had key people in the plant who had access to the bargaining committee, and they communicated to the members what was happening with negotiations.”

Irvine said the negotiations were difficult this time. “The first two weeks we couldn’t agree on almost anything. It was a very negative atmosphere,” he said.

Saunders said that negotiations were harder because the site was not in full production mode and the company was reducing overtime.

“We said there would be no concessions of any kind in this collective bargaining agreement. We told them, ‘You’re not that poor,’” he said. “Our members appreciated that we stood strong against contracting out and protected overtime opportunities.”

USW Gains Paid Family Leave in New 3M Contract

USW Blog - Wed, 01/15/2020 - 05:51

Seven months after starting negotiations on April 15, 2019, with 3M, Local 11-075 President Thomas Heimer said he was optimistic the local could resolve its bargaining differences with the company.

Almost one month later, the membership overwhelmingly ratified a three-year contract on Dec. 9 that covers about 200 workers at 3M’s Maplewood, Minn., maintenance facility.

The new agreement contains three weeks of 100 percent paid parental leave. “This was the first time we obtained this benefit ever, it was a total positive,” Heimer said.

Members also gained more flextime, with clearer contract language, Heimer said. Now, workers can use up to two hours of flextime at the beginning or end of the shift. So, if a person comes in late, they can make up that time at the end of the day.

Another important contract victory was relaxing the language on bereavement leave. Previously, management had the right to determine if and how long an employee could take bereavement leave. Now, management is out of the process.

The 3M workers have sick leave, and negotiators aligned this with vacation time so that both will start Jan. 1 of each year.

The contract also includes a 2.4 percent wage increase each year, and workers received a $700 lump sum upon ratification.

The agreement expires Aug. 19, 2022, and covers building maintenance workers who care for 3M’s headquarters facility, which includes 40 some buildings and is expanding.

From the USW Chemical Chair: Challenges and Opportunities Abound in the New Year

USW Blog - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 08:02

2019 was a year of change for our union. In addition to the retirements and promotions within the USW executive board, our chemical sector leadership changed. International Vice President at Large Carol Landry, who oversaw our chemical sector, retired last July, and I now oversee this industry.

Until July 15, 2019, I was the director of District 4. I had many chemical plants in my district, and helped Carol organize the Districts 4 and 10 chemical sector conference in Atlantic City, N.J., several years ago. I serviced chemical locals as well when I was a staff representative, so, I understand the challenges and opportunities that we have in this industry.

One of those opportunities is to organize the vast number of non-represented chemical workers. In mid-November, 44 workers from Cray Valley in Beaumont, Texas, voted to join Local 13-243. Cray Valley is a subsidiary of Total Petrochemicals. This is a sister plant to the Total Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Congratulations to everyone who supported the organizing campaign and to our new brothers and sisters!

One of our challenges is to increase the coordination of our bargaining within our chemical company councils. We need to be strategic in our thinking and start establishing common bargaining goals.

One council that could take this approach is the USW BASF council. The BASF locals in Middle Georgia are currently in negotiations, and are sticking together, as their members resoundingly rejected the company’s last, best and final offer. The biggest area of disagreement concerns the entry level wage rate and the jobs that the company wants in this category. Other issues in dispute are the 401k contributions in the defined contribution plan and the time period for long-term disability benefits. Both parties agreed to meet again on Jan. 16. We will keep everyone informed in case a solidarity action is needed.

Congratulations to Bill Powers of Local 90 in Knoxville for winning a 2019 Jefferson award for his community service work. Bill works at the Dow Chemical plant, and as chair of Local 90, he has led his local to participate in projects that improve the Knoxville community. He has helped raise more than $300,000 in member donations for the United Way of Greater Knoxville over the past several years. He also took the lead on two Habitat for Humanity homes, and has personally donated more than $10,000 to the United Way of Greater Knoxville. In addition, he is a longtime volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Center. Way to go Bill and Local 90! Our members do great work in the community, and through their efforts, they show the value of being a union member.

With repeated communication between our chemical locals, whether or not they are engaged in bargaining, we can form a tight-knit chemical sector. This communication is the basis for coordinated bargaining, and helps chemical locals learn from one another on how to resolve similar issues. Together, we can make this communication happen in 2020.

John Shinn
USW International Secretary-Treasurer/Chair of the USW chemical sector
jshinn@usw.org

Bill Alston - USW District 7 PAC Contributor

USW Blog - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 07:49

Bill Alston
District 7
USW Local 9777
Emploer: Atkore International
Harvey, IL

I have been a dues-paying member of the United Steelworkers for nearly 35 years, and I am a proud contributor to our union’s Political Action Committee (USW PAC). The labor movement is the last line of defense for working men and women across this nation and world. All the achievements labor has won over the years are being challenged and rolled back by corporate-backed lobbyists and politicians. My monthly contribution to USW PAC helps our union fight back against these attacks.

I currently serve as Vice-President of my Local and have served in many official capacities during my years in the USW.  Being a PAC contributor is more than a slogan, it is a pocket-book necessity.

Click HERE to share your story about why USW PAC matters to you.

Note: Federal law prohibits USW PAC from soliciting contributions from individuals who are not United Steelworkers Union members, executive and administrative staff or their families. Any contribution received from such an individual will be refunded immediately.

Health Care Workers Council talks organizing, technology at annual meeting

USW Blog - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 09:10

The union’s Health Care Workers Council strategized for the future of the union and the evolving industry in Pittsburgh last December, leaving the city with several action plans moving forward.

Over the group’s two-day session, the activists reported on their districts’ work, including pushing legislators to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. The bill passed the House late last year, thanks in large part to the council’s work with the Rapid Response program collecting more than 80,000 postcards in support of the legislation, which now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

The diverse council of heath care members also talked about the coming of automation and the impact it is already having on the industry. District 12 Health Care Council Coordinator Alma Garzon spoke on her experience attending Unite the Union’s health care conference last fall that focused on automation and technology.

“Technology absolutely is a great tool to use,” said Garzon, “but it should not replace bodies and real workers.”

Another challenge facing the health care industry the members touched on was short-staffing. But activists like Kim Smith, a health care staff representative in District 9, believe there is more opportunity than opposition when it comes to fixing this and many other problems.

“The health care sector right now is primed for organizing,” said Smith.

USW Vice President Fred Redmond, who oversees the council, addressed the group and also agreed that there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future. He said the work of the council is indicative of the recent changes in the union toward expanding its organizing efforts and diversifying an already diverse membership.

“This is a growth sector,” said Redmond. “And how we grow this council and get engaged is going to be crucial in strengthening our ability to represent health care workers. Our union is on the move.”

History made! 10,000+ members at Local 8888

USW Blog - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 12:08

USW Local 8888 has begun the New Year and new decade by reaching a significant milestone. On Wednesday, January 8th, Justin Bates, a painter at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding became the 10,000th member of the union.

Local 8888 represents hourly workers at the Virginia shipyard. Hitting the 10,000-member marker is especially sweet because Virginia is a right-to-work state. 

USW Local President Charles Spivey called the milestone “a phenomenal achievement shared by organizers from our local and our international union in Pittsburgh that sent a great team here last spring to help us sign more new members.”  

In 2019, nearly 1,500 shipyard workers joined Local 8888, reversing a downward trend that could have weakened the union’s leverage in contract negotiations with Huntington Ingalls in 2021. 

Spivey has made organizing and training the next generation of Steelworker activists his top priority since he was elected president of Local 8888 in May, 2018.

“Folks are really engaged now,” he said. “We’re approaching people at the gates, over the phone, and during home visits. We’ve revamped our message and approach in company orientation for new hires and apprentices. Now, we’re signing up 90-95 percent of them.”

Local 8888, which was already one of the largest locasl in the Steelworkers international union, is poised to flex its added strength in Richmond, where key pro-labor bills will be put before politicians who campaigned hard for labor votes last November.

President Spivey said the membership milestone and union’s organizing success show “8888 is back in the game.” He cited some tangible gains: “We’ve got more dues-paying members and fewer freeloaders. We have better morale and less negativity. We’re keeping the union spirit alive with new energy. Most of all, we have sent a powerful message to the company: At contract time, we won’t be coming for crumbs. We’re 10,000 strong now.” 

USW Sues EPA to Save Chemical Disaster Rule

Steelworker News - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 07:17

Contact: Joe Smydo, jsmydo@usw.org, 412-562-2281

(Pittsburgh) – The United Steelworkers (USW) today announced that it filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s decision to gut a regulation intended to prevent chemical disasters and save lives.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) capitulated to industry demands by rescinding crucial provisions of the Chemical Disaster Rule that bolstered EPA’s Risk Management Program regulations, including requirements that companies take commonsense actions to prevent foreseeable catastrophic incidents.

“Eliminating these requirements will allow a profit-hungry industry to police itself while putting workers, first responders and the public at risk,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “The USW spent years advocating for the Chemical Disaster Rule. Thousands of our members signed petitions imploring the EPA not to gut it. Now, we’re going to court to protect our members and our communities.”

The USW’s lawsuit asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to implement the Chemical Disaster Rule as the EPA originally wrote it, before the current administration took office.

The USW and other safety advocates called for stronger regulation following a string of deadly incidents, including the 2005 fire and explosions at BP’s Texas City, Texas, oil refinery that killed 15 contractors, and the 2010 fire and blast at Tesoro’s Anacortes, Wash., refinery that killed a supervisor and six workers represented by the USW.

Recent incidents at USW facilities subject to Risk Management Program requirements demonstrate that U.S. workers and their communities still urgently need the full protections of the Chemical Disaster Rule. In June, USW members’ quick thinking prevented a catastrophic amount of highly toxic hydrofluoric acid from escaping into the community during a fire and explosions at Philadelphia Energy Solutions. In November, explosions at a TPC chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, forced tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes and threatened the livelihoods of USW members at the facility.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

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USW Local 5114 Ratifies Agreement to End Lucky Friday Strike

Steelworker News - Wed, 01/08/2020 - 09:53

CONTACT: Tony Montana, (412) 562-2592 or tmontana@usw.org

The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that the members of Local 5114 in Mullan, Idaho, have ratified an agreement to resolve their strike at Hecla Mining Company’s (NYSE: HL) Lucky Friday mine.

In secret ballot election, about 200 USW members who began a strike against the company’s unfair labor practices on March 13, 2017, ratified the three-year agreement, reached last month between the union and Hecla management.

USW District 12 Director Gaylan Prescott praised the members and officers of Local 5114 for standing together for close to three years to demand a fair contract.

“For nearly three years, our solidarity has been tested,” Prescott said. “We are proud of their unity and resolve, which will serve as an example for all of organized labor.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.


Bargaining Begins with ATI Management, Initial Proposals Exchanged

USW Blog - Tue, 01/07/2020 - 14:51

Today in Pittsburgh, our 2020 contract negotiations with ATI began with our first face-to-face meeting with management.

We exchanged proposals.

Our union proposed a substantial wage increase and pension improvements and provisions to protect our health care and other benefits.

Management proposed below industry standard wage adjustments and concessions in other areas of the contract including health care.

They also proposed non-economic concessions in seniority that would negatively impact every member of the bargaining unit at each USW-represented location. 

The committees will continue to meet on local issues and will update the membership as we make progress.

Solidarity is our strength and our path to achieving a fair and equitable contract.

Click here for this update as a PDF.

New Contract at Cigna Local 985 in Tampa

USW Blog - Mon, 01/06/2020 - 06:19

Members of Local 985 in Tampa, Fla., were able to enjoy their holidays with a little less stress after ratifying their latest contract on December 23 with health insurance provider Cigna. Negotiations only lasted two days and focused on tightening language from the union’s International round of bargaining for all Cigna locals that concluded in the fall of 2019.

The approximately 77 pharmaceutical call center workers at the Tampa location, along with the other USW members across several Cigna locals, obtained two additional holidays, a readjusted PTO schedule, and more.

Cigna employees have been undergoing many changes since the company bought out their former employer Express Scripts, a pharmaceutical benefit management organization, in 2018. Most of the transition has taken place, and overall, the company and its workers are now set up for a more secure future, according to William Jones, who works as USW staff with the union’s ESI-Cigna Council.

“I think it will be good in the long run as all the sites are receiving additional work with the additional clientele, including government contracts and Medicare/Medicaid,” said Jones. “This has made them more diverse.”

Members of the negotiating committee featured in the above photo (left to right): Cavan Simon, Jim Hendricks, William Jones, Winston Callum.

A Mexican Oligarch Is Undermining the New NAFTA

USW Blog - Thu, 01/02/2020 - 08:40

Grupo México CEO Germán Larrea threatens to undermine the new NAFTA agreement as the USW’s unfair labor practice strike continues at its subsidiary ASARCO in Arizona and Texas.

Read more from the American Prospect here: prospect.org/world/a-mexican-oligarch-is-undermining-the-new-nafta/

USW Members Approve Contract Covering 9,400 WestRock Workers

Steelworker News - Fri, 12/20/2019 - 07:18

Contact: R.J. Hufnagel, rhufnagel@usw.org, 412-562-2450

Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union approved a new four-year master agreement with WestRock that sets standards for wages, benefits and working conditions for more than 9,400 union workers at 62 facilities across 26 U.S. states.

WestRock is the second-largest packaging company in the United States and one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies, operating in more than 30 countries.

The contract includes annual wage increases totaling nearly 10 percent over the four-year term, preserves affordable health care coverage, enhances retirement benefits, and improves health and safety provisions.

“The USW’s bargaining committee, consisting of local union leaders from every location and international leaders, entered these negotiations knowing that we were facing a number of challenges,” said USW International Vice President Leeann Foster, who oversees bargaining in the union’s paper sector. “These challenges included the company’s proposals, but also overcapacity in the board market, a shaky economic outlook, especially in manufacturing, and related falling box demand. All of these factors combined to create uncertainty.”

“Through the strength and solidarity of the members in an over year-long campaign involving all locations, we achieved a package with no concessions, no givebacks, only gains. In short, we achieved security for our members,” Foster said. “Our members stood together nationally and our local leaders joined together at one bargaining table and spoke with one united voice to win a fair agreement.”

The contract, which runs through 2023, covers workers at WestRock paper mills, converting and merchandising display facilities in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

“This contract sets a standard for the industry – it positions the company to succeed and invest in our facilities while making sure that workers, families and communities continue to share in that success,” Foster said.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, the service and public sectors and higher education.

Marshall “The Counselor” Pullen dies in West Paducah

USW Blog - Fri, 12/20/2019 - 07:15

Marshall Pullen, known by many of his union brothers and sisters as “The Counselor,” died in October at age 68 in West Paducah, Ky. 

Pullen served as an OCAW Local 550 committeeman beginning in 1978, and continued in this position through the PACE and USW mergers until 2010.  During his tenure, he studied and became knowledgeable about the National Labor Relations Act and its benefit to workers. Union members eventually nicknamed him "The Counselor," after he filed several charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant management. 

Pullen worked at the atomic plant near Paducah for 41 years, starting in 1973. J.W. Cleary, a Local 550 retiree, said Pullen helped negotiate contracts that resulted in substantial pay and benefit hikes for union workers.

"Marshall Pullen was a defender of workers' rights and despised injustice against anyone," said Jim Key, USW Local 550 vice president and president of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council. “He was never one to quit, or back down when it came to making a wrong a right. His legacy will always include his fight, determination and a voice for the common worker.” 

Pullen, an African American man, grew up when segregation and race discrimination were still the law and social order in Paducah. He was "a follower and a believer of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King that all men are created equal," Key said.

Pullen is survived by his wife of 46 years, Iva Rouse Pullen, a daughter, Michelle Pullen of Louisville, and a granddaughter.

USW Atomic Council Mourns Passing of District 12 Director Bob LaVenture

USW Blog - Fri, 12/20/2019 - 06:15

District 12 Director Bob LaVenture was a staunch supporter of the Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC), who always tried to attend meetings if his busy schedule permitted it.

This included the Oct. 31/Nov. 1 meeting earlier this fall. Almost two weeks later, he passed away suddenly while on a trip to meet with the Arizona AFL-CIO to gain support for the Asarco workers engaged in an unfair labor practice strike. He was 68.

“Bob was a tireless union activist who always fought on the side of working people, first in his home state of Wisconsin and later on behalf of our members in District 12,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “Bob was a good friend who touched many lives. He will be sorely missed.”

LaVenture had three major USW-represented nuclear sites in his district:  the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington State, the Idaho National Laboratory west of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, east of Carlsbad, N.M. Each site had its own unique challenges.  At AEWC meetings, LaVenture listened intently to the members describing their issues and worked with them on possible ways to address the problems.

“Bob was an invaluable member of the Atomic Energy Workers Council,” said USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown, who leads the union’s nuclear sector. “We will miss his leadership, his dedication to our members and union, and his kind, thoughtful manner.”

LaVenture joined the labor movement in 1970 when he went to work at an International Harvester—now Navistar—foundry in Waukesha, Wis., as a member of Local 3740. He participated in his local as a trustee, local union steward, vice president and president.  While he was a local president, he helped create the first worker education center in Wisconsin, called the Navistar Education Center. He then went on to help develop other worker education centers as a state AFL-CIO coordinator.

In 1993, LaVenture was appointed to a USW staff representative position, and in 2009, he became District 12 director.

“As a director, Bob was a fierce advocate for American industry and jobs, chairing contract negotiations with EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel, Kaiser Aluminum, ASARCO, and Kennecott Utah Copper, as well as heading the USW Cement Council,” Conway said. “He was also profoundly dedicated to cross-border solidarity, working closely with our union brothers and sisters at Los Mineros in Mexico, fighting so that all workers could have a better life.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made in honor of Bob LaVenture to the Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization (disaster relief fund) that helps USW members when they are in need and struggling to recover after a natural disaster.

Checks should be made out to the “Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization,” and mailed to:

Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization
60 Boulevard of the Allies
Room 1109
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

USW Sues Alcoa to Retain Retiree Life Insurance Benefits

Steelworker News - Thu, 12/19/2019 - 14:08

CONTACT: Jess Kamm Broomell, 412-562-2444   

The United Steelworkers (USW) today filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana to protest Alcoa USA Corporation’s terminating life insurance benefits for approximately 8,900 union-represented retirees.

Alcoa informed the retirees by letter on Dec. 4 that it would eliminate life insurance coverage effective Dec. 31, 2019.  The company included with the letter a check equal to a fraction of the face value of their life insurance coverage and a federal 1099 tax form, since the payment would be taxable.

“We negotiated these retiree life insurance benefits with the company, and they are a critical part of our collective bargaining agreements with Alcoa,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “The company agreed to provide these benefits. Abruptly cutting off this coverage is not only immoral, it’s unlawful.”

“Families rely on the contractual death benefit to assist with funeral and other expenses,” said Mike Millsap, Director of USW District 7 and chair of the USW’s Alcoa bargaining committee. “It is deeply disturbing that Alcoa would show so little respect for its retirees, many of whom devoted decades of work helping the company grow and thrive.”

The lawsuit was filed as a class action, and three Alcoa retirees have joined the complaint as proposed class representatives. The Wenatchee Aluminum Trades Council, a coalition of unions representing workers at an Alcoa facility in Washington state, is also a plaintiff.

The union is also studying other announcements that the company made regarding the health care benefits for certain retirees effective in 2021.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

Local 9-677’s New Hire Orientation Program Builds Union Solidarity

USW Blog - Thu, 12/19/2019 - 10:39

Building union power requires orienting new employees to their local and following up with communication in the workplace so they will join and become active members. Local 9-677is doing this with its new employee orientation sessions that have company support and include follow-up communication on the shop floor at the Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) plant in Erwin, Tenn.

But this was not always the case.

During 2011 negotiations, the local proposed to have 30 minutes of time with the new employees.

“The company didn’t want anything to do with that,” said Local 9-677 chief steward Heath Shook, who was a committeeman at the time. “They didn’t want the union to have time with the new hires.”

By February 2019, the company’s orientation program was providing incorrect information to new employees, Shook said.  He said it was not intentional, and was a matter of the human resources director not having experience working with labor unions and understanding the collective bargaining agreement.

“There was so much confusion,” Shook said.

So, he asked Andrew Nelson, the local’s president, about approaching NFS with a new orientation program that management and the local would present jointly. “The company thought it was a great idea, Shook said.

Explaining the contract

He and the new labor relations manager, Kelly Grieger, presented the first new employee orientation on March 23, 2019 at the general employment training facility outside of the plant.

A USW Atomic Energy Workers Council meeting at the Local 9-677 union hall across from the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin, Tenn.

“I do most of the talking because I understand the contract, I am the former union president, and I have years of experience,” Shook said.

He said he keeps the one-hour orientation easy to understand with bullet points on issues like seniority, shift preference, pay rates, vacation time, floating holidays, the attendance policy, hourly sick leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the calculation of union dues.

“I give them information that is contractual so that the new hires know their rights and are prepared before they enter the plant,” Shook said. “I want to make sure they understand this is a contract negotiated by the union and is not given to them by the company.”

He tells the new employees that if they have a question or an issue during the probationary period or if they have a family emergency, they should contact him or Grieger and they will handle it.

“It is inevitable that someone has something going on that we can help them with. It takes a lot of pressure off of Andrew and the union committee,” Shook said. “The company, overall, has been pleased, too. They realize we are not trying to hijack the process.”

Shook and Grieger average one new hire orientation per month because NFS is in a hiring spurt. As of Oct. 31, the company hired 38 new employees. Shook said that 16 are in probation and 22 are members. New hires cannot join the local until they complete their six-month probation period.

“After they get their probation time in, I remind them what we talked about in our new hire orientation, like the floating holiday,” he said. “I went back to the new hires that came in February before the revamped orientation program and talked to them about the union and the contract.

“We’re trying to do a good job of educating new employees. It sure is effective. So far, everyone has come in and joined the union,” Shook said.

Local 9-677 represents 322 workers at NFS, which makes the nuclear fuel that powers the U.S. navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers.

Message From VP Brown: Warm Holiday Greetings to Atomic Workers and Their Families

USW Blog - Thu, 12/19/2019 - 10:22

This has been a year full of changes at the USW International headquarters and with the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC).

As you know, International Vice President Carol Landry retired last July and the International Executive Board appointed me to take her place.  I worked with Carol and the council for several years, so I understand the issues affecting nuclear workers and their families as contractors change and government officials come and go.

(L-R) USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown and retired USW International Vice President Carol Landry.

Contractor changes at Hanford

A number of long-term contracts the Department of Energy (DOE) had with its contractors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are coming to an end. The agency is replacing the Plateau Remediation Contract that CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company LLC, a subsidiary of Jacobs, held with a Central Plateau Cleanup contract. DOE announced the change on Dec. 12, 2019.

The new contractor is Central Plateau Cleanup Company LLC of Aiken, S.C., and its members are AECOM Management Services, Inc. (Germantown, M.D.); Fluor Federal Services, Inc. (Greenville, S.C.), and Atkins Nuclear Secured, LLC (Oak Ridge, Tenn.).

DOE said the environmental cleanup contract is worth up to $10 billion over a 10-year period.

Under the existing contract with CH2M Hill, nearly 1,700 workers are cleaning up contamination mostly in the center of the Hanford reservation and near the Columbia River.

There will be a 60-day transition period following a notice to proceed to the new contractor.

DOE also announced on Dec. 5 a change in the contractors for the Hanford support services contract. Currently, Mission Support Alliance (MSA) holds the Hanford Mission Essential Services Contract, and provides site, security and emergency services, land management services and information technology services. MSA also manages the Hazardous Material Management and Emergency Response (HAMMER) Federal Training Center in addition other functions.

The new contractor is Hanford Mission Integration Solutions, LLC in Richland, Wash. The contractor’s members are Leidos Integrated Technology, LLC (Gaithersburg, Md.), Centerra Group, LLC (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), and Parsons Government Services, Inc. (Pasadena, Calif.).

The contract is worth over $4 billion over five years and includes a 120-day transition period. The contract includes a potential option period of three years and a second option period of two years.

Changes at DOE

Amid much media coverage and speculation since last spring, Energy Secretary Rick Perry stepped down effective Dec. 1, 2019.  President Trump nominated his deputy, Dan Brouillette, who sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing in mid-November.

Brouillette previously worked for the DOE and has extensive experience on Capitol Hill.  In the confirmation hearing, he pledged to fight for DOE’s budget.

It looks like the agency will receive the necessary funds for fiscal year 2020. On Dec. 12, congressional appropriators reportedly reached agreement on several funding issues. The House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he expected Congress to vote on Dec. 17 on two funding packages; one included DOE appropriations.

Other Changes

We have had changes in the AEWC executive board as well. AEWC Vice President Herman Potter, from Local 1-689 at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site, stepped down after a number of years on the board, and Matt Chavez, Local 12-652 president at Idaho National Laboratory, was elected to take his place. We also have a new recording secretary, Kayla McWaters, from Local 1-689.

I think we can all agree that the saddest changes of all were the unexpected passing of former AEWC chair and USW International President Kip Phillips in September and District 10 Director Bob LaVenture in November. They were two great union leaders who dedicated their lives to our members. We will miss them greatly.

We are working on establishing an education fund in Kip Phillips’s honor at the International.

For those who wish to honor Director LaVenture, you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization that helps members rebuild their lives after a natural disaster. Checks should be made out to Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization and sent to:  Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization, 60 Boulevard of the Allies, Room 1109, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Let us embrace the New Year ahead with energy, solidarity and action to create a more just workplace for everyone. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday full of joy, togetherness and relaxation.

In solidarity,

Roxanne D. Brown
USW International Vice President

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

AFL-CIO - Mon, 12/16/2019 - 11:24
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

The first NALC convention took place in Boston in 1889. At this point, NALC had more than 50 branches, representing 4,600 letter carriers. In 1905, the National Ladies Auxiliary was founded, allowing women to participate in the union for the first time. In the early 1900s, postal workers won the right to organize and affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Women were first allowed to work as temporary letter carriers as many men went off to fight in World War II.

In the postwar years, NALC has focused on wages and benefits for members. In 1950, NALC began its health benefit plan. In 1964, the Nalcrest retirement community for retired letter carriers opened in Florida. The Great Postal Strike of 1970, which led to the Postal Reorganization Act, brought collective-bargaining rights to letter carriers and other postal employees. In recent decades, NALC has focused in part on legislation and on seeking commonsense legislative and regulatory reform, including the unfair 2006 congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits decades in advance, which threatens the viability of USPS by posing an unsustainable—and unique—financial burden. NALC also has continued to regularly negotiate national agreements between letter carriers and the USPS while working to protect the safety, jobs and well-being of letter carriers. Broadly put, NALC is very active in the federal legislative and political arena to protect the interests of its members and to secure the long-term future of the Postal Service.

Read Carriers in a Common Cause, the official history of NALC.

Current Campaigns: NALC stays in regular touch with its members through The Postal Record, the monthly membership magazine; the semi-regular NALC Bulletin and the NALC ActivistThe union also sends out regular notifications to members via the NALC Member App for smartphones. NALC members have access to a number of members-only benefits, such as the NALC Health Benefit Plan (though other federal employees also can join the plan), the Mutual Benefit Association insurance company, the NALC Auxiliary and the letter carrier retirement community known as Nalcrest. Union-made clothes bearing the NALC logo and other items can be purchased through the online NALC store. 

Community Efforts: The NALC Disaster Relief Foundation helps those in need after disasters. The Letter Carriers' Food Drive, held the second Saturday each May, is the largest one-day food drive in the country. Letter Carrier Heroes recognize the acts of bravery and compassion that letter carriers engage in on a daily basis. NALC’s official charity is the Muscular Dystrophy Association, with letter carriers raising funds to Deliver the Cure. Carrier Alert is a community service program to monitor the well-being of elderly and disabled mail patrons. The Postal Employees’ Relief Fund helps active and retired postal employees, both management and craft, whose home, as a result of a major natural disaster was completely destroyed or left uninhabitable. The Combined Federal Campaign allows federal employees to donate to community service groups of their choice through paycheck deduction.

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Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 12/16/2019 - 13:24

A 'Vast Improvement' on Trade: The Working People Weekly List

AFL-CIO - Fri, 12/13/2019 - 11:13
A 'Vast Improvement' on Trade: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: The Far Right Today: "On the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast co-host Tim Schlittner and guest host AFL-CIO International Director Cathy Feingold talk to Cas Mudde, a political scientist from the University of Georgia. Mudde has a new book, The Far Right Today, which takes a look at the resurgence of right-wing politicians and activists across the globe, much of it cloaked in populist, worker-friendly rhetoric."

Economy Gains 266,000 Jobs in November; Unemployment Down Slightly to 3.5%: "The U.S. economy gained 266,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 3.5%, according to figures released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."

5 Things You Can Do to Celebrate Our Birthday with Us: "You said it's our birthday! And it is. If you've always wondered what you'd do with the AFL-CIO when we're 64, now's your chance! On this day in 1955, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations came together after a long and winding road."

A Matter of Life and Death: Labor Podcast and Radio Roundup: "In addition to the AFL-CIO's own 'State of the Unions,' there are a lot of other podcasts out there that have their own approach to discussing labor issues and the rights of working people. Here are the latest podcasts from across the labor movement in the United States."

Solidarity Forever: What Working People Are Doing This Week: "Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week."

How Labor Beat Mexico on Trade: "For AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to declare victory on the North American trade agreement reached this week, Mexico had to lose. The point of contention was whether the AFL-CIO could send American inspectors into Mexican factories where workers weren’t being given their full union rights. Mexico hated that idea, saying it would violate Mexican sovereignty. But in the end, Mexico agreed to a small tweak: multinational three-person inspection teams that would include Mexican and American independent labor experts."

Bipartisan Support for New NAFTA Is Rare Achievement in Trade Policy: "'We have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support,' the AFL-CIO’s Trumka said a statement giving his blessing to USMCA, a contrast with his withering attacks on prior free-trade proposals. 'The trade rules in American will now be fairer.'"

AFL-CIO Endorses USMCA as 'Vast Improvement' Over NAFTA: "The AFL-CIO gave a ringing endorsement of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement on Tuesday when House Democrats announced they were satisfied with the trade deal. 'I am grateful to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies on the USMCA working group, along with Senate champions like Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden, for standing strong with us throughout this process as we demanded a truly enforceable agreement,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.'"

Low Unemployment Rate Contradicts the Truth: No ‘Good Jobs’ and Low Wages: "The latest jobs report showed a robust 266,000 workers were hired last month, an impressive figure that kept the country’s unemployment rate at 3.2%, the lowest it's been in decades. Likewise, black unemployment was hovering around its lowest levels ever, with November’s 5.5% unemployment rate inflating by just one-tenth of a percentage point from the month prior."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/13/2019 - 13:13

Tags: Podcast

Local 2-21 uses holiday parade as organizing opportunity

USW Blog - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 07:53

Nursing home and rehab center workers at Bishop Noa Home (BNH) have been in a tough fight with their employer for a first fair contract, and on December 6, the local and their greater community came together for a massive and jovial display of solidarity. 

The new members of amalgamated Local 2-21 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan organized a huge turnout and exhibition for the annual Escanaba Christmas Parade, all under the banner of the United Steelworkers (USW).

Debbie Lyle, a Bishop Noa employee for 38 years, works in environmental services and sits on the unit’s negotiating committee. After she and a small group of workers marched in the Labor Day parade, they decided to do it again in the winter, using it as an opportunity to showcase their solidarity to the community.

“Everyone had a ball,” said Lyle. “We had a lot of support.”

The group paraded through town in a USW and holiday-themed float decorated with lights, garland, and banners reading “Be Fair to Those Who Care.” They also shone a “Bat-Signal” onto buildings and structures they passed along the route that read “Bishop Noa Unfair.” A man from the crowd even came up to the trailer, took the group’s photo, and told them, “Don’t give up.”

“Seeing that kind of support makes it really worth it,” Lyle said.

Other members of Local 2-21 joined the parade as well, bringing the delegation’s size to about 46 people, far larger than the Labor Day turnout. Part of that, Lyle said, is in their growing connections.

“We’re only getting stronger,” said Lyle. “I almost feel like it’s brought us all closer together. We’re all fighting for the same thing.”

You can see more photos from the parade and stay up-to-date on the workers’ campaign by visiting and liking the We Support Bishop Noa Workers page on Facebook.

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