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Redmond brings message of solidarity to Brazilian workers

USW Blog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 14:01

USW International Vice-President Fred Redmond brought a message of global solidarity to Brazilian workers this week.

Addressing the Congress of the Unified Workers Central (CUT), Redmond deplored the attacks by Brazil’s right-wing government on workers’ bargaining rights and pensions, and the imprisonment of former president  and metalworkers’ leader Lula da Silva.

“We know that Lula’s fight for justice and democracy is a fight for a strong and powerful global workers’ movement.  Lula is Innocent!  Free Lula!”

Redmond linked the attacks on workers in Brazil to the fight for worker rights in the U.S.

“Our rights are under attack as the Trump administration changes labor laws to benefit corporations and not workers,” he said.

Redmond also lamented that the current presidents in both countries have risen to power and exercise it by increasing fear and hatred, especially racial prejudice, rather than by leading.

Finally, he rallied the hundreds of delegates to the global labor movement's call for the immediate release of Brazil's former president Inacio Lula da Silva, unjustly imprisoned for the last year and a half. Redmond closed by announcing to the crowd the upcoming visit of AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka to present the 2019 George Meany Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Lula in prison. The decision to give the award to Lula was announced in March.



Ventilation Creates Challenges for Workers at Underground Nuclear Waste Repository

USW Blog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 13:19

Members of Local 12-9477 who work at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) perform a great service to our nation at the risk of their health and safety.

This risk may be heightened by a flawed ventilation system, according to the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent group that gives advice to the president and Secretary of Energy on public safety issues at DOE defense nuclear facilities.

Located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M., WIPP sits atop a 250-million-year-old salt formation. Workers mine the salt to create a long-term storage site for radioactive waste, the only such underground repository for radioactive materials in the United States.

These photos show how transuranic waste is handled and deposited underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Photo: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

While the site did not have problems for the first 15 years of its existence after it opened in 1999, two isolated incidents — a fire and a radiological release, which occurred within nine days of each other in February 2014 — prompted a rebuild of the ventilation system, and have caused lingering concerns about air quality.

Above ground, workers inspect drums of transuranic (TRU) waste including clothing, tools, rags, residues, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Below ground, they dig out salt, do ground control and place the waste drums and boxes into active disposal rooms.

(L-R): Chris Carrasco, Local 12-9477 member, and Rick Fuentes, Local 12-9477 president, stand in front of the WIPP mine rescue team trailer. Photo: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

The new ventilation system is supposed to provide enough air in the underground salt mine to allow for mining, waste emplacement and ground-control activities to occur at the same time, but the federal oversight board says a design flaw could cause another radiation release to occur.

Design flaw

Known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS), the new system would provide 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air to underground workers. A major portion of the SSCVS is expected to be built by 2020.

The agency also awarded a contract for the construction of a utility shaft that is considered essential to the project. WIPP’s contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, said that construction will begin by the end of 2019. Two tunnels will be mined to connect the shaft to the rest of the underground. DOE also added six 20-foot-tall fans to the rebuilt ventilation system that would provide 75 percent more power than the existing fans.

The entire system is expected to be completed by 2021-2022. However, a federal nuclear watchdog has discovered a design flaw in the system.

In 2018, the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said there was a flaw in the SSCVS, which could lead to a release of radioactivity. It followed up with a letter of its concerns to Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Aug. 27, 2019.

The board said the final design of the SSCVS did not “adequately consider design requirements for the underground safety significant continuous air monitoring (CAM) system.” DOE considered the SSCVS an above-ground project unrelated to the WIPP underground. Yet, both systems must work together to avert a radiological release.

Also, it takes 60 seconds for the ventilation dampers to close if there is a radiological release, and the board staff’s independent analysis showed this closure time may be inadequate to prevent a radiological release from contaminating the salt-reduction system and
WIPP’s entire operations.

Plus, inadequate performance of the CAM alert system could lead to a release as well.

The board requested in its letter to Secretary Perry that it receive a written response to its concerns followed by a DOE briefing within 90 days (by Nov. 27, 2019) that would outline the agency’s plans to address the design problems.

Workers get sick

Even as they wait for the new ventilation system to come fully online, members of Local 12-9477 have reported problems with air quality and flow.

After three years of cleanup costing $500 million, DOE reopened WIPP on Jan. 9, 2017, with reduced operations and airflow underground. Four months later, the facility received its first shipment in three years.

LU 12-9477 members returned to their regular jobs handling the TRU waste above and below ground, mining in the underground and conducting ground control. However, ventilation underground was a problem. WIPP operated at a reduced rate and with filtered airflow because of the Feb. 14 radiation release. The filter lessened the amount of air underground.

WIPP’s current filter building with HEPA filters. Photo: Mike Hancock, retired USW Local 9-562 member

At the fall meeting of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) in 2018, Local 12-9477 President Rick Fuentes said workers were being exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and diesel particulates from limited ventilation in the underground.

“We need more air,” Fuentes said. “We should be mining, bolting, and downloading waste, but due to the limited ventilation in the underground, this isn’t possible.”

Above ground is the contact-handled (CH) bay, where CH transuranic waste is processed. This type of transuranic waste has a surface dose rate not greater than 200 millirems per hour. Fuentes said the workers in the CH bay were exposed to high levels of carbon tetrachloride. In some cases, their exposure exceeded the IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) level, and workers experienced side effects from these exposures.

Fuentes filed a formal stop work order. His action prompted changes within the CH bay, and workers now wear a photoionization detector (PID) which monitors for VOCs and their personal breathing space at all times when they are processing the transuranic waste.

 A self-contained self-rescuer that employees bring with them when they work underground emplacing nuclear waste. Photo: Mike Hancock, retired USW Local 9-562 member

These illnesses prompted DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments to file a notice on Jan. 29, 2019, of its intent to investigate Nuclear Waste Partnership.

Temporary Improvement

Fuentes said that workers are no longer getting sick from excessive heat, noxious fumes and exposure to chemical hazards. He said that Nuclear Waste Partnership is attempting to keep workers from breathing in diesel particulate matter in the underground by having them carry MX4 and ToxiRae carbon monoxide monitors. If the alarm goes off in these instruments, work stops until the ventilation problem can be corrected.

He said that the contractor is also looking to start up one of the 700 Series fans, which have not operated since the 2014 radiation release.

“If we can get both 700 Series fans up and running, this would significantly increase ventilation to 425,000 cubic feet per minute, and it would reduce the risk of exposure to workers from the fumes of diesel equipment operating underground,” Fuentes said. “Plus, it would allow us to operate more equipment at one time, like we used to prior to the 2014 events.”

Brazilian and U.S. Workers Confronting Common Threat Build Solidarity in the Global Labor Movement

AFL-CIO - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 11:26
Brazilian and U.S. Workers Confronting Common Threat Build Solidarity in the Global Labor Movement AFL-CIO

This week, the AFL-CIO joins much of the global labor movement in Brazil to participate in the 13th Congress of Brazil's largest labor organization, the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT). Fred Redmond, AFL-CIO vice president and United Steelworkers vice president for human affairs, is leading the AFL-CIO delegation.

Addressing the entire congress, Redmond pointed out the many challenges workers face in both Brazil and the United States, calling for unity and solidarity to move forward. In particular, he denounced the anti-worker laws and policies being driven by right-wing presidents in Brazil and the United States to weaken unions and collective bargaining.

Redmond also lamented that the current presidents in both countries have risen to power and exercise it by increasing fear and hatred, especially racial prejudice, rather than by leading.

Finally, he rallied the hundreds of delegates to the global labor movement's call for the immediate release of Brazil's former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, unjustly imprisoned for the last year and a half. Redmond closed by announcing to the crowd the upcoming visit of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) to present the 2019 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Lula in prison. The decision to give the award to Lula was announced in March.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/10/2019 - 13:26

A Seat at the Table: Worker Wins

AFL-CIO - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:55
A Seat at the Table: Worker Wins OPEIU Local 40

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with nurses banding together to make patients' lives better and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

UChicago Medicine Ingalls Registered Nurses Organize: Registered nurses at UChicago Medicine Ingalls voted 72% in favor of joining National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU). The hospital is in Harvey, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Cathy Vaughn, an RN in the special care nursery, said: "Nurses at Ingalls are so excited to have won a seat at the table! We are ready to begin advocating to improve standards for our patients. This victory means that decisions about patient care are made at the bedside, not in the boardroom."

El Paso Nurses Organize with NNOC/NNU: Registered nurses at the Providence East Campus in El Paso, Texas, vote to join NNOC/NNU, in an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board. Nearly 500 nurses will now be represented by NNOC/NNU. RN Lena Gonzalez said: “This victory is positive on so many levels. We won because nurses from throughout the hospital are ready to stand united as strong patient advocates. We know we can accomplish much more together as union members than any one individual ever could.” 

Google Contract Workers in Pittsburgh Vote to Join USW: Contract workers for Google in Pittsburgh voted to join the United Steelworkers. This is one of the first victories for the union, which is seeking to organize at Google and other tech companies. The Google workers say that the company does not provide sick days, pays substandard wages that aren't connected to inflation and that workers are forced to take vacation days during national holidays.

Kaiser Permanente Workers Avoid Strike After Reaching Tentative Agreement: Working people at Kaiser Permanente have won a new collective bargaining agreement after 85,000 employees from 11 unions threatened a nationwide strike. The new four-year deal comes after five months of bargaining. The tentative agreement, which must be approved by the members of the various unions, provides annual pay increases and new job training and educational opportunities for workers.

Fred Meyer Workers in Portland Win New Contract After Boycott: Portland employees at Fred Meyer stores have reached a tentative agreement with management. The workers, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, still have to ratify the contract. In a statement, the union said: “Our boycott against Fred Meyer was highly effective, due to your hard work in building relationships with your communities, who stood strong and proud with us.”

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Members Agree to One-Year Contract: In advance of the concert season, members of the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore (Local 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians) and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra reached an agreement on a one-year contract. Orchestra members had engaged in a 14-week work stoppage, during which time the musicians were locked out and did not receive paychecks. Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary C. Plaine said: “Baltimore Symphony Musicians and Local 40-543 are grateful to all of our AFM sisters and brothers who through their verbal and financial support helped us reach this agreement. It is good to know we can count on our colleagues as we continue our fight to preserve and grow the artistic legacy of the BSO.”

After a Year of Negotiations, Auburn Community Hospital Workers Win Contract: Ending almost a year of negotiations, health care workers at Auburn Community Hospital, represented by AFSCME Local 3124, voted overwhelmingly to approve a new contract that solidifies health insurance and increases wages, among other benefits. Maureen Coleman, president of AFSCME Local 3124, said: “Since negotiations began last fall, it’s been our priority to protect our health coverage by including it in our collective bargaining agreement. This will require ACH to negotiate the impact of any future changes to its employees’ health plan with us.”

Fiesta Henderson Hotel and Casino Workers Join Culinary Union: Workers at Fiesta Henderson Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas voted to be represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, affiliates of UNITE HERE. This is the seventh casino owned by Station Casinos Las Vegas to unionize since 2016. Culinary Workers Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said: “We call on Station Casinos to immediately to negotiate and settle a fair contract for the workers at Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Sunset Station, Palms, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station and Boulder Station.”

Writers and Assistant Producers at WBBM Newsradio Agree to New Contract: News writers and assistant producers at WBBM in Chicago, WCBS in New York and KNX in Los Angeles have reached an agreement with Entercom Communications, which owns the CBS-affiliated stations. Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, which represents the workers, said: “This contract was won with incredible solidarity across three geographically separate stations. Together, we were able to secure a contract that makes significant financial gains and guarantees important workplace protections.”

Southern California Grocery Store Workers Avert Strike After Reaching Agreement: Some 47,000 grocery store workers at Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs averted a strike after the parent companies (Albertons and Kroger Co.) of the three chains reached an agreement. The workers, represented by UFCW, had previously authorized the strike. UFCW Local 135, in San Diego, responded to the announcement: “We are proud to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached with both companies. We know the road to get here has been a long one for you and your co-workers. Your dedication to standing up for good jobs⁠—engaging tens of thousands of customers with over 200 community rallies and store actions⁠—has been the driving force behind getting a deal that you can be proud to have stood up for. Because you are part of a union family, you have a voice, and a vote. Let’s make it count.” The membership has since ratified the contracts.

Employees at McLaren Macomb Hospital Join OPEIU: More than 300 employyes at McLaren Macomb hospital in Mount Clemens, Michigan, have voted to join OPEIU. The vote to associate with Local 40 was successful by 172-113. The workers covered include clerical associates, couriers, critical care techs, dispatchers, lab assistants, patient access reps, patient sitters, pharmacy techs and several other classifications. Local 40 President Jeff Morawski said: “This is the proudest day in the history of Local 40. The workers’ voices were heard loud and clear, and I am excited and proud to welcome them to Local 40. When workers win an election to form a union, everyone wins.”

CWA Members Reach Deal with AT&T Southeast: More than 20,000 employees at AT&T in nine states have reached a "handshake deal" on a new collective bargaining agreement. CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt said: “CWA members’ spirit and solidarity over the last four days showed the company that we would not back down until they bargained with us in good faith. This was a historic strike that showed the power that working people have when they join together.”

Harvard Graduate Students Reach Tentative Agreement with University: After meetings throughout the summer, the Harvard Graduate Students Union (an affiliate of UAW), reached tentative agreements on three contracts. But the graduate students say there is still work to be done. Bargaining committee member Cole M. Meisenhelder said: “On many remaining issues, the administration has told us ‘we have nothing else to say.’ As long as the administration refuses to negotiate over the health plan or denies student workers a neutral process for cases of discrimination or harassment, we will not be able to come to tentative agreements on these issues. This includes the creation of funds totaling more than half a million dollars to assist bargaining unit members in covering the costs of dental and dependent health care, as well as child care. As the negotiations are ongoing, we look forward to continuing to work on these important issues at the bargaining table.”

Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Vote Overwhelmingly to Join AFA-CWA: Flight attendants that work for Cathay Pacific Airlines voted by 97% to be represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson said: “We are so proud to welcome our sisters and brothers at Cathay Pacific who chose to join with AFA Flight Attendants around the world. Their Cathay Cabin Crew counterparts in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Canada all have contracts with higher pay, benefits and job security. It's past time for these hardworking U.S.-based Flight Attendants to have a contract that lifts up good American jobs. Cathay Pacific Cabin Crew will surely enrich AFA’s history that includes decades of Flight Attendants working together to raise the bar for our entire profession.”

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/10/2019 - 11:55

Veterans of Steel Council meets for first time, establishes goals for USW vets

USW Blog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 18:59

Several dozen USW members and staff who served in the armed forces in the United States and Canada made history today with the first-ever meeting of the new Veterans of Steel Council.

The council, which included representatives from the unon's districts and staff, gathered under the leadership of International President Tom Conway, who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force before he began his union career. They spent the day brainstorming and setting goals for moving forward our work to improve the lives of their fellow veterans. 

The veterans’ council, established at the our most recent constitutional convention, brought a wealth of experience and ideas to the discussion, which included topics such as ideal contract language for veterans’ issues, increasing funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, placing qualified veterans in good union jobs, helping veterans in both countries deal with mental health and other issues, and publishing a resource guide for vets who are union members, among other topics. 

Conway welcomed the delegates to Pittsburgh for the meeting and reminded them that the Veterans of Steel program was intended to grow from the local level, rather than being a top-down project. He urged the council members to reach out and connect with other veterans as much as possible “both inside and outside” of the USW, including by doing community service projects that help veterans. Goals included engaging veterans in the union and communiity, educating and advocating for veterans issues in both the United States and Canada, and providing a variety of resources for Steelworker vets and their families, including help with PTSD.

"There's a reason all of you are in this room," Conway said. "We want to learn from you and for you to learn from and help veterans in our union and in our communities." 

Will Attig, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council, also joined the meeting where he said veterans make up almost a quarter of the labor movement and have unique needs as well as a lot ot offer, including strong leadership skills. "Unions veterans have passion and purpose," he said.

Veterans who are interested in participating in the program can sign up here to get more infomration and receive a free Veterans of Steel sticker. Members can also text VET to 47486.


USW Members Ratify New Contract at Dow Chemical Plant in Deer Park

Steelworker News - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 07:46

CONTACT: Ben Lilienfeld: 832-373-9754,

DEER PARK, Texas (October 8) – Members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13-1 voted today to ratify a new contract with Rohm and Haas Texas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical, that covers about 235 workers at the company’s facility in Deer Park.

The contract, which runs through March 1, 2023, contains annual wage increases and other improvements.

“This contract is a testament to the strength and solidarity of the members of this local union, their families, and the entire community of Deer Park, who stood beside them throughout this fight,” said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza, who oversees bargaining for the union in Texas and three neighboring states. “The members of Local 13-1 should be proud of what they have achieved.”

Bargaining on a new agreement began in February. The company imposed a seven-week lockout of the workers that began on April 22 after USW members voted overwhelmingly three times to reject unacceptable proposals.

After a series of public displays of support for the work force from other union members, residents of the community and elected officials, the company agreed to end the lockout, and workers returned to their jobs on Monday, June 10, as negotiations on a new contract continued.

“This agreement brings closure to difficult negotiations and provides our members with improvements that allow them to maintain family sustaining jobs,” said USW Sub-District Director Ben Lilienfeld, who led the union’s bargaining committee. 

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. 


USW Atomic Workers Fight in D.C. to Protect Paychecks, Jobs

USW Blog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 11:35

USW members work tirelessly in Washington, D.C., because they know that their priorities like workplace health and safety, retirement security and even the right to organize all depend on having a voice in the nation’s capital.

For members in the atomic sector, there’s something even more basic on the line: their paychecks.

USW Atomic Energy Workers Council members lobby Congress on issues affecting their locals. Local 12-652 members from Idaho National Laboratory (L-R: Matt Chavez, president; Henry Littleford and Ryan Christiansen) talk to a staffer from Congressman Mike Simpson’s office. Photo: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree.

From the appropriations bill that sets the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget, to the decisions the agency makes in how to spend that money, the union must fight to ensure members in the atomic sector are fairly compensated for their work.   

Passing a budget

The first step in this process is securing funding for the DOE, and to do this Congress must pass a budget to fund the government. 

Every year, USW legislative staffers discuss the funding needed for the union’s nuclear cleanup sites with House and Senate energy and water subcommittee appropriators and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

“The funding levels necessary to adequately perform decontamination and decommissioning work vary across the complex. For example, roughly $400 million is needed each year for the Portsmouth site, but some years require more funding,” said USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown, who heads the union’s atomic sector.

“This funding is crucial not only for the USW members doing this work, but for the surrounding community as well.”

Reaching a budget deal is a huge undertaking that requires agreement from both chambers of Congress. Currently, both the House and the Senate have agreed that they will not make the Sept. 30 deadline and have passed short-term spending bills to fund the government through Nov. 21. The DOE and its Office of Environmental Management (EM), which oversees cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste, are covered under the energy and water appropriations bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the energy and water bill in June, which would keep EM funding flat at approximately $7.2 billion.     

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved on Sept.12 its energy and water funding bill, which allotted $7.45 billion for the EM office.

Both versions are significantly more than the Trump administration’s budget request. 

Once both houses of Congress pass all 12 appropriations bills, they go to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions. The president will then need to sign the final budget.

If they cannot agree on a budget by the Nov. 21 deadline, they will need to pass another continuing resolution.

Lobbying Congress

Continuing resolutions are useful in keeping the government open, but there can be problems that require USW intervention, not only to keep paychecks coming but to save jobs. 

For the past several years, Congress has passed continuing resolutions, some of which have included significant funding shortfalls.

“One year the funding shortfall for Portsmouth was $30 million, and it looked like there would be almost 300 layoffs at the plant before Christmas,” Brown said.

Brown, former USW International President Leo W. Gerard, and retired Vice President Carol Landry met with representatives from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This agency makes the final decision on the Federal Government’s budget.

They also asked the Local 689 president at Portsmouth to attend the meeting so that the government officials could understand the stakes involved for the local and its members.

After listening to how the funding decision affected Local 689 members, Ali Zaidi, then associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the OMB, decided to fund Portsmouth.

“That meeting never left me because it was so important to hear from the workers,” Brown said. “What resonates the most with policymakers is the people they don’t see — the people most impacted — and that is our members.”

SOAR Story: Jim Bickhart, District 4 President of SOAR Chapter 4-1

USW Blog - Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:48

In keeping with one of the purposes of SOAR, “to better the communities in which you live,” Jim Bickhart along with some of his chapter members and about 100 other residents of Dunkirk, New York, helped clean up the three Dunkirk beaches this summer. They all agreed that it was a very worthwhile project.

“SOAR members in all of our Districts volunteer each and every day in one way or another to help our neighbors and our communities,” said Jim.

In 1967, Jim began working for Allegheny Ludlum as a mill-hand. Not long after he was appointed union steward and held several positions including President of USWA Local 2693. In 1985 he went on USWA Staff and retired in 2003. He is a 24-year veteran of the United States Naval Reserve.

Jim served as a USW District 4 SOAR Coordinator for a number of years, and was elected to the SOAR Int’l. Executive Board at the 2008 SOAR Conference. He held that position until he retired from the board in 2016. Jim continues to serve as a SOAR Coordinator for the district.

Jim and his lovely wife Theresa have been married 51 years and have two grown children and a whole bunch of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Besides raking beaches, Jim enjoys golf and other community activities.

Supreme Court Denies ASARCO’s Petition to Review Copper Bonus Case

Steelworker News - Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:38

Contact: Tony Montana – (412) 562-2592;

Tucson, Ariz.– The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied ASARCO, LLC’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision to enforce an arbitrator’s order for the company to pay millions of dollars to hundreds of employees hired after June 30, 2011. ASARCO has now exhausted all of its appeals, and must comply with the arbitrator’s decision.

The eight international unions which represent more than 2,000 hourly workers at five ASARCO locations in Arizona and Texas have been fighting to collect the award since December 2014, when Arbitrator Michael Rappaport originally determined that the company wrongly withheld from newer employees quarterly bonuses based on the price of copper.

Prior to the company’s request for the Supreme Court to review the case, the Ninth Circuit twice affirmed U.S. District Judge Stephen M. McNamee’s 2016 decision to enforce the arbitrator’s award, as well as his declaration that ASARCO should pay post-judgment interest, which continues to accrue. The total amount wrongly withheld from ASARCO employees exceeds $10 million.

USW District 12 Director Bob LaVenture said that the company’s attempt to divide the union membership by withholding bonus payments from newer hires backfired and has become an issue that united workers in solidarity within and between ASARCO locations.

“Although ASARCO has delayed and postponed paying the millions of dollars it owes for years, we never stopped fighting to ensure justice for these workers and their families,” LaVenture said. “The company’s constant attempts to undermine our contracts have truly united us in solidarity.”

LaVenture said that the USW is gratified with the Supreme Court’s decision, but warned that the struggle for fairness with ASARCO and its corporate parent, Grupo Mexico, will continue.He said that the union will now work to make sure the company pays what it owes to current and former employees and would provide updates when a timetable is available.

“Management has proven that they are willing to go great lengths to avoid paying employees, but the company has finally run out of room to run from this obligation,” he said. “Asarco management now has no choice but to work with the unions representing its workers to determine what is owed and to pay these workers without further delay.”

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.

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Laborers

AFL-CIO - Mon, 10/07/2019 - 08:08
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Laborers

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Laborers.

Name of Union: Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)

Mission: To help working men and women unite for a stronger voice in the economies and governments of the United States and Canada. As an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and North America’s Building Trades Unions, LIUNA works predominantly to help construction craft laborers improve their lives through collective bargaining, organizing, training programs, safer job sites and the enforcement of workers’ rights.

Current Leadership of Union: Terry O’Sullivan became the general president of LIUNA in 2000 and has since been elected to three terms. He first joined the union in 1974. He served in several previous positions, including vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional manager; assistant to the general president; chief of staff; Tri-Funds administrator; assistant director of the Construction, Maintenance and Service Trades Department; and administrator of the West Virginia Laborers’ Training Center. O’Sullivan is a San Francisco native. Armand E. Sabitoni serves as general secretary-treasurer and as New England regional manager. In addition to O’Sullivan and Sabitoni, LIUNA is governed by a 14-member general executive board.

Number of Members: 500,000

Work Members Do: Construction of highways, bridges, tunnels, transit systems, buildings, industrial plants and manufacturing facilities; construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure, including renewable energy projects, pipelines, and natural gas and nuclear plants; environmental remediation of lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials; weatherization and landscaping. In addition, the union represents 70,000 public service employees who provide health care services, maintain parks and, through the affiliated National Postal Mail Handlers Union, process mail.

Industries Represented: Construction and public service. These working men and women are employed by various agencies, including the Postal Service, the Indian Health Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service. 

History: The first recognized union for laborers was formed in Philadelphia in 1836. In 1903, American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers called for a convention to establish an international union of construction laborers and the International Hod Carriers and Building Laborers' Union was founded. (A hod is a tray connected to a pole handle that is used to shoulder loads of construction materials, such mortar or brick.)

At its first convention, the union represented more than 8,000 laborers in 17 different cities, most of whom were immigrants seeking a better life. In 1912, the union changed its name to the International Hod Carrier's Building and Common Laborers of America. By the end of the decade, the union had nearly 550 locals and more than 96,000 members. As the union grew, it became a stronger voice for immigrant and African-American workers. In the 1920s, the union chartered its first public sector local.

Pensions were a key issue for laborers before World War II. Most members worked for multiple contractors during their careers, making it impossible to earn pensions. The union established portable multi-employer plans, which have helped secure retirement for millions of working people.

During World War II, the union suspended all dues and pledged full support for the National Defense Program. By 1941, membership neared 300,000. After the war, a massive construction boom helped membership exceed 430,000.

In 1965, the union changed its name to the Laborers' International Union of North America, or LIUNA for short. The union’s successful fights for healthcare and expanding pension coverage became vital organizing tools.

In the ensuing decades, the union expanded it's focus on member benefits, political organizing and training. Many locals began to offer additional services, from health clinics to drug and alcohol rehabilitation resources. Its political organizing strength became sought after by candidates for state, local and federal office. Its training programs grew to invest tens of millions of dollars each year to help new members develop careers and enable existing members to find additional opportunities. In this era, the union adopted its stylized LIUNA Feel the Power mark and recognizable orange brand.

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: The union strives to harness the power of its half-million members by encouraging the aggressive use of mobilization, organizing and communications tools at each of its 400 local unions. The LIUNA Action Network mobilizes members to take a stand on important issues. See how every new member is equipped to be an integral and active part of the union with a Member Orientation Guide. Through the LIUNA Training and Education Fund, members have access to free world-class skills training, enabling them to expand their work opportunities. Through various organizing efforts, the union fights to help non-union workers improve their lives by uniting with the union and by defending the rights of all workers, whether immigrant or native born. LIUNA also supports constituency groups for women, African Americans and Latinos. To see the amazing work LIUNA members do, visit Great Projects. Check out LECET's labor-contractor initiative, which helps connect skilled workers with the contractors who need them. To learn how the union strives to make job sites safer and workers healthier, visit the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund and its publication Lifelines

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram, Twitter

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:08

ESI Council leadership changes and 2019 wrap-up

USW Blog - Mon, 10/07/2019 - 07:38

New leaders were elected to the ESI Council and met last month in Clearwater, Fla., to wrap up their work for the year. Members of the council represent 1,000 employees at Cigna, who recently purchased Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager.

The workers are spread across five locations in four states—Florida, New Jersey, Washington, and Pennsylvania. All locations have concluded 2019 bargaining except for the Tampa, Fla., unit, which enters negotiations later this year.

With the billion-dollar merger finally complete, the council is ready to turn a new leaf.

“2020 is going to bring a lot of change,” said Winston Callum, president of the council and of Local 985 in Tampa. “This recent meeting helped us make sure we have strength in future bargaining.”

Figure 1, ESI Council: Sitting left to right – Vice President Harry Harris, President Winston Callum, USW International Vice President Fred Redmond, Vice President Lee Astle; Standing left to right – Debbie Brearey (By-Laws), Karen Mitchell (Treasurer), Cavan Simon (Trustee), Jean Matrazzo (Recording Secretary), Michelle Benner (By-Laws), Gabe Startari (Trustee).

Economy Gains 136,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Declines to 3.5%

AFL-CIO - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 11:58
Economy Gains 136,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Declines to 3.5%

The U.S. economy gained 136,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate declined to 3.5%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

In response to the September job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs said: "It is surprising the rate of job creation has slowed, and the rate of labor force participation has stayed almost constant but this lower job growth is sufficient to keep the share of people with jobs rising slightly, and unemployment falling. It clearly reflects the slowing growth rate of the American workforce as the Baby Boom ages." He also tweeted:

The unemployment rate for white men and Latinos are virtually equal at 2.9 and 3.0% though because Latinos have a much higher labor force participation rate, a higher share of Latinos are working 77.6 compared to 69.7% for whites @Marietmora @UnidosUS_Econ @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 4, 2019

The broadest measure of labor market slack fell to 6.9% in September.  With weak wage growth and moderate job growth, the labor market is still tightening.  But the Census report on record levels of inequality are showing employment a weak antidote to address that trend. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 4, 2019

The "reference week" for the @BLS_gov September jobs report was just before the @UAW strike of GM, but employment in motor vehicle manufacturing slipped 4,000.  So, little evidence of a speed up to increase inventory ahead of the strike. #JobsReport @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 4, 2019

The lack of broad income growth leaves retail floundering despite low unemployment.  @BLS_gov reports over 11,000 jobs lost in September in retail.  This is another sign of how this recovery is weakened by growing inequality. #JobsReport @UFCW @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 4, 2019

Last month's biggest job gains were in health care (39,000), professional and business services (34,000), government (22,000), and transportation and warehousing (16,000). Employment declined in retail trade (-11,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality, showed little change over the month. 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (12.5%), blacks (5.5%), Hispanics (3.9%), adult men (3.2%), whites (3.4%), adult women (3.1%) and Asians (2.5%) showed little or no change in September.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose in September and accounted for 22.7% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/04/2019 - 13:58

Live from the Picket Line: Labor Podcast and Radio Roundup

AFL-CIO - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 08:47
Live from the Picket Line: 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.

Follow the links below to find podcasts. They also can be found wherever you listen to podcasts:

Heartland Labor ForumWhat would happen to a school teacher who thinks she has the answer to the world’s problems and starts teaching in parks and on street corners, and people stop to listen and like what they hear? This week on the Heartland Labor Forum we present a radio play about such a teacher. Tune in to find out how the powers that be react and what the teacher’s message might be. Thursday at 6 PM, rebroadcast Friday at 5 AM on KKFI 90.1 FM or streaming at

Labor History TodayAFL-CIO president Richard Trumka talks with Labor History Today’s Joe McCartin about the current state–and the future–of the American labor movement. Plus, Mark Potashnick on Jim Pohle, the founder of the American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers, class action law suits, and the app-based revolution in food delivery services.

Tales from the Reuther LibraryIn a two-episode series titled “Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir of Wobbly Organizer Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins," artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses her exhibition of original scratchboard drawings featured in the illustrated and annotated autobiography of Henderson’s grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker.

UCOMM LiveUnderstanding Impeachment Process: Trump is trying to cut funding for school lunches, leaving half a million kids hungry at school. Nerds who work for a Google contractors have organized with the Steelworkers union, we take a look at what their issues are. Chicago teachers are preparing to strike after the city refused to give them a fair contract that helps their lowest-paid employees. Trump is trying to take away collective bargaining rights for graduate students, we look at why these students need the right to join a union. Police have been some of Trump's strongest supporters, even as other public employees have been attacked by him. LaGrange tries to explain why this is going on. Plus the House has opened an impeachment inquiry into Trump, we explain what impeachment means and what the process is for getting rid of him. The Met's may be out of the playoffs, but 12 teams are continuing on, UCOMM makes our picks on who will make it the World Series.

Union City RadioAirs weekdays at 7:15 AM on WPFW 89.3 FM. Topics: Workers take to the streets; Strike averted at Kaiser; Fresh momentum; BSO musicians reach tentative contract agreement; and DC Labor supports DC statehood.

Union Strong: Scabby the rat is a powerful tool for organized labor and that’s exactly why the rat is now at the center of a legal battle. The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel is after Scabby and his inflatable friends attempting to either restrict or outright ban the use of them at protests. On this podcast we discuss the impact Scabby has and speak to an attorney at the forefront of the NLRB case.

Willamette Wake UpThe September Salem labor radio segment will run this Friday, at around 8:10 AM (PST), on Salem's KMUZ community radio station. The station broadcasts at 88.5, 100.7 and at This week we're talking to local community leader and activist Elisa Andrade on paid family medical leave in Oregon and what comes next in the efforts of Family Forward Oregon for equity. Our last show featured Sam Hughes from UFCW Local 555 talking about grocery chain union contract negotiations and Fred Meyers. We ran that at just the right moment. If you don't have the basics down about what's going on at the grocery stores and the possibility of a strike, listen to our last show here.

Your Rights At WorkCarl Goldman (AFSCME, ret) and UAW 229 shop steward Guy White, reporting live from the UAW picket line in White Marsh, Maryland. “Case Closed” with David Schloss, injury attorney and partner in the law firm of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. Mark Gruenberg, PAI News, on the passage of the Pro Act by a key House panel.
Airs Thursdays 1-2 PM (EDT) on WPFW 89.3 FM.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/04/2019 - 10:47

Tags: Podcast

Carol Landry Hands Off Leadership of Atomic Sector to Roxanne Brown

USW Blog - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 08:37

Retired International Vice President Carol Landry headed the USW’s nuclear sector and was chair of the Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) for five years. The International Executive Board appointed former Legislative Director Roxanne Brown, no stranger to nuclear issues, to Landry’s position. Brown began her new job on July 15.

Landry took over the union’s nuclear sector when USW International Vice President Kip Phillips retired in 2014.

When the AEWC continually had problems resolving contract, benefit and other workplace issues with the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors, Landry spoke with then-International President Leo W. Gerard about how the council needed help breaking through the bureaucratic inertia to resolve the lingering issues. He talked with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about how the union needed a high-level agency official.

Moniz appointed David Foster, a former USW District 11 director, to be his senior advisor and Natasha Cunningham to be the DOE labor liaison. Both helped the USW resolve many problems until the change in administration after the 2016 presidential election.

Landry also started meetings between the local unions at Idaho National Laboratory, the prime cleanup contractor, Fluor, and DOE.

She initiated yearly site visits to USW-represented nuclear facilities to help build solidarity within the atomic locals and facilitate greater communication between them. These visits gave the council the opportunity to meet the site’s local union members, tour facilities, and make known the union’s presence to the DOE and its contractors.

In her new role, Brown will oversee legislative, public policy and political matters, as well as leading the nuclear sector.

As legislative director, she experienced first-hand the politics involved with the DOE and its contractors.

She pushed for legislation on Capitol Hill that helped atomic workers and their families, and assisted members in getting meetings with key legislators and government officials so they could advocate for funding or specific legislation that affected their workplaces and communities.

Brown’s knowledge and experience with the DOE, its contractors, Congress and the AEWC will enable her to expand upon the progress the union has made in the atomic sector.

Hey, New York Times, Women Wear Hard Hats, Too!

AFL-CIO - Thu, 10/03/2019 - 07:28
Hey, New York Times, Women Wear Hard Hats, Too! Ironworkers

In a tribute to the hard hat, which was invented 100 years ago, The New York Times curiously equates the safety gear with masculinity. But women wear hard hats, too, and always have.

The Times article leads off with: "The hard hat was designed 100 years ago as protective gear for miners and other laborers, but it has grown to become a symbol of status and masculinity."

We know better, though, and present to you many photos through the years of strong union women wearing this iconic headgear. 

AFL-CIO AFL-CIO AFL-CIO AFL-CIO AFL-CIO NABTU NABTU Ironworkers NABTU NABTU NABTU Ironworkers Ironworkers Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/03/2019 - 09:28

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Dignity of Work

AFL-CIO - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 08:53
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Dignity of Work AFL-CIO

On the latest episode of “State of the Unions,” podcast co-hosts Julie Greene and Tim Schlittner talk to Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) about worker power, automation, trade and his decision to stay in the U.S. Senate. 

Listen to our previous episodes:

State of the Unions” is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 10/02/2019 - 10:53

Tags: Podcast

The Oilworker: October 2019

USW Blog - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 08:41
FROM THE UNION October Update from the NOBP Chair

Greetings brothers and sisters,

I want to introduce Mike Smith, the new chair of our NOBP, to those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to meet him. Mike came to Pittsburgh last summer as we began preparation for national oil bargaining. He worked with me through the fall and was at the bargaining table with Tom Conway and me.    

Mike has a solid oil background, with experience in both health and safety and bargaining, and he is committed to continuing the success we have enjoyed in the oil sector. 

Mike was an operator at the Chevron Richmond refinery in California and eventually came out to work for the local (Local 5 in Martinez) as a staff representative. He has a deep understanding of the refinery operations, experience bargaining locally and at the national table, as well as a strong health and safety background.  

We have attended a number of council meetings as well as meetings at locals in follow up to the last round of bargaining as we look to improve going forward.  Mike is well suited to keeping up our momentum. 

I would ask each of you to give Mike the help and support that you showed to me over the years as he takes you into the next round of oil bargaining.

I also want to thank each and every one of you for the privilege of being able to work for you, not only as oil bargaining chair, but in health and safety and the Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program.  It has truly been an honor for me to serve my union and to spend time getting to know many of you over the years.

I am thankful for the friendships that have formed and for the opportunity to be inspired by my interactions with you on a daily basis.  

Although I am officially retired, I am not done working.  I plan on staying involved to promote union activism when and where I can be useful and wish Mike and my brothers and sisters in oil the best of luck. 

There is no better job in the world than to serve your union brothers and sisters. Thanks for all your help.

In solidarity,

Kim Nibarger

Retiring NOBP Chair

Please see the below links for more current news about our sector:

Southern California Air Board Opts Against Stronger Regulations of Hydrofluoric Acid 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District governing board last month voted against stronger regulation of hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical used at two southern California refineries, instead choosing to accept voluntary safety measures offered by the oil industry. 

Though community and environmental organizations raised concerns about potential leaks, business and labor groups have argued that phasing out the chemical could threaten jobs.

To read more, click here.

Enbridge Receives Permit for Supports on Line 5 Pipeline

Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company, announced last month that it received a permit to install 54 steel supports along its underwater Line 5 pipeline in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac. 

Enbridge is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the state of Michigan over plans to renovate the underwater portion of the line, which ships 540,000 barrels of light crude oil a day from western to eastern Canada. The 54 new supports will shore up the existing pipe. 

To read more, click here.

Shell Loads First Shipment of Low-Sulfur Fuel Oil

Shell last month loaded its first shipment of low-sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) in Singapore, in anticipation of growing demand for the cleaner fuel. 

Beginning in January 2020, the International Maritime Organization is lowering the cap on sulfur in marine fuels.

To read more, click here.


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