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Members on the Iron Range Raise Spirits with Facebook Group

USW Blog - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 12:54

If you’re from Minnesota, you may have already heard about Lockdown Lounge, a Facebook group started by USW member on the Iron Range Michael “A.J.” Grove of Local Union 6115 and his friend. 

The Lockdown Lounge Open Mic group is for live music lovers, musicians and listeners, who want to continue connecting through live music while in lockdown for the Coronavirus Pandemic. Not too long after the group’s conception at the end of March, fellow USW Local 6115 member Ray Pierce Jr. joined as an administrator and contributor.

Members of the group can post videos of themselves singing and playing instruments at any time, but on Friday nights there’s a line-up of live performers, and there’s only one rule for the group: keep it positive.

Right now, Lockdown Lounge has 14,800 members from multiple states and countries, some who just came to listen and others who are regular contributors, posting videos done in their basements, kitchens, and living rooms while stuck at home. 

Contributions have to be done in open-mic style and comments can’t be mean, keeping with the mission of the group: using live music to help each other get through a hard time.

"Even if you don't think you can sing very well or if you don't think you can play the guitar very well. Put it out there and take a chance," says Pierce Jr.

Both Grove and Pierce Jr. were happily surprised by how many people wanted to join the Lounge, which even caught the attention of local news channels (WDAY, KBJR, and Hibbing Free Press Tribune) that shared its story of rising popularity.

“In a time that we can’t all physically be together, I’ve never felt more close to 10,000 people in my life,” Grove said.

If you want to experience Lockdown Lounge for yourself, click here and ask to join.

Click below for one of Pierce Jr.’s performances (with his brother Ryan Pierce of USW Local 1938):

Message from President Conway: Happy birthday to our great union!

USW Blog - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:00
Seventy-eight years ago today union activists came together in Cleveland and formed the United Steelworkers of America. 

   Over the years, we’ve grown and joined with other important unions, merged our traditions, fought many battles with difficult employers, advanced and improved the lives of working people in both the United States and Canada and have so often been at the forefront of the fight for social justice and equality. 

   While there have been times over the past 78 years that we’ve been challenged and felt under siege, our union has never been broken. And because of our determination, solidarity and willful purpose, we never will be broken.  Our founding principles, adopted all those years ago, continue to guide us today.   Our work is crucial for keeping in check greedy employers seeking to put profits over people, and we are and always have been an important voice in the political and legislative processes of our nations.     Our great union has, as we all know, made each of our lives more meaningful. It has allowed each of us to live in dignity and to know with certainty that we will never have to stand alone against the troubles that too often hurt hard-working people. 

   We should all hold our heads up high today, knowing that each of us play a real and lasting role in keeping this great institution vibrant and relevant in today’s society. The work we do each day helps not only our fellow members but also others who need us. We have much to be thankful for, and we should all be proud to be a part of this noble union.    Hang in there, my friends. We’ll weather this crisis as well.      In Solidarity,

Tom Conway, USW International President

P.S. If you need support during this difficult time, be sure to visit our USW COVID-19 tool kit on our website for a ton of information and resources.

Service + Solidarity: Meet Jennifer Cody

AFL-CIO - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:53
Service + Solidarity: Meet Jennifer Cody

Jennifer Cody is an actress from New York and a member of the Actors' Equity. Her industry is 100% unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Broadway is closed for the indefinite future. Learn more about how dancers, singers and the rest of her community are affected during these dangerous times.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:53

Tags: COVID-19

Maine AFL-CIO Is Using All the Digital Tools in Its Toolbox to Help Workers

AFL-CIO - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:25
Maine AFL-CIO Is Using All the Digital Tools in Its Toolbox to Help Workers Maine AFL-CIO

With unprecedented numbers of Mainers out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s labor movement is deploying digital tools in innovative ways to help workers who are being impacted by COVID-19. The Maine AFL-CIO is using a full range of online platforms to support those who are applying for unemployment insurance (UI) and pressure policymakers to fix the system.

Like many states, Maine’s UI system was unprepared for the crisis and has been overwhelmed by the volume of claims. President Cynthia Phinney (IBEW) of the Maine AFL-CIO explained: “After eight years with an anti-worker governor, there are so many hurdles that people have to jump through to access the benefits that they’re entitled to. The system was designed to prevent people from getting even a single dollar if they’re not supposed to, rather than have as its top priority helping workers who are unemployed.”

The state federation is responding to this challenge by using all the digital tools in its toolbox. There is a new page on its website devoted to providing UI assistance, including a form for workers to ask questions and request help. The form includes a spot for workers to fill in their union affiliation so the state federation can refer them to trained organizers and activists from their own union who can help. “If a person can be connected with someone from their union, all the better,” Phinney said.

In addition, the Maine AFL-CIO created a Facebook group where people can ask questions, talk about common problems and learn how to overcome them. More than 1,000 Facebook users have joined. “It’s developed beautifully because people who are part of the group are answering questions for other people and sharing their experiences,” Phinney said.

“We trained a lot of people to help unemployed workers fill out their UI forms. They’re helping workers get their claims approved so they can avoid a dragged-out process,” Phinney said. The state federation worked with Maine Equal Justice and the state's Department of Labor to host a webinar on changes to the UI system to accommodate workers impacted by the pandemic.

And Maine’s labor movement is helping more than just union members; unrepresented workers are being assisted as well. The state federation has helped about 3,000 individuals seeking UI assistance. “Many of them are just so grateful to have found somewhere where someone will answer their questions,” Phinney explained. She said that for many unrepresented workers looking for help with their UI application, this is their first contact with a labor union organization.

The state federation also has launched a direct email campaign to pressure lawmakers to improve the system and has hosted online meetings with Maine’s congressional delegation focused on promoting America’s Five Economic Essentials. They also hold Zoom press conferences that are well-attended by reporters to get the word out about a range of issues, including the state’s UI system and the need for more personal protective equipment for front-line workers.

“This is a moment when people across the country are seeing workers as we have always seen workers: essential,” Phinney said. “Tell your stories and help other workers to get their stories out, because those stories are what bring us together and start us on the road to becoming stronger.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:25

Tags: COVID-19

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Mine Workers Stand with Navajo People

AFL-CIO - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 06:36
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Mine Workers Stand with Navajo People AFL-CIO

During the COVID-19 pandemic, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out their friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts:

The coronavirus pandemic that has struck the United States has brought death and economic devastation in multiple regions, but none more so than the Navajo Nation, which has surpassed New York City as the region with the most COVID-19 cases per capita in America. We represent many thousands of Navajo workers, and our prayers are with those who have lost family members and those who are still struggling with this disease.

It is very troubling that critical federal support and supplies that were intended to go to the Navajo Nation were delayed or misdirected. The federal government has a special responsibility to provide support to Native American nations, many of which already suffered from chronic public health issues long before this virus showed up. Simply put, our government failed them.

For many Navajo families, this could not come at a worse time. With the needless and premature closure of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) at the end of last year, hundreds of workers at that plant and the Kayenta coal mine that fed the NGS were thrown out of work. They were already suffering, and now many have lost family members or are caring for severely sick relatives, while trying to keep the virus from spreading even further in their families.

The loss of revenue to the Navajo Nation government from the NGS and Kayenta closures already had a severe impact on the resources it has available to provide for its people before the virus hit. Now, the situation is desperate. I call on the United States government to rapidly increase the level of assistance that is going to the Navajo Nation and all tribal governments.

This disease is especially strong in those communities which already had health issues and a history of poor access to health care facilities, which is true in most rural areas of the country. As we bring more resources to bear to fight this virus throughout the country, we cannot continue to leave rural America behind.

If you know of other stories that we should include in this series, please e-mail them to kquinnell@aflcio.org.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:36

Tags: COVID-19

USW: Dam Failure Disaster Spotlights Need for Large-Scale Infrastructure Commitment

Steelworker News - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 12:11

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

The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway released the following statement today in response to the breaching of the Edenville and Sanford dams, which caused historic flooding and forced at least 10,000 people from their homes in and around Midland, Mich.:

“This is a devastating blow to the people and communities of central Michigan, many of whom are members of our union. Our hearts go out to them and their families and to everyone dealing with the results of this terrible disaster.

“In particular, Midland is home to the headquarters and manufacturing facilities for Dow Chemical Co., where approximately 700 USW members make their living, as well as hundreds more members who work at other facilities in the area. The safety and well-being of them and their families is of paramount concern at this terrible time.

“Unfortunately, among the many upsetting facts about this situation is that it could and should have been prevented. The Edenville Dam is nearly 100 years old, and officials have warned for years that it was inadequate to handle water levels of this magnitude.

“This disaster brings into clear focus the horrible consequences of the federal government’s failure to invest in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. President Trump made that issue a central part of his campaign, and yet, four years later, we are still waiting for action.

“Especially at this time of ever-rising unemployment and economic anxiety, it’s time for leaders in Washington, D.C., to come to an agreement for a massive overhaul of our infrastructure. This will put Americans back to work, bring our country fully into the 21st century, allow us to compete in the global economy, and prevent future disasters like the one in Midland from devastating our communities.

“Our hope is that the government responds with swift relief for the people and businesses in the Midland region so that they can quickly recover from this tragedy.

“Then lawmakers must turn their attention to the rest of the country and provide the investments necessary to make sure a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”

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.

USW Votes: Info on Indiana Primary Election, Early Voting

USW Blog - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 10:42

In these challenging times, we are reminded of the importance of our union and the importance of having representatives in government who put working people like us first. 

Indiana's Frank Mrvan has been there for our membership in difficult times and he understands our issues. That’s why all of the USW local union presidents in the 1st Congressional District have endorsed him for Congress. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indiana primary election has been moved to Tuesday, June 2, 2020. We need to make sure every eligible voter submits a ballot and gets a chance to vote.

Volunteer to help Mrvan Win

Click here if you're interested in volunteering to help us help Frank Mrvan.

Information about early voting in Indiana: 


On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, Indiana local polling places will be open for you to cast your ballot from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. However, if you would like to vote early, you can vote absentee-in-person. Here is info from the Indiana state website

Voting early in-person is available from May 26, 2020 to June 1, 2020.  All registered Indiana voters are eligible to vote early in-person. Contact your County Clerk’s office to find locations and hours for early voting. Remember, a valid photo ID is required to vote early in-person. You can find examples of acceptable photo IDs here.

Information to vote by mail: DEADLINE TO REQUEST BALLOT MAY 21, 2020

We’ve tried to make this as easy as possible, so here are some options:

  1. In order to vote for Frank Mrvan for Congress, you need to request a Democratic Party ballot. Click here download a printable application and be sure to follow the instructions. Check Democratic Party in section 3. (https://www.usw.org/districts/district-7/documents/2020-ballot.pdf
  2. Check your home mailbox, where we have mailed two absentee ballot applications and self-addressed envelopes for you and a relative
  3. If you have questions about the absentee ballot application, please contact Jerome Davidson, USW District 7 staff, (219) 617-5338 or jdavison@usw.org.

 Once the application is completed, it must be returned to your county election board by 11:59 p.m. on May 21, 2020.This application can be mailed, emailed, faxed or hand-delivered:

  • By Mail: Insert your completed application for absentee ballot by mail into the envelope provided; Be sure to place a first class stamp on the envelope.
  • By Email: Scan and save the completed application, then send to: lcabsenteevoting@lakecountyin.org
  • By Fax: Fax the application to (219) 755-3801

 After your application is processed, you will receive your primary election ballot by mail.

USW Endorses Joe Biden for President

Steelworker News - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 09:17

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, (412) 562-2444, jkamm@usw.org

The United Steelworkers (USW) union today endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.

“Vice President Biden has long been a friend of workers and our union,” said USW International President Thomas M. Conway. “The USW is proud to stand with him now as he seeks to put our country back on a path toward shared prosperity through responsible leadership.”

The decision was the culmination of a months-long process that began last fall when the union sent all the prospective presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire to determine where each of them stands on key issues affecting working people.

The USW then shared this questionnaire with its entire U.S. membership. It also solicited feedback through a membership survey and held approximately 170 town hall meetings across the country where members could discuss their top priorities and concerns. 

“We came to this endorsement through listening,” said Conway. “We listened to our members when they told us that their top issues were affordable health care and prescription drugs, retirement security, and labor laws that protect working people.

“We also listened to the candidates, examined their responses to our questionnaire and assessed what their past records demonstrate about their values.”

“Vice President Biden shared with us his plans for how he intends to expand access to affordable health care, protect those with preexisting conditions, stabilize multiemployer pension plans, defend Social Security and preserve and expand labor rights.

“Joe Biden spent his life fighting for these things because he understands what it’s like to work for a living. As the son of a working-class family from Pennsylvania’s coal country, he has never forgotten his roots.

“We are confident that as president, he will put workers and their needs first.”

Conway said the union has a responsibility to back a candidate who knows the challenges workers face on the job.

“Workers need an administration that takes workplace health and safety seriously, now more than ever, and Vice President Biden’s record supporting strong, enforceable federal safety standards that help keep workers healthy and safe make it clear that he is committed to this vital work.

“On issues from creating good paying jobs through significant investment in our crumbling infrastructure to raising the minimum wage, we know Vice President Biden stands with working people,” Conway said.

President Trump did not respond to the union’s questionnaire.

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 health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Essential Workers Bill of Rights, Kooper Caraway and More

AFL-CIO - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 10:41
Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Essential Workers Bill of Rights, Kooper Caraway and More Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly

The latest episode of the Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly features an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, Kooper Caraway and more. This week’s highlights include:

Belabored: Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen report on school employees in Minnesota fighting for safety on the job and an attempt to pass an Essential Workers Bill of Rights in New York City.

Stronger Together: The SEIU Local 503 podcast, where the latest episode focuses on the upcoming Oregon primary, which has both union members and strong union supporters running for office.

Workers Beat Radio: Host Gene Lantz talks with Sioux Falls Central Labor Council President Kooper Caraway, one of the youngest, most hopeful and most outspoken labor leaders in the country.

Labor History in 2:00: Brown v. Board of Education, the day the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public education.

Check out all the Labor Radio/Podcast Network shows.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:41

Tags: Podcast

Why Domestic Workers Like Nicanora Montenegro Should Be Considered Essential Workers

AFL-CIO - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 07:56
Why Domestic Workers Like Nicanora Montenegro Should Be Considered Essential Workers

Nicanora Montenegro is a Filipina American in-home support services (IHSS) provider in San Diego and the district chair of United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)-AFSCME Local 3930. As an IHSS provider, she takes care of the most vulnerable folks in our community who are also the most at risk of COVID-19. 

This pandemic has illustrated just how essential the often invisible and undervalued work that caregivers, like Montenegro, provide. Without them, front-line workers who are parents or have other family responsibilities wouldn’t be able to go to work, and older adults, people with disabilities and people with chronic illnesses would not be able to shelter in place. 

Montenegro and her union have been fighting for the rights and respect that home care workers deserve like better wages, access to health care, paid sick days and more. It's well past time that we all recognize domestic workers as essential workers.

Join our calls to Congress to ensure ALL essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to and the compensation they deserve in the next COVID-19 package. 

Join us to protect essential workers.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/19/2020 - 09:56

Tags: COVID-19, APALA

USW Members Persevere at Nuclear Fuel Services During Pandemic

USW Blog - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 07:42

Members of Local 9-677 at the Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) plant in Erwin, Tenn., are considered “essential workers” because they produce nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy and the country’s national defense program.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the local and the company have diligently followed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for preventing exposure to Covid-19, said Local 9-677 chief steward Heath Shook.

Enhanced cleaning happens across the site, he said, as well as social distancing, hand washing and hand sanitizing. Plus, workers have available to them N95 respirators and surgical and cloth masks.

“Employees who experience Covid-19-like symptoms, have potentially been exposed, or are ill have been instructed to stay home,” NFS said in a statement to the media when the company reported it had confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its employees. None of those afflicted were bargaining unit workers, Shook said, and he added that the union and the company doubled-down on the Covid-19 exposure prevention measures.

MOU negotiated

Local 9-677 negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NFS to address pay and benefit issues for those who are quarantined.

Shook said that if a worker experiences Covid-19 symptoms, he or she is automatically quarantined with full pay for 10 work days, and after that date, the person goes on sick leave until recovery.

Likewise, if an employee’s family member has Covid-19 symptoms, the worker goes into quarantine and receives regular pay for 10 work days.

This MOU helped when a salaried person had Covid-19 and the 19 employees in that person’s department had to go into quarantine as well for 14 days. Shook said they all received their regular pay during quarantine.

Those at high risk of getting sick from exposure to Covid-19 because of immune disorders, diabetes, heart or lung problems can take an excused absence without pay, he said.

In all cases, he said employees retain their health insurance.

Shook said everyone is back at work now, and that NFS staggers the work shifts and daily reminds its employees of the need to engage in social distancing. He said the company also sent home the contractors, who were deemed non-essential workers.

“Hourly workers are deemed essential, and we would be the last ones to go home if the plant shut down,” Shook said, adding, “There is no talk of shutting it down.”

The quality work at NFS resulted in the BWX Technologies, Inc. subsidiary receiving $128 million in contract options from the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program at the end of March.

The site also produces low-enriched uranium that is necessary for creating tritium in civilian nuclear reactors for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons program.

A nuclear trade publication reported that NFS may purify defense uranium for the weapons program around 2023. The NNSA is negotiating with the company to act as a backup for the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in a few years.

Members pay it forward as workers battle Coronavirus

USW Blog - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:56

Steelworkers in all industries continue stepping up for health care workers by donating food, money, and critical safety supplies to those on the front lines.

When USW members at National Grid were locked out for six months in 2018, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) stood in solidarity with the Steelworkers. Now, the gas workers are giving back. Locals 12003 and 12012 dropped off a check last week for $10,500 to the MNA, the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in Massachusetts.

Nearby, in Connecticut, a unit of amalgamated USW Local 134L transformed a piece of their operations to mold face shields to aid local health care workers. Members volunteered their time to assemble them, with the finished face shields delivered free of charge to local health care workers, including a senior assisted living facility.

Find out how you can donate to front-line workers here.

Workflix and chill: join us for movies, talk and education

USW Blog - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 14:05

WorkFlix is an online conversation of the USW Education and Membership Development Department that brings USW activists, staff and leadership together in this time of crisis. We are sharing our favorite labour films and, through our Zoom meetings, reinforcing the universal issues that concern us all as workers and activists. Our first film, Mine 9, prompted two lively discussions last week with over 50 members and a Facebook Live event with the filmmakers.

Click here to download a printable flyer about the Workflix series. Click here and let us know if you have any issues accessing the films we're discussing.

Please join us for our future discussions: 

Tuesday, May 19th: Group Discussion Silkwood(Register for noon session) (Register for 8 PM session)

Diane Stein from the Tony Mazzocchi Center will lead our conversation about Karen Silkwood, the real life hero who fought for safe work conditions in her nuclear facility. This 1983 film stars Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher. 

Tuesday, June 2nd at noon and at 8:00 PM, discussion on Spartacus (1960) 

Guillermo Perez will lead our conversation about Spartacus, the story of a slave turned gladiator who leads a slave revolt against the Roman Empire.  In the wake of the Red Scare of the 1950s, the film directly challenged the edict from the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (the MPA), that strongly advised against making movies that employed the “communistic tactics” of “smearing” the wealthy while glorifying the “common man” and “the collective.”  The film’s ending remains one of the most famous un-Hollywood Hollywood endings of all time. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglass, Laurence Oliver, Peter Ustinov. 

Tuesday, June 16th at noon and at 8:00 PM, Made in Dagenham (2010)

Joan Hill will lead our conversation about women who rally to fight for equal pay defying the corporate status quo. Set in a borough of London, the town’s main employer is the local Ford Motor Company plant.  187 women in the workforce sew seat covers.  This is a true story about the 1968 strike by the machinists leading to the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.  The women realize they are in a “man’s world” facing opposition by their own union. 

Tuesday, June 30th at noon and at 8:00 PM, Pride

Meredith Stepp will lead our conversation about this celebrated 2014 film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners' strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. The alliance was unlike any seen before.

Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Fire Fighters and COVID-19, the Longest Wildcat Strike and More

AFL-CIO - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 09:59
Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Fire Fighters and COVID-19, the Longest Wildcat Strike and More Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly

The latest episode of the Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly features firefighters during COVID-19, the country’s longest wildcat strike, a new show and more. This week’s highlights include:

IAFF Podcast: Hosts Mark Treglio and Doug Stern talk with members of the Fire Fighters health and safety division about how their members are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: “Our firefighters and paramedics are used to risking their lives and safety every day when they go to work, but the sheer scope of the virus, combined with the lack of PPE in some communities, creates a very anxiety-provoking situation.”

Working People: Track laborer and writer John Tormey interviews working-class Kentucky artist, writer and radio host Terry Tapp about his latest book, “A Serf’s Journal: The Story of the United States’ Longest Wildcat Strike.”

En Masse: A teaser from our very latest network member, an exciting new podcast called En Masse that’s dedicated to telling “stories of struggle and hope from the working class.”

UCOMM Live: Texas AFL-CIO’s Ed Sills talks about whether COVID-19 will result in more organizing for workers in Texas.

Labor History in 2:00: We find out about the day in 1972 when employees at the Farah Manufacturing Co. went out on strike, launching one of the iconic boycotts of the era. 

Check out all the Labor Radio/Podcast Network shows.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/15/2020 - 11:59

Tags: Podcast

USW Members Step Up To Produce Hand Sanitizer for Hospitals

USW Blog - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 09:09

Local 9-562-02 at the Huntsman chemical plant in McIntosh, Ala., worked with the company to provide much-needed hand sanitizer for health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two bargaining unit members volunteered to produce the hand sanitizer in the company’s research and development department, while others picked up their job duties, said Local 9-562-02 Unit Chairman Butch Ettawil.

“Producing hand sanitizer is a small scale, hands-on operation that is separate from the production process,” he said.

The site produces resin and specialty polymers for military and aerospace applications, high-end cars, sporting goods and even items like windmill blades, Ettawil said.

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued temporary guidelines that enabled Huntsman to produce the hand sanitizer, the company got LyondellBasell to donate FDA-approved isopropyl alcohol (IPA)—a main ingredient in hand sanitizer, the company stated in a press release. Another ingredient, FDA-approved deionized water, was purchased by Huntsman.

Ettawil said the two workers who volunteered to make the hand sanitizer had to be trained on handling FDA-approved IPA.

On April 6, Huntsman donated 700 pounds of hand sanitizer—a two-month supply—to the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and associated medical facilities at the University of Utah. The late Jon M. Huntsman, founder of Huntsman Corporation, established HCI at the university.

“We were happy to help out,” Ettawil said. “It is a proud feeling to be able to do something for people, especially when there is such need for it.”

He said there is talk about making another batch of hand sanitizer and that the site is waiting on raw materials. Other hospitals and organizations contacted Huntsman and requested donated hand sanitizer, he said.

Producing during a pandemic

“Everybody is still working,” Ettawil said. “Business is slower, but production is up and running.”

He said that Huntsman bought a 55-gallon drum of hand sanitizer for the employees.

“We’re practicing social distancing and limiting the number of people in the breakroom and control room,” he added. “Company meetings have been cancelled. Matters are discussed over the phone. The local is not having meetings.”

Ettawil said that as workers enter, a BASF emergency medical technician (EMT) asks a few questions, like whether the employee has been around someone who could have COVID-19 or if they traveled out of the country or flew anywhere. Then, the EMT takes people’s temperatures by pointing an infrared thermometer gun at them while they sit in their vehicle.

“If you have a high fever (above 100.5 temperature), you are sent out of the facility and have to see a doctor to be cleared to return to work,” Ettawil said. “People with allergies saw a doctor and got cleared to return to work.”

The USW negotiated these protections against COVID-19 with BASF in mid-March.

Service + Solidarity: The Working People Weekly List

AFL-CIO - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 06:47
Service + Solidarity: The Working People Weekly List AFL-CIO

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.

Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle: “Michelle Simmons is a letter carrier who lives and works in Grand Island, Nebraska, and is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). Grand Island is a COVID-19 hot spot with one of the highest density rates of contagion anywhere in the country.”

Service + Solidarity: Meet Brent Kirby: “Brent Kirby is a musician based in Cleveland and a member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 4. In addition to his solo career, Kirby performs with Brent Kirby & His Luck and the Jack Fords, and leads a monthly Gram Parsons revival. Kirby recently performed in a virtual concert series produced by the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4 and the Local 4 Music Fund.”

Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed: “With the Wyoming Legislature scheduled to begin an emergency session later this week, Wyoming State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Tammy Johnson (USW) is taking the lead fighting for workers in her home state. Policymakers are considering a bill that includes three major components: unemployment insurance (UI), workers’ compensation and rent relief. The UI provisions would hold employers harmless as the state provides additional money to cover the increase in UI claims, and the rent relief portion would provide additional eviction protections for tenants.”

Labor Is Pioneering a New Kind of Relief Effort in the Twin Cities: “Scores of workers across America have been laid off through no fault of their own, and still many of them are not eligible for federal benefits during these unprecedented times. In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (MRLF) is organizing to provide support to those workers who can’t get the support they need from our federal government.”

A Chuukese Registered Nurse’s Story During #NursesWeek: “Let’s uplift Marina Robinson, a Chuukese registered nurse in Honolulu working in the OB-GYN department. She is proud to bring the idea of aterenges, or family, into her care work. She keeps pregnant people and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

AFSCME: Strong Public Services Needed to Beat Pandemic, Reopen Economy: “AFSCME launched two ads calling on Congress and President Trump to send aid to state and local governments to keep front-line public service workers on the job. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: ‘Front-line health care workers, corrections officers, home and child care providers, sanitation workers and other public service workers put their lives on the line every day to save ours. America refuses to thank them with pink slips. Public service workers and the services they provide are essential to beating this pandemic and opening the economy.’”

Hoosiers Need Help from Mike Pence, Not a Visit and Photo-Op: “When [Vice President] Mike Pence returns to Indiana on Thursday, he’ll find Hoosiers in the grips of a crisis unlike anything we’ve witnessed in generations. Cases of the coronavirus are climbing, our health care system is being overwhelmed, and countless working people are being forced to choose between our health and a paycheck. We need more than a photo-op. We need help, and we need it now.”

Economy Loses 20.5 Million Jobs in April; Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%: “The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, taking payroll employment back to levels last seen in spring 2011 when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate jumped by a historic amount to 14.7%, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for white males is 12.4%, the largest for white men in the post-World War II era and the first time it has been in double digits since that era.”

Thanking Heroes for National Nurses Week: 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.”

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: An EVS Technician’s COVID-19 Story: “Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s uplift Asian American and Pacific Islander workers this month⁠—those who are on the front lines of COVID-19 and those who are on the front lines of our families and communities.”

If Trump Wants Meat Plants Open, He Should Protect Their Workers: “The United States now has more than a million reported coronavirus cases, by far the most of any country in the world. The health of our nation, physically and economically, depends on the safety of our workers.”

Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly: Saluting Front-Line Workers, Remote Learning and More: “The latest episode of the Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly features a daily salute to front-line workers in the Electchester community of New York, Chicago Teachers tackling remote learning and Richard Trevellick’s fight for the eight-hour workday.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/15/2020 - 08:47

Tell Congress to Protect Our Pensions! The GROW Act must be removed from the next stimulus bill

USW Blog - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:53

The House will meet on Friday to vote on the next much needed stimulus bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.

This new legislation includes pieces we were fighting for, like a temporary OSHA emergency standard and help paying for COBRA coverage for those out of work. Under normal circumstances, we would be thrilled about this outcome and urge quick passage, but a poison pill has been slipped into the bill that we cannot support and must be removed – a composite pension plan called the GROW Act.

We Must Protect Our Pensions

For years, the USW has been fighting to secure the viability of multiemployer pensions. We fought hard to see the Butch Lewis Act pass through House last July, and have been disappointed that the Senate has yet to address it. We also know the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has only amplified the need to stabilize these pensions, and needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, the GROW Act is not the solution.

Why the GROW Act Won’t Work

This proposal would allow well-funded multiemployer plans to adopt a “hybrid” pension plan, which cuts out employer withdrawal liability, eliminates the safety net of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), and makes benefits unpredictable. Given that these plans will no longer have to contribute to the PBGC, it puts the system further in jeopardy. A composite plan does not contain any provisions to assist multiemployer plans in critical or critical and declining status.

We Need Quick Action! The GROW Act is the wrong solution for fixing our multiemployer pension problems. It hurts workers, retirees, employers, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). It should not become law. Tell your Representaive to remove the GROW Act before voting on the HEROES Act.

Our union has seen significant impacts in our industries and we know the HEROES Act is the right direction, but we can’t include provisions that would amplify the current multiemployer pension crisis. Please take action today!


Paducah, Portsmouth Nuclear Cleanup Sites to Emerge from COVD-19 Hibernation

USW Blog - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:13

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment sites at Paducah, Ky., and Portsmouth, Ohio for over a month, except for activities critical to the sites’ cleanup missions. Local 550 at Paducah and Local 1-689 at Portsmouth also stopped conducting business because of the virus.

Local 550 acted a full week before the Department of Energy (DOE) had its coronavirus protocol in place, said Jim Key, the local’s vice president and the president of USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC).

The local's officers announced the temporary end of all union and staff meetings and training classes. They also temporarily closed the Workers Health Protection Program and the union hall, and told members they would be available via email, text and cell phone. All face-to-face meetings with the site’s three contractors ended and were replaced with communication via email, teleconferencing or video conferencing.

Key contacted DOE’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) in Lexington, Ky., and told the officials that the Hanford site had already issued a COVID-19 protocol. The next day, the PPPO issued its own protocol for the Portsmouth and Paducah nuclear cleanup sites.

The PPPO COVID-19 protocol said that all non-essential personnel would stay home and telework if they were able to do so. Contractor employees deemed “essential” were defined as working in mission-critical functions, such as facility management, steam and water power monitoring, regulatory adherence, safety, industrial hygiene and radiological control.

Key said that about 125 USW-represented workers at the Paducah site were considered essential employees and continued to work their respective shifts. Ten to 15 USW-represented workers per shift maintained the site’s power and utilities (gas boilers, air and sanitary systems). Local 550 represented workers in the fire department also continued to report to work and maintain the required staffing levels for a site-wide response.

Non-essential personnel who could not telework received their regular 40 hours a week of pay, health insurance and other benefits.

Key said the local is in constant communication with the contractors and PPPO regarding the length of the shutdown. Plans for a return to work are being discussed so that everyone can safely get back to their jobs.

Portsmouth, Ohio, site

The cleanup of the former Portsmouth gaseous diffusion plant has also been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Local 1-689 President John Knauff said that 172 USW members remained working onsite.

They have been handling the complex’s water and sanitary systems, the steam plant, some 24/7 operations that cannot be shut down, the fire department and the pickup of trash. Radiological control technicians have been taking readings, while buyers have teleworked at home. Operators for the DUF6 project have been maintaining the equipment so the conversion of depleted uranium into fluorine and uranium oxide can begin when the site is reopened.

Knauff also said the 25 USW workers at the Centrus Energy Corp.’s domestic enrichment cascade at the Portsmouth complex have continued to work onsite to keep the operation secure and maintain the facility. Normally, these employees assemble centrifuges to produce high assay enriched uranium.

The site’s start-up depends on Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s decisions on how to lift his stay-at-home order, Knauff said.  The local provided input on the site plan to return to work.

At least one person at the site tested positive for COVID-19.

“We know there are a lot more cases out there of people being infected with COVID-19,” Knauff said. “Going back to work is about the ability to test because you want to find those who are positive for the virus and isolate them.

“We draw employees from almost a 100-mile radius. There is a huge opportunity for the virus to spread,” he said.

Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed

AFL-CIO - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 09:03
Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed Wyoming State AFL-CIO

With the Wyoming Legislature scheduled to begin an emergency session later this week, Wyoming State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Tammy Johnson (USW) is taking the lead fighting for workers in her home state. Policymakers are considering a bill that includes three major components: unemployment insurance (UI), workers’ compensation and rent relief. The UI provisions would hold employers harmless as the state provides additional money to cover the increase in UI claims, and the rent relief portion would provide additional eviction protections for tenants.

However, Johnson and the state federation are working to change the state’s workers’ compensation system so that all front-line workers who get infected will be presumed to have been infected on the job. Currently, most employers are exempted from the state’s workers’ compensation system unless their employees are performing “extra hazardous” jobs. Johnson said legislators were surprised to learn that many grocery store workers in Wyoming would not be eligible for compensation under the proposed legislation.

“We have to have some kind of protection in place for workers,” she explained. “If they don’t have health care because their hours have been cut to part time and they can’t take unemployment because there’s work available, then they’ll have to go to work sick. You would not want sick grocery store workers to be in the stores.”

Johnson was also appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon to be on the Business and Financial Sector Task Force that is providing policy recommendations for reopening Wyoming’s economy. She said that one of the local unions she has helped is United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13214, whose members mine soda ash. Working with her colleagues on the task force and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, she helped ensure that those USW members who were placed on furlough wouldn’t be penalized by the UI system for drawing on their pensions or for taking a “voluntary” furlough. “The challenge going forward is to educate everyone that all workers contributed to these systems and we have to modernize thinking about compensation packages,” she said.

“The backbone of Wyoming is exposed right now. Big corporations are keeping us in the shade, but it’s the workers who keep these companies up and running,” Johnson explained. “Companies may leave, but the workers are still going to be here, and they are the people who make up our communities....COVID-19 has made it clear where the strength in our economy is: It’s with the workers.”

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:03

Tags: COVID-19

Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle

AFL-CIO - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 08:36
Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle

Michelle Simmons is a letter carrier who lives and works in Grand Island, Nebraska, and is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). Grand Island is a COVID-19 hot spot with one of the highest density rates of contagion anywhere in the country. 

She speaks here about what it feels like to be considered "essential."

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/14/2020 - 10:36

Tags: COVID-19

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