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Updated: 2 hours 33 min ago

Time to Put on the Pressure, Steelworkers!

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:39

Two weeks ago, over 650 Steelworkers took to the streets in Washington, D.C. at our Rapid Response, Legislative, and Policy Conference, sending a strong message to Congress and the Department of Labor: we want Safe Jobs Now for our health care and social service workers.

While we rallied in front of the Department of Labor, a group of our impacted health care members met with representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and delivered tens of thousands of postcards from our recent national action to urge passage of H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. This bill would direct OSHA to ensure their workplaces develop and implement violence prevention plans.

Our members also delivered postcards to Senate offices and held conversations with over 200 House offices, driving home our message that safety on the job is a priority for every worker.

Our message is being heard. A vote in the House is expected this week. We need to keep the pressure on by telling our Representatives their support is both essential and expected.

Make a Quick Call! 

Action Instructions:

  • Dial our toll-free number to the U.S. House:
    866-202-5409. You will be automatically routed to your Representative.
  • Tell the office who you are and where you are from.
  • Tell them to protect our healthcare and social service workers by supporting H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

USW Participates in Global Packaging Conference

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 08:08

The USW joined union members from across the world in October for the UNI Global Union’s Graphical and Packaging Sector Conference.

The group, which included members from more than 40 countries, met from Oct. 22 to 24 in Toledo, Spain, to address a number of issues and their effects on the packaging industry, including Brexit, and to discuss campaigns at multinational corporations such as WestRock and Kimberly-Clark.

The conference also held elections and welcomed several new board members, including the USW’s Luis Mendoza, who will represent North America.

The USW is a member of several global union coalitions, including UNI and IndustriALL, and works collectively with both groups to represent workers, set standards and organize campaigns around the globe. UNI represents more than 20 million workers from 150 countries.

Mendoza, who in January will become chair of the union’s paper sector bargaining, provided the conference with an update on the WestRock global network, established last year after the company made several acquisitions.

Lieutenant colonel says nurses can save veteran patients’ lives with one simple question

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 05:43

The U.S. veteran population was roughly 20 million strong in 2016, the last year data was collected. One of the many common threads among those millions, aside from their shared military service, is their need for quality, compassionate health care.

And sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest difference.

According to Jennifer A. Korkosz, Lt. Col. (Ret.), U.S. Air Force, one of the most important questions nurses and other health care professionals can ask their patients is, “Have you ever served in the military?”

This simple question helps provide vital insight for optimally caring for one’s patients and is so important that the American Academy of Nursing built an entire initiative around it that focuses on improving the health of veterans.

Among the unique areas of concern for many veterans, according to that initiative, are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma, brain injuries, and exposure to radiation, nuclear weapons, Agent Orange, and more. Veterans also are at much higher risk than the general population for suicide—while veterans make up 14 percent of all U.S. suicides, they make up only 8 percent of the country’s population.

To help stem the tide of suicide and provide overall proper care, nurses and other providers can do their part by knowing the resources in their communities that can help veterans, as well as by establishing empathy and building trust with veterans in their communities.

“Feeling appreciated and acknowledged is a great way to help build rapport,” Korkosz said.

The USW recognized the unique needs of veteran workers on the job and recently established Veterans of Steel, a resource for members who have served or are serving in the military to find camaraderie, support, and a way to fight for core issues that affect them and their families.

Part of this work involved the formation of the Veterans of Steel Council, which includes several dozen USW members and staff who served in the armed forces in the United States and Canada. They held their first meeting in October 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.

The group spent the day brainstorming and setting goals for moving their activism forward, including engaging veterans in the union and community, educating and advocating for veterans’ issues in both countries, and providing a variety of resources for Steelworker vets and their families, including assistance with PTSD.

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

“All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” Local 593’s Wall of Honor

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 02:32

Local 593, Aurubis Buffalo Inc., has made honoring our veterans a part of their everyday existence when entering their plant.  Working as a team with the company, they have created what they refer to as the “Wall off Honor.”  

“One of my proudest moments besides my life besides my late wife and kids, was serving this great country of ours. I feel and our members feel it’s our duty to honor all past and present veterans, the sacrifices made to make this country free. All of the members of our military deserve to be honored, what they’ve sacrificed, their lives and time, for us to be in the best country in the world, they deserve it, and that is what the “Wall of Honor” is all about,” Dean Washburn, President of Local 593.

Cary Eldridge, Veterans of Steel Coordinator for District 4, has dedicated a lot of his time to help grow the program in his district. “USW Veterans of Steel program does more than sing the song praise, we have committed countless resources that our veteran brothers, sisters, and their families can turn to for assistance. We cannot forget the sacrifices that they have endured. We honor our veterans not one day but every day. I’m so proud to be a part of this program and locals like 593 and all the work they do.”

“We owe a great debt to those who sacrifice to defend our freedom. The Veterans of Steel program seeks to honor and support our veterans and their families every day. Local 593 and Arubis Buffalo’s Wall of Honor exemplifies that spirit,” Director Vitale.

Wall of Honor – History
Mary Ann Stets
Wall of Honor Team Leader

In late July 2012, Brian Young, then Vice President of Operations, Aurubis Buffalo, Inc. proposed the idea of a permanent tribute to the service and sacrifices of our own employee veterans.  His simple idea grew into a monumental project second to none!

Over the next few months a small internal team of three dedicated employees --  Brian Young, Douglas Haak and Mary Ann Stets -- worked hard to develop the initial ideas working closely with the talented team of craftsmen at E B Ironart, a local company specializing in military artwork.  Once designed, additional employees Ron Lorich and Bob Goodrow participated in the actual wall construction. All of these individuals spent many hours putting everything together, but they didn't do it alone.  Many of the materials used in the fabrication of the Wall of Honor are made from Aurubis Buffalo’s own copper and brass, so in essence every one participated. What better way to showcase the kind of work done every day than to use our own products to pay tribute to some very brave individuals?

The message is clear: There is no way to fully reward the service and sacrifice of our nation's veterans.  By virtue of this wall, we acknowledge that EVERY DAY is Veterans Day.  Without our veterans, we would not have the freedom we take for granted. 

On March 12, 2013, we held the Dedication and unveiling of our Wall of Honor.  Retired Brigadier General Anthony Caruana was our emcee.  The Color Guard from the 914th Airlift Wing participated along with 15 other uniformed military personnel from the Military Entrance Processing Center and various other units in the area.  During our ceremony we were honored to present a personalized Honor and Remember flag to one of our employees, Peter Tycz, whose son, SSG Peter Tycz II was the first Western New Yorker killed in Post 9/11 service.

In the years since the dedication, we’ve updated our wall annually at Veterans Day.  A ceremony is held every year to honor all veterans and to honor recent retirees with their tags mounted on plaques with the words: “Thank you for your years of service to our country and to The Brass. Their original tags are replaced with the small brass tags that remain on the Wall of Honor.  In 2017, we presented another personalized Honor and Remember flag to one of our employees, Mark Warden whose son, Nick was killed in Syria that same year.

There are four panels in the design of our wall.  Each panel contains symbolic dog tags with the Veteran’s name, service and enlistment.  For employees we also include any military honors they earned.

The first panel contains the names of those who currently serve. 

Panels two and three contain the names of those with past service.  Of particular note is the span of service – at the time of dedication there was a tag on display for the Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather of an employee whose service dates back to the Revolutionary War!

The final panel is dedicated to those who gave their lives in service to our country.  This panel displays the symbol of KIA, the soldier kneeling at the boots, helmet and weapon of the fallen clutching the dog the dog tags.  Our fallen family member’s name and KIA date and place is engraved into the star with two tags attached, one indicating service and a “shadow tag” listing the military accomplishments of the fallen soldier.

The overall theme of our wall is “All Gave Some, Some Gave All”.

Each branch of Service is represented by both medallion and flag.  With the exception of the POW/MIA and the Honor and Remember flags they are displayed in order of their incorporation, with our US Colors, of course, prominently displayed in the center.  We are especially honored to display the Honor and Remember medallion as it is one of a kind designed by IronArt with permission from the H&R organization to design and display it on our Wall.  The flags were all posted during our Dedication Ceremony March 23, 2013, by members of each corresponding service.  As they were posted a brief history of each flag was read.

Symbolism is everywhere on our wall. There is meaning behind the different types of tags and stars.  Tags of brass indicate employees and tags of stainless indicate family members.  Large brass tags indicate current employees. The small brass tags are retired employees.  The blue stars represent those in current service, and the gold stars those that gave their lives in service, countless names we may never know, but to whom we are sincerely grateful.  The poppies prominently displayed in the 4th panel represent the blood shed on all battlefields throughout history. Also, in the talons of the Eagle are three poppies representing our three family members sacrifice as he continues to carry their memory.  Of note, the poppies used were all hand made locally by disabled veterans.

The design of our Wall of Honor is such that it will always “look” full but is easily rearranged to make room for more Veterans.  It is updated annually for Veterans Day at which time we hold a ceremony in honor of our Veterans.  All employees are invited to attend.  Retirees are invited back to receive an engraved plaque in their honor with their tag from the Wall mounted on it with the words “Thank you for your service to Our Country and to The Brass.”  In place of their original tag on the wall a small brass tag is mounted and will remain in perpetuity.  It is only the fourth panel that we hope never to have to “make room” for more.

 

 

Honoring One of Our Own this Veteran's Day

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 01:57

This Veterans Day, we would like to honor one of our own that has done outstanding work for our veterans in Canada: Scott Casey, from Local 7619, at Tech Resources, in Logan Lake, British Columbia, has used his own struggle to help others. Working with our Veterans of Steel program and Military Minds, Brother Casey has experienced first-hand the connection between being Steelworker and a veteran. He describes this connection in his own words:

“When we got back, we were shunned, a lot of our guys just crashed. Thirty days from the day I left the army, I was on the streets. You didn’t understand how to fit back into society so you create your own environment to fit into, one filled with good guys and bad guys. Living on the streets, the people there were my sheep, I tried to protect them because I was connected to that whole feeling of hopelessness because I understood it.  I was soul searching, I was drinking, I was trying to find my place. 

For 18 years I drove truck, so I didn’t have to deal with people, I didn’t want to be anybody at that time and on the road I could escape that or so I thought. In hindsight, it wasn’t good, in fact, I took myself away from society. Then I found Military Minds. They showed me there was good out there still. I got involved pretty early on, just as a way to give veterans job opportunities.  Then it morphed into a PTSD peer support organization.  Since then, we now provide support to about 135,000 veterans around the world.  There is online peer support for a multitude of issues from losing your job, to helping with veterans affairs paperwork, to I’m just not doing well right now.  We are on call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, someone is there in every time zone for you. 

When it comes to activism and being a part of the Steelworkers, I started in 2010 and it was there that I found a brotherhood/sisterhood within the steelworkers that gave me the connection again, with people who look out for each other, people who want to do good and make a difference and I fell in love with it right away.  Two things stood out for me, the strength already here in the union and then being a soldier, we are forced multiples and are good at strengthening from within.

Soldiers have a different set of issues that come with them after service and when we enter the work force, we find that it’s difficult to transition, but if we have a network of our own within, like the union, then we have somebody to fall back on who gets us and understands us.  Working with our Veterans of Steel program, I want to see veterans looked after as the government isn’t doing its job.  I want our veterans to know they have the full support of the USW in creating this network in the United States and Canada to support each other from war to work, as soldiers to brothers and sisters.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Veterans of Steel, click here: usw.org/vetsofsteel.

Solidarity and spirits high among workers at Bishop Noa Home

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 10:46

As new members of amalgamated Local 2-21 at Bishop Noa Home (BNH) entered another tough round of negotiations with their employer, a group of the nursing home and rehab center workers showcased their solidarity and strong spirits by dressing as Rosie the Riveters during Halloween.

The costumed workers in Escanaba, Mich., wanted to reflect the local’s own battle at the bargaining table.

“The real Rosie the Riveter passed away last year and we wanted to represent how the fight all started,” said Marcia Hardy, a dietary aide at BNH.

And the workers weren’t the only ones to enjoy the festive wear.

“We had a lot of fun with it, and quite a few of the residents commented on the costumes,” said Hardy. “That’s really the point of all we do—keeping their spirits high.”

Local trade unionists and Upper Peninsula Steelworkers have been rallying around the members during their negotiations. Last week, a group of BNH workers leafletted at a nearby paper mill where 700 USW members work as part of the amalgamated Local 2-21.

‘SOAR’-ING IN RETIREMENT

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 10:36

The first Wednesday of every month, a group of local silver-haired activists known as the Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees — known simply as SOAR — gets together for donuts, coffee and to dish on politics.

“We have roughly 300-plus members, and they come from U.S. Steel, [former] EVTAC, Hibbing Taconite, and around the area,” SOAR President Sam Ricker recently told the Hibbing Daily Tribune. “It’s just about getting people together and to find out about political campaigns.”

The local SOAR chapter is part of a larger organization that was first established in 1985 to help strengthen the Steelworkers union by bringing together retirees to act as advocates, activists and volunteers in the communities where they lived. The members are comprised of former miners, their spouses and, according to Ricker, they’ve also opened up membership to non-Steelworkers who embody the same principals and values their group upholds.

According to usw.org, SOAR leaders encouraged chapter formations in 2011 to foster more direct communication between chapter leaders and their local unions. The idea was to help gain insight on negotiation issues regarding retirees. As the website states, “With the establishment of SOAR, our union solidified its focus on the unique issues impacting USW retirees and their spouses. Further, SOAR has been engaged in countless efforts to assure security for current and future generations of retirees, regardless of whether they belong to a union or not.” ACTIVE RETIREES

Before Ricker became president of his local SOAR chapter, he was employed for 36 years at the former Eveleth Taconite Co. — aka “EVTAC.” The 1961 Nashwauk graduate was working in Minneapolis for Honeywell before he returned to the area and began working at EVTAC in the late ‘60s as a maintenance mechanic. Two years later, he became a machinist and would stick at that job for the next 34 years.

“It seemed to change over the years, as new management came in,” Ricker said, reflecting how the atmosphere shifted from “more personal” to “more business” during his time there.

Ricker then retired in January 2003, mere months before the plant shut down which resulted in 450 employees getting laid off. Eventually the closed plant would be purchased by Cliffs and would reopen as United Taconite, which celebrated 50 years of iron ore production at the Eveleth site in 2014.

“I got involved with SOAR two years after I retired,” Ricker told the HDT. “A friend of mine mentioned they were having these meetings, and I was the president of Local 6860 for approximately 12 years. For the 36 years I worked, at least 30 I was in some kind of office or leadership-type role.”

And in less than two years, he would be president of his SOAR chapter.

Ricker noted that there are two other groups nearby — in Aurora and in Marble — but the Eveleth chapter meets at 10 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month in the Local 6860 office. Twenty “regulars” attend most meetings, though that number tends to increase the closer it gets to an election. A little, anyway. For the most part, the group engages in casual debates with discussions focusing in on which candidates to get behind the closer they get to ballot casting time.

“We do have our own endorsing system,” Ricker said. “When you meet with the active [Steelworkers], you may have a majority vote and it may happen to be the candidate we support. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s the same, but there are sometimes that it could be a different selection.” When that happens, he said, SOAR members will default to the active union members’ majority vote so they can remain unified.

As for their activism on the local level, Ricker said that mainly comes down to making phone calls. “There aren’t too many who do that, but I guess I would be one of them,” he chuckled. “Otherwise it’s just getting the word out and talking to people when attending different functions. Especially when the Steelworkers have a contract conflict — we’ll attend those meetings and hold a banner. We try to provide any assistance we can when they ask for it.”

SOCIAL CLUB Each July, the members from all three local SOAR chapters get together for a picnic. They take turns deciding who will host and extend invitations to local politicians. Their last event took place in Pengilly, where state Senator David Tomassoni and other politicians made appearances for the roughly 50 or so people in attendance, Ricker said.

The group also walks in parades and shows up for their active Steelworkers when called upon. Mostly, however, Ricker insists their get togethers are of a casual nature — his favorite part being the conversations, which “never get too heated.”

“It’s more of a social club,” Ricker said, describing it as a place to chew about local news, politics and whatever is happening in their lives. “When there's nothing going on politically, we bring up things that have happened in the past, joking around in a nice format.”

They also use the hour long meetings to acknowledge and honor any members who have passed away.

“Overall, it’s been pretty peaceful. Everyone pretty much as their own beliefs, and they’re all welcome,” Ricker added.

As for membership fees, Ricker explained that the first year is usually paid by the Local the retiree is from, after that it’s $12 for the member, and $3 for the spouse annually. Anyone interested in joining the Eveleth chapter of SOAR can contact Ricker at 218-744-4668. “They’re entirely welcome to come and voice their opinion and join in the conversation and enjoy some coffee and donuts.”

Atomic Council Members Query Department of Energy Officials

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 10:29

A parade of current and former Department of Energy (DOE) officials addressed USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC), and answered and listened to members’ questions, concerns and suggestions on the first day of the group’s biannual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The two-day meeting, held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, at USW’s Legislative and Policy office, attracted nearly 30 council members representing U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites and two nuclear facilities.

The USW Atomic Energy Workers Council met Oct. 31—Nov. 1 at the USW Legislative and Policy Office in Washington, DC, for the group’s biannual meeting. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

“This is the first time we have had multiple representatives from DOE over the last three years, so this is progress,” said USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown.

She began the meeting addressing recent leadership changes within the USW and DOE, and described her role as slightly different from retired Vice President Carol Landry’s because she oversees the nuclear sector in addition to heading the union’s legislative, policy and political work.

Brown’s years of experience navigating DOE, lobbying for cleanup funding and meeting with contractors like Fluor, taught her that the atomic sector has support from all sides of the political spectrum. 

She encouraged council members to educate DOE officials by telling them what is happening at their sites and offer suggestions for improvement. “This gives you a voice you may not have at your site,” Brown said.

Suggestions for DOE

William (Ike) White, senior advisor for environmental management to the undersecretary for science, fielded questions and suggestions regarding DOE’s environmental management (EM) program. This past September marked 30 years of nuclear waste cleanup. He said that although 90 percent of the cleanup is done for contaminated land at DOE sites, “we’re still not half done. The amount of time, work and resources needed will take more than 30 years.”

William (Ike) White, Senior Advisor for Environmental Management to the Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy, (center) emphasizes a point to the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council.  Local Union 12-652 President Matt Chavez sits at the table listening. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

He said the DOE is transitioning from easy cleanup work to harder projects, especially at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Pete Gomez, a Local 12-369 member at Hanford, asked White about the three outstanding contracts DOE extended with its existing contractors and when the agency would select contractors for the new agreements.

White said DOE is in its final analysis for selecting the contractors. He also discussed how DOE historically handled its agreements with contractors. Now, the agency wants indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts for fixed periods of time with contractors that have high-quality management teams, he said.

AEWC President Jim Key suggested to White that when DOE achieves a cleanup milestone, EM should acknowledge the contributions of the work force in the accomplishment.

John Knauff, president of Local 1-689 at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, suggested that White work closely with local unions to ensure contractors are doing their jobs properly. He said contractors at the Portsmouth site are performing open-air demolition of buildings containing contaminated, radioactive equipment without decontaminating them first.

Knauff and Key told White about contractors denying employees’ requests to wear respirators and employees getting injured as a result.

Bill Collins, a Local 12-369 member at Hanford, said the contractor taking down the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) hired people off the street instead of workers with decades of experience. He said the contractor would not listen to experienced workers on how to take the plant down.

After hearing council members’ suggestions and stories, White said he would “commit personally” to meeting with union workers at the DOE sites.

Local 12-652 President Matt Chavez also urged White to have the DOE retain Fluor, the cleanup contractor at Idaho National Laboratory. “Changing Fluor would be a big mistake,” Chavez said. “The communication is perfect and Fluor gets with the local on issues.”

White said he understood, and pointed out that performance is a factor when DOE selects contractors.

Brown requested that White restart quarterly meetings between Fluor, DOE and the USW because it “cut through the issues, particularly at Portsmouth.”

 “Your management team will tell you what you want to hear,” Key said. “I will tell you the truth.”

Building connections

Appearances by other DOE officials proved fruitful for the AEWC.

Mark Planning, director of intergovernmental and external affairs for DOE, said he wanted to build a partnership with the council. “I’m a resource for you,” he said. “We’re anxious to work with you.”

USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown (standing) describes the council’s work to Mark Planning (left at head of table) and Dr. John Carmack (right at head of table). Planning is Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for the Department of Energy. Carmack is the Senior Technical Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

John Carmack, assistant secretary of nuclear energy, said the DOE wants smaller modular reactors (SMR’s) to be factory-built in the United States. Brown said the USW supports nuclear power, and would like to see USW members play a role in making the components necessary for SMR’s and advanced nuclear technology, pointing out the infrastructure already available at the former Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant sites.

Prioritizing safety

Kevin Dressman, director of DOE’s office of enforcement, spoke about the agency’s efforts to improve the safety culture at the cleanup sites. DOE is a self-regulating agency, so OSHA does not inspect the sites. He said DOE provides incentives in its agreements with the contractors so they discover problems before they turn into health and safety incidents.

While the Office of Enforcement does not inspect sites, it will post notice of investigation letters and outcomes on its website. While the office’s focus is on major health and safety issues, it also pays attention to lower-level issues that show a trend.

Dressman said his office emphasizes higher controls for health and safety than personal protective equipment (PPE). Elimination of hazards is evaluated first, then engineering and administrative controls, with PPE used last. Not blaming the workers for health and safety incidents is also integral to a good safety culture, as well as robust sharing of lessons learned, he said.

Former DOE official Glenn Podonsky, who ran the department’s Environment, Health, Safety and Security organization, came to the AEWC meeting at the request of Matt Chavez, Henry Littleford and Ryan Christensen from Local 12-652 at Idaho National Laboratory. In his prior role, Podonsky always visited AEWC meetings and helped resolve health and safety issues raised by AEWC members.

(At the head of the table) Glenn Podonsky, an old friend of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council, talks about what makes a good manager. Sitting at the table are left to right: Henry Littleford (LU 12-652), Kevin Dressman (Director, Office of Enforcement, Department of Energy) and LU 12-652 President Matt Chavez. LU 12-652 member Ryan Christensen sits by the window.  Podonsky spoke to the council at the request of Littleford, Chavez and Christensen. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

Now a Department of Homeland Security manager with 47 years of government experience, Podonsky encouraged the council to persist in resolving issues with the DOE and the contractors. “Persistence prevails,” Podonsky said. “What you’re doing is too important to give up.”

USW Nuclear Cleanup Sites Projected to Get Funding for 2020 Fiscal Year

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 06:47

House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee staffers told the USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) at the group’s biannual meeting in Washington, D.C., that they are confident the Department of Energy (DOE) cleanup sites will continue to receive the same or more funding for 2020 than what they obtained for fiscal 2019.

The EM funding for fiscal year 2019 was the highest level the office had received in more than a decade. Congress appropriated $7.2 billion to clean up 16 Cold War and Manhattan Projects sites that fiscal year.

The appropriations for the DOE sites are essential to keeping USW members working on environmental remediation, without fear of contractors laying them off for lack of government money.

Funding for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) will likely remain the same in fiscal year 2020 at the 2019 level, the staffers said at the Oct. 31 meeting. This includes the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (Hanford) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL), which will all likely receive funding at the fiscal 2019 levels.

Final funding is dependent on the Senate passing its appropriations bill, as well as the House and Senate reconciling their respective versions of the funding packages.

Compromise needed?

While the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Energy & Water bill, it still is waiting for a floor vote, as of this writing. On Thur., Oct. 31, a motion was made to begin debate on a minibus bill that included DOE funding, but several significant roadblocks remained.

Local 5613 Rallies for Fair Contract with ASARCO

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:42

Members of USW Local 5613 and their allies rallied today in Amarillo, Texas, in support of ongoing contract negotiations with ASARCO, which will resume Nov. 14. 

Nearly 2,000 workers at locations in Arizona and Texas, including members of Local 5613 in Amarillo, began an unfair labor practice strike in mid-October. They also voted to reject the Grupo Mexico subsidiary’s so-called “last, best and final” contract offer, which called for deep concessions on wages, health care and retirement benefits.

The Oilworker: November 2019

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 06:17
FROM THE UNION November Update from the NOBP Chair

Brothers and Sisters,

As many of you know, Kim Nibarger has retired, and I have been named the Chair of the National Oil Bargaining Program. I would like to thank Kim for all that he has done for our members over the decades of his service to our union.

For those that do not know me, I was a hydro processing operator at the Chevron Richmond Refinery. I spent time there as the USW Health & Safety Rep as well as several terms on the workers’ committee. In 2012, I went to work as a staff rep for Local 5, working on political and regulatory issues as well as servicing the Chevron unit. In 2018, I was brought to Pittsburgh to work on the upcoming round of National Oil Bargaining.

Over the past year I have been able to visit locals with Kim before and after this round of bargaining, as well as attending many of our Council meetings and District conferences. For those of you that I haven’t met or worked with, I am looking forward to doing so. My goal is to continue the success that we have had in this industry over the decades of the National Oil Bargaining Program, as well as working through the new challenges that the industry has presented us.

Please save these dates! The 2020 National Oil Bargaining Program Conference is set for March 4 - 6, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The 2020 – 2023 NOBP Policy Committee and Alternates will be elected at the conference for each oil region. The official call letter with details will be mailed to your local union officers in the very near future.

You can also check out the links below for important news about our sector from the past month.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith
NOBP Chair 
mjsmith@usw.org

USW Members Featured in "Fight for Workers' Lives" Video

Members of Local 675 in Carson, Calif., were featured in an important, new video produced by UCLA’s Labor and Occupational Safety and Health (LOSH) program focusing on process safety management. Click here to see the full video.

IN THE NEWS

Marathon Plans Change in Leadership, Speedway Spinoff

Marathon announced late last month that it would be undergoing several serious changes, including the departure of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Heminger and Executive Vice Chairman Gregory Goff. It has also been reported that it will spin off its retail fuel, which largely operates under the Speedway brand, and review its pipeline business. This comes amid pressure from investors, notably Elliott Management Corp. To read more, click here.

Limetree Announces Restart of Refinery on St. Croix

Limetree Bay Ventures, a large scale energy complex located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, announced last month that they will restart oil refining on St. Croix by the end of the year. The facility, which was previously owned by the Mapp administration, was shuttered in 2012. Limetree acquired it in 2015. To read more, click here.

EPA Seeks Additional Comments on Renewable Fuel Volumes

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last month that they would be seeking comments on the way renewable fuel percentages are calculated, as well as projecting the amount of fuel that will be exempt in 2020 under small refinery exemptions. The EPA held a public hearing Oct. 30, which will be followed by a 30-day window for the public to give its input. To read more, click here.

Light Shed on Workplace Violence in Health Care at Rapid Response Conference

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 06:03

Health care members spoke on a panel discussion devoted to workplace violence at last week’s USW Rapid Response and Legislative Conference.

The panel, entitled “Protecting Our Workers from Violence on the Job,” noted how the health care industry is one of the most dangerous industries in which to work. Between 2011 and 2016, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 58 hospital workers alone died as a result of violence in their workplaces.

Pictured: DeJonae Shaw of Local 7600.

And that doesn’t include the everyday kicks, slaps, and other physical and verbal abuse from patients and sometimes even their family members.

“Workers are often made to feel at fault for these incidents,” said DeJonae Shaw, a nurse and member of Local 7600 in District 12.

Shaw said that “blame-the-worker” atmosphere leads some health care practitioners to avoid reporting violent acts.

“Sometimes it feels like management doesn’t care about violence in our workplace but, thankfully, we have a union that does care,” said nursing assistant Stephanie Adams, a member of Local 9230 in District 11.

Attendees of the conference also participated in an advocacy day while in Washington, D.C., to lobby their representatives for several pro-worker bills, including the Workplace Violence Prevention for Healthcare and Social Service Workers Act (S.851/H.R. 1309). This legislation would mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) create a national enforceable standard requiring health care and social service employers to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan.

Hundreds of Steelworkers marched to the Department of Labor (DOL) for a rally before lobbying and were joined by several legislative leaders, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

A group of USW leaders and members also attended a meeting with DOL officials following the rally to speak about the workplace violence bill and drop off the 80,000 “Safe Jobs Now” postcards the union collected throughout the year in support of the legislation.

Dan Brouillette to Replace Rick Perry as Energy Secretary

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 13:22

Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced on Oct. 17 he would resign and leave the department by year’s end, after months of speculation that he would leave the Department of Energy (DOE). The next day, President Trump announced that he will nominate Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Perry.

Brouillette is well-versed with DOE operations and getting Congress to implement energy policy, having served as the agency’s assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs, from 2001 through 2003, during the George W. Bush administration. He played a key role in laying the groundwork for what would become the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

As vice president of Ford Motor Company’s federal affairs office, he participated in negotiations over the Energy Policy Act of 2007. This legislation expanded fuel economy programs and the Renewable Fuel Standard, the biofuel program.

Brouillette also led public policy for the United Services Automobile Association (USAA), a financial institution for the military, and served on the Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board. He also was chief of staff for then-Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.). 

A military veteran, Brouillette said he became interested in nuclear weapons and national security when he was deployed to Germany in the Cold War era.

Disrtict 13 Donations for Striking ASARCO members

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 12:32

Our District 13 USW brothers and sisters at ASARCO are on the line striking for better pay and working conditions. Please make a donation that will go straight to the picket line. 

 

Hanford Cleanup Workers Vote on One-Year Contract Extension

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 06:24

Members of Local 12-369 will vote Nov. 6 on a one-year contract extension that increases wages and maintains the rest of the existing labor agreement.

The collective bargaining agreement covers approximately 520 USW members—they support the environmental cleanup mission at the Hanford nuclear reservation in central Washington state—as well as more than 2,000 members of other unions at the site.

Photo courtesy the Department of Energy.

The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council (HAMTC)—an umbrella group consisting of the USW and 13 metal trade unions—negotiated the extension to help provide a measure of security as the Department of Energy (DOE) makes changes in 2020.

The goal was to have the site’s cleanup workers covered by an agreement when the DOE either brings in new contractors or renegotiates its agreements with the existing vendors next year, said Local 12-369 unit President Pete Gomez. The existing labor agreement would have expired in November 2019.

After the DOE awards the cleanup contracts for the former nuclear weapons production site, the Hanford locals will enter full contract negotiations in September 2020.

Gomez said the unions had three main goals for the one-year extension: a general wage increase, successorship language and no structural change in benefits. Successorship is important because it ensures that any new contractor that may take over the cleanup project has to accept the labor contract’s provisions and recognize the union.

HAMTC reached a tentative agreement on Oct. 10 with cleanup contractors Mission Support Alliance (MSA), Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), Veolia and CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company (CH2M).

The one-year extension includes a 2.5 percent general wage increase and no changes to benefits or the existing successorship clause in the contract.

Battelle, another clean-up contractor, which employs seven USW members, is not included in the one-year extension. This contract is bargained through HAMTC as well and will also need to be renegotiated in 2020.

Members will vote on the tentative agreement on Wed., Nov. 6 from 5 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Richland Labor Temple, 1305 Knight St., in downtown Richland, Wash.

Tom Conway talks about a new pathway to power for workers on The Leslie Marshall Show

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 16:38

During his first appearance as USW president on The Leslie Marshall Show, Tom Conway talked about the irony of fighting for organizing rights in a country that touts itself for its freedoms.

Workers across the country are struggling to make ends meet in an economy that looks far different from that of the past.  But, as Conway said, that was a time dominated by strong labor unions, which lifted millions out of poverty.

“So much of that had to do with having an honest, free, trade labor movement that could push back against capital and corporate powers that are taking over our government in so many ways,” said Conway.

Along with lobbying Congress to draft bills that benefit their bottom lines, corporations also do whatever they can to dismantle organizing drives in their workplaces. From firing union supporters to forcing employees to attend mandatory “captive audience” meetings that are merely anti-union charades, the abuse is rampant.

“These companies would never do business without a contract between their vendors and suppliers,” Conway said. “But God forbid the workers say, ‘We just want a binding contract about what goes on between us and management,’ and you’d think they’d asked for their first born.”

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474/ S 1306) would establish stronger and swifter remedies to stop employers from breaking labor law, prohibit employers from forcing employees to attend anti-union meetings, and more. It would also make companies recognize contractors as part of the collective bargaining process so they can no longer continue to whittle down union membership by subcontracting.

In short, it would empower future generations of workers to act collectively.

“This is a bill that is about giving workers a choice to make a decision and collectively bargain with their employers, which is a system that works,” said Conway.

The PRO Act, introduced in the U.S. House in May, would ensure workers have the right to organize without interference and make their workplaces safer and their lives richer.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Conway said. “The PRO Act recognizes that.”

For the entire interview about the PRO Act and how it would empower American workers, click below:

USW campaign featured in report about union busting: The Double Standard at Work

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 09:53

The AFL-CIO today released a report on European corporations’ anti-union activities in the United States titled “The Double Standard at Work: European Corporate Investment and Workers’ Rights in the American South.”

The report, produced in cooperation with the European Trade Union Confederation, exposes the aggressive union-busting conduct in the American South of European corporations that respect workers’ organizing and bargaining rights in their home countries.

 

This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde management damages Southern workers and threatens European workers.  

The report describes the anti-union history of the South where conservative politicians, community leaders and corporate officers have spurned labor unions for more than a century and where labor leaders were even lynched.

Although European corporations, such as Volkswagen, work cooperatively and constructively with labor unions in their home countries and in other nations where they operate, when they build in the South, they frequently adopt that region’s anti-union practices, even in ways that defy their stated commitments to international norms on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Among the examples cited in the report is the bashing of this union, the United Steelworkers (USW), by Finnish company Outokumpu Oyj Corp., which bought a stainless steel facility in Calvert, Ala., from the German firm Thyssenkrupp in 2012.

Almost all of Outokumpu’s thousands of workers in 30 countries are represented by trade unions. But its workers in Alabama are not. For more than six years, Outokumpu fought an order by the National Labor Relations Board that it post a simple notice. The bulletin was to tell workers that Thyssenkrupp had sent them a misleading letter in 2012. That letter wrongly described a settlement that Thyssenkrupp and the USW had reached over labor law violations by the German company.

This and other examples illustrate the lengths to which European corporations have gone to abide by Southern norms of union thwarting. The report points out that the South’s depressed union density, which results in lower wages and benefits, is one reason for its higher poverty rate and comparatively poor educational achievement. At the same time, Southern states hand these international companies workers’ tax dollars in the form of billions in tax abatements and other benefits. Alabama gave Thyussenkrupp more than $1 billion.

The report offers numerous recommendations for change. These include having European companies ensure neutrality when U.S. workers try to organize and guarantee that their U.S. managers implement international freedom of association policies that the corporations have publicly endorsed. 

The AFL-CIO suggests that socially responsible investors monitor European corporate practices in the South and hold them accountable for violations of workers’ rights, including confronting management at shareholder meetings.

The report also recommends more difficult goals, such as Southern state officials renouncing both their anti-union activities and excessive giveaways to corporations.

The full report is available here.

Paramedics chronically underpaid and exposed to workplace violence

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 08:12

Low pay, long work hours, compulsory overtime, and the stress of often walking into dangerous situations is taking a serious toll on America’s emergency medical responders, according to Salon. This is putting both EMTs and their patients at risk, and some workers are now being given body armor as their sole means of protection.

Across the country, the everyday violence directed towards EMTs has led to calls for improved working conditions and workplace violence legislation. Last week in Massachusetts, dozens of emergency medical responders gathered outside their employer’s headquarters to protest workplace issues, including low pay. And in late September, New York City medics rallied outside City Hall and called on Mayor de Blasio to close the long-standing pay gap between EMS employees and other uniformed workers like firefighters and cops.

In an industry where the average CEO’s salary is $16.1 million a year, up from $14.7 million just last year, EMS workers can make as little as $22,760 a year, or $11.38 an hour, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Along with the stress of low pay and violence, or perhaps because of it, these workers are also more likely to commit suicide than the average American.

According to a National Institute of Health research paper published in May 2019, national survey data indicates “that among Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), including firefighters and Paramedics, rates of suicide are significantly higher than among the general public. EMTs face high levels of acute and chronic stress as well as high rates of depression and substance abuse, which increase their risk of suicide.”

This epidemic has led to many workers and activists fighting for workplace violence legislation. The USW has been active in this push with its “Safe Jobs Now” campaign, a nationwide action to lobby for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309/S. 851). This bill would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure workplaces develop and implement much needed violence prevention plans.

You can learn about this campaign to help stem the epidemic of workplace violence in health care and how you can get involved by clicking here.

DowDuPont Council Unites to Resolve Problems Created by Corporate Split-off

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 08:49

DowDuPont split itself into three parts—Dow Chemical, DuPont and Corteva Agriscience—but the DowDuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) has no plans to split into separate councils. Instead, the group will stay together to support one another, show solidarity worldwide and grow the council through organizing.

At the DNALC meeting on Sept. 23-26, hosted by USW Local 90 in Knoxville, Tenn., 49 delegates from the USW and other international unions, as well as representatives from Unite, IndustriALL and the Argentinean union, SOEPU, spoke of the council’s commitment to international solidarity,  shared their experiences with the corporate breakup and discussed the council’s future. 

Pictured: attendees at the DowDuPont North American Labor Council meeting in Knoxville, Tenn.

USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo started the meeting with a call for the council to expand itself. “I want to challenge you this week to not just think about your local union, but how to extend the DowDuPont Council.

“I want to challenge you to think how you can use your strength and solidarity to adopt a Dow or DuPont plant. Adopt those members no matter how long it takes,” Flippo urged the council.

Expansion through global outreach

The DNALC started its global outreach in 2005 when the Sindicato del Personal de Industria Quimicas, Petroquimicas y Afines de Bahia Blanca (SPIQPYA) union from Argentina contacted the council for assistance. Now, international unions from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Turkey and Finland are members of the council.  “We share a common interest,” said DNALC President Kent Holsing. “We assist each other globally and communicate with one another. The companies take notice of that.”

Members of the Argentinian union, SOEPU, attended the council meeting and said the DNALC has helped their union achieve a lot. The council helped the union with organizing a site in their country. Plus, “solidarity from the council created pressure on Dow that made the company negotiate,” said SOEPU General Secretary Mauricio Brizuela.

“We have to continue making our solidarity stronger because the big companies keep mutating,” he added.

Deer Park, Texas, update

Solidarity within the USW and the DNALC helped pressure Rohm and Haas Texas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow, to bring back to work locked-out workers from USW Local 13-1 on June 10, 2019. The lockout lasted 50 days before Dow recanted and brought all 235 workers back into the plant.

Negotiations were difficult from the beginning, but the local, with the backing of the council, stayed strong. As the company brought in sleeping trailers and washing machine trailers in the parking lot, Local 13-1 mobilized into action the first day of bargaining on Feb. 14, 2019. The local set up a special webpage with a solidarity pledge for viewers to sign, began posting the company’s proposals and started sending out a mass text to tell members to check the webpage for bargaining updates.

The DNALC, local unions, and the global federation IndustriALL sent letters of support to the locked-out workers.  Hank Niscavits, the Dow unit president for the local, stood up to major Dow investors at an investor event.

At the council meeting, Niscavits discussed the previous negotiations that set the stage for 2019 bargaining. He detailed the bargaining sessions that occurred after the talks started, what happened during the lockout, the membership rejections of the company’s “last, best & final” proposals and the negotiations that transpired after Dow let workers go back to work on June 10.

Pictured: local 90 attendees front to back: Chuck Eubanks, Eric Heidel, Missy Bridges, David Manning and Jennifer Messer.

“I am thankful for all of the help we received from the council and International. It helped us get to where we are today,” Niscavits said.

Shortly after the meeting, on Oct. 8, Local 13-1 members ratified a four-year agreement that contains annual wage increases and other improvements.

Many changes

Other locals have faced difficulties since DowDuPont split off into three companies—Dow, DuPont and Corteva—and Dow bought out its joint venture partner Corning Glass.

Pictured: local 6992 President Angelle Gregoire from the DuPont Yerkes plant in Buffalo, N.Y.

Workers in Local 12934 at Midland, Mich., who used to work for Dow Corning, got a rude awakening when they had to negotiate with Dow for a new contract last winter. Dow began its talks with the union by crossing out three-quarters of the local’s previous agreement.

The local was able to get increased pay for the shift differential, crew leader, head operator and site alternate, but the company drastically changed the job classification structure for 300 workers so it could pay them less money.

Dow’s actions increased the number of people leaving the company and reduced morale. Local 12934 had one termination a year before Dow took over. In the past nine months, the local has had 22 terminations, four deaths, 14 voluntary quits and eight retirements. When the company tried to improve morale, it installed new microwaves in the breakrooms, but had salaried personnel—not the two union painters in the plant—paint the walls and breakrooms.

Holsing, who is also president of USW Local 12075 at Dow in Midland, Mich., has seen his local membership split up into Dow, DuPont and Corteva units.  Before Dow split up into three companies, his local had 710 members.  Now, his Dow unit has only 65 members. The local has had to train its former members to be unit leaders at their new DuPont and Corteva units.

Holsing said the local has a grievance filed because Dow is not providing training resources so workers can progress to higher-paying jobs.

The spinoffs have created changes in human resources (HR) personnel and where they are located. If a Dow local outside of Midland has a grievance, it has to talk to an HR person in Midland.

For Local 12075-25 members at the former Dow, now Corteva, unit in Midland, Mich., the split-off impacted their pay and vacation balances. Also, the only health insurance offered is a high-deductible plan that Corteva funds at the beginning of the year with a $1,400 deposit for each employee.

Problems with payroll

Then there is the ADP e-time pay system that DuPont implemented at its sites in 2017.

“DuPont’s sites still experience many issues with members getting paid and getting pay issues rectified,” Holsing said. “It takes an hour to put in your hours worked.

“People get eight-page pay stubs with no dates listed. It’s like you need forensic accounting to understand your pay statement,” he said.

The Chambers Works plant in Deepwater, N.J., is one such case. Although DuPont split off its performance chemicals segment at the site into The Chemours Company, there still is a DuPont unit there.

Local 943-1 Unit President Bob Sheppard has been wrangling with the DuPont payroll system for several years and trying to correct paycheck problems to no avail. He has been warning the Midland site about what to expect with the problematic payroll system when Dow rolls it out there later this year. He also advised the new DuPont locals at the DNALC meeting to get in their contracts that DuPont reviews the payroll system annually.

Corteva adopted the same payroll system but it is trying to resolve the problems, Holsing said.

USW Local 12075-24 ironically titled its council presentation, “Rainbows and Unicorns” to express the members’ frustration with the new payroll system. This group used to be part of Dow and is now a DuPont company.

“No one’s paid correctly—hourly or salaried,” said Unit President Mike Bilodeau. He said injuries have also increased, and there is no longer a monthly health and safety meeting.

Unite the Union member Tony Lawrence said his plant in the UK has had the same payroll problem. “We get paid monthly and some people get paid three months later than they should.”

He said his plant used to be a Dow Corning site and is now a Dow plant. “Corning was a good employer,” Lawrence said. “Dow removed the defined benefit pension without any real consultation with the union, and cut 130 jobs.”

The council and its locals are using all avenues to resolve the problems with the paychecks: They are writing letters to corporate headquarters, filing grievances and National Labor Relations Board charges, going to their state departments of labor and contacting the media.

“People aren’t going in the plant for prestige. They’re going to earn a paycheck. This needs to be fixed,” Bilodeau said.

It’s Time for Workers to Come First: Join Us Today for a National Day of Action

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 17:51

On September 6 of this year, Victoria Whipple, a quality control worker at Kumho Tire in Macon, Georgia, became a statistic. At eight months pregnant, she was terminated for passing out union shirts to her coworkers during a union organizing effort in her workplace.

What happened to Victoria happens all the time. Workers are fired in one of every three organizing efforts. It’s illegal, but employers face no real financial penalties for breaking federal labor law. They feel free to suspend, fire, or threaten anyone they want to deter workers from forming a union. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474) is historic legislation that  would change labor law as we know it, shifting power away from greedy companies and back to workers.

The PRO Act will:

  • Establish stronger and swifter remedies to stop employers from breaking the law.
  • Make companies recognize contractors as part of the collective bargaining process so they can no longer continue to whittle down our membership by subcontracting.
  • Force an employer to reach a first contract in a timely manner with a newly organized group of workers. No more dragging out first contracts.
  • Reverse so-called Right to Work, regardless of state laws.
  • Prohibit employers from forcing employees to attend anti-union meetings.
  • And much more!

This critical legislation could get a vote in the U.S. House in the near future. Please help us build support by making a call to your Representative today.

Please Make a Call Right Now!

Our National Day of Action begins today, but please continue calls throughout the week.

Action Instructions:

  • Dial our toll-free number to the U.S. House: 866-202-5409.
  • Tell the office who you are and where you are from.
  • Tell them to stand up for workers and support H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

Our existing labor laws are out-of-date and inadequate. We need to fight back by passing the PRO Act! 

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