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Updated: 2 hours 20 min ago

USW Activists Help Send Bill Repealing Voter Transportation Ban to Gov. Whitmer’s Desk

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 09:22

Thanks to the hard work of voting rights advocates, including members of the USW, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 4568 earlier this month, overturning Michigan’s long-standing ban on hiring drivers to take voters to the polls on Election Day.

Activists, who helped propel a lawsuit that inspired this bill, said the ban restricted the voting rights of seniors, people with disabilities, young voters, and those without transportation.

Andrea Hunter, who serves as president of USW Local 1299 as well as the Detroit/Downriver chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, was one of many advocates who played a role in overturning this ban.

She and her fellow USW siblings had helped ensure voters had rides to the polls during the 2020 election. They also paid their drivers and driver’s assistants for their time, because many voters, especially senior citizens, are unable to afford their own transportation.

“Many of our Steelworkers and others lost their pensions when National Steel went bankrupt, causing severe economic restraints,” said Hunter. “In addition to Michigan being one of the states with the highest car insurance costs, we have become victims of increased utility costs.”

Not long after the election, they learned that their advocacy was illegal in Michigan. Of course, they knew they had to take action and reached out to Elias Law Group to represent them in a lawsuit.

The group’s tenacity paid off. Earlier this month, the activists were able to celebrate as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 4568, which repealed the long-standing ban.

“We are overwhelmed with joy,” said Hunter. “Many in our communities became dependent upon us for transportation to the polls. We had gained their trust and support, and now with this repeal, we can provide this service again come 2024.”

Click here to learn more.

USW Organizing Director Maria Somma Talks Pro-Worker Momentum on the Leslie Marshall Show

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 06:19

USW Organizing Director Maria Somma this week appeared on the Leslie Marshall Show to discuss how workers across sectors are harnessing their collective power to secure fair contracts and safe working conditions.

“What we're seeing over the last several years is a resurgence of workers recognizing the value of what a collective power can look like through a union contract,” Somma said. “People will go on strike for a day to deal with one specific issue, but we're talking about using that solidarity and collective power for long-term change in the workplace.”

Somma also highlighted President Joe Biden's commitment to labor, and his whole of government approach to helping workers exercise their right to organize.

"Many presidents have voiced labor support, but what sets President Biden apart is his action, enacting legislation that outlines the government's commitment to supporting American workers," Somma said. “By attaching requirements to government support for private industry, such as adherence to labor laws and respecting workers' rights to form unions, he emphasizes a fair exchange for public tax dollars and advocates for American production."

The surge in public investment in infrastructure and clean technology, coupled with Biden’s commitment to fair labor standards is also providing new opportunities for workers, Somma said.

Ultimately, however, for workers to fully capitalize on this moment, they need the protections offered by the Protecting the Right to Organize or PRO Act.

“Right now, it is extremely difficult to organize, it’s a long, arduous undertaking and employers retaliate against workers throughout the entire process,” Somma said. “The PRO Act looks at the hardest issues workers face and tries to address those, while also holding employers accountable.” 

You can listen to the full interview below.

Listen to "Workers Seizing the Moment" on Spreaker.

USW-Made Holiday Guide

Mon, 11/27/2023 - 08:47

As the holiday season approaches, we know you, your families and friends will be doing a lot of shopping – for food and drinks, gifts, decorations, paper products, cookware and other essentials.

Here is a sampling of some of the products USW members make that can be found in stores or online.

Note: some are only available for purchase in select regions.

ART SUPPLIES
Martin F. Weber
Local 286
Philadelphia
weberart.com

BASEBALL BATS
Louisville Slugger
Local 1693
Louisville, Ky.
slugger.com

BEER
Schell Brewing
Local 11-118
New Ulm, Minn.
schellsbrewery.com

BELTS
Custom Leather
Local 838-11
Ontario, Canada
customleather.com

BREAD/ROLLS
Wonder Brands
Local 4610-2
Ontario, Canada
wonderbread.com

Chips/Snacks
Lay’s, Ruffles, Doritos, Tostitos, Cheetos, Sunchips
PepsiCo
Locals 4610 and 4610-1
Ontario, Canada
pepsico.com

CLOTHING
American Roots
Local 366
Portland, Maine
americanrootswear.com

MUFFINS/ROLLS
Various brands
Local 1-00377
Norwalk, Ohio
genesisbaking.com

PASTA/SAUCE
Buitoni Foods
Local 9555
Danville, Va.
buitoni.com

PILLOWS/TOPPERS
Custom Foam
Local 838-3
Ontario, Canada
customfoam.com

POP TARTS
Kelloggs
Local 9345
Pikeville, Ky.
poptarts.com

 

WHISKEY
Bulleit
Local 1693
Louisville, Ky.
bulleit.com

 

 

 

FIVE STAR NOTEBOOKS
Acco Brands
Local 1442
Alexandria, Pa.
fivestarbuiltstrong.com

FRAMES/JEWELRY
Seagull Pewter
Local 3172-12
Pugwash, Nova Scotia
seagullpewter.com

ORNAMENTS/GIFTS
Wendell August Forge
Local 6346-15
Mercer, Pa.
wendellaugust.com

SCHOOL NOTEBOOKS
Roaring Spring
Local 488
Roaring Spring, Pa.
rspaperproducts.com

STATIONERY
Crane & Co.
Local 390
Cohoes, N.Y.
crane.com

COOKWARE
All-Clad
Local 3403
Canonsburg, Pa.
all-clad.com

FIESTAWARE
Homer Laughlin
Local 419M
Newell, W.Va.
fiestatableware.com

GLASSWARE
Anchor Hocking, Corning, Owens-Illinois
Multiple Locals
anchorhocking.com, corningware.com, shop.libbey.com, o-i.com

KNIVES
Cutco
Local 5429
Olean, N.Y.
cutco.com

OCELO SPONGES
3M
Local 13833
Tonawanda, N.Y.
3m.com

If you have other examples of USW-made products that you would like to see featured, e-mail editor@usw.org.

Rapid Response Feedback Report: Congress Averts Government Shutdown with Stopgap Measure (Again)

Wed, 11/22/2023 - 11:41
But another showdown lurks around the corner.

Click here to download a PDF version of this Feedback Report.

With just a few days to spare, Congress passed another stopgap spending bill, avoiding a government shutdown. But because they could not agree on a long-term fiscal package, they will find themselves in this same situation in just two months. The President signed the bipartisan temporary spending bill into law at the end of last week. The so-called “laddered” continuing resolution, or CR, funds part of the government — including the Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Housing, and Veterans Affairs departments through January 19. Moreover, it funds the Defense, Commerce, and Labor departments, as well as the other remaining parts of the government, through February 2.

The goal is to give Congress more time to negotiate. That means Congress will have to get back to work and come together to reach an agreement on long-term spending, and right now, they are tens of billions of dollars apart.

How They Voted:

House of Representatives: 336-95
Click here to see how your Representative voted.

Senate: 87-11
Click here to see how your Senators voted.

Although this short-term deal keeps the spending levels agreed to by the Speaker and the President in May in place, (the agreement that prevented cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – the cuts that our union fought so hard against) we know these radical proposals will again be an issue. Extremists in the House have been pushing a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy in exchange for drastic cuts to critical programs that impact working families. We expect more of the same from them moving forward.

Congress should promote stability by coming to an agreement, not chaos by continuously kicking the can down the road. Stay tuned to Rapid Response for potential actions to ensure working people are not left out for the benefit of the wealthy.

From the Skies to Solidarity: Cary Eldridge's Journey with the USW's Vets of Steel Program

Wed, 11/22/2023 - 11:01

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

Cary Eldridge's shift from the U.S. Air Force to an influential role in the United Steelworkers Union is a story steeped in a rich family tradition of military service. 

Following in the footsteps of his grandfathers, World War II veterans, and his father and uncles, Vietnam veterans, Cary's journey from the disciplined ranks of the USAF to the collaborative and supportive environment of the Union is a testament to his enduring commitment to service. His involvement as the USW District 4 Vets of Steel (VOS) Coordinator not only continues his family's legacy of service but also highlights the crucial role of such programs in guiding veterans toward meaningful post-service careers. Cary's story is more than a personal achievement; it's a narrative that intertwines family military heritage with the spirit of solidarity and advocacy in the union movement.

As an Air Force sergeant, Cary was stationed in various locations, including Texas, Honduras, Guatemala, and New York. He was part of a Mobility Civil Engineering Unit, working closely with Army Combat Engineers. This experience honed his leadership, teamwork, and mission-oriented focus skills – qualities that seamlessly translated into his role in the USW. 

"Simply, we had had a mission while we were serving. You can take that mission-driven concept and use it in the Union. We are still our sisters’ and brothers’ keeper and protector. We bond over that, same as our duty while we served,” he said. 

Cary plays a pivotal role in transforming the lives of fellow veterans. This program stands out for its unique approach in empowering veterans, going beyond mere advocacy to become a catalyst for change. It provides an essential bridge for veterans to transfer and adapt their military skills to the Union. Cary's hands-on involvement, particularly in legislative initiatives for veteran benefits, underscores the program's dedication to making a real difference. Through his efforts, Vets of Steel voices veteran concerns and actively contributes to their successful integration and recognition in the workforce.

He led the Union’s efforts to get a first-of-its-kind law passed in New York that requires employers to post veteran-related information at work. The union, through Rapid Response, is now fighting to get similar laws passed in every state.

For more information on that and other Veterans of Steel efforts, click here.

Jose Loya: from Military Service to Union Leadership

Tue, 11/21/2023 - 12:58

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

For many veterans, transitioning from military service to civilian life is a journey filled with challenges and opportunities. This transition led to a significant role within the United Steelworkers Union for Jose Loya, a former Sergeant E5 in the United States Marine Corps. His story is a remarkable example of how skills and values from military service can powerfully translate into union leadership. 

Jose's military journey began as a response to the events of 9/11. His commitment to protect and serve, fueled by his gratitude for the opportunities America provided to his family, led him to the Marines, known for their exceptional standards and camaraderie. As a machine gunner on tour in Iraq, Jose experienced the intense bonds and collective mission that define military service. These experiences, particularly his roles in securing vital locations and working alongside tank battalions, ingrained in him a deep sense of duty, teamwork, and resilience.

After his honorable discharge from the Marines, Jose embarked on a new chapter in Texas. His first civilian job was at a non-union meat packing plant, starkly contrasting his military life. However, it was his next job at the USW represented Valero Refinery that became a turning point. Here, Jose's involvement with the union began, first as a Guard in his local, then ascending to Vice President. His passion and commitment caught the attention of the Union, leading him to the USW’s Leadership Scholarship Program. This program was a catalyst, opening doors for Jose to become a District 13 Staff Representative, a role he embraces enthusiastically. He also now serves as the District 13 Veterans of Steel Coordinator.

Jose draws parallels between the solidarity of the military and the union. The Vets of Steel program resonates with his military background. It's not just a program but a commitment to empowering veterans, a cause close to his heart.

For Jose, the camaraderie and collective purpose in the USW are reminiscent of his time in the Marines. The union's focus on mutual support, advocacy, and a shared mission echoes the military's values. In both realms, the sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, and collective identity is prominent, fostering aunique bond among all members. This similarity makes transitioning from military to union a natural fit for veterans like Jose.

Jose's tenure as the Veterans of Steel Coordinator for District 13 has been marked by remarkable experiences and contributions. He proudly recalls testifying before Congress on a bill crafted within the USW, directly influencing legislation benefiting veterans. His involvement in the communities of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas has been a rewarding experience. Jose emphasizes the program's empowerment aspect, helping veterans transition into the workforce and become active, engaged union members. His dedication to these initiatives underscores the union's commitment to unity, support, and advocacy. 

Jose Loya's journey is a beacon for other veterans navigating their post-military paths. His story highlights how the values and skills honed in the military can significantly contribute to union leadership. In District 13 and beyond, Jose and the Vets of Steel program are pivotal in ensuring veterans receive the support and recognition they deserve, continuing a legacy of service and unity.

For more information on Vets of Steel, click here. 

 

Steward's Corner: Intergenerational Union Solidarity

Tue, 11/21/2023 - 11:55

This article originated from the November 2023 edition of the Stewards Corner Newsletter. Click here for the full article.

Solidarity is the key to union power. And yet we often hear the generational divides in our workplaces… “the young folks don’t want to work;” “the old folks can’t listen and don’t want change.”

Stewards that understand and recognize the generational divides will have an easier time mitigating the differences and communicating with everyone. 

Today, there can be as many as five generations in the same workplace. These generations are often characterized by common sets of characteristics, experiences, and worldviews.

But, these stereotypes or differences can play out as bias or anger. In order to grow our movement, we have to be intentional in bringing together everyone, of all ages and backgrounds, to form a united front. 

Let’s begin with some basics. The following are the labels given to different generations: 

  • The Silent Generation (born 1925 – 1945; loyal, but traditional) 
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964; collaborative, but averse to change) 
  • Generation X (1965 – 1980; self-reliant but skeptical) 
  • Millennials (1981 – 1996; driven, but entitled,) 
  • Generation Z (1997-2012; cynical, but hyperaware) 

And then there are the stereotypes: 

Match the Stereotype to the Generation

That game may have been a little too easy and that is where problems may arise. What we need is to build understanding, not put people in boxes. 

Steps Stewards Can Take

Understanding the Expectations Divide 

Key is understanding the reasons that generational priorities may differ.

For example, older generations grew up with an expectation that if they work hard, their company will come through with job security and promised benefits, such as pensions. Younger generations grew up with an expectation that they will not be in the same job throughout their entire career, and work-life balance is often more important to them. 

While our unions were built by members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, recent data shows that Gen Z is the most pro-union generation, with Millennials right behind them. Union support across all generations has increased sharply in the last 5 years. We should celebrate (together)! 

Mentorship 

Mentorship is often thought of as a more-senior person showing a less-senior person the ropes, but mentorship should be a two-way street, based on the interests and skills of the participants.

Creating innovative mentorship programs can showcase the talents of all members and help foster inclusivity. 

Mentoring new members allows us to pass on the institutional memory that often gets lost when someone retires. Our local union history, which is vital to ensuring our union’s continued success, is often passed down orally. We can’t afford to lose our stories. Be sure to help all new members (not just younger members) learn about how we got here and why our union does what we do. 

Younger people can also mentor older workers. Today’s Millennial and Gen Z workers were raised on technology, and have the reputation that they can master anything with a screen. Encouraging NextGen members to help preserve local union history through digital means can be a fulfilling project for everyone. 

Of course, these are generalizations, but what we know is that every union member has a way to contribute to our success. 

Respectful Communication 

We all want to be listened to and treated respectfully. At the workplace everyone should be treated equally. Comparing co-workers to your kids… or your grandparents… may not be the most effective way to get your ideas across! 

Create an Intentional Program to Bring All Generations Together  

Unions build solidarity by creating a united front when dealing with management, and by helping members build relationships with each other during union-only activities. Each of these situations can be used to increase intergenerational solidarity. 

When making demands of an employer, build a member coalition with multiple generations to ensure that a) your demands meet the needs of the many, and, b) consideration is given to how members may benefit from the demands.

For example: demanding ergonomic improvements on the job. Older workers often need work to be designed in a way that conforms to their physical abilities - but any changes that make work easier for older workers will make work easier for all workers. 

Similarly, when planning union events, make sure that the planning committee is inclusive. Ideas for inclusive events may include holding child-friendly events, or meetings where child care is provided; music and food that has a little something for everyone, and other considerations that a multi-generational planning committee is likely to identify. 

Solidarity forever – among all ages! 

Rapid Response Info Alert: District 8 Lobby Day is Back!

Tue, 11/21/2023 - 09:42

Click here to download a PDF version of this Info Alert.

Making sure our legislators know who we are and what we need from them is a central part of the work we do in Rapid Response. We know nobody can do that better than our members. That’s why we are excited to announce the 2024 District 8 Lobby Day, and you’re invited!

Join us February 6 and 7, 2024, in Frankfort, Kentucky. We’ll have a full day of lobby training, followed by a day at the state capitol meeting with legislators and elected officials about issues affecting Steelworkers.

Click HERE to for the call letter and registration information. District 8 will provide polo shirts for those who complete and submit registration forms no later than December 8, 2023

District 8 has had great success with our Kentucky lobby days in the past, and we are encouraging other states to participate this year. This training is open to every Steelworker in District 8 to attend. Check out our Feedback Report and video from last year’s event!

For additional information, please contact District 8 Rapid Response Coordinator, Chad Conley at cconley@usw.org or 606-465-6862.

Ryan McKenzie: From Marine Corps Service to Union Leadership

Mon, 11/20/2023 - 09:00

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

In a remarkable testament to the transition from military service to civilian life, Marine Corps Corporal Ryan McKenzie has embarked on an extraordinary journey with the military and the United Steelworkers.

Ryan's story not only highlights his dedication and personal growth but also underscores the USW's Veterans of Steel program, which aims to support veterans and help integrate them into the union and their communities. What makes Ryan's story even more unique is his Métis, indigenous, ancestry, which allowed him to make a fateful decision that changed his life forever. 

Born in Canada, Ryan McKenzie, of Métis descendant, had the opportunity, pre-9/11, to obtain a U.S. Green Card and passport, thanks to his indigenous heritage. This unique situation also opened the door for him to join the United States Marine Corps, a decision he initially described as "young and dumb." Little did he know that this seemingly impulsive choice would profoundly shape his future.

Ryan served four years of dedicated duty in the United States Marine Corps, stationed in Palm Springs, California, and specialized in 60mm mortars.

During his service he quickly realized that the discipline, toughness and solidarity of being a Marine could also be harnessed to make a difference in the lives of others.

His transition to civilian life led him back to Canada to the pipe shop at Evraz Steel in Regina, Saskatchewan. He quickly rose to Vice President of Local 5890. As a proud Canadian citizen, Ryan's journey has taken him to the heart of the United Steelworkers' District 3 in Western Canada, where he now serves as the District 3 Veterans of Steel Coordinator.

In his capacity as a coordinator for the USW's Vets of Steel program, Ryan plays a pivotal role in fostering camaraderie among veterans and helping them find their place within the union. The program's mission is straightforward yet powerful: to encourage veterans to get involved, even if it's just through registration.

Ryan's leadership and passion have made a significant impact, demonstrating that the bond forged in the military can seamlessly transition into the labor movement.

Ryan's journey, from the Marine Corps to the USW, exemplifies the importance of veterans' contributions to the workforce and society. His dedication to the Vets of Steel program serves as an inspiration for others, highlighting the opportunities available for veterans looking to continue their service and make a positive impact in their communities.

Click here to learn more about the Veterans of Steel program, or to connect with your district coordinator.

From Service to Solidarity: J.D. Wilson's Journey to Veterans of Steel

Fri, 11/17/2023 - 08:08

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

J.D. Wilson's journey from the U.S. Navy to the USW is a story of dedication.

As a former Military Working Dog Handler, Wilson's military career was marked by discipline, camaraderie, and a strong sense of purpose. These qualities translated into his role with the USW, where he now serves as a District 8 Staff Representative and the Districts Vets of Steel Coordinator.

In the Navy, Wilson epitomized commitment and resilience. As a MA2/E5, he specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler, tasked with critical missions like locating people and bombs and safeguarding U.S. assets.

His military service was not just a job but a continuation of a family tradition of serving the country, a tradition proudly carried on by his son in the U.S. Army. Wilson's military experiences honed his leadership skills and ability to work under pressure, qualities that would greatly benefit his future role in the USW.

After his military service, Wilson found a new avenue for his leadership. Vets of Steel, designed to support and integrate veterans into the union, resonated with Wilson's desire to continue serving a community and union. As a Staff Representative and Coordinator for the Vets of Steel program, he educates members and advocates for veterans' needs within the workplace.

He takes pride in assisting veterans with mental health resources and fostering a supportive community, particularly for those in V.A. centers who often lack visitors. His efforts have provided tangible help and conveyed a powerful message that the USW cares deeply about its veteran members. Wilson's work in District 8 embodies the core values of the Vets of Steel program—unity, support, and advocacy for workers who have served in the military.

When asked what he was most proud of in the program, J.D. responded, “One of the biggest things I am personally proud of is getting a few veterans the mental work help they needed after they had thought the world didn't care. Without Vets of Steel, we may never have been able to reach them, so they know we are here for them.”

J.D. Wilson's transition from the military to a pivotal role in the USW highlights the seamless integration of service values into union solidarity. His story is a testament to the potential of veterans to enrich and strengthen the labor movement.

The USW's Veterans of Steel program offers a platform for veterans to continue their service in a new capacity, advocating for workers' rights and welfare. As more union members become aware of this initiative, they hope to recognize the immense value and experience that veterans bring to the labor movement, further strengthening the bonds of solidarity within the USW.

Click here to learn more about the Veterans of Steel program, or to connect with your district coordinator.

Divided We Fall: USW Members Working Hard at Stripping Away Two-Tiered Systems

Fri, 11/17/2023 - 05:57


When Rob Burd went to work at the Sensus/Xylem plant in Uniontown, Pa., in 2015, he knew that, under the contract in place at the time, he likely would not have a chance to earn wages as high as others who came before him and did the same work.

“I was part of the two-tier system,” Burd said. “It’s wrong when these companies are making so much money off of our labor and you have two people working beside each other doing the same work and one is making two or three dollars more than the other person.”

Later, when Burd ran for unit president of Local 13836-1, his top priority was to eliminate the two-tier system that had been part of the contract since 2013.

During those negotiations, members overwhelmingly rejected two company proposals, and were headed for a possible strike, before the company came back with a proposal that eliminated two-tier language. A two-thirds majority of members ratified that contract.

Burd said the two-tier issue helped build the solidarity necessary to get a strong contract.

“We could not have done this without all of us sticking together,” he said. “Our committee, they hung in and never wavered and without that we would not have been able to get a good contract.”

Conway Priority

When late International President Tom Conway took the helm of the USW in July 2019, he made a promise that his administration would work to reduce or eliminate tiered wage and benefit systems in union contracts.

Over the past four years, Burd and his siblings and countless other USW members made major progress in that fight for equality.

“Righting these wrongs helps everyone, but in particular, it supports our newer members. It also strengthens our union even more in the long run,” Conway said this summer. “We are one union, and our success in remaining united often depends on resisting these deals and dismantling them everywhere we can.”

Conway, who passed away Sept. 25, was always quick to deflect the recognition for that success to rank-and-file leaders, particularly the members of the USW’s Next Gen program.

“A large portion of the credit goes to our Next Gen activists who have been at the forefront of prioritizing and driving this issue,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the folks at the bargaining table who were able to negotiate these wins.”

Sowing Division

Unscrupulous employers often look for ways to divide union members, whether by age or job classification or other factors, and multi-tiered wage and benefit systems can play into bosses’ hands by helping them to serve that purpose.

“Employers know how powerful we are when we’re united,” Conway said. “So they try to drive wedges between us, pitting new workers against more senior members.”

Like Burd and his siblings, Shane Kedley and the members of Local 263B at the A.Y. McDonald brass foundry in Iowa worked under a two-tier system that began in 2008.

Kedley said that, at first, the system did not affect the USW membership, but over the years, as workers retired and were replaced, new hires made $2.50 per hour less than their peers. That situation, he said, created problems for the company as well as the union.

“With the difficulty with hiring and retention in the foundry, the company really had no choice” but to agree to eliminate the two-tier system, he said.

The most recent contract for the A.Y. McDonald workers was a step forward in building a more unified local, he said.

“Tiered systems are divisive,” Kedley said. “They create resentment, jealousy, apathy, and a hindrance to unity in the work force.”


More Than Wages

In addition to wages, some employers use two-tier systems to give newer workers lower-quality health care or retirement benefits than others, or to impose unequal compensation systems on people performing the same work in different locations.

Kerry Halter and other members of Local 752L drew a line in the sand during contract negotiations four years ago and forced management at the Cooper Tire plant in Texarkana, Ark., to ensure that all members began receiving equal pay for equal work.

“Greedy corporations and CEOs like to see how much money they can save on the backs of their workers,” said Halter, the local president. “At some point in time, you just have to say enough is enough, and we’re going to stand up and fight for fair wages and benefits.”

Under Cooper Tire’s system, workers who joined the Texarkana plant beginning in 2009 made only 85 percent of what co-workers hired before them did. Many companies soon realize, however, that the money they save isn’t worth the problems the system creates.

“It may save companies money on the front end, but in the end, it doesn’t work out,” Halter said. “It’s going to affect morale. It’s going to affect quality. It simply isn’t worth the money.”

Two years ago, for example, USW members at nine locations across the country successfully beat back an attempt by Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) to impose a second, lower tier of health care benefits for future workers.

UPS ended its two-tier wage system this summer after workers came close to striking in their fight for a fair share of the company’s staggering wealth. And, today, thousands of autoworkers are demanding the elimination of tiered wage and benefit scales.

“In plain terms, they’re trying to bust the union,” explained Joe Oliveira, who was vice president of USW Local 1357 in New Bedford, Mass., during the union’s 2021 battle against ATI. “The easiest way for them would be to let us fight each other and tear ourselves apart.”

When union workers eliminate such systems, they gain an even stronger voice in the work place.

“We all understood what we needed to do,” Halter said. “This brought a lot of people together.”  

Growing that unity and solidarity was the goal of Conway’s initiative, and it has paid dividends for members across the continent in a range of industries, from health care workers in Local 7600 at Kaiser Permanente and Local 9600 at Oroville Hospital, to rubber workers in Local 831 at Goodyear and Local 1023 at Yokahama.

Success in eliminating tiers has come from workplaces large and small, improving lives and building solidarity for thousands of members. In the paper industry, one of the largest employers of USW members, workers achieved a series of strong contracts that cut tier systems, including in the union’s master agreement with International Paper, and Local 1013 and Local 1853 at Georgia Pacific.

There is still work to be done to eliminate tiers in all USW contracts, but workers across the union are taking Conway’s initiative to heart, eliminating or phasing them out at places like Local 37 at Steel of West Virginia Inc., Local 721 at Braskem, Local 1693-04 at American Synthetic Rubber, Locals 1693-21 and 1693-26 at Hussey Copper and Hussey Fabrication, Local 7153 at Special Metals, Local 2659 at St. Mary’s Cement, and many others.

“The bottom line is that, at the bargaining table and in our workplaces, we should be building unity and not division,” International President David McCall said. “Eliminating tiers in our agreements brings us closer together in a number of important ways, and that only makes our union stronger.”

Women of Steel Know Their Power

Fri, 11/17/2023 - 05:48


More than 1,000 passionate union activists descended upon Pittsburgh for the 2023 USW International Women’s Conference, where they took part in several days of educational workshops and celebrated the Women of Steel who give the union its strength.

The conference buzzed with attendees from all of the union’s 12 districts in the U.S. and Canada, who came to flex their union muscles, learn new skills and take inspiration for charting future paths back to their home locals.

The delegates shook the conference hall with booming chants and cheers from the very start. International Women of Steel Director Randie Pearson took the stage to welcome delegates.

“Good morning, Women of Steel,” she said. “This conference is about knowing your power, and part of my power is being my authentic, honest self.”

Pearson, who worked at an oil refinery in Toledo, Ohio, from 2006 to 2017, spoke candidly about the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, and about the important education she received years ago at her first women’s conference.


“My union sisters and I knew that our voices were important on the job,” she said. “Not just for us, but for the sisters that came before us, and the sisters who are going to come after us.”

International Vice President Roxanne Brown thanked her fellow Women of Steel, emphasizing the power women have to make a difference in their unions and in their communities.  

“In every room, show up as yourself,” Brown said. “Be authentically you, and all that comes with you, particularly as it relates to the fights we fight collectively every day as a union: things like a good job that allows you to put food on your family’s table, send your kids to school and retire one day and leave a legacy for future generations.”

Brown referenced the theme of the conference, “Know Your Power,” setting the tone for several days of education and excitement.

“I tell you this to remind you to not just know your power, but use it wisely,” said Brown, noting that her six-year-old daughter was inspired to take to the microphone at the 2022 USW International Convention after seeing her mother take the stage.

“It’s important for our girls – big and small – to see us doing powerful things.”


Brown spoke to the many women in the union who are shattering glass ceilings, including Cathy Drummond from Local 9460 at Essentia Health in Hibbing, Minn., who took office Oct. 13 as the new District 11 director.

The delegation also paused to acknowledge former USW International President Tom Conway, who passed away on Sept. 25, and welcomed David McCall as the union’s new international president.

“The Women of Steel are integral to the sustainability and growth of this union,” McCall said. “It is our job to continue fighting for their equal opportunity, involvement, and rights in our workplaces.”

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler greeted conference attendees on video and reflected on the importance of women’s activism.

“I know how tough it is to be the only woman in the room,” said Shuler. “But unions are how we stand together, get equal pay and get the opportunities we deserve.”

Building Strength

The week consisted of dozens of workshops covering all aspects of building union power, safety and solidarity, with a particular focus on the challenges women face in the workplace.

Luevon Boddie-Lewis of Local 9-00719 has worked at the WestRock Co. paper mill in Demopolis, Ala., for 18 years, but this was her first time attending the women’s conference.

Boddie-Lewis, a laboratory technician, said Women of Steel is crucial for creating unity with union women in diverse sectors, and emphasized the opportunities the conference offers for networking.

“There’s nothing women can’t do,” said Boddie-Lewis. “Women make the world go around, and we are here to help bring them together.”

Nyeshia Daniels, who also works at WestRock and is in her fifth year in quality control, said the union difference is that someone is there to fight for her rights on the job.

“We’re here today because we want to equal the playing field,” said Daniels. “Only 5 to 10 percent of our work force at WestRock are women – that’s not many. We are trying to create strength among them.”

Conference workshops ranged from civil and human rights classes on supporting trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming members, to health and safety courses on hazard mapping, aging in the workplace and improving women’s personal protective equipment. Rapid Response workshops guided members through building legislative activism.


Ada Acosta, a member of Local 13-00001 who has worked for seven years at the Shell chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas, was one of just two members to attend from her local. Acosta said the most surprising takeaway from the conference was how many industries make up the Women of Steel.

“This is my first time at this conference, and to me, Women of Steel is all about supporting each other and learning new ways to do that, no matter what field you’re in,” said Acosta. “I’m excited to take what I learn here back to share with my local.”

Rallying in Solidarity

Delegates took their solidarity outside the conference hall when they converged on the University of Pittsburgh campus to rally in support of the staff and graduate workers who are at various stages of union organizing.

Women of Steel joined hundreds of others calling on the university administration to show fairness and neutrality toward its workers. Staff members at Pitt are gearing up for a union election, while graduate workers launched their union card drive on Oct. 2.

USW flags flew high as members filled the streets with booming voices. The crowd held signs and chanted, “Get up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town!” and numerous other rallying cries.

Fatima Ijaz, an administrative assistant in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto, joined the conference this year as a first-time attendee. She and more than 7,000 administrative and technical staff from the University of Toronto, Victoria University and St. Michael’s College belong to USW Local 1998.

Ijaz and other USW members who work in higher education spoke to members of the Pitt organizing committees at the rally about the process of winning their unions. 

Amanda Buda, of Local 412 at the University of Guelph in Ontario, serves as the Women of Steel coordinator for her local. She was participating in her first women’s conference, and said she was proud to rally alongside other higher education workers for fair treatment. 

“There are a lot of people here that are in the same boat and in very similar situations,” Buda said. “If I have any advice, it's that you don't know what you don't know. It’s always best if you have any type of question to reach out and ask a current union member how they did it, because there's always an answer and information that will benefit you in the long run.”


Nurses Fight for Safe Staffing: Front-Line Health Care Workers on ULP Strike at a New Jersey Hospital

Thu, 11/16/2023 - 09:33


Nearly 1,700 members of Local 4-200 who work as nurses at New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital launched an unfair labor practice strike this August.

Negotiations for a new contract began in April and broke down in August over the issue of staffing. The chief goal for members in the negotiations, local president Judy Danella said, was to push the hospital to hire more nurses and adopt enforceable staffing standards, but the hospital did not take nurses’ demands seriously.

“We are the ones that made this hospital a Level 1 trauma center, a comprehensive stroke center, a comprehensive cancer center,” Danella said. “We are not disposable. We will be unified.”

A Daily Struggle

The RWJ nursing staff continued to work through COVID and other major crises, she said, and despite those sacrifices, has continued to face short staffing nearly every day.

“We are dedicated nurses that go above and beyond for our patients,” she said. “It’s very simple. We would like to have the right amount of nurses for the right amount of patients.”

That number, members say, differs by department and depends on the severity of patients’ conditions. But a bill before the New Jersey legislature would establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios across the state, and members say that if it were to become law, their strike would be unnecessary.


A recent study showed that New Jersey had the third-worst nursing shortage in the nation, behind only Texas and California.

Local 4-200 members participated in a rally in support of the staffing legislation this May at the state capitol in Trenton, with much the same message they’re delivering on their picket line each day, chanting, "safe staffing saves lives" and other slogans meant to draw attention to the crisis.

“We need something that is enforceable that the hospital holds to,” Danella said, “not just a number on a piece of paper.”

‘Heartbreaking’

RWJ management has continued to operate during the strike by hiring scabs to work for $300 an hour in addition to paying for their lodging and travel expenses.

The cost of paying those replacements, members say, far outpaces what it would cost for RWJ to simply agree to hire more nurses.

“It’s insulting and heartbreaking,” said nurse Carol Tanzi. “Because we are the nurses who built this hospital.”

Picket Line Support

Throughout the strike, the USW nurses received support from patients and their families, members of other local unions, local clergy and community leaders, and elected officials both near and far.

Members held marches, candlelight vigils and other public events, gaining an increasing amount of news coverage and public support.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, State Sen. Linda Greenstein and others showed up on the picket line to show support for the workers, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont wrote a letter to hospital CEO Mark Manigan urging the company to negotiate a fair end the strike.


“It is absurd for [Robert Wood Johnson] to claim it can afford to pay its executives millions, yet is somehow unable to provide its nurses fair raises,” Sanders wrote. “That is simply unacceptable.”

Best Care Possible

Despite the public outcry in support of the nurses, the company continued to resist members’ demands as the strike neared the three-month mark, and nurses remained on the picket line as this issue of USW@Work went to press after voting in mid-September to reject a proposed three-year deal.

Local 4-200 member Jessica Newcomb said she has considered leaving the nursing profession because of the lack of adequate staffing at the hospital.

“I have gone home crying, I have gone home feeling defeated,” she said. “If it’s not us that stands up for our patients, then no one else will.”

The need to do the right thing for their patients ultimately was what led the nurses to take their fight to the picket line.  

“At the end of the day, we want to give the best care that we can,” said nurse Nina Kesley. “And right now, we’re just not able to do that.”


Rapid Response Feedback Report: HB 1481 Has Passed Pennsylvania House with Bipartisan Support

Thu, 11/16/2023 - 09:22

Last evening, a bill to allow for unemployment benefits for locked out and striking workers cleared it’s first hurdle. With bipartisan support, HB 1481 passed the House by a vote of 106 to 97.

How Did Your House Member Vote? Click HERE to see the Roll Call.

This good work never gets done without you. Thank you!

HB 1481 would allow workers who are unemployed due to a labor dispute to be eligible for unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. This means locked out workers would be immediately eligible for UC benefits, and striking workers would be eligible after a 30-day waiting period allowing them to sustain the work stoppage.

Prior to the vote, our members spoke out in favor of this bill at a press conference and showered House members with emails and calls of support.

Click here to watch.

This is one more testament as to why telling our stories to ensure our elected leaders fully understand the weight of their decisions makes the difference. “This is why I’m here today – for fairness. Workers pay into the system to have a safety net when their paychecks stop coming. It was never intended to be used as a weapon by unethical employers to force down wages and benefits for our workers. So, I implore you to support working families and this bill.” – Keith Beavers, Unit President, USW Local 1138, ATI.

The decision to strike is a serious undertaking that is not made lightly by union members. If the right to strike is a legal guarantee, then there should be economic systems of support in place to bolster this right. We need HB 1481 to level the playing field at the bargaining table.

The bill will next head to the Senate, so please stay tuned to Rapid Response to see how you can help us amend Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law through HB 1481.

Kevin Key: From Navy Deck to Union Rep

Thu, 11/16/2023 - 08:00

Kevin Key's story, a former Navy man turned Union Staff Representative, isn't just about where he's been but who he's become.

His service on the USS Saipan taught him more than just the ropes of being an Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class—it instilled a sense of solidarity that he's carried over to his work with the Steelworkers.

This story is about taking military values to heart and putting them to work for veterans back home.

During his time in the Navy, Kevin earned his stripes and more, collecting awards like some collect stamps. But his real takeaway was the camaraderie, the kind you can't measure in medals. That same spirit is what he found in the USW.

When he talks about the Union, it's like he's describing a military unit. There's a bond there that's familiar, a feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself. 

The little things from his Navy days help him at the USW, like knowing how to stay connected under tough circumstances. He remembers the long stretches without a word home, which now drives him to ensure veterans have a voice in the Union. Today, he strives to keep veterans in the loop and involved.

Kevin's Vets of Steel program role in the district is more than just a job. It's a continuation of his service. 

This program isn't tucked away in some corner of the Union. It's front and center, reaching out to veterans everywhere. Kevin leads the charge, shows up at VA homes, and pushes for laws to help his fellow service members.

It's not just about giving back; it's about standing shoulder to shoulder with those who've shared similar paths.

During a recent interview, Kevin was asked to summarize any of his Vets of Steel Committee work that he was proud of, "We have Locals going to the VA and talking with veterans. We have Locals going to VA nursing homes and bringing food and hosting bingo for them. We are also currently in the middle of passing laws in every state in our district mirroring the New York state law surrounding the posting of pertinent information for Veteran Affairs on the company bulletin boards," he said.

Kevin's story is a call to action for veterans looking for a new way to serve after hanging up their uniforms. It's about finding a new crew in the USW, where the camaraderie of the military finds new life on the shop floor.

For Kevin and many others, the Vets of Steel program is more than just a helping hand—it's a new mission, building on the sense of purpose they forged in the armed forces. His story proves the drive to make a difference doesn't stop—it just changes course.

To learn more about the Veterans of Steel program, or to connect with your district coordinator, click here: usw.org/vetsofsteel.

USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown Named to TIME100 Climate List

Thu, 11/16/2023 - 06:41

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

(Pittsburgh) – United Steelworkers (USW) International President David McCall issued the following statement today congratulating USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown after she was named to the inaugural TIME100 Climate list recognizing the 100 most innovative leaders driving business climate action:  

“Our union has long appreciated Roxanne’s vital work helping shape environmental policies to ensure they both advance community safety and improve workers’ lives. 

“Now, we’re proud that her efforts on behalf of USW members and their families are gaining broader recognition, including her spot on the TIME100 Climate list.

“To craft this list, TIME’s editors and reporters fielded nominations and recommendations from industry leaders and partner organizationsRoxanne shares this honor with a number of business leaders, and in this case, as in so many others, her work means labor has a seat at the table. 

“Good jobs and a clean environment must go hand in hand, and we’re grateful for all of the innovation and inspiration Roxanne brings to making both of these a reality every day.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers 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.

 

 

 

Rapid Response Info Alert: West Virginia Steelworkers, Unemployment Benefits Could Once Again Be Under Attack.

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 11:56

Workers who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own are often thrust into an unfamiliar reality. Paying the utilities and keeping food on the table become a real threat to them and their family’s security. Decades ago workers fought for, and won, benefits which provide some financial stability during times of unemployment. These benefits, known as Unemployment Insurance, temporarily replace about half of a worker’s previous wages up to a maximum benefit amount. They can be a lifeline to workers and the families that depend on them.

For the last two years, our union and our allies have fought diligently to defeat a harmful piece of legislation that makes drastic changes to Unemployment Insurance and threatens the security of every worker in the state. We have been successful, but we are seeing the writing on the wall that similar legislation will be pushed again in the next legislative session.

Currently, West Virginia does not have a maximum duration of time that a person is eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Instead, it uses a maximum benefit amount to determine how much a worker can receive per year. Legislation introduced previously attempted to amend the West Virginia state code by:

  • Limiting benefits to a duration of 12 weeks if the unemployment rate (UR) is at/below 5.5%.
  • Restricting benefits to an additional week for each .5% increment increase in state’s UR above 5.5%, and making 20 weeks the maximum duration of benefits if state’s UR exceed 9%.
  • Reducing the maximum benefit for each wage class from 26 to 20 times the weekly benefit rate.

In a state like West Virginia, that has had historically high unemployment numbers due to extenuating circumstances affecting the state’s main industries, a bill that slashes these benefits is especially harmful. We know this fight could be a difficult one next time around so we need your voices. Keep an eye on your inbox for ways you can get involved to stop any efforts to cut benefits so we provide West Virginia’s workers the security they deserve.

Larry R. Ray, Director District 8

For additional questions about this issue or ways to get involved in Rapid Response, contact Chad Conley, USW District 8 Rapid Response Coordinator, at (606)465-6862 or cconley@usw.org.

Rapid Response Action Call: USW Supports H.B. 1481; Pennsylvania State Representatives Should Too

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 11:45

Addressing our core issues legislatively will level the playing field for Pennsylvania’s working families and put them on the right path to secure and build the middle class.

One of our fundamental core issues is our right to collectively bargain for better working conditions and benefits. H.B. 1481, as discussed in our previous InfoAlert: Building Power at the Bargaining Table, means big opportunities to gain leverage during the negotiating process.

Workers locked out of their jobs by their employers should not have to bear the financial burden of total lost income when a decision is made completely outside of their control. Legislation like PA H.B. 1481, recently introduced by State Representatives Mandy Steele and Dan Miller, would allow workers who are unemployed due to a labor dispute to be eligible for unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. This means locked out workers would be immediately eligible for UC benefits, and striking workers would be eligible after a 30-day waiting period, allowing them to help sustain the work stoppage.

There was a press conference held earlier today discussing the immediate need for passing H.B. 1481 for locked out and striking workers. We made sure our voices were heard and we need your help to push H.B. 1481 over the finish line.

Most workers will go their entire careers without collecting any UC benefits, despite paying into the system diligently. Tell your state representative to support H.B. 1481, giving workers the right to their earned safety net.

Prove to Pennsylvania’s private sector workforce that their right to strike will be both legally and practically protected.

Contact your PA State Rep

Click here to send a letter -- let’s push Pennsylvania H.B. 1481 over the finish line. 

(The email is already written, so taking action is easier than ever.)

For additional information, please contact District 10 Rapid Response Coordinator, Maurice Cobb at mcobb@usw.org.

Rebuilding America: USW Members Working to Replace Vital Cog in Nation’s Infrastructure and Supply Chain

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 11:28


Tony Nock has been working on construction sites for nearly 35 years and has, in his words, done “a little bit of everything” in that time. What he and his fellow Local 4-318 members are doing now, he says, is one of the most rewarding projects of which he’s ever been a part.

“We need to rebuild America,” Nock said. “It’s good to know that what we build is going to be here for a long time.”

Nock and about 170 other USW members are in the middle of a three-year project to replace a vital cog in the nation’s infrastructure and supply chain – the Point-No-Point Bridge, a railroad bridge that spans the Passaic River between Kearny, N.J., and Newark, N.J., just down the road from Newark Liberty International Airport, the 17th-busiest cargo airport in the nation.

A Critical Link

The bridge is a major link in the transportation network between cities along the East Coast and into the Midwest and carries about 7,000 freight rail cars per day. Because railroads move more cargo than any other form of transportation, the bridge is one of the most important spans in the country.

“It’s a critical link, not only for this region, but for the whole United States,” said project engineer Rick McCall of Conrail, the transportation company that owns the bridge. “This bridge will drive commerce for future generations of Americans.”

The current bridge, built in 1901, is simply nearing the end of its useful life, USW members say. It is still in operation while workers construct its replacement just a matter of yards away. 


The time it takes to operate the current swing-open span, and the time it takes to make repairs on the aging structure, can cause delays both on rail lines and for traffic on the river below.

The contract to replace the span belongs to George Harms Construction Company Inc., which maintains a 100 percent union work force and traces its relationship with the USW to the early 1970s.

In that time, USW members constructed roads and bridges, replaced water mains and done countless other jobs to upgrade the backbone of the United States.

“Our people are our biggest asset. They do every aspect of what we need them to do,” said company CEO and President Rob Harms. “The relationship has never wavered.”

‘The American Dream’

It’s a relationship that provided good jobs for USW members for generations, while those same members contribute to strengthening the nation by keeping its supply chains and transportation systems moving.

“I’ve never had to worry about keeping the lights on or feeding my family,” said Nock, who purchased a home and put his children through college thanks to his USW-negotiated wages and benefits. “That’s the American dream.”

At the same time, the company has had a reliable and skilled work force to lean on to complete its many complex construction projects on time and on budget.

Nock said that in his 34 years, he doesn’t recall a project finishing behind schedule, or the company using materials that weren’t produced domestically.

“We know what we’re doing. We know how to get the job done,” he said. “American steel is made the way it should be.”

Local 4-318 President John Seckrettar said he was proud of his local’s strong relationship with their employer.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the fact this company is 100 percent Steelworkers, using domestically sourced materials and prioritizing safety,” Seckrettar said. “This is a great story of the USW's role in the rebuilding of the infrastructure of America.”

Multi-Skilled Workers

Nock and the other USW members who work for Harms are all multi-skilled, filling whatever roles they need to in order to move their projects forward.

“We do whatever needs to be done on a particular day,” said Tom Kelly, saying that the variety of work is one of the things he likes best about his job. “I believe I am 110 percent the best at what I do, and that’s the attitude that I want everyone around me to have.”

Kelly said that the role he and other USW members are playing in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment.


“It makes you proud to live here and proud to put a stamp on the USA,” Kelly said.

The pride extends beyond Local 4-318 to the entire USW, said District 4 Director Dave Wasiura. 

“The members of Local 4-318 perform essential work,” Wasiura said. “Like so many members of this great union, they are a vital part of supplying America with our critical needs and making sure that the work we do supports families and communities.”

Years-Long Projects

Like the Point-No-Point Bridge, which is scheduled for completion in 2025, the projects that Local 4-318 members work on often take two to three years to complete. While the projects are large and often daunting, they provide members with the stability of knowing that they’ll be reporting to the same work site for months at a time.

Nock, Kelly and other members say their work fills them with a sense of accomplishment when they finish, especially when they realize that the work they do will be there for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Seeing the end result – there’s no feeling like it,” said 14-year member Luis Santiago. “I’m very proud of our work.”

Safety First

Members of Harms management and Local 4-318 agreed that the most critical aspect of that work is making sure every task – both large and small – is completed safely.

For worker Brian Burns, that commitment is the most important benefit of his USW membership.

“You want to be able to leave here and go home to your family the same way you came here,” Burns said. “If Harms is building it, that means it’s going to get done right.”

Rebuilding the nation for future generations, he said, and making sure that economic supply chains can flow freely, means “everything.”


USW members are rebuilding the United States “one bridge at a time, one roadway at a time,” Burns said.

“You have to put out a product that can stand above the rest,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

The Union Difference

While they are assembling top-of-the-line bridges, roads, railroads and other transportation cogs, USW members say, they never forget the union’s role in making sure that their jobs are the kind that can support families and communities.

For Marie-Eve Sylvain, that union difference was apparent as soon as she started as a laborer with Harms six years ago as a single mother looking for a better life for herself and her son.

“It was scary,” Sylvain said. “This job was a life-changer for me.”

She said that she learns something new every day on the job, and that she is consistently amazed at the skills and accomplishments of her USW siblings.

“I’m doing things now that I had never imagined I would do in my life,” Sylvain said.

USW ‘Family’

For Nock, the strong relationship that the USW enjoys with Harms is what makes the union difference so apparent, and what makes his job one worth holding onto for more than three decades.

“Being a Steelworker,” he said, “means I am part of a family.”

For CEO Harms, that feeling of family extends beyond the union. Early in his career at the company, he was a USW member and, during the periodic economic downturns that have slowed the construction industry over the years, he has made sure there was always work for USW members to do.

“The work is nonstop,” Kelly said, noting that the only time he could recall members being off the job for more than a few days, the layoff was the result of extreme winter weather.

As it approaches the 65th anniversary of its founding, Harms said he hopes that his company can continue to provide meaningful work for USW members for generations to come.

“It’s a great history,” he said. “It’s the American economy at its best.”


USW Mourns Loss of Conway: Steelworkers’ President Spent 45 Years Fighting for Justice for Workers

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 08:38


International President Tom Conway – who dedicated his life to fighting for USW members and their families at the bargaining table, on the picket line, in the halls of government and anywhere in between – died on Sept. 25, 2023, at the age of 71.

Known for his quick wit, formidable negotiating skills and unwavering devotion to justice and fairness, Conway served as the union’s president since his election in 2019, following 14 years of service as international vice president.

The USW International Executive Board appointed International Vice President David McCall to serve the remainder of Conway’s term.

“From his earliest time making steel to his steady hand leading us through the darkest days of the pandemic, Tom followed two simple guiding principles: the dignity of work and the power of working people,” McCall said. “Tom was never afraid of a fight, and thanks to his ingenuity and determination, generations of workers can enjoy better jobs and brighter futures.”

Outpouring of Sympathy

Conway’s passing sparked an outpouring of grief and condolences for his longtime partner Carol, his three sons and six grandchildren, as well as for the extended family of USW members he worked so closely with for decades.

Celebrations of Conway’s life came from the White House, from the halls of Congress, and from rank-and-file workers in national news reports, on social media accounts and in union halls across the continent.

“American workers have lost an extraordinary champion, and I’ve lost a great friend,” President Joe Biden said of Conway. “He made our nation fairer. He made our nation stronger. And I will miss him dearly.”

Lourenco Goncalves, chairman and CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., said he considered Conway a friend who shared his vision for the future of American manufacturing.

Goncalves said he and Conway held “a steadfast belief in the bright future of the American industry.”

“Tom recognized that good-paying union jobs are at the core of America’s strength, and was a tireless advocate for the men and women of the United Steelworkers,” he said. “He fought for policies that preserve and grow the middle class. While Cleveland-Cliffs’ close partnership with the USW will continue, I will miss Tom Conway greatly.”

USW Members Mourn

Some of the most heartfelt tributes to Conway came from the USW members whose lives he touched, and who were united in their respect and appreciation for his lifetime of advocacy on their behalf.

Tom O’Shei, president of Local 135L in Buffalo, N.Y., worked with Conway on several difficult rounds of bargaining with Goodyear, including one summer a decade ago when the bargaining committee spent much of their time together in Cincinnati hammering out proposals and learning from each other.


“Tom taught many of us on the committee about negotiating and how to conduct yourself as a union leader,” O’Shei said. “His demeanor was always kind, and he always took the time to talk to members and teach them, or just listen to them. He was definitely one of a kind.”

Steve Ackerman, president of Local 169 in Mansfield, Ohio, said Conway helped members of his local when their former employer, AK Steel, locked them out of their jobs for 39 months.

Ackerman credited Conway and McCall with helping to keep members focused and united during the ordeal, which ultimately ended with their return to work in January 2003.

“President Conway was one of the most fearless, selfless, and courageous leaders that could have led this organization,” Ackerman said.

Health care worker Sarah Hardnett, unit president of Local 9201 at Magnolia Ridge long-term care center in Alabama, said she appreciated Conway’s efforts to champion the issues of workers in her sector.

“He understood the importance of the health care sector, not just to our union but to the country as a whole,” she said. “He valued our Health Care Workers Council and made it a priority to invest time and resources into lifting up our work. Hopefully we honor his legacy moving forward as a council.”

Memorial Service

International Vice President Roxanne Brown was one of eight speakers who celebrated that legacy at a memorial service on Oct. 3 at the international headquarters in Pittsburgh. Brown called Conway a mentor and spoke to the mourners about the many lessons he taught her in their more than 20 years of friendship, the most important being to always make time for family and friends.

“Tom had an outsized impact on so many of the lives in this room and outside this room,” said Brown, who also read a personal letter of sympathy President Biden wrote for the occasion.

It was at the memorial service that many of the hundreds of rank-and-file members in attendance got their first look at the urn that holds Conway’s remains. It was, just as he wished, created by members of his home local, fabricated from steel forged by Local 6787 members at Burns Harbor.

Local President Pete Trinidad Sr. spoke of his and other members’ pride in helping to make that project a reality, recalling his last conversation with Conway and how he never stopped thinking about the well-being of USW members.

“We must exemplify moral courage, personal integrity and goodness,” Trinidad said. “Tom did that all the time while remaining humble and genuine. With all the titles and everything he accomplished in his life, he never ever let it go to his head.”

Diversity Efforts

Ackerman said he admired Conway’s commitment to preparing younger members for leadership roles. Under Conway’s direction, the union held its first international Next Gen conference in November 2019, where he and other top officers participated in a panel discussion with young workers.

“I see our jobs over the next few years to build a succession plan and to build a bench, to bring along young people and give them an opportunity to step forward,” he told the crowd. “We are preparing to turn this union over, and we intend to turn it over to you guys.”

Next Gen was just one of the many ways Conway sought to strengthen the USW during his tenure by bringing a diverse group of voices into the union.

As he said in his keynote speech at the 2022 USW convention, “every worker deserves a seat at the table and the protections of a union contract.”

It was at that same convention that members brought a constitutional amendment to the floor to create Veterans of Steel committees in locals across the union.

From the podium, Conway, himself an Air Force veteran, oversaw a robust discussion of the amendment, which members ultimately ratified.

Mike Budd, a Marine Corps veteran and member of Local 12775, praised Conway’s instrumental role in creating the program, which advocates for legislation benefiting veterans and also provides a support system in every local for union members with military backgrounds.

Budd said about 60 of his co-workers at Northern Indiana Public Service Co. belong to the local’s Vets of Steel chapter, which provides them with a space to discuss the challenges of deployment as well as their struggles on the home front.

“You know the other person would understand your experiences,” Budd said.

Securing Pensions

SOAR President Bill Pienta said Conway never lost sight of the big picture, even when focused on the details of day-to-day contract bargaining.

At the negotiating table, Conway consistently fought to preserve benefits for retirees, and he helped SOAR expand its focus to advocate on behalf of all seniors, Pienta said.

“Tom supported and encouraged that new direction,” Pienta said.

Under Conway’s leadership, USW Rapid Response and SOAR activists achieved a major victory with the passage of the Butch Lewis Act, which saved the pensions of more than one million workers and retirees, including more than 100,000 USW members.

Early Activism

Conway worked alongside McCall in the 1970s and 1980s as a millwright at the Burns Harbor steel facility in Northwest Indiana, and served with him for many years on the international staff.

The pair, born on the same day, were close friends, co-workers and union brothers for 45 years. Conway’s lifetime of union activism began early on, when he led a fight against the company hiring contractors to work at the mill while union members were laid off.

“That got him a lot of notoriety at the plant,” McCall said. “We had hundreds of our guys recalled who had been laid off.”


Skilled Bargainer

As a top USW officer for 18 years, Conway relished going toe to toe with leaders of some of the biggest USW employers. Over the course of his career, he became one of the union’s most accomplished negotiators in steel, rubber, aluminum, oil and other major industries, often directing bargaining during crises.

He led talks with U.S. Steel in 2008, 2012 and 2015, when the industry was on the verge of crisis. In 2018, with the industry improving, USW members under Conway’s leadership successfully fought off demands for cuts and ratified a new four-year agreement covering 16,000 workers that significantly boosted pay and benefits.

Early in his time as an international leader, when workers in the steel industry were facing layoffs and plant closures, Conway was instrumental in developing the Institute for Career Development (ICD), a joint labor-management training program, enshrined in a number of USW collective bargaining agreements, that provides members with opportunities to learn new skills.

Today, 16 employers participate in the ICD program, which offers courses at 65 locations in the steel, tire and rubber, glass, container and utility sectors.

The creation of the ICD was one of many times in which Conway’s ideas and bargaining skills led to groundbreaking agreements that pushed back against companies’ demands for concessions and helped members move forward in unique ways. 

In other cases, USW members were forced to take their fights to picket lines.

In 2014, Conway helped to lead thousands of USW oil refinery and petrochemical workers on an unfair labor practice strike against their multi-billion-dollar employers, primarily over the issue of plant safety. It was the largest work stoppage in the industry in three decades and resulted in a new contract that achieved many of the USW’s demands.

In August 2015, Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) locked 2,200 USW members out of their jobs for six months after the company gave the union a long list of deep concessions, which workers rejected.

Conway, who knew that the company’s plan was to “starve out” union workers until they accepted concessions, led USW members to victory in that fight as well, bargaining a contract that avoided most of the company’s demands and that members ratified by a 5-to-1 margin.

As he always did, Conway gave credit for those victories to the solidarity of rank-and-file workers.

“Solidarity wasn’t just a word to Tom; it was a way of life,” said International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn. “He understood that by working together, we could balance the scales against greedy corporations and the billionaire class.”

Focus on Safety

In addition to strong wages and benefits, Conway consistently fought at the bargaining table for language to ensure safer and healthier workplaces for members.

In the month before his death, he publicly championed new rules to safeguard oil workers in Washington State, promoted legislation to limit excessive overtime in Maine’s paper industry, advocated for minimum staffing levels at nursing homes, and pushed the Mine Safety and Health Administration to protect surface and underground miners from silica dust.

“I cannot express how grateful I am to President Conway and the rest of our union leaders for taking a hard stance and saying enough is enough,” said Marshal Cummings, chief steward and safety committee member for Local 13214, which represents hundreds of miners at the Genesis Alkali trona production complex in Green River, Wyo.

Cummings, who testified on the need for a comprehensive, enforceable silica standard, credited Conway for standing up to mining companies that cut corners on safety and put profits over people.

“Through his advocacy and support, President Conway has had a major role in saving tens of thousands of current and future miners’ lives,” he said.

Ensuring Fair Trade

While he possessed unparalleled bargaining skills, Conway knew that was not the only way union members had to fight for justice. His efforts repeatedly took him to Washington, D.C., where he relentlessly advocated for fair trade rules, safety regulations and other measures to protect workers.

During his 18 years in USW leadership, Conway worked to make sure that the government enforced trade laws to prevent importation of illegally subsidized and dumped products that damage domestic industries and destroy good-paying jobs.


At the same time, he worked not just to save jobs but to create them, finding new ways to engage both companies and elected officials to expand manufacturing, secure the nation’s supply chains and invest in healthy, flourishing communities.

In August 2021, he led the way as USW members embarked on a 2,200-mile “We Supply America” tour through six states and Washington, D.C., holding rallies and other public events along the way, urging Congress and the president to enact a massive plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

The effort proved successful when, in November of that year, Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Conway knew that healthy domestic industries and profitable companies were good for workers, so he often partnered with willing employers and other organizations to ensure that domestic industries had a sustainable future.

He developed strong working relationships with political leaders, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who called Conway a “warrior for working people” and said he was one of the people he trusted most on issues of trade and worker health and safety.

In addition to political alliances, Conway made sure the USW built connections with other labor organizations and like-minded groups. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a nonprofit union-management partnership, and a founding board member of the labor-environmental partnership the BlueGreen Alliance.

The goal of such initiatives, AAM president Scott Paul said, was “to help shape the future rather than being shaped by the decisions that others were making.”

Organizing Initiative

On the day he took office on July 15, 2019, upon the retirement of then-International President Leo Gerard, Conway pledged to devote the union’s resources to organizing new workers into the labor movement, particularly in the historically non-union southern United States.

“The country is ripe for organizing and we’re going to do it,” he vowed following his installation as president. “We are going to continue to fight, and we are going to continue to win.”

Conway immediately made good on his promise, establishing a member-driven organizing campaign across the continent, through which the USW recruited and trained rank-and-file members to talk to their fellow workers about joining the labor movement.

The initiative quickly paid dividends, resulting in organizing victories in the United States and Canada, including some of the union’s biggest wins in years.

More than 300 workers at the Kumho Tire factory in Macon, Ga., overcame a relentless campaign to join the USW in 2020. Likewise, in October 2021, 3,500 faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh joined the union. Over the past three years, baristas at Starbucks coffee shops across Canada have been voting in large numbers to become USW members. And in May 2023, 1,500 workers at Georgia’s Blue Bird Corp. bus factory voted overwhelmingly to join the USW.

Many others across North America, including waste disposal workers, professional football players, museum and library workers, high-tech workers, airport workers, prison chaplains and others, joined the Steelworkers’ ranks as a result of Conway’s initiative.

“Tom’s legacy will forever remain,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said in a joint statement. “We’ll all continue to learn from his life in service to working people.”

Union Family

It could be said that organizing was in Conway’s DNA. He grew up in a union family in New Jersey. His mother worked at a brush factory, where she successfully organized a union and negotiated labor contracts, and his father was an active member of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

After Conway spent four years in the Air Force and attending trade school for airframe and power plant mechanics, Bethlehem Steel recruited him in 1978 to work at Burns Harbor.

Conway joined the union staff in 1987, serving members at Burns Harbor and other steel facilities and getting involved in national steel bargaining with companies including National Steel, Bethlehem and U.S. Steel.

In 1995, then-International President George Becker appointed Conway as secretary of the Basic Steel Industry Conference, a job in which he was responsible for developing bargaining strategies and directing the union’s trade and legislative efforts. He quickly became one of the USW’s lead voices during turbulent steel cycles for more than two decades.

“We will all miss Tom’s passion, his integrity, his gift for strategy and not least of all, his sense of humor,” said McCall. “His time as USW president was too short, but it’s clear he will leave an indelible impact on our union and beyond.”


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