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Updated: 4 hours 15 min ago

United Steelworkers on solidarity and justice for Black Lives

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 09:17

United Steelworkers (USW) Vice President Fred Redmond and the USW Civil and Human Rights Department released the following statement on behalf of the union in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota:

Our union, the United Steelworkers, is great because of our solidarity, our respect for each other, and our unyielding commitment to justice, fairness and equality. The labor movement gains its strength from our common belief that all people are inherently valuable and have an undeniable right to a fair, just and dignified life, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Many of us, as a result, were not only appalled but distraught to witness the killing of a Black man in Minnesota, George Floyd, at the hands of Minnesota police officers while lying on the ground handcuffed. One of the officers kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he begged for his life with those now familiar words, “I can’t breathe.” 

We are a better nation than this.  

At a time when the world is struggling through a global pandemic that is exposing vast disparities in health, well-being and economic security, the murder of George Floyd, which was preceded by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, further illustrates the devastating impact racism and violence have on Black People in America in 2020.

Many of us are saddened, but too many of our African-American members are worried that they can be stopped on the way home from work or a union meeting and suffer the same fate as George Floyd.

At moments like these, we in the labor movement cannot be silent and must express our collective outrage over these brutal murders.

We call upon the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to ensure constitutional enforcement of the law by state and local law enforcement agencies, by investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes such as this.

We cannot fight the racism, hate and impunity that threaten the lives of Black people and other people of color unless the Justice Department takes the necessary actions to ensure full and real accountability. 

Health care local to mobilize around layoffs at Essentia

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 13:49

Local 9460 in Minnesota is planning to rally around their fellow workers at Essentia Health as the major health care system announced 900 permanent layoffs, including hundreds of USW members, amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

These cuts, which make up 6 percent of the company’s workforce, are in addition to the 850 employees who have been placed on administrative leave across several locations and are expected to remain so until at least July 31. Meanwhile, Essentia received $42 million in CARES Act stimulus funding and around $3.1 million in grant funding.

The local plans to organize several actions, including a drive-by picketing on June 1. Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming Local 9460 events in support of the essential workers at Essentia.

Members on the Iron Range Raise Spirits with Facebook Group

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 12:54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Conway, USW International President

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

USW Votes: Info on Indiana Primary Election, Early Voting

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 10:42

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

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

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

Volunteer to help Mrvan Win

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

Information about early voting in Indiana: 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USW Members Persevere at Nuclear Fuel Services During Pandemic

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 07:42

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

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

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

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

MOU negotiated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members pay it forward as workers battle Coronavirus

Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:56

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 14:05

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

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

Please join us for our future discussions: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USW Members Step Up To Produce Hand Sanitizer for Hospitals

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 09:09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Producing during a pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:53

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

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

We Must Protect Our Pensions

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

Why the GROW Act Won’t Work

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

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

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


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

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portsmouth, Ohio, site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanford Local Plays Major Role in Safeguarding Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:39

Essential work hums along at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation since the Department of Energy (DOE) transitioned to a “mission-critical operations posture” on March 24.

But it took the actions of Local 12-369 leaders to get DOE and its contractors to respond effectively to the new health and safety challenges caused by the highly-contagious novel coronavirus.  Local 12-369 also fought to ensure workers got paid if they had to stay home due to illness, being a caretaker or having onsite work that was deemed non-essential.

Local 12-369 President Pete Gomez, who works for DOE contractor Washington River Protection Solutions LLC (WRPS), in mid-March asked his employer what COVID-19 health and safety guidelines it was following. There were guidelines employers could use in Washington State from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the White House, Benton-Franklin Health District and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.

“WRPS was cherry-picking which guidelines it followed,” Gomez said. “The contractors thought they were doing the right thing, but they weren’t.

“All we got was a Hanford app, which would tell us when a building was evacuated, cleaned, and the person tested. Five hours later we would be told it was okay to go back in. The contractors’ cleaning protocol was unknown to the union,” Gomez said.

He believed this approach to avoiding COVID-19 exposure was haphazard and making the workplace unsafe, so he and Brian Ivey, a Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council (HAMTC) safety representative and USW member, did a stop work order on March 17.

The order said that any work not associated with safety and environmental compliance or emergency response should be stopped immediately. It also ordered the DOE and its contractors to communicate with the site workforce what COVID-19 protocols should be followed concerning social distancing, workplace gatherings, and disinfecting methods for impacted buildings and equipment.

Gomez said WRPS stopped its work, and two hours later, Hanford contractors CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) and Mission Support Alliance (MSA) followed with a complete shutdown. He said his manager contacted upper management to get a COVID-19 protocol.

Union input to protocol

During the week- and -a half WRPS, CHPRC and MSA employees were off work, WRPS contacted Gomez for his input and approval of a slideshow presentation it created to detail a COVID-19 protocol for employees. Gomez recommended a flow chart be included to show the process for reporting illness. He also demanded that the questionnaire for confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 personnel be included in the presentation.

CHPRC and MSA added information to the slideshow that pertained to their operations. The presentation was finalized the morning of March 24, and Brian Vance, manager of DOE’s Richland Operations/Office of River Protection, publicly announced the site’s move to “an essential mission-critical operation” by midnight March 24.

Essential personnel

Gomez said everyone remaining at Hanford was sent home March 23. About 85-90 percent of the site’s employees are telecommuting, but USW-represented workers have jobs that cannot be done outside of the Hanford reservation.

Many are considered essential personnel who are needed to keep the site safe and secure, and who do jobs like compliance readings.  These are radiological readings and samples required daily by the state ecology department and environmental protection agencies at the state and national levels.

Once the essential personnel saw the COVID-19 presentation, they returned to work. Gomez said none of his 500-some members are teleworking, and that about 125 of them are currently onsite.

He said that social distancing is not a problem for those currently working at Hanford because most of the work force has been sent home. A small number said they could be at high risk for COVID-19 infection, but they would have to follow the company’s new COVID-19 procedure to be sent home. 

Union pushes for pay

At first, workers sent home because of the temporary work stoppage continued to be paid under policies enacted when bad weather forces most employees to stay home.

Concerned that these workers might not receive pay if they had to stay home for a long time, Gomez and Local 12-369 President Bill Collins decided that the local needed to lobby the state’s elected officials to ensure worker compensation would be in the next COVID-19 relief bill. So, the local sent a letter to the Washington congressional delegation.

After receiving this letter, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., pushed to insert provisions into the “CARES Act” economic stimulus legislation so that Hanford employees would get paid even if they could not telework and were not assigned to jobs considered critical for safety at Hanford.

Return to work

Most Hanford workers remained at home as of May 8, but there are plans for a phased return to work. Gomez said that those who likely would return first would include USW workers who do jobs essential to meeting DOE milestones, such as, liquid tank retrieval processes.

The remaining workforce would likely return late May/early June, he said. This plan would depend on Governor Inslee’s guidelines to honor social distancing, presidential guidelines and placing workers on rotating shifts.

Tell Congress: On and Off the Job, Workers Need Protection!

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 13:36

We are at an unprecedented time in our nation. While many of our members are facing mass layoffs, others are on the job or being ordered to return to work.

That’s why we must work harder than ever to push Congress to enact consistent, uniform safety standards that would help slow the virus’ spread and demand employer compliance.

Protecting Workers on the Job

In March, we demanded that OSHA implement an emergency, temporary infectious disease standard that would specify the steps employers must take to keep workers safe. Unfortunately, the Secretary of Labor refused.

A bill in Congress, the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6559), would require OSHA to immediately issue an enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), based on CDC guidance, to protect all workers from exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace.

These measures are absolutely necessary to keep workers safe while we restart our economy.

Protecting Health Care for Those Who Have Lost Their Jobs

Over the past seven weeks, over 33 million Americans have lost their jobs - tens of thousands of Steelworkers and their family members included.

We have deep concerns that our members will not be able to afford to continue their health care during this time because of the high cost of COBRA coverage.

The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act (H.R. 6514), would provide 100 percent federal financing to cover the full cost of COBRA premiums owed by workers who have lost their jobs, who are furloughed, or who have had their hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus crisis. We know that this is also a priority for those we represent. 

Click here to send your Representative a message urging them to support the Covid-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 and the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act today!

There are two ways you can help.

  1. Click HERE to email your Representative and urge them to cosponsor both of these critical bills.
  2. Make a quick call to urge your Representative to cosponsor these bills.
    • Dial our toll-free number to the U.S. House: 866-202-5409. You will be automatically routed to your Representative’s office.
    • Tell the office who you are and where you are from, and ask your Representative to COSPONSOR BOTH the Covid-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6559) and the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act  (H.R. 6514).

We know we don’t typically ask for engagement on two issues at once, but unprecedented times call for unprecedented action, especially with our members’ and their families’ health and safety on the line.

Please take a moment to email and call your legislators. Urge them to cosponsor both of these critical bills!

Click HERE for a printable version to distribute in your workplace.

Michigan miners take care of fellow health care members in Upper Peninsula

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 13:12

United Steelworkers Local 4950 is an amalgamated local union primarily made up of iron ore miners in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  To show support and solidarity for their 200 fellow members who work in health care, the membership mailed out nearly 200 gift cards valued at $25.00 each to those brothers and sisters who are working in nearby medical facilities.

The local will also be providing face masks for each health care member with the USW logo imprint.  Patients will know they are receiving the best care possible from a professional group of dedicated individuals from the Steelworkers. 

Local 4950 President Chad Korpi said, “It’s the least we can do to acknowledge what our members are doing on a day-to-day basis and they take it in stride like any other day at work.” 

USW Local 4950 represents LPNs, CENAs, care aides, clerical workers and administrative staff at a clinic, an assisted living center, and a nursing home within Marquette County of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts Nuclear Waste Operations at WIPP

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 07:42

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how Local 12-9477 members do their jobs, and how they handle nuclear waste shipments at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M.

While many WIPP employees who work in departments like engineering, administration and training can telework, most Local 12-9477 members have jobs handling the incoming nuclear waste shipments and mining and maintaining the underground salt repository.

WIPP is the only underground waste repository of its type. It receives shipments of special boxes and barrels packed with clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive material from Department of Energy (DOE) sites in Idaho, South Carolina and other places.

Fewer shipments, personnel

Since January, the site has accepted fewer shipments for emplacement in the underground salt deposit each successive month as COVID-19 spread across the country.

In January, the site received 24 shipments and emplaced 283 containers. Ten shipments were received in February. A maintenance outage from Feb. 16 to March 14 interrupted shipments. As of March 22, four waste shipments were received.

Usually, three rotating crews operate at WIPP, but the pandemic has cut that down to two crews, said Javier Leyva, Local 12-9477 safety representative.

He said that the union learned through word-of-mouth that at least 20 workers were quarantined or in self-isolation because of exposure to someone who showed COVID-19 symptoms or for being in a high-risk category because of their age or health problems.

DOE contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) manages WIPP’s operations and does not tell the union who is in quarantine or self-isolation, Leyva said.

“We would like to know when a brother or a sister gets sick, so we can do an investigation and ensure the areas are cleaned up,” he said.

He said that NWP did not immediately notify the union when a contractor, who had a fever, walked into a trailer containing 12 plant helpers who were having lunch. Management sent the contractor home and as a precaution, several of the union workers were quarantined. The contractor tested negative for COVID-19.

Another factor, Leyva said, affecting the number of waste shipments deposited underground is the lack of qualified staff on the night shift to run the hoists for the three shafts leading underground, do waste operations and handle mining.

The two night shift hoist operators who are qualified to run the air, salt and waste intake hoists are quarantined or in social isolation because of risk factors for developing COVID-19, he said. The third night shift operator is only qualified for handling the waste and salt shafts, and is working to get qualified for the air intake shaft. This process takes six months to a year.

Not having a hoist operator who can handle all three shafts and the lack of staff for waste emplacement and mining meant that WIPP had to shut down its nighttime operation, Leyva said. Night shift waste handling crew and radiation control technicians joined the day shift on April 6, he said, and are bolting the salt panels to maintain the mine.

Social distancing

Leyva said WIPP is practicing social distancing, but that it is hard at times when there is much noise above- and -below ground, and he has to move closer to communicate with others.

“Sometimes, it is difficult. Going up and down the shaft elevator in a six-foot by nine-foot cage makes social distancing go away,” he said.

Workers used to check in for their shifts in one of the facility’s buildings, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, they check in for work outside by showing their badge to the guards and signing in, he said.

Leyva said he and the local would like to change the protocol when people are on the site by asking management to check workers’ temperatures and oxygen level. Thanks to the local's persistence, management is now taking everyone’s temperature who comes into the facility.

The local also requested N95 respirators for everyone. Currently, only the fire fighters and medical staff have N95 respirators.

While COVID-19 is exploding in the northern portion of New Mexico, Carlsbad has had fewer cases in its population of 40,000. The nearest town, Loving, has only 10,000 residents.

“We’re pretty spread out in this part of the state, and it has been a blessing in a way,” Leyva said.

On April 24, WIPP reported that an employee of a subcontractor tested positive for COVID-19 while teleworking at home. The person had not been on the site since March 18, according to the subcontractor, Carlsbad Technical Assistance Contractor (CTAC).

The Oilworker: May, 2020

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 07:27
FROM THE UNION

A message from the NOBP Chair

Brothers and Sisters,

It has been two months since our National Oil Bargaining Conference, and I know it seems like years ago.  I hope all of you are well as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time.  As we all know, this pandemic is proving to our employers that our members in the oil sector are essential.  The majority of our members are required to go into the plants every day to keep them running.

Unfortunately, we have encountered unnecessary fights with some of our employers when it comes to health and safety.  While we worked with most of them to fix some of these issues and concerns, we must also continue to fight to ensure that the health and safety of our members are the number one priority as our workplaces continue to operate. Here are the latest guidelines, resources and documents from the union to help you as together we work to keep everyone safe.  Watch out for each other, and please let us know what we can do to help you resolve any issues that arise.

This is an unprecedented time in our society, and the oil industry is also in uncharted territory.  Along with the impact from Covid-19, the oil price war has created a perfect storm for the industry.  As the country’s economy slowed and U.S. gasoline consumption fell to its lowest levels in more than 50 years, this crisis created a huge glut of oil.  The extraordinary uncertainty in the market, including the cost of oil dropping below $0 for a few days in April, added even more pressure to a tenuous situation. Most of our plants reduced feed over the past few months, and one refinery is idled due to the impacts.

While we work through these tough times, and we see our employers’ quarterly earnings reports, it is also important to remember that the oil industry has benefited from decades of record profits, even as we have weathered past economic crises. 

As we always do, we’ll work through this together. The resiliency and dedication of our members and our union will ensure that we not only survive this hardship, but come out of it stronger.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith
NOBP Chair
mjsmith@usw.org

Steve Sallman discusses workers’ safety during COVID-19 on The Leslie Marshall Show

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 17:46

USW Assistant Director of the Health, Safety and Environment Department Steve Sallman appeared on the Leslie Marshall show last week to discuss Workers Memorial Day and the Trump administration’s responsibility to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On April 28, the USW conducted its annual Workers Memorial Day ceremony online, honoring the 29 people who lost their lives in USW represented workplaces past year. That number is likely even higher, Sallman said, due to the unknown number of coronavirus-related deaths.

“We mourn their loss and the loss of all the victims of this cruel disease across our nation, and globally,” said Sallman. “Unfortunately, we are not dealing with this as a country the way we should be dealing with it.”

Unions, including the USW, have made a series of common-sense recommendations for employers to keep workers safe, which have been successfully implemented in some workplaces.

But the biggest challenge has been the lack of leadership from the federal government, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has yet to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious disease.

Unions sounded the alarm on this issue in a petition to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in early March, but to no avail. Now, the USW is backing H.R. 6559, the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act, which would require OSHA to issue an enforceable standard for COVID-19 preparedness, Sallman said.

“Workers are looking for leadership from our government, and they’re not getting it,” said Sallman. “We need an emergency temporary standard for essential workers and health care workers, and we needed it yesterday. There’s no why reason the government can’t start enforcing that now.”

Sallman also addressed the Trump administration’s targeting of the Chemical Safety Board, which conducts important safety investigations in USW-represented workplaces, as well as the rollback of chemical safety regulations.

“We need a government to step up and lead, and hopefully people remember that when they cast their votes, and not just for president.”

For the entire interview about the administration’s responsibility to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, click below:

USW New Media · Steve Sallman discusses workers’ safety during COVID-19 on The Leslie Marshall Show

#USWMade: American Roots aims to make a million masks in midst of pandemic

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 17:39

 

A few weeks ago, USW members at American Roots were laid off as the USA-based apparel maker lost 75 percent of its business. Today, they're hiring as they work nonstop to make masks and PPE to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our workers could have stayed home, collected unemployment," said American Roots CEO Ben Waxman. "And they made a choice in the middle of a national crisis, a global pandemic, to come to work and make masks for people they've never met before."

The operation was bolstered by sisters and brothers at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), themselves out of work, who volunteered time to help retool the factory from making sweatshirts and blankets to safely making face shields and masks.

"In the first week we put out 10,000 face shields, working day and night" Waxman said. "Our workers made sacrifices that I will never forget."

American Roots, whose workers are members of USW Local 366 in Maine, District 4, is now doing custom face masks, including those made with union and other logos. Those interested in custom orders can email info@americanrootswear.com, call 207-854-4098 or visit the American Roots website.

The company is scaling up - and hiring workers - so that it can produce 1,000,000 washable face masks and 500,000 face shields in the next few months.

"It is hopeful, and it is promising, and it's just a wonderful thing that we were able to bring our workforce back," said American Roots co-owner Whitney Waxman.

Cast of Mine 9 movie to join us for USW Facebook Live

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 13:37

Click here to download a printable flyer.

While quarentine and essential work have a lot of people looking for new things to binge, our Education and Membership Development Department is kicking off Workflix: A Labour Film Series, and we are excited to announce our premier film: Mine 9, an award-winning independent film about a fictional but very realistic and tragic coal mine accident.   While most of those we represent in mining are not from the coal sector, Mine 9 presents a story familiar to many of us in the labor movement.  The dangers workers face in mining are pervasive and remind us that safety concerns transcend industry sector. We are sending this first to all of you from the mining sector because we think you might be particularly interested in this event.   You will have two opportunities to engage with this heart-breaking film. We hope you will join us for both. To participate please watch the film on Netflix or another streaming service, the register for our online events:   Thursday, May 7: Group Discussions of Mine 9 Eric Angel, USW member from Local 1023 will facilitate conversations with Chris Mark, a former UMWA member, mining engineer and lifelong safety advocate. He will bring his expertise and insights about coal mining globally. As part of this discussion, we will develop questions for our Facebook Live session with the cast of Mine 9. You have two opportunities to join this discussion via Zoom on May 7. Please click which time for which you want to register: Noon EST 8 p.m. EST   Tuesday, May 12, 7 p.m. EST: Facebook Live with Director & Cast of Mine 9! Join Eddie Mensore, a West Virginia native and the writer and director of Mine 9, and members of the cast in a conversation about the making of the movie. Join us on our USW Facebook live stream to tune in and join our conversation: https://www.facebook.com/steelworkers/live/   Watch the movie ahead of time and be ready with your comments and questions. If for some reason you cannot access the movie, please contact Paulette Battisti via e-mail. 

Members continue helping front-line workers stay fueled and protected

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 12:29

Across the United States and Canada, USW members continue supporting health care workers by ensuring they are fueled and protected in their fight against Covid-19.

In Connecticut, USW Locals 12160, 12000, 134L and 859-4, with the help of several others, recently collected donations to provide lunch through Amanda's Deli and Grill for the doctors and nurses at Yale New Haven Health, who work on the Covid-19 floor. The food even arrived with custom USW Thank You tags.

In Northwest Ohio, USW Local 1-346 also did their part keeping hospital workers’ stomachs full. So far, they have donated more than 50 pizzas and trays of macaroni to front-line health care workers.

Local 318 out of Edison, N.J., stepped up to the plate, as well, and delivered a bundle of PPE donations from companies Mauser and Bristol Myers Squibb to USW nurses at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick and Somerset.

In District 11, several USW employers, including WestRock (Local 264), Flint Hills Refinery (Local 662), and Conwed Plastics (Local 1259), rallied to provide much-needed hand sanitizer to USW-represented long-term care facilities. The nursing homes included Chisholm Health Center, Ecumen Lakeshore, Lake Superior Community Health Center, Range Center, Inc., Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center, and Monarch Waterview Pines.

These donations will not only help keep health care workers and their families safe but also help protect patients and residents in these facilities, making this a true community effort.

To find out how you can join the donation drive of critical supplies to front-line workers, click here.

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