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The Grassroots Difference: USW Activists Run – and Win – in Political Races Around the Country

Fri, 05/17/2024 - 10:00

When USW member Ed Price ran for a seat in the Louisiana State Senate in 2017, he faced long odds, facing a wealthy sugar cane farmer with the deep pockets and name recognition of a well-known political family.

Price, however, had the union difference on his side. As a member of Local 620 in Gonzales, La., Price had a coalition of fellow workers ready to knock on doors, make phone calls and speak to voters one-on-one about the issues. That grassroots campaign had a significant impact, and the Democrat won his seat with 63 percent of the vote.

“We didn’t have the largest budget, but it was door-to-door, walking, knocking, talking to people,” Price said. “We probably had anywhere from 25 to 35 people walking through the neighborhood every day, knocking on doors, talking to people. That made a huge difference.”

Longtime Leader

Price, who served for 26 years on his local school board before joining the legislature, credited his experience as a union negotiator with giving him the skills and knowledge to seek office. In neighboring Mississippi, that same union difference has helped Sherry Guyton Odneal hold public office for more than 20 years. Odneal was re-elected in November 2023 to her seat on the Lowndes County Election Commission.

Odneal serves as financial secretary of Local 351L at the BF Goodrich plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as the local Women of Steel committee chair and as a member of the West Alabama Labor Council. She also lends her efforts to the USW’s Rapid Response grassroots education and mobilization program.

Besides providing a better quality of life for workers, Odneal said, the USW’s contract language on political work allows her to devote time to her second career in public service.

“If I didn’t have the union, I wouldn’t be able to hold this position,” she said. “When I see something wrong, I don’t just want to complain. I want to do something about it.”

Odneal said she urges more of her USW colleagues to get involved in the political process for that reason, arguing that union members should put more people like them into office.

“We can make a big difference, getting out there, volunteering,” she said. “We want the people in office to be for working people.”

That can turn the tide on issues like health and safety, union organizing rights, wages, retirement security, health care, and other important policies, Odneal said.

“It’s not about the R or the D,” she said. “It’s about who is going to support working people.”

‘It Was Worth It’

Like Odneal, JoJo Burgess knows the value of one-on-one interactions with voters. He credits grassroots politics with his election win in November making him the first Black mayor of Washington, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

Burgess, a member of Local 1557 at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, faced long odds at the outset of his campaign. Ultimately, he defeated the incumbent mayor in the primary and won the general election by 39 votes.

“Nobody thought I could win,” Burgess said. “If I don’t knock on those doors, I don’t win that race.”

Burgess said he ran for mayor because he believed he could make the biggest impact on the local level, and he wanted to show others that they, too, had the power to change their communities.

“I wanted to let people know that they have a voice and have a say in what’s going on,” he said. “I’m not a politician, but that was a means of getting where I needed to be.”

Burgess said he was proud to be his city’s first Black mayor, but that wasn’t his goal. “I don’t want to be known as the first,” he said. “I want someone else to be known as the next.”

Positive Role Model

The chance to set an example for his younger siblings was part of what motivated Justin Willis of Local 7-507 to seek office.

As a commissioner for Bridgeview in Cook County, near Chicago, Justin said the education he gained as a USW member played a big role in his election.

“We need to step up as leaders every chance we get,” Willis said. “Our union has a responsibility to make our communities better.”

Inspiring others and bringing them into the movement is part of being an effective leader, Willis said, whether it is in politics or in the union.

“We all have a chance to grow and learn,” he said. “The power of the tongue is mighty.”

Willis, Odneal and Burgess are just a few of the dozens of current or former elected officials with USW connections across the United States. They include Local 9 member Kathy Wilder, who won a write-in campaign for her Maine school board, and U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, who helped his fellow faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh win USW representation in 2021 before winning a seat in Congress the following year.

Those victories prove that “labor is not on defense anymore,” Deluzio said.

‘A Chance to Move Someone’

It was the 1967 election of the first black mayor of Gary, Ind., Richard G. Hatcher, that inspired DeWitt Walton to get involved in politics.

Walton, who was born in Mississippi and grew up in Gary went to work for Inland Steel in 1976 and quickly became active in his local union and his community. He went on to serve for more than 25 years as a union organizer and USW staff member, and later served as the program director for the Pittsburgh chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s “Breaking The Chains of Poverty” workforce development program.

Walton, who witnessed violent racism in high school and college, and later saw the steel industry’s struggles of the 1980s and 1990s first-hand, said he learned early on that he needed to speak out for himself and for others. Since 2016, he has held a seat on the 15-member Allegheny County Council, the legislative body serving more than 1.2 million people in Western Pennsylvania.

“My entire life has been one where I’ve had to deal with adversity,” he said. “I knew if I wasn’t at the table and part of the process, I’d be on the menu.”

Walton said that it’s important that all USW members get involved in the electoral process, through knocking on doors, talking to voters at their work sites, making phone calls, writing letters and other avenues.

“You have a chance to move someone,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better interaction than that.”

The need for lawmakers who share workers’ values pushed DeJonaé Shaw, a licensed vocational nurse and member of Local 7600 in California, to run for election to the California State Assembly.

Shaw said she would fight for the USW’s core values of workers’ rights, good jobs and quality health care.

“We need lawmakers who understand what it’s like to be a renter or to struggle to pay the mortgage,” said Shaw. “We need lawmakers who know what it means to decide between food and the medication you need. That’s why I’ve decided to run for office and why we need other union members to do the same.”

‘Get Out There’

Shaw and Odneal agreed that voters should choose the candidates who will fight for the issues that are most important to them.

When it comes to issues like workers’ rights, workplace safety and other priorities, “it’s all about who holds office,” Odneal said. “It’s important for union members to get out there.”

Walton said he hoped more union workers would vote and also consider seeking political office to help him and others push a workers-first agenda.

“There’s no better organization to help you get there,” he said, “than the United Steelworkers.”

Local 7-507 Members Ratify Contract Eliminating Tiered Wages at Ingredion

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 10:00

Members of Local 7-507 recently ratified a strong contract that eliminates a tiered system at Ingredion in Illinois.

The unit represents nearly 250 workers at the Bedford Park site that manufactures food grade and pharmaceutical starches.

Bargaining over the four-year contract began in February. After several weeks of negotiations, the members voted down the first tentative agreement because it still included tiered wages that pitted workers against each other.

Local President Derrick Davis said the group made it clear from the start that keeping the tiers was not an option.

“That was the main thing the members wanted,” said Davis, who has served as president for more than 15 years. “This [tier system] is not working for the company, either. It’s hard to maintain quality workers when they’re working beside someone they know is making more than they are doing the same job.”

The amalgamated local also found solidarity with union siblings at the company’s Indianapolis site, where management had also tried to push members last year to eliminate their USW health insurance plan.

Both units remained rooted in each other’s strength and were able to fight off the cut. “Their support was critical,” said Davis.

District 7 Sub-District Director Anthony Alfano said it was the steadfastness of the membership that brought this contract over the finish line.

“We had a really invested team of workers who knew what was at stake and didn’t want to waive their right to bargain over health insurance,” Alfano said.

The agreement also secured significant lump sum bonuses and wage hikes, including up to more than 20 percent for some employees over the length of the contract, as well as increased vacation time for new hires.

USW Activists Take to the Streets on May Day to Honor Global Labor Movement

Thu, 05/09/2024 - 10:00

Members of the USW and the greater labor movement took to the streets May 1 to rally and march for global economic and social justice on International Workers’ Day.

From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, activists stood side-by-side with immigrant organizations to declare that all workers deserve respect and dignity on the job, and that in the union, everyone is in.

Jessica Ríos Viner, member of USW Local 3657, serves as president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a constituency group within the AFL-CIO.

Each year, she organizes the Pittsburgh May Day rally and march through the busy downtown area with help from the Thomas Merton Center, Casa San José, and the Pittsburgh chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).

“No matter the color of the hands covered in dirt of the people working next to you, you have way more in common with them than you have with your boss,” Viner told the crowd of nearly 400, which included a horn section, university and library workers, grad students, baristas, striking journalists, families, and children.

For Viner, who proudly hails from Puerto Rico, the saying “We’re stronger together” is about the kind of solidarity that extends even beyond the labor movement.

“We’re all one human family,” said Viner. “All across the world people have the same needs: job security, living wages, safe workplaces, healthcare, and respect. We have to have each other’s backs.”

Xochitl Cobarruvias, chief of staff of Local 675 and active member of LCLAA in Los Angeles, also joined a diverse coalition in Hollywood to honor workers around the world on May 1.

“This day is a day of pride,” said Cobarruvias. “A day that we, as workers, immigrants and the community, should be proud of.”

The May Day holiday began to commemorate the fight for the eight-hour day in the 1880s as well as the lives of the campaign’s organizers who were executed in the wake of the 1886 Haymarket Affair.

Click here to learn more about LCLAA and how you can get involved.

USW Aims for Growth at Corning: Union Seeks to Follow Company Expansion in Fiber Optic, Solar Markets

Wed, 05/08/2024 - 06:00

The following article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of USW@Work.

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Before Courtney Melvin was a member of Local 1025 in 2016, she worked in sales at a Best Buy store. The low pay and scant benefits at the non-union job made it difficult for the single mother to provide a good life for herself and her family.

“It took three years just to obtain benefits,” said Melvin, who now works at the Corning optical fiber plant in Wilmington, N.C.

“At Corning,” she said, “I got benefits on day one.”

Those benefits improved the well-being of her family, while her USW contract delivered strong wages, health and safety protections, and other life-changing improvements that union membership provides. 

“In other industries, those were things that were non-negotiable,” said Melvin, who is part of the ongoing effort to encourage more workers to become USW members. “I definitely wanted to be a part of it so we could keep it going.”

Cutting-Edge Future

As Corning seeks to grow its business in the fiber optic and solar energy markets, the union hopes to follow suit, working to organize new members at those facilities, particularly in the notoriously non-union southern United States.

In Corning’s most recent annual report, CEO Wendell Weeks detailed recent declines in traditional sectors such as automobiles, televisions, smart phones and computers, while celebrating growth in the optical fiber and solar markets.

It’s that shift that drove the USW effort to organize at non-union Corning facilities focused on cutting-edge technology.

“If we want to have success as a union now and into the future, we have to go where workers are and build power with them, from the ground up,” said International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, who oversees bargaining for the USW’s Corning locals, including three in New York state, one in Virginia, one in North Carolina, one in Kentucky, and one in New Jersey.

Founded 173 years ago as a glass and ceramics company, Corning has consistently focused on research and development in an effort to diversify its product lines and grow its business. Over the years, the company spun off many consumer product lines into separate companies and, beginning in the 1970s, began focusing on specialty glass and materials used in industrial and scientific applications.

In 2007, for example, Corning developed and began manufacturing Gorilla Glass, an ultra-strong, ultra-thin glass used on iPhones, iPads and other touch-screen devices.

More recently, as smartphone and tablet sales declined and automotive production remained constrained, Corning shifted focus to the solar energy and fiber optic markets, particularly at non-union plants.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration’s 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $65 billion to deliver high-speed internet to the 24 million U.S. households that lack it, a major boost for exactly the kind of fiber optic cable Corning makes in Wilmington and elsewhere.

In addition, industry statistics show that solar energy accounted for nearly half of all new electricity-generating capacity in the United States in the first three quarters of 2023. And U.S. solar capacity is expected to more than double over the next four years.

“These transitions provide us with an opportunity to grow our union, to ensure that the jobs that are created in these emerging industries are good, community-sustaining jobs that provide a long-term future for working families,” Shinn said.

Corning’s Shift

Still, as its business continues to grow, Corning has in recent years begun a noticeable shift. Despite a long and productive relationship with the USW at locations across the eastern United States, the company has begun to move production of some of its most in-demand products to non-union shops, while stepping up its anti-union rhetoric.

Corning has seven locations in North Carolina, with only one of those – Wilmington – represented by the USW. Local 1025 President Donneta Williams is approaching 30 years at the facility and knows first-hand what the USW could do for workers at Corning’s non-union sites.

“I knew it made a difference,” Williams said. “When I came in, my income tripled.”

Besides the obvious financial benefits, she said, the USW shines a spotlight on health and safety issues, one that does not exist at non-union facilities.

“You have to hold the company accountable, and you have to hold your facility accountable to keep workers safe,” Williams said. “It’s very important to be at the table, to have a voice, and to make a change.”

Organizing Drive

It’s that desire to have a voice that is leading other Corning workers, in North Carolina and elsewhere, to challenge the status quo and push to join the USW.

Union drives are under way at Corning facilities in Concord and Hickory which also produce optical fiber, as well as a site in Durham that opened in 2018, where workers manufacture glass for pharmaceutical packaging, as well as other locations.

In addition to her role as local president, Williams serves as a vice president with the state AFL-CIO, and has seen an uptick in interest in unions from workers across the economy.

“We are wide open with activity,” Williams said of organizing activity in her state.

While North Carolina and most other southern U.S. states have so-called “right to work” laws designed to cripple unions, Williams, who comes from a family where both parents were union members, said the key to winning in an anti-union environment is educating workers.

“In the South, a lot of people have a negative view of unions,” she said. “They don’t understand that it’s a privilege to have a union to guide you, to stand with you, to fight for you. We try to convey that to new people.”

Organizing the South

Williams credited her predecessor at Wilmington’s Local 1025, Wilhelmenia Hardy, with prioritizing the education of new members and inspiring her to take on a leadership role.

After more than 20 years at Corning, Hardy took her leadership experience there and used it to launch a second career as a USW organizer. Now she helps workers throughout the South to understand the power of a union and to advocate for themselves through collective action.

Among the campaigns Hardy helped to lead was the successful effort last spring by 1,500 workers at Blue Bird Bus Co. in Georgia to join the USW. The victory gained national attention for its overwhelming success in the anti-union South.

The vote at Blue Bird was the largest union organizing win at a manufacturing plant in the region in 15 years, and provided inspiration for other workers throughout the South who are hungry for the benefits of union membership.

Still, Hardy said, organizing in the South, or anywhere, can be a difficult task when companies and anti-union political leaders gang up to intimidate workers.

“They have to want it. You can’t force it on any worker. They have to want change,” Hardy said. “So many workers are afraid, afraid they might lose their jobs if they even speak the word ‘union.’”

As Williams and Hardy agreed, getting workers past that fear means making sure they know what their employers are allowed – or not allowed – to do.

“Educating workers on their legal rights is a must,” Hardy said.

Eyes on the Future

As Corning moves more production work to non-union sites, the urgency of organizing those facilities grows. In addition, Williams said, members must continue to organize internally to ensure that workers in Wilmington and elsewhere buy into the importance of their membership in the USW.

“It’s challenging, but it’s important,” Williams said. “We can do more together.”

Melvin spearheads her local’s internal organizing work with entry-level employees. To help members learn about their rights and benefits, she created a Google Classroom page where members can read their contract and other documents and answer questions about what they learned.

“There is power in numbers. In order to ensure that we keep what we have now, we want to make sure that our numbers remain high,” Melvin said.

While working hard at the local level to build solidarity, Williams also collaborates with Shinn and leaders at other Corning facilities with USW contracts. Though there is not a master agreement for all Corning locations, council members coordinate bargaining and mobilization as much as they can, and members have volunteered in union organizing efforts.

“The solidarity is there,” Williams said. “We are there for our brothers and sisters.”

Building strength and unity among existing members, and recruiting those rank-and-file workers to organize others, will help potential members see the benefits of the union and inspire them to join the movement, Hardy said.

“If we have all the facilities in North Carolina, and if we all came together, it would be a win-win for everybody,” she said. “For the company, and for the workers.”

The 2024 Rapid Response, Legislative, and Policy Conference is Almost Here!

Tue, 05/07/2024 - 10:00

Click here to download this Rapid Response Info Alert as a PDF.

This year’s Conference is just under two weeks away and we are so excited to have our activists join us in Washington, D.C. With that being said, we want to get you primed with some education ahead of your arrival so you feel comfortable and ready to go when you arrive.

Join Us for a Pre-Conference Webinar!

We want all our delegates to feel confident about the work we’ll do in Washington, D.C. while we are there, so we are hosting four pre-conference Zoom webinars ahead of our arrival. Those will take place on May 9, 2024 and May 14, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on both days. We’ll cover conference logistics, how to download the app, layout the agenda, give a heads up on the lobby issues we plan to take to the Hill, and do our best to answer any questions you may have.

Click a Date to Register:
May 9, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. (usw.to/4zu)
May 9, 2024, at 8:00 p.m. (usw.to/4zv)
May 14, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. (usw.to/4zw)
May 14, 2024, at 8:00 p.m. (usw.to/4zx )

Our Lobby Issues:

This year we will be taking our core issues to the Hill by telling Congress to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), defend the final rule on Minimum Staffing Standards for Long-Term Care Facilities, and to fully fund and staff the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). We’ll cover these issues more in depth during our webinars, so please feel free to bring your questions!

Download the Conference App

The free app can be downloaded for Apple users at the App Store, usw.to/apple, or for Android users at the Google Play Store, usw.to/android. The app will keep you updated on conference activities, changes, and more. You can even register for the workshop sessions you would prefer to attend.

Show the Community USW Cares

We are anticipating donating hundreds more care kits to The Community for Creative Non-Violence again this year. Please click HERE to find out more information and thank you in advance for lending a helping hand!


We can’t wait to see you! If you have questions in the meantime, please contact Charleeka Thompson at chthompson@usw.org.

Unbreakable Bonds: USW Glass and Mold Makers at Ohio Factory Fuel Economy While Producing Top-Quality Bottles

Mon, 05/06/2024 - 06:00

The following article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of USW@Work.

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Tom Forker has worked at the Owens-Illinois glass factory in Zanesville, Ohio, for 48 years.

Over those nearly five decades, the 355 members of the four USW locals who work at the plant have become like family to him. And, in turn, six of his own family members, both children and grandchildren, have joined the work force at the plant.

The reason for Forker’s long-term dedication to his job is simple and succinct: “I care,” he says.

It’s a sentiment that members of the four USW locals share across all corners of the 750,000-square-foot O-I facility as they put in the hard work needed to turn out 365 million clear glass bottles each year.

‘Highest Quality’

“Customers pay for quality,” said Plant Manager Ben Valis. “Everybody knows that what we make here is the highest quality.”

The bottles that O-I workers make ultimately are sent out the door to be filled with some of the world’s most popular wines and spirits. Those products can be found on the shelves of grocery stores, wine and spirit shops, bars and restaurants, and ultimately, in the homes of millions of consumers.

The unique, high-quality products at O-I are part of the reason the Zanesville plant is looking forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary this August, and why the USW members there take such pride in the work they do.

“For the customer to get a good bottle on the shelf, quality involves everybody in the plant,” said storeroom leader Teresa Ziemer, who pointed out during a recent USW@Work visit to the plant that she was considering retirement after 45 years at the plant. 

“I feel very lucky,” Ziemer said, noting the strong wages and benefits that USW leaders negotiate for the work force. “I’ve always been proud to work here.”

Complex Process

For 5,000 years, the process of making glass has involved two basic elements: Sand and heat. Over the past 100 years, workers in Zanesville have perfected that craft with some help from modern technology.

Raw materials – silica sand, soda ash and limestone – arrive at the factory by rail and truck. Recycled glass is added to the mix, which is melted down in furnaces with temperatures topping 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

From computer screens in his control room perch, USW member Shawn Bonifield carefully monitors the process to ensure the correct temperature and consistency as molten glass is formed into bottles.

“I make the glass right here,” Bonifield said. “I keep a close eye on everything.”

Gobs of red-hot glass are fed into molds, where machines blow a precise amount of air into each piece to expand their interiors to specific sizes and shapes, some simple and others ornate.

From there, the bottles undergo a complex cooling process that ensures their durability. Once the bottles are cooled, members inspect and test them for quality, shape, color and other potential imperfections.

Trade Pressures

Owens-Illinois has been an innovator in the glass industry since 1903 when company founder Michael Owens unveiled the first bottle-making machine, which led to mass production of glass bottles, said Claude Beaudin, chair of the USW’s GMP Council.

Despite the continued shift toward automation, USW members are still involved in every aspect of the glassmaking process, from the start – known as the “hot end” – to the finish, called the “cold end.”

About 15 members of Local 121T make the glass molds, while about 45 members of Local 172M work to produce the hot glass. On the cold end, 250 members of Local 178M inspect the bottles and pack them for shipping. About 45 members of Local 105M work in maintenance across the facility to ensure the entire process keeps running smoothly.

Despite their dedication to making the best glass bottles in the world, USW glassmakers in Zanesville and elsewhere still face pressure from overseas trade.

Late last year, the U.S. Glass Producers Coalition, a group of bottle manufacturers and workers, filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission to curb unfairly traded imports from China, Mexico and Chile.

“As a union, the USW is committed to combating unfair trade practices in glass and other industries,” Beaudin said. “These practices are designed to distort the market and destroy good jobs. American workers are the best in the world, as long as they are able to compete on a level playing field.”

Economic Boost

In addition to making world-class bottles as they face down unfairly traded competition from abroad, USW members in Zanesville are united in their fight for fair wages and benefits at home, an effort that pays dividends for them and their families, as well as for the surrounding community, said District 1 Director Donnie Blatt.

“The success of Owens-Illinois and its dedicated union work force does more than just support a few hundred USW families in Zanesville,” Blatt said. “Thanks to the USW, this factory provides an economic ripple effect to the entire region of central Ohio. These workers should be proud of the products they make, and of their contribution to the economy of the Buckeye State.”

Safety a Priority

The intense heat and other potential hazards that exist at the factory make health and safety another top priority for USW members in Zanesville and across the industry.

Crew leader Bill Hollingshead said that the ability to stop work to prevent incidents is an important part of keeping members safe.

“We can shut things down if it doesn’t feel right,” he said. “It has to be an organized team effort.”

Hollingshead, who has worked for more than 35 years at O-I and done “every job in the plant,” considers himself something of a mentor to the younger union workers, making sure they have the tools and knowledge they need to carry on a century-long tradition, and to do so safely.

As a growing number of workers near retirement age and more younger workers join the work force, that becomes even more important, he said.

“I’m able to help them to coordinate their future, so to speak,” Hollingshead said of younger members of the work force. “The biggest part of my job is keeping everything running.”

‘It’s a Mindset’

Keeping the plant running smoothly, safely and efficiently takes the support of every worker on the plant floor, said Kyle Makin, who said it’s important to have co-workers who look out not only for the quality of the product but also for the well-being of their colleagues.

“An extra set of eyes is always best,” Makin said. “It takes a lot of patience. It’s not just a skill set. Some of it is a mindset.”

At its core, the mindset of the USW members in Zanesville is rooted in union solidarity, and in the belief that each person’s job is an essential part of the whole.

“We’re all part of a team,” Hollingshead said. “Everybody wants to work together and to do quality work.”

Continuing to turn out those top-of-the-line products is the key to the future for USW glassmakers, Hollingshead said.

“I want these guys to have the same things I had, and more,” he said. “We will if we continue to push quality out.”

Full Steam Ahead: USW Leads Coalition Seeking Action to Revitalize Shipbuilding

Fri, 05/03/2024 - 10:00

The following article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of USW@Work.

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The USW led a coalition of five unions this March in filing a petition calling on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to initiate an investigation of Chinese shipbuilding.

Over the past two decades, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has employed a number of predatory, non-market practices to massively expand its shipbuilding capacity and dominate global transportation and logistics networks. Those efforts decimated China’s competitors around the world, destroying thousands of good U.S. jobs in the process.

“The United States once had nearly 30 major shipyards; now we’re down to just a handful,” said USW International President David McCall. “That correlates with more than 70,000 lost shipbuilding jobs, not to mention all the secondary jobs the industry supports.”

Good USW Jobs

Many of those jobs are in industries where USW members work. One commercial ship can require approximately 13,000 tons of structural steel, 60,000 gallons of paint, 130 miles of electrical cable, as well as aluminum, glass and numerous other union-made products.

“If we do not act quickly, we will soon be dependent on China not only for the products their vessels bring into our ports but also for the ships themselves,” McCall said.

That dependence would have implications that go beyond the economic effects of lost jobs and shuttered facilities. Critical supply chains, as well as U.S. national security are at stake, McCall said.

“China has surpassed the United States and now operates the world’s largest navy,” he said. “Rebuilding our Merchant Marine is not only essential to increasing our nation’s sealift capability, it will help shore up the critical supply chains our military and commercial shipbuilding industries share, making us safer and more resilient.”

Potential Ripple Effects

Charles Spivey, president of Local 8888, observed the demise of the commercial shipbuilding industry firsthand. Spivey joined the Newport News, Va., shipyard in the late 1970s when it was still producing tankers for companies like El Paso Natural Gas Co. and U.S. Trust Co.

But that work ended when the U.S.T. Pacific, an ultra large crude carrier built for U.S. Trust, sailed out of the shipyard in 1979. Since then, except for a brief period in the 1990s when it produced commercial ships for overseas customers, the shipyard has focused exclusively on work for the U.S. military.

Today, about 12,000 Local 8888 members make aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines for the Navy. But Spivey said they would like to resume the commercial shipbuilding work and that they have the capacity for it.

James Crawford and his co-workers at Hunt Valve in Salem, Ohio, still make valves and actuators for commercial ships along with parts for military vessels, but they’ve seen demand for commercial ship components fall over the years.

Crawford, unit president for Local 3372-07, said the trade has the potential to create new, good-paying jobs while helping to boost the nation’s security.

“You can’t go somewhere to fight if you’re weak at home,” said Crawford part of the delegation of USW members who gathered at the U.S. Capitol in March to announce the filing of the case. “Nobody wants China to be taking our jobs. We need to be able to rely on American-made products.”

Revitalization of the shipbuilding industry would provide new opportunities for tens of thousands of USW members across numerous supply chains.

“It would help us tremendously,” said Steve Townsend, unit chair of USW Local 3261-01 at Rochester Metal Products in Rochester, Ind. “We can make just about anything having to do with iron castings. We’re very versatile,” said Townsend, citing hooks, brackets, water pumps and engine components as just a handful of the items he and other members of Local 3261-01 have the capacity to provide.

Chinese Dominance

Katherine Tai, who has served in the cabinet-level position of USTR since 2021, will review the petition and determine whether her office will launch an investigation of Chinese shipbuilding. She said she looked forward to that process, but that it was clear China has already harmed U.S. workers with its non-market policies, which include currency manipulation, dumping of low-priced goods, and unfair subsidization of Chinese industry.

“We have seen the PRC create dependencies and vulnerabilities in multiple sectors, like steel, aluminum, solar, batteries, and critical minerals,” Tai said.

As recently as the mid-1970s, U.S. shipbuilders employed more than 180,000 and launched 75 ships each year, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). Beginning with the Reagan administration, the government began to slash funding for shipbuilding, giving foreign competitors an edge and devastating the U.S. industry.

In 2023, McCall pointed out, China built more than 1,000 ships in 2023, while U.S. shipbuilders produced less than 10. Today, China controls about half of the world’s shipbuilding capacity, a level 232 times greater than that of the United States.

Union Coalition

Joining the USW in filing the petition were the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. The unions filed the petition under Section 301of the Trade Act of 1974, which provides the USTR with the authority to respond to unreasonable or discriminatory trade practices that burden or restrict U.S. commerce.

U.S. lawmakers also took up the cause, with U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Bob Casey sending a letter to President Joe Biden in support of the petition. Casey called China a “predatory regime.”

“We have to crack down hard on this regime and hold this regime and particularly President Xi Jinping accountable for what his regime does,” he said.

International Vice President Roxanne Brown said the Biden administration has already demonstrated its commitment to strengthening American manufacturing, creating good jobs and stopping unfair trade, and that rebuilding U.S. shipbuilding capacity is the next logical step.

“Labor unions and the Biden administration have worked together to establish a worker-centered trade policy and ramp up domestic manufacturing capacity through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act,” said Brown. “Reviving our nation’s shipbuilding industry will enable us to expand those investments, ensure a steady supply of goods, and grow the middle class.”

Strong Support

The USW petition is asking the U.S. to force China to pay a fee each time a Chinese-built vessel enters a U.S. port. Those revenues would, in turn, be used to support American shipbuilders, creating jobs and revitalizing the industry.

American voters agree with the USW that shipbuilding must be a priority. A recent poll found 82 percent said they were concerned that the United States builds so few ships, and 74 percent supported government investments to rebuild the industry.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a non-profit partnership of unions and employers, said that allowing China to continue to dominate the shipbuilding industry would have “disastrous repercussions.”

“Strong measures in response to this petition are an essential first step to rebuilding America’s maritime independence, and it’s an urgent one,” Paul said. “The Biden administration must act now to level the playing field for our shipbuilders.”

Big Union Energy: Next Generation of USW Activists Rise Up

Thu, 05/02/2024 - 10:00

This article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of USW@Work.

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A fervent spirit of the union swept through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh in early March as hundreds of fresh United Steelworkers activists convened at the second-ever international Next Generation conference.

The group spent four days working to amplify their engagement in the union and to share their passion for the labor movement with all who could hear.

The NextGen conference, held March 3 to 7, gave young and new union activists a chance to pump each other up and gain new skills as they served on panels, learned from USW staff and member trainers in workshops, rallied in the streets to show solidarity with other unionizing workers, and gave back to the community through various service projects.

The early-morning wake-up call on the conference’s first day didn’t deter the crowd of rowdy Steelworkers from shaking the room to life with the sounds of cheers, applause and hit music – provided by a live DJ – at the opening ceremony.

A handful of talented young USW members served as emcees to the program, including Noah Ledesma of Local 12-52, Ashley Seabrook of Local 8888, and Montrell Steib of Local 5702. The emcees brought energy to the stage each day of the conference, while still maintaining the spirit and purpose of all large USW gatherings – to learn, engage, and gather useful information to build solidarity with the rest of their union siblings.

District 10 Director Bernie Hall, who began his union leadership career as a founding member of the USW’s NextGen committee and served as the first NextGen coordinator of his district, kicked off the conference by welcoming the new members and inspiring them to take action.

“When NextGen took off, I was 30 years old and this union put their faith in me to go and speak – not just for this union, but for the entire labor movement,” said Hall, who is the first person elected to the USW International Executive Board to rise from the ranks of the NextGen arm of the union. 

“The labor movement isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon,” said Hall. “Take your first steps now, and you’ll do things beyond your wildest imagination.”

Activism Through Art

International NextGen Conference Coordinator Trisha Garcia of Local 8599 delivered the conference’s keynote address, speaking on the power of ideas and the important role creativity can play in the labor movement. 

Garcia highlighted the work of Julian Hernandez of Local 183, a health care worker and NextGen member who designed and painted a colorful backdrop mural for the conference at Pittsburgh’s historic Carrie Furnace on a freezing, snowy day in February. 

“The idea was to use this concept of creating to tap into the vibrancy that is street art, to convey the newness and energy of NextGen,” said Garcia. 

Unexpectedly cold temperatures and winds created challenging conditions for Hernandez – who hails from Southern California – to use his paint cans and brushes, but Garcia and other USW staff helped Hernandez complete the project over the course of two days. 

The artwork utilizes colorful, street art-style techniques and features diverse caricatures of workers in a variety of USW industries.

“It’s truly been an honor being able to merge my art and activism for this conference. It’s a dream come true,” said Hernandez. “This piece feels like the heart and soul of what we’re going to do this week.”

NextGen conference-goers took photos in front of the backdrop over the course of the week.

Learning the Ropes

Throughout the week, USW staff and member trainers provided nearly 60 workshops for conference attendees to hone their activism skills. Workshops focused on history and labor education, labor law, bargaining and enforcing contracts, health and safety, organizing, legislative and political strategies, social justice activism, communications and more. 

Paige Cisco and Andria Tipton, both members of Local 689 who work at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, led a course in “Community Service Safety and Health,” which highlighted the potential health and safety hazards to consider when planning community service activities for members.

Many of the principles of the course seemed simple – wear rubber gloves when picking up trash, wash your hands well, don’t mix ammonia and bleach. But the room came to life with hands-on demonstrations that engaged members and drew upon Cisco and Tipton’s experience with handling potentially radioactive material at the Ohio nuclear site where they work.

In one activity, Cisco poured fake blood over each participant’s gloved hands to demonstrate how to safely remove rubber gloves and about the importance of properly fitting PPE. In another, participants drew images on a page with a Q-tip dipped in baking soda and water. Blackberries were then smudged across the page, and the acidity in the berries reacted with the baking soda to reveal the images. 

“Even if you can’t see something, it could still be a present hazard,” explained Cisco, who began working at the Portsmouth plant as a janitor just a few years ago and is now a process operator and full-time safety representative. 

In another unconventional workshop, members of the Pittsburgh Labor Choir taught people how to use union chants and music to manage attention, build morale and direct collective action. With drums, shakers and tambourines, members of the class took turns leading chants and learning the most effective ways to use music to pump up the picket line. 

Bridging the Gap

The NextGen conference provided an opportunity for longtime USW leaders and retirees, along with the newest generation of members, to build relationships and learn from each other.

Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) President Bill Pienta began his USW career in 1966 as an electrician at a steel mill. Before taking on his leadership role in SOAR, he served as president of Local 2693 and later on the international executive board as director of District 4.

Pienta said that the NextGen conference provided connections between younger members and more seasoned activists, both of whom have much to learn from each other.

“As I get older, I learn how much I don’t know,” Pienta said. “We have to move forward, and we have to do it together.”

Conference-goers participated in a day of service on the final morning of the conference, branching out all over the city to volunteer at nearly a dozen sites that included churches, community centers, food banks and other non-profit organizations. 

While washing windows at the Kingsley Association, a community center in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, Precious Pittman, a member of Local 8888 who helps to build submarines at the Newport News, Va. shipbuilding facility, said she came to NextGen with nearly a dozen other members of her local.

“I’m excited to see how we’re bridging the gap between the older generation and the newer generation, and it’s only getting better with time,” said Pittman. 

Zack Mainhart, co-chair of the NextGen committee for Local 1557 at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, said he was glad to be able to build connections with some of the union’s most experienced leaders, who have demonstrated that, through solidarity, workers can overcome any obstacles in their path.

“For us to be able to understand our struggles,” he said, “we need to learn from them and how they navigated those situations.”

Lifetime of Activism

The final night of the conference honored AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond, who formerly served as the USW International Vice President, with the Lifetime of Activism Award to acknowledge his investment in and support of the NextGen group of activists. 

“There’s nobody better to receive this award than the godfather of NextGen, Fred Redmond,” said E.J. Jenkins, a NextGen activist from Local 1014 in Gary, Ind., who was honored with the Legend Award for his contributions to the labor movement that same night.

In his address to the ballroom full of young activists, Redmond highlighted their “electrifying” nature and the important role they have in organizing new workers. 

“Future generations of workers are depending on you to make sure that our union remains the fighting union that we are,” Redmond said.

International Vice President Roxanne Brown said she believes that fighting spirit will continue for generations to come.

“Seeing the enthusiasm in the eyes of our young activists, I know this union will be in good hands,” she said.

International President Dave McCall ended the conference with closing remarks to the room full of bright-eyed activists, who left energized and ready to take their newfound knowledge back to their workplaces.

“When you go home, share what you learned this week, talk to our members in the workplace about the power of our solidarity – to have a voice, to be able to succeed in protecting our members and their families,” said McCall.

“There is no greater power,” he said, “than what we can do together on behalf of our members and on behalf of their families.”

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Click below to listen to a USW Solidarity Works podcast episode about Next Gen.

Workers Win in Minnesota

Thu, 05/02/2024 - 10:00

This article was originally published in the June 2023 Election Connection newsletter.

In our November 2022 newsletter, we celebrated after labor-backed candidates in Minnesota won a slim state senate majority (34-33). This secured the state’s first pro-worker trifecta in nearly a decade with a union-friendly governor, state house and state senate.

In May, these allies joined Governor Tim Walz to enact the Jobs, Economic Development, Labor, and Industry Finance Bill (HF3028/SF3035), which has been hailed as the “most significant worker protection bill in state history.”

Taking effect July 1, 2023, the law will:

  • Ban “non-compete” agreements, which often keep workers from switching jobs because they fear being sued by their former employer (only Oregon and Connecticut currently have this protection);
  • Ban “captive audience meetings,” which are the primary opportunity for anti-union employers to bully, intimidate, and manipulate workers who are seeking union representation or more fair treatment on the job;
  • Establish the first-in-the-nation state-level ergonomics requirement to address repetitive strain injuries that are common in warehouses, meatpacking plants, health care facilities, and elsewhere;
  • Force large meatpacking plants to develop plans to prevent workplace injuries;
  • Provide greater protections for workers who have been victims of wage theft and misclassification;
  • Guarantee all workers paid sick and safe days (days that can be used to care for a sick family member, go to a doctor’s appointment, etc.);
  • Empower teachers to negotiate over class sizes;
  • Establish industry-wide pay and benefits for nursing home workers; and,
  • Require companies that operate warehouse distribution to be more transparent about work quotas, productivity, safety and health, wages, and more.

Meet District 8 Civil and Human Rights Coordinator Michael Lewis

Fri, 04/26/2024 - 10:00

Michael Lewis is not only proud to be a union member of 45 years; he’s proud to be a social justice activist and Civil and Human Rights Coordinator.

Labor runs in the District 8 Sub-District Director’s blood. His great-uncle worked at Bethlehem Steel in Maryland when it was first organized with the USW in 1941, while his grandfather finished his career as a longshoreman.

Before Lewis joined the USW as staff in 2014, he, like his great-uncle, worked at the Sparrow’s Point (formerly Bethlehem Steel) mill right out of high school until it shut down in 2012.

“I’ve been a Steelworker all my working life,” said Lewis.

During his time at his local, he served in a variety of roles, including grievance rep, safety rep, and financial secretary. As the years went on, however, he realized his biggest passion was civil rights.

Although Lewis recognizes that not every worker understands why labor unions get involved in fights surrounding racism and LGBTQ+ rights, he believes it’s vital to keep the conversations going.

He refers to a quote by President John F. Kennedy to explain it: “Our labor unions…have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders.

“I always start my presentations with this quote,” said Lewis, “because the struggle is not over. If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.”

Lewis knows that discussions regarding race and justice can be difficult, but that leaders in this space merely need to meet people where they are. At a recent training with over 90 USW members at Wheeling-Nippon Steel in West Virginia, he prompted a conversation about Colin Kaepernick’s fight for freedom of speech in the NFL.

“I spoke about how Colin used his labor rights and his union representation to file a grievance on his behalf like other unions do for their members,” Lewis said. “When you apply these issues to workers’ lives, they understand it.”

Lewis said District 8 Director Larry Ray has been a big proponent of the civil and human rights trainings and the value they bring to the movement.

Lewis is currently preparing to attend the USW Civil and Human Rights Conference in Detroit this June, the first since 2019. “It’s been too long,” Lewis. “I’m really looking forward to the fellowship.”

Click here to learn more and register for the Civil and Human Rights Conference.

USW leaders meet with SOEPU activists in Argentina to strengthen global solidarity

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 10:00

Leaders with the USW traveled to Argentina this month to attend the SOEPU (United Petrochemical Workers and Employees Union) Congress and forge relationships with chemical workers in South America.

USW attendees included International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, Carolyn Kazdin (retired from Strategic Campaigns Department), and Local 12075 President and Dow-Dupont North American Labor Council Chair (DNALC) Kent Holsing.

On the first day of the conference, April 8, Shinn was able to provide a report on the state of the chemical sector in North America while Holsing spoke on the DNALC. Activists from Argentina presented reports on the negative effect of President Milei's recent decree on labor law, which will potentially devastate working families, unions, and the country as a whole.

“It is incumbent on all of us to educate our members not just on the situation we experience at home but also about the experiences of workers around the world,” said Shinn. “Corporations have gone global, therefore our movement must be global as well.”

The second day of the conference provided an opportunity for the USW attendees and others to meet with municipal and provincial leaders. They were also presented with a proclamation recognizing the USW’s participation and the importance of the SOEPU and its Congress.

The SOEPU Congress closed with Secretary General Mauricio Brizuela urging delegates to understand the history and importance of labor's struggle, and the fight that is forthcoming to ensure the wellbeing of the union's members and their families.

“This conference was a ringing success for the SOEPU and solidified the importance of solidarity across borders,” said Holsing. “The struggle and challenges that are faced in one country and its unions will be felt and experienced by another country and its unions.”

Local 1557’s Renee Hough reflects on how the union helped her find freedom from abuse

Thu, 04/11/2024 - 10:00

Renee Hough has been a member of USW Local 1557 at U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works in southwestern Pennsylvania for 27 years. She works as a utility technician, or loader; it’s a job that Hough loves and that came along at the right time, and saved her life.

As Hough prepares to retire in less than two years, she finds herself looking back on her decision to leave an abusive marriage more than two decades ago. At the time, she knew she needed a good-paying job that would provide her the resources to leave and take her kids with her, and her job then as a cook at Denny’s wasn’t cutting it.

Then she saw an advertisement announcing that U.S. Steel was hiring in Clairton. It seemed like it was written in the stars, as getting the job would make her a fourth-generation union member.

“I needed better pay and security so I could remove myself from that situation,” Hough said.

A LIFE-CHANGING PROCESS

She got the job and began saving money. Seven months in, she was well on her way when her husband beat her so badly she had to spend a night in the hospital. Hough’s mother convinced her that this incident was a turning point she could not ignore. The next day, Renee moved in with her mother and began the process of divorcing her husband.

“I wouldn’t have been able to leave if I didn’t have my job to fall back on,” Hough said. “I owe both the union and my mother so much for that.”

What followed was a pain-staking year involving lots of counseling, court hearings, and other appointments. Hough believes unions can and should use their bargaining power to add language into contracts that allows time off for survivors of domestic violence for this reason.

Some local unions in recent years have done exactly this, including Local 2699 in Ontario, Canada. The USW’s Raising the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety action guide can be a resource for other locals looking to do the same thing.

Hough, who serves as chair of her local’s Women of Steel Committee, believes that this topic needs to be discussed more because of the shame and stigma that can go along with it, especially for men. She also wants other survivors to know they aren’t alone.

“If my story helps just one person, then it’s worth it,” Hough said.

When she isn’t working, Hough loves to bowl and spend time with her family, especially her three grandchildren.

---

If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence in the United States, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or 7233. Additionally, teen survivors of domestic abuse can call Love Is Respect, a dedicated hotline for minors, at 1-866-331-9474.

You can also reach out to USW District 1 Assistant to the Director Teresa Cassady, who has offered to be a safe and nonjudgmental ear for members experiencing abuse, at tcassady@usw.org.  

April Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Tue, 04/02/2024 - 10:00
One of SOAR’s Three-Fold Purposes

SOAR has identified its purpose as threefold. Per the SOAR constitution, one of the three reasons for our existence is "to engage in political and legislative action." The USW has given us a number of ways to do this. One of the ways SOAR members can be involved is by participating in an online membership survey currently accessible on the uswvoices.org website. Information on how to access this survey is available in the beginning of this newsletter. This survey asks you to identify priorities regarding important issues facing working and retired Americans today.

As you know, the USW endorses candidates, not parties. Therefore, candidates must commit to supporting the core issues deemed important by our members. In April, the USW will begin holding town hall meetings to hear from our members so they can weigh in on the matters we consider most important to us. I encourage SOAR members to participate in these meetings when scheduled in your area.

In May, the SOAR Executive Board will meet in Washington, D.C., and then participate in the USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Policy Conference.

One of the tools SOAR representatives will be armed with when meeting with our elected representatives to discuss the issues our union has identified as a priority is their voting record compiled by the Alliance for Retired Americans, whose mission is "to protect and expand retirement security for all Americans." 

The Alliance publishes all U.S. senators’ and representatives’ annual and lifetime voting records on key retirement security issues. Learn more about the 2023 Congressional Voting Record on page 11 of this newsletter.

SOAR Chapters will soon be asked to get involved in helping to elect candidates whose values best align with ours as a union and who support our position on issues determined to be important by our members. SOAR members can volunteer by attending rallies, making phone calls, helping to write postcards to our members, and writing letters to the editor to ensure our members understand who stands with us on our issues and who does not.

The link for signing up to volunteer to write postcards is already active on the uswvoices.org website.

Whether taking the survey, participating in a town hall meeting, or writing postcards, SOAR members have plenty of opportunities to engage in political and legislative action.

-Bill Pienta, SOAR President

April Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

Tue, 04/02/2024 - 08:52
Your Union, Your Voice

Based on the cover of this newsletter, you've likely concluded that our union is embarking upon another round of the Your Union, Your Voice campaign.   

Our union first launched Your Union, Your Voice in 2020 to ensure USW members' and retirees' opinions were reflected at every level of our union's work.  

We circulated a union-wide membership survey and held dozens of town hall meetings, providing valuable opportunities for our district directors, other elected union leaders and staff to hear what was on our members' and retirees' minds. 

Because this feedback proved so vital in shaping our union’s work, we repeated this effort in 2022 (see the results on page 9 of this newsletter), and it continues to inform our efforts as we head into 2024.   

Beginning in April, USW districts will again hold town hall meetings in locations across the United States. All USW members, retirees, and families are welcome to attend and participate in these important discussions.  

Additionally, our union has launched another membership survey to gauge our members' and retirees' views on some of the biggest issues facing working and retired Americans today.

You can access the survey here. Town hall meetings will be posted on this website, publicized through our social media channels, and shared by USW districts.

Our common values, such as fair pay, safe workplaces, a secure retirement, and vibrant communities, connect us as union members. 

Please take the time to attend a town hall meeting, participate in this survey, and share this information widely throughout your SOAR chapters and fellow USW retirees and families. 

April Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Tue, 04/02/2024 - 08:43
One of SOAR’s Three-Fold Purposes

SOAR has identified its purpose as threefold. Per the SOAR constitution, one of the three reasons for our existence is "to engage in political and legislative action." The USW has given us a number of ways to do this. One of the ways SOAR members can be involved is by participating in an online membership survey currently accessible on the USWvoices.org website. Information on how to access this survey is available on the cover page of this newsletter. This survey asks you to identify priorities regarding important issues facing working and retired Americans today.

As you know, the USW endorses candidates, not parties. Therefore, candidates must commit to supporting the core issues deemed important by our members. In April, the USW will begin holding town hall meetings to hear from our members so they can weigh in on the matters we consider most important to us. I encourage SOAR members to participate in these meetings when scheduled in your area.

In May, the SOAR Executive Board will meet in Washington, D.C., and then participate in the USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Policy Conference.

One of the tools SOAR representatives will be armed with when meeting with our elected representatives to discuss the issues our union has identified as a priority is their voting record compiled by the Alliance for Retired Americans, whose mission is "to protect and expand retirement security for all Americans." The Alliance publishes all U.S. senators’ and representatives’ annual and lifetime voting records on key retirement security issues. Learn more about the 2023 Congressional Voting Record on page 11 of this newsletter.

SOAR Chapters will soon be asked to get involved in helping to elect candidates whose values best align with ours as a union and who support our position on issues determined to be important by our members. SOAR members can volunteer by attending rallies, making phone calls, helping to write postcards to our members, and writing letters to the editor to ensure our members understand who stands with us on our issues and who does not.

The link for signing up to volunteer to write postcards is already active on the USWvoices.org website. 

Whether taking the survey, participating in a town hall meeting, or writing postcards, SOAR members have plenty of opportunities to engage in political and legislative action.

Chemical operators in Ohio vote unanimously to join the USW

Wed, 03/13/2024 - 08:20

Sam Howard has been a chemical operator at Detrex Corporation in Ashtabula, Ohio, for nine years. He and his fellow 20 workers produce high-purity hydrochloric acid for the pharmaceutical, food and beverage, semiconductor, and other industries.

 

As of late February, they are also now all members of the USW after a years-long campaign that reveals the power of persistence.

 

Howard and several other workers first began exploring joining the USW in 2020. The group was forced to run a mail-in vote due to COVID restrictions and endured a heavy anti-union campaign by the employer. As a result, they lost their election by one vote.

While the months passed, working conditions worsened. “Everyone quickly realized we had to try again,” Howard said.

The workers had stayed in touch with their USW-appointed staff representative and organizer, and decided to hold another union election in February 2024. This time, the victory was unanimous.

“We’re going to teach management how to treat us,” Howard said, noting that accountability is what he’s looking forward to the most with a collective bargaining agreement. “No more chaotic schedules and extreme vacation policies.”

The new members are in the midst of bargaining committee elections and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to get involved with the union.

Rapid Response Info Alert: We Want to Hear from You

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 13:07

Click here to download a PDF of this Info Alert

We Want to Hear from You Please Take our Survey


The work we do in Rapid Response always has been and always will be centered around the issues that impact us at the bargaining table and in our workplaces.

The legisation and policies we work to push back on or advocate for, center around our union's core issues; collective bargaining, safety and health, job security and trade, domestic economic issues, health care, and retirement security.

We know these are our core issues because we know that one hundred percent of our members can agree on them.

In 2020, we launched Your Union Your Voice to hear about the issues that matter most to you and share some of our union’s work to impact government decisions.

The feedback we have received from these efforts have helped make sure your priorities are reflected in our union’s work. This year, we’re doing it again, and it starts with hearing directly from you. 

 Please take a moment to take our online survey to tell us what issues matter the most to you HERE

We do our best advocating when we arm ourselves with your priorities. This helps us in our work to be better advocates for the issues that all our members agree can make an impact on their working lives. Please take a quick moment to fill out our survey.

Thank you for all the work you do each day to make Rapid Response the best grassroots legislative program in the labor movement. 


Rapid Response Feedback Report: We Couldn't be Prouder of Our Virginia Veterans

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 12:54

Click here to download a PDF of this Feedback Report 

 We Couldn’t be Prouder of Our Virginia Veterans

Virginia becomes the fifth state to pass our Veterans Bill. 

Our nation is home to nearly 16 million veterans of the Armed Forces. Many have come home and entered the civilian workforce in a variety of occupations and industries. We’re extra proud of those who are USW members and retirees. 

That’s why in early 2023, Rapid Response partnered with our union’s Vets of Steel program to continue the good work that began in New York, working with state legislators across the country to author and introduce legislation that would require a standardized workplace posting.

This posting includes basic information about veterans’ benefits and a way for veterans to learn more about the resources they are entitled to. These resources help to ease the transition back into civilian life and ensure that families and communities are supported after giving selflessly for our country. 

We are so excited to pass along that Virginia has unanimously passed the bill in both chambers and it is onto the Governor to be signed into law.

It is extremely rare for a bill to pass without any opposition, so we know we are working in the right direction to give our veterans the resources they need. 

Thank you to each and every person that lobbied their legislator to make this happen. We did this together and will continue to work until this law has been passed in every state in the Nation. Well done, Virginia Steelworkers! 

Honoring these courageous individuals should happen not only while they are actively serving, but also when they return home. Within our union, the “Veterans of Steel” program honors military service and identifies ways to assist veterans and their families in Steelworker-represented workplaces. If you are a veteran, and would like to join Veterans of Steel, click HERE.  

 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: West Virginia Unemployment benefits are Once Again Under Attack

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 07:35

Click here to download this Action Call as a PDF

  West Virginia Unemployment Benefits are Once Again Under Attack The bill passed the House; Help us stop it in the Senate! 

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. 

Decades ago, workers fought for, and won, benefits which provide some financial stability during times of unemployment. In a state like West Virginia, that has had historically high unemployment numbers due to extenuating circumstances affecting the state’s main industries, cuts to unemployment compensation are especially harmful. 

In addition to the Cleveland Cliffs closure we mentioned last week, Appalachian Wood Products has announced it will close. That’s 1,800 jobs lost in less than a week! 

 “It is simply unimaginable that state lawmakers would consider legislation to reduce the amount of unemployment benefits workers could qualify for, especially considering the devastating news that 1,000 West Virginia workers at Cleveland-Cliffs in Weirton are losing their jobs on top of recent plant and mine closures elsewhere in West Virginia. Legislators should be seeking to help rather than hurt these workers and their families.” - District 8 Director, Larry Ray 

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. These current pieces of legislation SB 840 (usw.to/4xf) and SB 841 (usw.to/4xg) would limit and restrict benefits, make 20 weeks the maximum duration of benefits and more to those eligible. West Virginia lawmakers need to do better by these workers. 

 We have to act fast! 

A vote could come as soon as Wednesday. Click HERE (usw.to/3Li) to find your senator and place a call today. 

Tell your senator to oppose any legislative push to cut and/or index unemployment benefits. 

Tell them to reject SB 840 (usw.to/4xf) and SB 841.(usw.to/4xg) 

 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 Feedback Report: We did it again! So-called Right to Work has been defeated in New Hampshire

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 07:15

Click here to download a PDF of this Feedback Report

 We Did It Again!  So-called Right to Work has been defeated in New Hampshire. 

Yesterday, with Steelworkers and our allies once again stationed in the gallery, the New Hampshire House soundly killed the latest attempt by state and national proponents to pass so-called right-to-work legislation (HB 1377) by a bipartisan vote of 212 to 168.

The measure has been buried with an indefinite postponement vote which means it cannot be resurrected until 2026. 

For nearly two decades anti-worker legislators have been pushing to usher so-called right to work into the state. And each time, New Hampshire workers have stood their ground and used their voices to push back and defeat it.

We could not be prouder of the efforts that went into this defeat, and we thank each and every worker who made yesterday possible 

 “We are so proud of our members from across New Hampshire who showed up at the District meetings, rallies, and the Statehouse. They knew what a disastrous policy Right to Work is to the standard of living and they let their voices be heard loud and clear. They are why we are able to defeat legislation like this time after time. We have them to thank.” – District 4 Director, Dave Wasiura 

How Did Your House Member Vote?

Click HERE (http://usw.to/4xb) to see the Roll Call. (Search Bill No HB1377) 

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

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