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2021 USWCares District 10 Jefferson Award winner LuAnn Murray

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 11:32

LuAnn Murray is a volunteer firefighter and community activist in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. In 2018 she brought new life to an annual community festival that originally began in the 50s and had gone non-existent. Murray also single-handedly leads a Hometown Hero Banner Project that gets memorial banners of military veterans from Jefferson County displayed on the light posts of Brookville. For her tireless community service efforts, she is the 2021 USW Cares District 10 Jefferson Award winner.

Murray has worked as an injection press operator for Berry Global, a company that manufactures child-resistant closures for pill bottles, for thirty years. Her local, Local 247M, is a former GMP local, and Murray had been a trustee and union steward for the Local for four years, until her brother, who also works for Berry Global, was elected as Treasurer of the Local.

Hometown Hero Banner Project

Murray took on the Hometown Hero Banner Project all by herself three years ago. The families of veterans from Jefferson County purchase a banner and supply a picture of their veteran for it. Murray designed the banners herself and visited the sites of other towns’ banner projects to get ideas for the look. The banners are installed on the light polls in Brookville on Memorial Day and they stay up until Veteran’s Day when they’re removed and stored for the winter. The veterans’ families pay a maintenance fee, and the banners are reinstalled the next year.

The process for Murray to get these banners installed was long. She had to work with the electric company to get permission to install banners safely to the light polls, but she also had to go around town to record the poll numbers of every poll that was to have a banner and have them inspected in order to get permission.

Murray ordered and assembled all of the hardware for the banners to be hung on the polls; Brad Greeley, Brookeville Burrows Maintenance Department, and Silverado Tree Service all volunteer their time and man-power for installation.

Murray organizes a dedication ceremony for the banners at the Hometown Hero Night of the Laurel Festival and she inputs the names of all of the honored veterans on America Salutes’ website that maps where veterans’ banners are hung all over the country: http://www.troopbanners.com/Brookville/. Family members can look up and see their veteran’s banner from anywhere.

“I literally cried when we installed the first banner,” said Murray. “I have enjoyed this project so much. I’ve worked hand in hand with the families and veterans. I’ve heard their stories, and I learned a lot of history. I would be in tears hearing their stories, it was just very heartwarming.”

Murray’s own brother is a veteran who has a banner in town. “Without them we wouldn’t have our freedom. A lot of them didn’t get the respect they deserve when they came home, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have the land of the free,” said Murray.

At the banner dedication ceremony Veteran David Reitz spoke in Murray’s place; he did and official “welcome home” for the veterans of the Vietnam war.

“I am very emotional about these banners. It’s been wonderful to drive through town and see them. I think it’s a wonderful way to honor our veterans, it shows our pride and appreciation in them.”

The community shows Murray a lot of appreciation for the work she’s done to honor their veterans. She even had a few kids recognize her and say “Hey, you’re the banner lady! Thank you!”

Fire Department and Search-and-Rescue

Murray joined the Pine Creek Volunteer Fire Department June of 2014 at the age of 49. She is one of nine active volunteer firefighters in her immediate family.

“This was my positive that came of my divorce, me doing my volunteer work. The comradery is unbelievable. I had always wanted to be a firefighter, and my ex-husband didn’t approve,” she said. The first thing Murray did after getting a divorce was join the volunteer fire department.

She is one of ten out of 49 active responders who respond to the most calls. She’s also on seven committees in the fire department and chairs two of them. She is the reporting secretary, as well, so she reports back to the state about every call that the department responds to.

Murray is also very passionate about fundraising for the Fire Department. She sells raffle tickets and participates in a 911 Memorial Stair Climb, climbing 2,200 steps, the equivalent of the 110 floors in each of the twin towers. Proceeds are donated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Fire Department of New York’s Counseling Services Unit.

Murray also volunteers with Pine Creek K9 Search and has helped conduct a training with Heaven-Scent Search and Rescue Team.

“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t wait for people to ask for help. I’m the kind of person who jumps up and says ‘Wait let me help ya!’” said Murray.

The Laurel Festival

Murray says that her brother does just as much for the Festival as she does, and that he is the one who suggested that she reinvent it, but because of entity rights, it had to be renamed.

Now called the Laurel Festival, this community affair brings the residents of Jefferson County together every year for a nine-day long festival packed with creative and interesting activities and vendors; a lot of people treat the Laurel Festival as a Homecoming-type event.

Each day of the Festival has a different theme, there’s a festival board with 11 members and four associate members; each member of the board is a assigned a day of the festival to run/plan. Any money made from the events goes back into the festival, but almost everything is free.

Festival Days

Day one is the Scholarship Pageant: On this day there is also “Art in the Park,” and it’s geared around kids and live entertainment.

Day two is Family Faith Day and the Strawberry Social: This day starts with a pancake breakfast and later on there is a “Strawberry Social” where people come to hang out and enjoy shortcakes volunteers make with icecream. It is open to all, and church groups come to speak and sing.

Day three is Outdoor Sportsmen Night: Chainsaw carvers hold a demonstration and sell their products, and there are kayaking water rescue demonstrations. The game commission, the Elk Alliance, Pheasants Forever (an organization that raises pheasants and releases them for hunts) are all invited. Invictus Axe-throwing brings back boards for people to try their hand at axe-throwing. Outdoors vendors set up tents to sell their products, and they want to have a lumberjack competition next year.

Day four is Family Fun Night: On this day there’s a “Pet Parade” and the kids’ Laurel 500 race where for a small donation the kids can paint wooden cars provided by the Free Masons and then race them; the kids get trophies. There’s “Hungry Human Hippo,” a dunking booth for the police force, a penny booth ring-on-pop-bottle toss run by the firefighters, bubble pit and bouncy houses for the kids, and it all ends with a family movie night on Main Street. The street is shut down, a huge movie screen is put up and give popcorn

Day five is Relay-for-Life Night: This night is run by the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life staff. There is a luminary ceremony, scavenger hunt, and other activities; the money raised goes toward Relay for Life.

Day six is Hometown Hero Day: This is Murray’s Day! On this day there is a bridge-naming ceremony; a bridge is named after a military veteran from Jefferson County. Murray works with veterans in the community to select a veteran to name the bridge after. Then she helps them do the paperwork and get the proposition to name the bridge approved by the state house and senate. This year a main bridge in Brookeville was name after Budd Hedrick who died in action and his remains weren’t found until years later. Murray worked with State Representative Brian Smith and State Senator Cris Dush, who did the behind-the-scenes work through the state congress and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to get the bridge named. On this day the Veterans from Brookeville, American Legion Post 102, sponsored the installation of a granite military tribute memorial in the yard of the Courthouse.

Day seven is Sidewalk Sales Day: On this day, vendors and local businesses rent tables at ten dollars apiece to sell crafts and other products at discounted prices. The Pine Creek Volunteer Fire Department does a chicken barbeque that all the local residents look forward to; they sell 1,000 chicken halves that day! There are also manufacturing tours, which Murray is also in charge of: seven businesses give tours of their facilities and offer snacks and drinks. There is also a “Quilt and More Show,” where demonstrators and vendors from quilting and sewing businesses come sell products and do knitting, embroidery, wool-spinning, and sewing demonstrations. In the evening there is a live band.

Day eight is the Grand Parade: This day starts with weight lifting competition, then moves on to “Touch a Truck,” which is an event for the kids. The police, the armory, the fire department, and construction companies bring in cool vehicles for the kids to climb on and pretend to drive. Then, of course there is a parade, and after the parade there is the “Firemen’s Games” obstacle course for kids. Then, adult firefighters do the “Battle of the Barrel”, where two teams of firefighters use hoses to push a barrel strung on wire overhead to the other team’s end. They also do “Bucket Brigade,” where teams do a relay with buckets of water through an obstacle course. In the evening they have a live band and do fireworks display – there’s a raffle for the fireworks display, and whoever wins the drawing gets to be the person to push the button that sets off the fireworks.

Day nine is the last day: There’s a remote-control car race in the morning for the kids, and then they host “Autorama,” a car and motorcycle show that features a live band. The festival ends with an awards ceremony for the car show.

December Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 11:10
Wishing You a Safe Holiday Season; Looking Forward to 2022

Like most everyone, I’m itching for the day when everything is back to normal. With any luck, I’m hoping that will be next year because we’ve scheduled our 2022 SOAR Conference for August 5 and 6 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

As you know, our International SOAR Conference always happens in conjunction to the USW’s International Convention, both of which had to be canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are several items that I thought I should bring to your attention:

  1. The delegates to the SOAR Conference will elect the Officers and Executive Board members of SOAR for a term of three years.
  2. Chapters large enough to send delegates will be notified by mail.
  3. For those chapters planning on submitting resolutions to the conference, all resolutions must be received in the SOAR office in Pittsburgh, no later than July 1, 2022.

SOAR bylaws require we publish notice for this conference in our publications, so you will see more information about it beginning with this newsletter.

To all in the SOAR family, I hope you enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season; and get ready for what may be a very active year for SOAR.

December Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 11:00
Everyone Will Benefit from Infrastructure and Social Safety Net Bills

On Monday, November 15, President Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, making massive investments in transportation, broadband, road and bridge construction, and more.

For months, this bill has been moving through Congress in tandem with the President’s social safety net bill – the Build Back Better Act – which the U.S. House passed on November 19 and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

Together, these bills seek to address a variety of economic and social issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prior is the most significant effort in nearly 70 years to update our nation’s physical infrastructure, and it will reshape our economy to be competitive for the next several generations.

Upon President Biden’s signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, USW International President Tom Conway said, “Our elected leaders have long promised this kind of transformational infrastructure investment but ultimately failed to deliver. Now, thanks to President Biden’s vision and leadership, Congress has finally come together and passed bipartisan legislation that will directly benefit American workers and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”

The latter – the Build Back Better Act – is expected to be taken up by the Senate in December.

In addition to the millions of good-paying jobs that the President’s infrastructure plan will create,

this legislation includes popular ideas that will benefit working families, like universal pre-k for 3- to 5-year-olds, paid family medical leave, and tax breaks for the overwhelming majority of workers.

Additionally, the House-passed Build Back Better Act (BBBA) includes a historic expansion of Medicare to include coverage for hearing aids and other auditory care for the first time. It places a cap ($2000) on Medicare Part D out-of-pocket costs for seniors and caps the price of insulin at $35 per month.

The BBBA also establishes a Medicare drug negotiation program which is a monumental leap for retirees. According to the Congressional Budget Office, drug negotiations will save Medicare $262 billion.

The Senate will likely amend the bill and then send it back to the House before it becomes law.

The Alliance for Retired Americans applauds the House passage of the Build Back Better bill that will significantly improve the lives of older Americans,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Seniors appreciate that the bill takes steps to lower prescription drug prices for retirees and all Americans. Now that the House has voted, it’s time for the Senate to deliver for the American people without delay.”

Although the holiday season is upon us, kindly take a moment from your busy holiday schedule to contact your Senators today! Wishing you all happy, healthy and safe holidays!

USW Local 1419 ratifies new contract with DS Smith

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 12:33

On Friday, Nov. 26, USW Local 1419 reached a tentative agreement with the DS Smith site in Reading, PA. The six months of bargaining entailed a bat light action and support from Unite the Union (UK). The new contract was ratified Sunday, Nov. 28. 

Congratulations to the membership of USW Local 1419 for staying strong through tough bargaining and winning a new contract. A big ‘thank you’ goes out to the USW members from sister facilities in Reading and Workers Uniting members in the UK who showed unyielding solidarity during 1419's fight for a far contract.

Appellate Court’s Decision on Waste Volume Could Keep Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Open to 2050

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 09:29

New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) could stay open until 2050 as a result of an appellate court’s decision that upheld how the volume of nuclear waste emplaced in the salt repository is counted.

Judges J. Miles Hanisee, Shammara Henderson and Kristina Bogardus issued a concurring opinion on Nov. 9 that upheld the state’s approval of a Department of Energy (DOE) request to modify its operating permit, the Carlsbad Current Argus reported. DOE requested in 2018 a change in its operating permit to allow it to count the volume of nuclear waste itself instead of the volume of the waste drum. Doing so would mean the underground salt repository would be a third full instead of half full.

WIPP takes in transuranic waste—items like clothes, tools and debris that are contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements like plutonium—from former nuclear weapons production sites like Idaho National Laboratory. The state’s environment department approved DOE’s operating permit modification in 2019, but nuclear watchdog groups appealed the decision to the appellate court.

In rejecting the groups’ appeal, the judges said the modification decision was legal, and that it was incorrectly assumed that the waste drums would be full when the state approved the initial operating permit. They said this undercounting of waste created, in effect, a limit that would underutilize the WIPP facility.

“This is great news for our members,” said Local 12-9477 President Rick Fuentes of the appellate court’s decision. “Extending the life of the facility so it meets its statutory limit for transuranic waste storage will enable our members to have good, family-supporting jobs for years to come.”

Advisory Board Urges Improvements to EEOICPA to Help Claimants

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 07:51

The Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health devoted its biannual meeting in November to discussing recent changes to a federal program for sick nuclear workers and suggesting further improvements.

The advisory board met virtually Nov. 8-9 with Department of Labor (DOL) administrators of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) to review work the DOL undertook this year to make it easier for claimants to get compensated. The board also made recommendations so that in the future, sick nuclear workers’ claims are handled fairly and that they receive the medical care and other benefits the act provides.

The advisory board was created in 2015 and advises the Secretary of Labor on the technical aspects of the EEOICPA program. It is comprised of members from the scientific, medical and claimant communities.

Jim Key, chair of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council, and Duronda Pope, the USW Emergency Response Program director, sit on the board with two others representing claimants.

At the November meeting, the DOL reported that the program’s staff continues to receive training on customer service, the proper way to talk to claimants and providers, and workplace civility.

In the past, “the advisory board received several complaints about the regional resource centers. It’s their responsibility to assist claimants during the filing process, not to determine whether or not they have a valid claim,” Key said. “The advisory board drew attention to it, and that’s why DOL conducted staff training.”

The DOL also accepted the advisory board’s recommendation to include links between diseases and occupational exposure from the International Agency on Cancer Research and the National Toxicology Program. The agency added this information on Nov. 16 to the repository at each site that contains the toxic substances and chemicals used, exposure data and scientifically established links between toxic substances and recognized occupational illnesses.

Adding this information broadens the scope of the repository, Key said, and shows more causal connections between workplace exposure and disease. This makes it easier for claimants to prove their illnesses are a result of where they worked. In addition, claims examiners use the repository and a guide book to approve or reject a claim, so it is important the repository be as complete as possible.

Advisory board members expressed concern over the lack of interviews industrial hygienists conducted with workers and the accuracy of their reports. These reports are also used to process claims.

Key said these interviews are important because until the early-to-mid 1990s, the sites did not have industrial hygienists measuring chemical exposures. Additionally, there was not documentation on the uses of certain chemicals by particular worker classifications.

Board members suggested the DOL start a pilot program to conduct more industrial hygienist interviews with workers to see if more and better information on exposures is obtained.

While the advisory board continues to seek improvements in the claims process, Key said there is still a lot of work to do.

“It’s not a user-friendly claims system,” he said, “That’s why the advisory board is needed – to make refinements to the EEOICPA claims process so sick nuclear workers can get the medical care and compensation they deserve.”

Rapid Response Coordinator Spotlight: Dave Dellisola, USW Local 12012

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 07:57

As we enter a season of giving thanks, your USW Rapid Response Program wants to take a minute to say THANK YOU! We know that our program would not be successful without each and every one of you. Your tireless work and dedication to ensuring that workers voices are heard at every level of our government helps lead the way to equity and justice for all working people, not just those at the top.

What better way to show our gratitude for all of the powerful work our activists do, than lifting up their stories and shining a light on their successes?

Last week, I spent a little time catching up with Dave Dellisola. He is USW Local 12012’s Rapid Response Coordinator and Vice President, and this month’s Rapid Response Spotlight:

How did you get involved in Rapid Response?

In 2009 or 2010 as we began preparing for our contract negotiations at National Grid, we started to familiarize ourselves with the International’s resources. We really weren’t using them too much before that. We were like a lot of locals and felt like we were on our own. We didn’t think there was help out there and didn’t ask for it. But, when National Grid bought up Boston Gas and Keyspan and became one of the big boys, we realized that we needed to get all of the knowledge we could and come up with a strategy to fight them come contract time.

Like all companies we knew that they were going to go for a two-tiered system and come after us for all they could. I may have gotten “voluntold” at the beginning, but I learned the ropes and realized how important the International’s programs like Building Power and Rapid Response really are, and I’ve been involved in the program ever since.

You mentioned you got involved while preparing for contract negotiations. As many people know, your local was locked out by National Grid for around seven months a few years ago. What role do you think Rapid Response plays when it comes to your contract and negotiations?

Depending on the industry you are in, it can play a big part in gaining leverage. For instance, we at National Grid work with natural gas and are a public utility, so a lot of the decisions that are made regarding our work come from the Department of Public Utilities and the Governor. We are really fortunate in Massachusetts because our politicians here are very worker friendly, but you have to stay on them about what you need. One of the big things that we were able to use for leverage during our lockout, was when we were able to lobby our politicians and the Governor to pass legislation that extended the unemployment benefits of the workers affected by the lockout. It was shortly after that the company came back to the table and we were able to get an agreement. 

It’s the legislation in between that you have to watch as well. Like right now it’s mandated that we have to go into people’s houses and check the gas meters every seven years, but we are currently fighting off legislation that would change that mandate to every 12 years. That’s a lot of work for us, so we have to stay on top of them and make sure that we are doing our part to keep our members working. We have to make sure we take our seat at the table. If you think about how environmental laws are changing, in our industry it’s imperative that we are at the table on these issues. We need to look out for the workers in fields like mine as we move toward green energy. The relationships that we build with our legislators through Rapid Response help to make sure that we always have that seat at the table. In fact, because of those relationships a lot of times legislators will call us when it comes to different bills and safety measures for the gas industry now.

I was told that you are a new District 4 Rapid Response Area Coordinator, and that you took a lead role for the District in the “Right to Work” fight in New Hampshire earlier this year. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience?

Well, I had previously spent some time with the Strategic Campaigns department going out into some of the Midwest states that have “Right to Work”; it really opened my eyes to how good we have it. I actually think that’s part of the reason they sent me to some of those places, they knew I was spoiled in Massachusetts. It was really hard for me to conceive how some of the locals in “Right to Work” states functioned. I just couldn’t understand it at first, but it didn’t take long for me to figure it out that it was not good. That is why I really had a heads up when it came to what “Right to Work” would do to New Hampshire. You might not see it right away but laws like that really hurt the locals.

“Right to Work” seems to come up every year in New Hampshire and I have been involved before, but this time it was different; it seemed like they really had a chance to pass it. I know the strategy for them is to get it into the Northeast, and New Hampshire is the most conservative of the states up here, so it is always the target. My local is amalgamated and we have units in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So right off the bat I knew that no matter how good I have it in Massachusetts, if “Right to Work” passes in New Hampshire it will affect us in Massachusetts too. That was a real driving force for me to put everything I had into keeping it out. I know that it’s going to keep coming back and they are going to keep trying. Their strategies change with the times, from things like it’s going to bring new businesses to its about protecting the rights of the workers, and every time we are going to have to go out and prove them wrong and keep fighting them off.

You said that this time it was different, and it seemed like they really had a chance to pass “Right to Work” in New Hampshire. What do you think made the difference and how do you think you were able to stop it in New Hampshire this time?

I would have to say educating the 20 Republicans that voted NO on it. A lot of the legislators that I talked to didn’t know anything about it. They basically fell for it, especially the newer ones. As soon as January 1 hit, and the new legislators came in, the leadership started right off the bat trying to push it through so they couldn’t get educated on what it really does. I think by us calling and emailing and just educating these new legislators it got enough of them to take a step back and realize what “Right to Work” really does. It was a really close vote and I really believe it was the education of these legislators on what it would mean for working people, that made the difference. I actually think that we need to keep educating them even when there isn’t a bill on the table. That way the next time this comes up, because we know it will, we won’t be starting from scratch, and it will make it easier. And, it doesn’t stop with educating the legislators. We need to continue to educate the public too. If the legislators who are voting on it don’t know the harm it causes, we know the general public doesn’t either. I think education all the way around, all the time, would make the fight a lot easier. 

In that “Right to Work” fight Rapid Response tried out some new tactics, and we really used Twitter and social media to put pressure on lawmakers. Do you feel like this helped?

Absolutely. I really think that it helped. We saw the legislators that really wanted to be educated reach out to us. One of them asked us to call him and when I called the gentleman, he had no idea what “Right to Work” was and he really wanted to learn. So, I think calling them out on social media, if you do it the right way, is a big help in these fights. It gets the word out, and if you get the right message, it really makes a big difference.

So, switching gears a little bit, we know that Rapid Response has functioned a little different over the last year and a half as COVID really prevented those one-on-one conversations the program is built on, can you tell me what you did to overcome this?

Obviously, we were affected, and like most locals really lost those one-on-one conversations. For us however, since we were really using the resources available to us as a local, we already had good communication networks built. Through the building power program and the CAT teams that we have used over the years, we were really ahead of the game and set up for it. We have good email and text lists and our own website, so we were still able to get the word out. I really think that’s key. If you have the chance to get involved in building power, it can really stretch into everything your local does and help you accomplish whatever goals you have. We rely on our CAT teams to get the word out to the membership for contract negotiations to Rapid Response, and everything in between. With the lockout too, it really prepared us for not being able to have those conversations on the shop floor because we didn’t have a shop floor for 7 months. We had done this before.

It sounds like your local Rapid Response team functions especially well. If you were going to impart one piece of advice to a new Rapid Response Coordinator to help make their team successful what would it be?

Communication. Communication is key to Rapid Response. I try to stress that you have to start out early. Don’t wait for an issue or your contract to pop up. It takes years. You can’t do it over night. It has taken us a long time to get things set up and get everyone’s information and make sure we are all on the same page. Communication within the local is where it starts and once you get that set up it makes everything so much easier. You have to keep up with and it’s a lot of work, but communication is the key. Communication all day, every day makes the difference.

I think that is some very sound advice. Before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to talk about our latest win. As you know, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act was signed into law on Monday and our Union played a major role in that by communicating with our legislators through our We Supply America Campaign. Can you tell me what this bill will mean to the members in your local?

Being in the natural gas industry we know that typically the first thing that will be done when tearing up and replacing dilapidated roads is upgrading the outdated and old utility lines that run beneath them. This is especially needed in the Northeast where a lot of the gas lines are old and made of cast iron. Most of the time they won’t replace them because it would mean that they have to rip the street up. Now, with this bill passed, the hope is that if they are ripping the streets up, they will have to replace the old gas lines. Most people don’t realize that a lot of the emissions that come from natural gas are a result of old and leaking pipes. Upgrading these gas lines will create a lot of work for our members and help address emissions in our industry. 

As I wrapped up with Dave, he reiterated how important it has been for his local to take advantage of all the resources the International has for members. He told me that he knows there are locals out there that may not know what is available to them. If you want to learn more about the programs and resources your Union provides, talk to your Staff Rep. and go to www.usw.org and check out the “Get Involved” and “For Members” tabs.

All of us in Rapid Response would like to wish you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving. We are truly thankful for you and the work you do every day.

Long-term health care workers in District 6 honored with USW’s social service award

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 11:18

Members of Local 9329, who work at CV Homes just outside of Ontario, Canada, endured the challenge of a lifetime when their long-term care facility was the first to experience a COVID-19 outbreak in the region. Through the scary and uncertain months dominated by isolation and chaos, they displayed tremendous compassion and solidarity.

Because of this, Local 9329 is District 6’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner.

 

Many staff members moved in together to keep their families safe as they cared for vulnerable residents, who were also unable to see friends and family of their own.

“We didn’t have any option,” said Local 9329 President Lisa Cook. “Even my own two children, they were both sent home from their jobs the day it was announced that the nursing home had an outbreak, so they immediately became unemployed.”

During the outbreaks it was all-hands-on-deck for these members, many of whom helped out other departments in desperate need. They also all went out of their way to make their residents feel less alone.

“We were the people who kept them company; we were their connection to the outside world,” said Cook.

Click here to read more about Local 9329!

2021 USW Cares District 6 Jefferson Award Winner, Local Union 9329

Tue, 11/16/2021 - 07:29

USW Local Union 9329 represents the service workers and registered nurses of a long-term care home in a rural area of Ontario. President of the local for the last three years, Lisa Cook, nominated her local’s health care units for the 2021 Jefferson Awards because of the incredible compassion and strength the members showed during two serious Covid-19 outbreaks at the CV Homes facility they work at. Because of the sacrifices these members made in order to save lives, stop the spread, and support lonely residents isolated from the world, Local Union 9329 is District 6’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner.

The care home Local 9329 members work at was the first facility in the region to have a Covid outbreak. “It was a scary time because it affected lots of families: people’s spouses and kids lost their jobs and were sent home from their work; some of our members were down to one income and everybody still stepped up,” said Cook.

Because members working at the care home are constantly exposed to the virus and risked spreading it, the family members they lived with were let go and weren’t allowed to go to work. In order to keep their families safe and allow for their partners to continue working, some members moved in together and shared accommodations.

For two months several members, some of who were moms of young children, were only able to contact their families digitally. One of these sisters, who left her home so her partner could work, has four children under the age of twelve, another has two kids under the age of seven, and another has two kids that are twelve and ten.

“We didn’t have any option. Even my own two children, they were both sent home from their jobs the day it was announced that the nursing home had an outbreak, so they immediately became unemployed,” said Cook.

“Family and friends didn’t want to be around us, because we were right in the middle of it and there were so many unknowns when it first came out. Obviously we’ve learned a lot since then, but nobody knew if it was safe to leave our work and go to the grocery store in scrubs.

“People in scrubs were frowned upon almost. We were heroes because we were doing it, but to go out in the community with your scrubs on, people were fearful of you because they didn’t know if you were spreading the virus.”

The nursing home lost a quarter of their resident population to Covid, and twenty-nine out of 110 staff tested positive for the virus. One staff member was hospitalized and put on a ventilator. Most of the staff members who tested positive still have long-term effects, like heart palpitations and trouble breathing, to this day.

During the outbreaks it was all-hands-on-deck for these members. It didn’t matter which department someone worked in, everybody helped everywhere. Staff who worked in Dietary would help with lifts or changing residents, because so many people were off sick.

“We were a team. We came together to provide the best care we possibly could with so many staff off. Nurses worked sixteen hour shifts fourteen days in a row. People came in whenever they could to help and wore full-gown PPE to try to protect themselves,” explained Cook.

 

The outbreaks were incredibly hard on staff and residents. The residents were isolated to their rooms for a long period of time; they weren’t allowed to have outside visitors, including family, so the only interaction they had was with the staff.

“We were the people who kept them company; we were their connection to the outside world,” said Cook.

Members used their personal devices to connect residents with their families so the families could see that their loved ones were still alive. They used their breaks and lunches to keep residents company, FaceTime residents’ families, and sometimes to be with residents while they were passing. Many residents passed away without family by their side, and the members of Local 9329 were the ones who were their holding their hands when they passed away.

“They’re our family. We spend more time with the residents than we do at our homes, so we care for these people like our own grandmas and grandpas or moms and dads,” said Cook. “We feel like a family. We’re a rural home in a small community, we knew we had to do it.”

Before Covid, when a resident would pass away at the care home, the funeral home would come to take away the deceased, the deceased would be covered with a special blanket, and when they left the home the staff would do an honor guard to send them off with dignity and respect.

During Covid the funeral homes didn’t come in. “The nurses had to literally put people that we cared for every single day into body bags and wheel them to the door. The body bags would be sanitized by us and then pushed outside to the people from the funeral home who were in PPE. Usually, they’d wear a suit, but they had to wear coveralls that could be washed because of contamination. It wasn’t dignity and respect. You didn’t feel like they were leaving with dignity and respect,” said Cook.

“And it was hard. Those are people that we cared for and we love the residents, we really do. And now you’re the person putting them in a body bag. It’s devasting, mentally. Mentally it’s hard on everyone.”

Cook’s own mother passed away in long-term care during the Pandemic, and Cook said it was because none of her family was able to visit her and she gave up: “She stopped eating and drinking because she thought we stopped caring because nobody was visiting her. It’s a reality of the Pandemic,” said Cook.

The members felt isolated too. If they weren’t too exhausted from working long shifts, nobody wanted to be around them because they were so afraid.

But the community outpouring of support for the care home staff was incredible. Community members would drop off food and gifts bags for the staff. One person dropped off hand-knitted hearts for the staff to put in the hands of residents who were passing so they knew they were being thought of with love as they were passing. Staff would then decontaminate the knitted hearts and were able to give them to the deceased’s family.

The Local Union, which is amalgamated, donated money to do moral builders, like bringing in snacks and getting the staff t-shirts. They did weekly giveaways, raffles, and creative favors for their healthcare workers in the care home; the other units of the local are not health care units.

The Local also paid to have a memorial tree planted at the entry of the care home. The tree is a flowering Tulip Tree; every spring, it will flower and then the flowers will fall to the ground to remind the staff of the residents they lost to Covid since they lost most of their residents in the Spring of 2020.

Local 9329 has won the 2021 District 6 USW Cares Jefferson Award because of the incredible sacrifices these members made to support each other and patients living in long-term care through the Pandemic. They are representative of all USW healthcare workers who have gone above and beyond for their jobs and their patients while working short-staffed in unsafe conditions through a world-wide crisis.

Local 6946 personal support workers rally for a fair contract

Tue, 11/16/2021 - 07:17

Members of Local 6946-12, who work at long-term care facility Valley Manor, rallied in downtown Barry’s Bay, Ontario, on Oct. 29 as the union continues to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

The union is fighting for a master schedule agreement to ensure consistent, safe staffing for their 80 full-time and part-time personal support workers (PSWs), as well as a limit to five consecutive working days to avoid burnout and fatigue.

USW Staff Representative David Lipton said the event has already paid off, with noticeably improved communication and bargaining at the table from Valley Manor management. He also thanked Local 6946 representative Briana Broderick, who was key to organizing the rally.

You can join the fight and call on Valley Manor CEO Trisha DesLaurier to bargain a fair contract for these frontline workers by sending a letter at: usw.to/valleymanor.

(Featured in photo – Briana Broderick)

Health care workers at Local 7600 reach tentative agreement

Tue, 11/16/2021 - 07:15

Members of Local 7600 have reached a tentative agreement with their health care employer Kaiser Permanente this past weekend, just weeks after they voted overwhelmingly to authorize the union to call a strike while bargaining stalled.

“The past 20 months of the pandemic have been tough, and we made deep, personal sacrifices so we could keep helping our patients and our communities,” said USW Local 7600 President Micheal Barnett. “We’ve more than earned a fair contract that reflects our contributions to Kaiser Permanente’s continuing success.”

Barnett said that the proposed contract represents important progress in narrowing the wage gap between Kaiser’s Inland Empire workforce and other area workers doing the same jobs, as well as beating back a proposed two-tier wage scale and making significant gains on staffing, racial justice, and more.

The next step is for the Delegates Conference to review and approve the agreement. Local leadership will then conduct membership information meetings and arrange ratification votes.

USW Local 7600 represents workers at 72 Kaiser Permanente locations in Southern California in a wide range of job classes, from respiratory care practitioners to surgical technicians, engineers, pharmacy technicians and assistants, licensed vocational nurses, dietary aides, environmental service workers, medical assistants, appointment clerks, phlebotomists, and more.

Dow DuPont Council Pledges Solidarity in Fight to Preserve Retirement Security

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 12:23

Members of the Dow DuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) agreed to work together to preserve retirement security for union workers in response to Dow’s plan to freeze pensions and force workers into defined contribution plans.

The plan of action, which includes educating members and holding joint solidarity events, came following a breakout session and several discussions at the conclusion of a four-day council meeting held in late October with leaders of 20 unions representing thousands of workers at Dow, DuPont and their spinoff companies, Corteva and International Flavors & Fragrances. 

Pictured: Dow DuPont North American Labor Council local union leaders at the Oct. 25-28 meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

The DNALC members convened virtually and in person Oct. 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas, to share information, discuss common issues, plan strategy and pledge solidarity.

“The workers at these companies continue to experience many challenges following the split of DowDuPont and the difficulties created by the ongoing pandemic,” said Kent Holsing, DNALC chair and president of USW Local 12075 in Midland, Mich.

During the pandemic, companies classified more than 95 percent of USW workers as essential, said John Shinn, USW International Secretary-Treasurer and head of the union’s chemical sector. He said the labor movement saved many lives because it bargained for safer working conditions and pushed OSHA for Covid-19 safety rules. 

Some of the challenges DNALC members discussed included short staffing, excessive overtime and increased worker fatigue, lack of proper training, and safety in the workplace and surrounding community.

Of particular concern was Dow’s plan to adversely affect employees’ retirement security by freezing defined benefit pensions and throwing workers into a defined contribution plan that is subject to the ups and downs of the stock market and does not guarantee employees a set amount of retirement money.

The Dow locals convened in a breakout session to discuss how this impacted each of their sites and on the last day of the meeting, the council agreed on a plan to tackle this issue system-wide.

Each DNALC local shared collective bargaining data, identified mutual obstacles, determined potential solutions, and discussed current and upcoming negotiations, grievances and arbitrations, labor relations with local management and organizing.

The council also heard from its international union partners. Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director of Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, Pulp and Paper, and Rubber Industries, gave a presentation on the global supply chain and how unions must represent workers at each link of the chain.

“This council is one of the best examples of international solidarity,” Grinter said.

Evidence of this international solidarity came from Mauricio Brizuela, general secretary of the Argentinian union SOEPU. He thanked the council for its support in preventing Dow from shutting down its Argentinian plant. District 13 Director Ruben Garza also spoke about the impact international solidarity had on bringing Local 13-1 members back to work after Dow locked them out in 2019 for more than five months.

The four-day council meeting also featured presentations on digitization in manufacturing, the financial health of Dow, Dupont and their split-off companies, and worker fatigue. It ended with a building power presentation and discussion of the council’s future.

USW Members Persevere, Ratify Contract at Solvay Chicago Heights Plant

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 12:18

Local 7-765-01 members at Solvay’s Chicago Heights, Ill., plant ratified a four-year agreement on Aug.13, 2021, nearly 22 months past the original contract expiration date.

Talks dragged on as management dug in its heals, demanding concessions on “management rights,” and retroactive pay.

Unit President Kent Ferree said the local was finally able to get Solvay to compromise over these issues and reach an agreement by its “fortitude to continue the fight, application of internal and external pressure and willingness to accept nothing less.”

Solvay agreed to notify the union before changing an employee’s work schedule, assignments or duties within their classification, or before implementing any new or modified safety rule, regulation and other rules of conduct, which will give the union an opportunity to request bargaining.

The local also won retroactive wage increases from the beginning of the contract, Nov. 17, 2019, for all members. Wage increases for the first and second years are 2.5 percent, 2.875 percent for the third year and 3 percent for the fourth year.

Both parties agreed to a new written substance abuse policy, changes to the grievance procedure that allow more time for response at each step of the process, and the addition of grandchildren to funeral leave and bereavement pay.

The 26 members of Local 7-765-01 refine silica for multiple customers, including the tire manufacturing industry. They work in maintenance or as production operators, packagers, helpers and laboratory technicians.

USW Local 7600 files strike notice for 7,400 health care workers in SoCal

Mon, 11/08/2021 - 12:43

United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7600 has officially given Kaiser Permanente management a 10-day notice of its intent to strike over unfair labor practices beginning on Mon., Nov. 15, 2021.

The USW and Kaiser management, along with 20 other local unions who belong to the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), have been negotiating since this past spring over a labor agreement that will cover roughly 50,000 health care workers in nearly every geographic area where Kaiser Permanente has a presence.

“We are prepared to meet with management all day, every day if that’s what it will take to reach a fair agreement for these essential workers,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and USW Vice President of Human Affairs Fred Redmond, who leads the union’s health care sector bargaining.  “Our union will continue to bargain in good faith, and we strongly urge Kaiser to begin doing the same.”

The multi-billion-dollar health care giant has persistently tried to force workers to accept provisions like a two-tier wage scale that will make it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff. It also refuses to address the vast wage disparities between its Inland Empire workforce and other area workers doing the same jobs.

USW Local 7600 represents 7,400 workers across 72 Kaiser Permanente locations in Southern California. They work in a wide range of job classes, from respiratory care practitioners to surgical technicians, engineers to pharmacy technicians and assistants, licensed vocational nurses, dietary aides, environmental service workers, medical assistants, appointment clerks, phlebotomists, and more.

2021 USW Cares District 9 Jefferson Award Winner, William “Bryen” Ballard

Mon, 11/08/2021 - 09:06

William “Bryen” Ballard has been a member of Local Union 1561 in Pace, Florida for the last 19 years that he’s worked in maintenance at an International Paper paper mill. He is president of the local since spring of this year, but was a steward and active member beforehand.

Ballard has two daughters, one is 17 and in college. His eldest daughter, Hailee, will be turning 20 soon; Hailee was born with a rare genetic syndrome that has never been diagnosed, but results in physical and mental disability: physically she is very small and she functions with the mentality of a four-year-old.

Because of his daughter’s disability, Ballard was introduced to a small charity called Seasons of Hope in Panama City, Florida. He volunteered with Seasons of Hope and was once asked to lead a big fundraiser. Although he didn’t stay with Seasons of Hope, Ballard found he had a knack for fundraising and a desire to do good.

“I thought to myself: I have a good job at the paper mill and I feel like I need to give back,” said Ballard. So, he started Sportsmen Givin’ Back.

Sportsmen Givin’ Back does three things: they fundraise (a lot of money) for other charities that are doing good work in their community, they conduct hunting and fishing outings for sick children and children with special needs, and they’re just starting their mentoring program for young adults who are interested in the outdoors but don’t have anybody to teach them.

This year, Sportsmen Givin’ Back’s fundraiser event celebrated 10 years and raised $95,000. The event pre-picks and vets charities to give money to: they had 11 charities this year. The event is held at a church and features Christian, outdoors speakers who are well-known authors or fishermen. This year’s speaker was a Duck Dynasty employee. They do silent auctions and host a big dinner with door prizes; about 750 people buy tickets every year. Chris Smith, owner of Gulf Coast guns, is huge donor and does a raffle with high-end guns as the prizes; 100 percent of the proceeds from his raffle go to Sportsmen Givin’ Back.

Sportsmen Givin Back also provides outdoor opportunities for sick or disabled children. Ballard works with the Special Needs Department of local schools to find kids who want to go on a fishing outing, and his local union brothers take the day off to be mentors, plus they have outside volunteers. Each kid is paired with an adult who teaches them how to bait a hook, cast a fishing pole, and throw a fish back into the water.

Ballard’s father died when he was 15 but he said that other men in his life stepped up for him, helping him fix his truck, taking him hunting and fishing; he wants to do the same for kids who want exposure to the outdoors. Plus, Ballard said that parents of sick or disabled children have all they can handle with their kids; these families don’t have the finances, ability, or time to teach their kids hunting and fishing, they’re taking care of everything else.

In January of this year, Ballard met a six-year-old boy named Wyatt Mixon. Wyatt had cancer and loved to hunt. Working around Wyatt’s chemotherapy schedule, Ballard, Wyatt and Wyatt’s father, Lincoln, spent the day together on a hunt.

“He was a pistol,” said Ballard, fondly. Sadly, Wyatt passed away about a month after their hunt, and Ballard wanted to memorialize his spirit and love for the outdoors: “all of the hunting opportunities are now named after him. Those are the Wyatt Mixon Memorial Hunts. We do a couple every year and as kids come to us.”

Sportsmen Givin Back started their youth mentoring program last year when a single mother went to Gulf Coast Guns inquiring about educational outdoors opportunities for her son; Chris Smith directed her to Sportsmen Givin’ Back.

“Covid took a lot of fathers,” said Ballard. Two children he knows personally lost their dads. His plan is to do for these kids what the men in his life did for him when his father died. “It’s one of the greatest things in life to be in the outdoors,” he said, and he doesn’t want any kids missing out because their fathers aren’t there anymore.

Men reach out to Ballard wanting to be a part of his outings and share their knowledge of the outdoors. “There are so many like-minded men out there who want to help and just don’t know how – I’ve got the knowledge to lead them in the right direction,” said Ballard.

“My family has been very supportive and the local and surrounding locals have given overwhelming support, financially and more. Sportsmen Givin’ Back is a team, and my name gets used more than it should,” said Ballard.

Ballard knows of organization that does therapy horse-back riding for special needs children and he found out that they need new, specialized saddle that costs $1,500. One day he told everyone at work about the situation, and his union brothers “started pulling dollar bills out their wallets. That’s how these guys are.”

“My brother works at a nonunion chemical plant and is in awe of the support that my guys in the union do for me,” said Ballard.

The last three years Sportsmen Givin’ Back has done a Christmas program supporting families through Life Options Clinic, a Christian-run organization that supports women and couples making decisions about pregnancy. They offer services, classes, and resources to people trying to learn how to be parents.

For the Christmas program, Sportsmen Givin Back buys presents for every member of 35 families, moms and dads included, and provides a full-course, homemade Christmas dinner to each family from a local restaurant.

For all of his work building a successful non-profit that has a far reach and supports so many people, in addition to the pride and appreciation he has for his union, William “Bryen” Ballard is District 9’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner.

Tom Conway discusses supply chains, domestic manufacturing on Leslie Marshall Show

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 11:18

United Steelworkers International President Tom Conway appeared on the Leslie Marshall Show Tuesday to discuss the importance of domestic manufacturing in solving ongoing supply chain disruptions.

Conway said part of the problem is a number of critical materials and goods that used to be made in the United States – including computer chips and semi-conductors – are now manufactured in Asia or elsewhere around the world.

“Really, we ought to be having a long-term discussion about why we let so much of this slip away, and what we are going to do about it,” said Conway. “Are we just going to fix a short-term problem and get this stuff loaded into the trucks, or are we really going to take a look at what's in those ships, and why we aren’t making it here?”

Conway said the offshoring of manufacturing sites in the U.S. has resulted in the loss of millions of factory jobs that provided good, family-sustaining wages and benefits. But investing in the nation’s infrastructure, along with legislation that includes strong domestic content provisions, can help to reverse this trend.

“The more jobs you create, the more revenue you create, the stronger your tax base, you begin to rebuild your systems, and your schools and your libraries and your fire and police systems. And that's what strengthens communities.”

Conway spoke about the USW’s “We Supply America” campaign that highlights the many ways USW members can meet the infrastructure and manufacturing needs of the country. The campaign has been part of an effort to urge Congress to pass the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“Biden understands that if you've got to rebuild this country, you have to give workers power with their employers at the bargaining table and put some balance back in that relationship. And that's how you're going to give people a better paycheck, be able to get a raise, and be able to hang on to some health care that's affordable. He believes that the power of collective bargaining works in this country.”

Listen to the whole show, below:

USW New Media · 11 2 21 The Solution To Supply Chain Woes Is Domestic Manufacturing

2021 USW Cares District 7 Jefferson Award Winner, Arvella Greenlaw

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 11:19

Arvella Greenlaw is a member of Local Union 6787 and a third generations Steelworker working at Cleveland-Cliff’s Burns Harbor steel mill. For her work organizing and leading multiple, on-going community service projects and for her volunteer union work with Women of Steel, Rapid Response, Political, and Next Generation, she is the 2021 USW Cares District 7 Jefferson Award winner.

Greenlaw has been a USW member for ten years; not only that, but her husband, Dion, who nominated her for this award, has been a member at Burns Harbor for 16 years. Greenlaw says that she and Dion do everything together, they work together and do everything union together.

“Everything I do, he’s right there with, especially union stuff. We’re always together. I coined us the dynamic activist duo,” says Greenlaw.

As soon as Greenlaw started working at the steel mill, she starting getting involved with everything the union had to offer, but especially safety training and the Women of Steel committee.

She was appointed by Local Union President Pete Trinidad to be a safety instructor at the Local’s Deer Field Training Center where she teaches first aid, CPR, AED usage, mobile equipment safety, fall protection, “lock out - tag out - try out” equipment safety, permit-required confined space training, and gas safety; she also conducts safety evaluations.

“It’s all about keeping everybody safe, that’s my theme,” said Greenlaw, and she doesn’t mean just job safety. She’s also very passionate helping women who aren’t safe in their homes. She collects funds in a bunch of creative ways for women and their children who are temporarily staying at The Rainbow Shelter for women of domestic violence, which has now merged with another shelter called The Ark Shelter.

When Greenlaw first started donating items to the Rainbow Shelter, she and Dion were using their own money to buy Christmas presents for the kids at the shelter. “These kids need to know that Santa remembers them even though they’re not home,” said Greenlaw.

But then Greenlaw decided to get her Women of Steel involved so they could help the mothers and women at the shelter too. She asked all of her Women of Steel to buy 12 extra of any household item they’d get at the general store (for the 12 units of the shelter) and filled laundry baskets with all of the collected items: pillow cases, socks, pots and pans, towels, hygiene products, eating utensils, and more. Greenlaw also uses any profits she makes from selling Mary Kay to buy for the shelter.

Greenlaw chairs multiple events for the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), organizing presentations about sexual and domestic abuse throughout Northwest Indiana, and when the Council heard about the basket program she started with her Women of Steel, they decided to make it an official program of the organization called “Sisters Supporting Sisters” that Greenlaw now chairs.  The Ark Shelter temporarily closed over the Pandemic, so she carried the program over to the Sojourner Truth House.

Greenlaw and her husband are currently collecting and buying donations for a drive NCNW is doing for veterans.

The “dynamic activist duo” also expanded a personal giving project they were doing with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Originally the Greenlaws would get one “Angel” from the Angel Tree for each of their grandchildren. “When I go buy for my grandbabies, I also buy for my Angel Tree,” said Greenlaw. But she starting asking family, friends, coworkers, union members, and people who weren’t even local to sponsor an Angel; the deal is that they pick an Angel to sponsor and give Greenlaw the money; she buys the items and drops them off. She started doing this in 2011, and the last few years she’s been able to get about 45 angels sponsored. “One year they didn’t have enough tags me! Now I go directly to the Salvation Army,” said Greenlaw.

For the last 15 years, Greenlaw has also been very involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events and fundraisers. She makes a fundraising team with her Women of Steel and sets up a tent where she sells candles and collects donations. She also volunteers and fundraises for Laini Fluellen Charities, which raises awareness in young women for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a type of breast cancer Black and Hispanic women have a higher risk of developing. That’s the organization Greenlaw has chosen to give her $500 award donation to.

Greenlaw is the District 7 Women of Steel Coordinator, and at the last District 7 Women of Steel Conference (which was her first District WOS Conference), she asked attendees to bring items to donate from a list of the Sojourner Truth House’s most-needed items. Some delegates brought a whole collection of donations from their entire local and a few locals sent checks. A representative of the Sojourner Truth House spoke at the conference about the organization.

Greenlaw also had the American Cancer Society and Lady Fluellin Charities do a “Know Your Limits” presentation about triple negative breast cancer for the Conference, organized a raffle of baskets donated by companies and individuals in which $1,200 of proceeds were split between Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Laini Fluellen Charity, and recruited conference attendees to take part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk that was happening during the Conference.

 

Additionally, Greenlaw helps out with the Edgewater Health, which offers mental health and recovery services for mental patients, and participates in their “Trunk or Treat” event.

Greenlaw is also active with USW Political doing lit-drops and phone banking for political drives, and she helps out other locals whenever she can, like when she contributed to her friend’s collection for striking miners.

“I have to do whatever I can with our union. We need to get together to support other locals on strike. We got a local in trouble? We do what we got to do,” said Greenlaw, “my union work and my charities are basically my life, my husband and I, our life.”

For all that she’s done to help her fellow union members, fellow women, their children, and anybody she possibly can, Arvella Greenlaw is District 7’s Jefferson Award winner this year.

Ontario Labour Relations Board upholds long-term care workers vote to join USW

Mon, 11/01/2021 - 14:35

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) last week confirmed the democratic rights and the will of approximately 500 employees of long-term care operator CONMED Health Care Group to join the United Steelworkers union (USW).

“This is a tremendous victory for these workers who have had to wait several months to have their legal and democratic rights recognized,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

CONMED and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) simultaneously pursued legal challenges in an attempt to thwart the will of the long-term care workers to join the USW. The legal challenges delayed the outcome by months, but ultimately failed, as the OLRB upheld the workers’ rights and clear desire to join the USW.

The long-term care workers voted by a large majority to join the USW and to leave the CLAC. CLAC is not affiliated with, or recognized by, the federal and provincial labour federations – including the Canadian Labour Congress and the Ontario Federation of Labour – that represent the majority of unions in Canada.

“These workers are among the front-line heroes who have gone beyond the call of duty throughout the pandemic to care for our most-vulnerable citizens. They deserve a collective agreement that recognizes the vital work they perform every day, under extremely challenging circumstances,” said Warren.

USW Local 7600 members march in Pasadena for wage justice

Mon, 11/01/2021 - 14:34

Members of USW Local 7600 marched and rallied in Pasadena on Sat., Oct. 30, for wage justice as they continue to fight for a fair contract with health care giant Kaiser Permanente. 

They joined thousands of other workers from the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), including members of UNAC/UHCP and UFCW. The Alliance consists of 21 local unions that represent over 50,000 members across hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area where Kaiser Permanente has a presence.

“What Kaiser is proposing is an insult to each and every one of you and to this profession,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond, who also oversees the USW’s health care sector bargaining. “This way of thinking not only hurts workers; it hurts the patients you serve.”

USW Local 7600 represents more than 7,400 workers across 72 Kaiser Permanente locations in Southern California. They work in a wide range of job classes, including pharmacists, licensed vocational nurses, dietary and environmental service workers, medical assistants, customer service representatives, phlebotomists, and more.

Kaiser Permanente management has persistently tried to force workers to accept provisions like a two-tier wage scale that will make it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff. It also refuses to address the vast wage disparities between its Inland Empire workforce and other area workers doing the same jobs.

“In the Inland Empire, upwards of 70 percent of our USW members are people of color,” said USW Local 7600 Vice President Norberto Gomez. “Wage justice is racial justice.”

The group began their march at Pasadena Memorial Park and ended at City Hall where they were joined by Mayor Victor M. Gordo. Along with Redmond and Gomez, speakers at the energetic rally included AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

Local 7600 members recently voted—by an overwhelming majority—to grant the union’s bargaining committee the authority to call a strike. As required, the employer would get a 10-day notice before workers take any further action. 

Click here to watch a video from the Pasadena rally and march.

Local 3657 Member MCs Fundraiser for Immigrant Resource Center

Mon, 11/01/2021 - 12:07

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council on Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) hosted its annual “¡Que Viva Clemente!” fundraiser on Oct. 8 at the Jeron X. Grayson Center in the city’s Hill District. USW Local 3657 member Jessica Rios Viner served as the event’s MC, making her union and Puerto Rican siblings proud.

“I was nervous at first, but everyone had a good time,” said Viner. “Plus, Roberto Clemente is a hero, and a leader I try to emulate. I have 100 percent admiration for him.”

Pittsburgh LCLAA raises money each year to assist new immigrants through a loan program developed with Casa San Jose, a community resource center that advocates for and empowers Latinos by promoting integration and self-sufficiency. The loans are slowly paid back by recipients, and folks are also provided with support for rent and living expenses when they are facing eviction or other difficulties.

This year, the even raised $18,000, half to go to a lending fund to assist immigrant families in crisis and half to a non-profit based in Puerto Rico that combats food insecurity on the island.

Guests at the fundraiser enjoyed a night of Boricua-style roast pig on a rooftop patio overlooking the city. Pittsburgh LCLAA received generous support to make this event happen from USW Districts 1, 4, 10, 11 and 13 as well as USW Local 6135 (in Puerto Rico) and Local 3657.

The celebration is also held each year to honor Pittsburgh Pirate icon Roberto Clemente during National Hispanic Heritage Month, recognized every Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

Click here to view more photos from the event.

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