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Measures Must Be Put in Place To Protect Workers of Large Employers with Paid Leave

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 09:14

Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This new law is a critical first step in making sure working people facing severe health and financial risks receive the assistance they need.

One of the provisions in the new law implements emergency paid sick leave for employees, which provides up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their regular pay for quarantine, treatment, or care of a family member related to the coronavirus. Employers who provide this leave receive tax credits. 

However, the law exempts large employers with over 500 employees in the U.S.

We understand the intent of this exemption; large companies should not benefit from a federal tax incentive from something that they should provide with or without a global pandemic. 

Many workers have access to some paid sick leave, but it’s not enough to stay home for the fourteen days that are recommended to prevent infecting others.

Since the passage of the federal law, our members who work at large employers are reporting that these employers are NOT consistently providing paid leave equal to or exceeding 80 hours for coronavirus quarantine, isolation, and recovery.

To stop the spread of this virus and protect our members, District Directors are sending letters to state legislatures urging them to use their authority and fix this problem in state law:

  • Require that all employers, regardless of size, provide 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees, consistent with the requirements for smaller firms in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Companies with fewer than 500 employees must comply under federal law and have access to a tax credit to help with those costs. 
  • Ensure that this requirement goes above and beyond the existing sick leave provisions already existing in our contracts. 
  • Protect employees by prohibiting employers from forcing workers to use other paid leave before using this leave, find replacements for their shifts if they are sick, and endure retaliation because they are using the leave.

We know our states are working hard to protect public health and ensure that the spread of the Covid-19 virus is slowed and eventually stopped. It’s our goal too.

But not all companies are acting responsibly and guaranteeing this leave to workers.

States must protect public health and fill in the gaps in the federal law on ensuring that all employees have access to coronavirus-related paid sick days.

Vets of Steel: Now more than ever, take care of you

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 18:55

The Veterans Administration has put out some helpful advice that we wanted to pass along to our Veterans of Steel

This VA blog points out that more than ever, all Americans, including Veterans, must pay attention to our emotional well-being and the well-being of those we love as we cope with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.   "This isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. Just as washing our hands, disinfecting surfaces and maintaining physical distance is required to minimize the impact of this pandemic, so too is caring for our mental health and the mental health of those around us. In response to this emergency, we need a fundamental shift in how we promote and maintain our mental health," the VA wrote. Click here to read the entire article.

If you are a veteran in crisis or know a veteran in crisis: 

USW Webinar on Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 17:47

Our USW Education and Membership Development Department put together a webinar on the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The legislation is a moving target and may change so please check back often. The webinar covers various topics including information on emergency family sick leave and the Family Medical Leave Act, based on Department of Labor guidance and some IRS provisions. Unfortunately, much of the interpretation to this point has not been in the favor of workers. Please consult with your staff representatives for specifics. 

Company to Pay $1 Million Fine for False ‘Made in USA’ Labels

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 13:51

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), an organization the USW founded in partnership with employers that produce American-made goods, was instrumental this week in the first-ever financial penalty issued against a company for wrongly labeling their products as “Made in the USA.” 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that it reached a settlement with Williams-Sonoma Inc. to pay a $1 million fine to settle claims that its Goldtouch Bakeware, Rejuvenation products and some furniture sold by its Pottery Barn subsidiary were made entirely in the United States. In fact, the products were imported.

The AAM, founded in 2007, has consistently lobbied the FTC to investigate and punish companies that incorrectly label their products.

“Cheaters like Williams Sonoma don’t want to do all the hard work that’s behind a ‘Made in USA’ label,” said AAM President Scott Paul. “But they know that ‘Made in USA’ is a good selling point. It can be good for business. It’s a great ad campaign.”

Paul said that the FTC, which investigates such claims, has found dozens of cases over the years of false or misleading labels claiming that products were American-made, but this was the first time the agency had issued a financial penalty.

The FTC warned Williams-Sonoma about its labels in 2018, but that the company continued the practice. 

“This is a historic step forward,” Paul said. 

USW International President Tom Conway said AAM is an important partner in the USW’s constant efforts to protect good manufacturing jobs.

“We will continue to support AAM as they keep up this good work,” Conway said. “The FTC should always be tough on companies that try to break the rules.”

 

COVID-19: A Webinar for USW Health Care Workers

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 12:35

USW-represented health care workers across the country are on the front-lines in the battle with COVID-19. This one-hour webinar will give needed information on how the virus is transmitted, what respiratory protection is needed to protect USW members and the patients who rely on them, and a brief overview of recent federal legislation that may directly impact workers. For more informaton, visit our Covid-19 resource page or reach out to your staff representative or local union. 

#USWCares: Our union donates hundreds of PPE to Pittsburgh hospital

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 07:54

The USW International Union dropped off boxes of personal protective equipment to West Penn hospital in Pittsburgh. The supplies belonged to the union's Health and Safety Department and were being stored for trainings, but International President Tom Conway asked that they be donated to frontline healthcare workers in the union's home city.

We were proud to donate 290 N100 masks, 650 EN14683 type 1 procedure masks and 100 liquid and particle white protective coveralls. The supplies were delivered by Chris Youngmark, Assistant to the Secretary Treasurer at the USW, which has a unionwide campaign going to try to round up PPE. Chris' wife, Marci, is the manager of the West Penn Surgical/Cardiothoracic/Burn ICU units and the newly opened Covid-19 Unit. 

"Just as we're doing for our own members and every worker around the world, we are fighting in every way we can to help keep people as safe and healthy as possible while they take care of us during this pandemic," Conway said. "We'll use every tool we have to keep all workers safe, including fighting for federal legislation to ensure critically needed medical supplies are produced and delivered in a rapid, efficient manner by utilizing the Defense Production Act to ramp up manufacturing." 

Click here to read our full letter supporting H.R. 6390/S. 3568, The Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act of 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Steelworkers join call to protect health care workers’ rights amidst COVID-19

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 11:41

The United Steelworkers joined more than 50 labor and social service organizations in a letter to the American Hospital Association (AHA) denouncing health care administrator attempts to discipline or prevent front-line caregivers from speaking out about working conditions, patient loads, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages.

“We were appalled to read recent media reports about hospital administrators across the U.S. muzzling doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals with threats of disciplinary action for speaking out about coronavirus patient caseloads and dwindling hospital supplies needed to care for such patients,” the statement reads.

The letter, sent to the AHA on March 26, states the critical need for public and local, state, and federal government officials to fully comprehend the scope of PPE shortages, mechanical ventilators, intensive care unit beds, and other medical supplies.

“Attempts to cover up these shortages by muzzling health care workers who are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic are reprehensible and reckless and endanger public health,” it reads. “Although such actions may be commonplace in countries with authoritarian regimes, they are not acceptable in the U.S.”

To read the full letter, click here.

USW members, partners step up to make, donate supplies for health care workers

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 11:22

Hospitals and health care facilities across the United States are scrambling to find enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.  Steelworker members and their employers are stepping up to fill this great need by diverting their PPE towards those who need it most — front-line health care workers.

TECK Corporation, for example, a mining company in British Columbia, Canada, diverted a transport truck full of masks and sanitizers to local health care facilities.  They also dipped into their warehouse supply for respirators to send to Royal Inland Hospital at the request of Local 7619 members who have partners and spouses working in the hard-hit health care industry.

“Right now, amidst great crisis, our members and partners are showing what it means to be union proud and what it means to stand in solidarity with all workers,” said USW Vice President Fred Redmond, who also oversees the union’s health care sector. “Solidarity is our only chance in this fight.”

United Steelworkers Local 9-0425 members, along with the N.C. AFL-CIO Eastern Piedmont Central Labor Council, also donated boxes of gloves to Vidant North Hospital in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. And thanks to the advocacy of Local 15253 President Joe Padavan and his fellow members, Pennsy Supply, a construction company based in Lancaster, Pa., has donated 1,300 N95 masks to the nearby Hershey Medical Center.

Some USW employers have even rerouted their production entirely to make PPE amidst the outbreak. When Tito’s, the Texas vodka distiller, started making sanitizer to help consumers ward off the virus, members of Local 390 at Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. joined the cause by making the bottle labels. And soon, the upstate New York paper mill workers will be lending their skills and machines to make gowns and masks for pop-up clinics and treatment centers throughout the state.

“What a proud day for us all!” the local said in a March 26 Facebook post.

In District 4, members of Local 366 at American Roots, an all American-sourced and American-made custom apparel company based in Portland, Maine, have switched up their production and are now sewing masks and gowns for health care workers.

“When we asked our entire team who would be willing to work once we were able to produce PPE products, every single hand went up,” said American Roots co-owners Ben Waxman and Whitney Reynolds in a Facebook post. “We are united, we are fearless, and we will do our part to help our country.”

You can visit the USW’s COVID resource page to learn how to donate PPE to hospitals and other facilities in need.

Congress Approves $2 Trillion Coronavirus Emergency Stimulus Package

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 09:12

The U.S. Senate approved unanimously, and the House has just passed by a voice vote, the most substantial economic stimulus package in U.S. history – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The bill has been signed by the President, and has more than ten times the amount spent on the first two coronavirus bills combined. It's more than double the cost of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was the most significant stimulus bill enacted following the 2008 financial crisis.

Here are a few key provisions:

Additional Income Assistance – A $1,200 one-time payment per adult (up to $75,000 in annual income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child. Families should expect these checks in the next three weeks. Find more information on that HERE.

Improvements to Unemployment Insurance (UI) - $600 per week in addition to state UI benefits for four months, a temporary UI program for the part-time, self-employed, gig economy, and other workers excluded from regular UI, 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits, and federal funding for states to waive waiting weeks. These provisions will be eligible through December 31, 2020. The bill also allows for $360 million for worker training and support and implementation costs at the Department of Labor. (*Find state-specific UI resources HERE.)

Other Consumer Financial Protections - Suspends adverse consumer credit reporting until 120 days after pandemic in the case of forbearance of payment modification. Student loan interest accrual and payments are also suspended for six months. 

What's Missing: 
  • No OSHA emergency standard to better protect frontline workers. See a recent letter HERE denouncing recent attempts to cover up PPE shortages by muzzling health care workers who are on the front lines of fighting the pandemic. 
  • No fix for paid leave exemptions for employers who have more than 500 employees. We are working diligently to engage at state levels to get this exemption lifted – look for more information from Rapid Response next week on that.
  • Nothing to protect at risk pensions or help laid-off workers with COBRA premiums. 

The bill is massive, and we are still trying to unravel it, but we also know we need to continue to push for more relief and economic stimulus. We will continue to get information to you as the situation changes. Please stand ready to act if necessary to ensure these legislative measures have workers' best interests front and center. Our union has put together some resources to help you stay safe, healthy, and well informed. Find those HERE. Once again, stay safe, Steelworker siblings.

Letter to the American Hospital Association: Stop Muzzling Frontline Healthcare Workers

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 07:12

Below is a letter sent to the American Hospital Association urging them to publicly denounce any such efforts to muzzle health care professionals and call on its member hospitals and health care systems to encourage their doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to speak freely about coronavirus patient caseloads, dwindling hospital supplies, and any other challenges that should be immediately addressed. 

Click here to download the letter as a printable PDF.

 

Richard J. Pollack
President and Chief Executive Officer American Hospital Association 
800 10th Street, N.W.
Two CityCenter, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20001-4956 
Delivered by email to rick@aha.org 

Dear Mr. Pollack: 

We were appalled to read recent media reports about hospital administrators across the U.S. muzzling doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals with threats of disciplinary action for speaking out about coronavirus patient caseloads and dwindling hospital supplies needed to care for such patients.(1) 

It is critical that the public and local, state, and federal government officials fully comprehend the scope of shortages of personal protective equipment, mechanical ventilators, intensive care unit beds, and other medical supplies so that appropriate steps can be taken to mitigate shortages of these essential medical resources, appropriately and fairly allocate limited resources, and thus protect the safety and welfare of health care workers and patients alike. 

Attempts to cover up these shortages by muzzling health care workers who are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic are reprehensible and reckless and endanger public health. Although such actions may be commonplace in countries with authoritarian regimes, they are not acceptable in the U.S. 

The undersigned consumer advocacy, workers’ rights, science, research, public health, civil rights, human rights, and grassroots political organizations, labor unions, and individuals therefore demand that the American Hospital Association publicly denounce any such efforts to muzzle health care professionals and call on its member hospitals and health care systems to encourage their doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to speak freely about coronavirus patient caseloads, dwindling hospital supplies, and any other challenges that should be immediately addressed. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent public health matter. Please contact Dr. Michael Carome, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, at mcarome@citizen.org with your response. 

Sincerely, 

Alliance for Retired Americans 
American Civil Liberties Union 
American Federation of Teachers 
American Medical Student Association 
American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) 
BlueGreen Alliance 
Business for Medicare for All 
Center for Reproductive Rights 
Communications Workers of America 
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces 
Consumer Action 
Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute 
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund 
Doctors for America 
Equality North Carolina 
Glenn Paulson, Ph.D., BCES, Sc.D. (Hon.), Retired Professor, George Washington University, 
Milken Institute School of Public Health 
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of 
America, (UAW) 
IUE-CWA 
Justice at Work 
Knowledge Ecology International 
Labor of Love Safety Training and Consulting (Diane Matthew Brown, CIT) 
Martin S. Kanovsky, M.D., FACP, FACC, FASNC, FASE 
Mary E Miller, R.N., M.N., Occupational Health Nurse 
MassCOSH 
Medicare for All Now 
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) 
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd 
National Center for Health Research 
National Center for Healthy Housing 
National Center for Transgender Equality 
National Employment Law Project 
National Health Care for the Homeless Council 
National Nurses United 
National Partnership for Women & Families 
National Women’s Law Center 
National Women's Health Network 
New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy 
People's Action 
PhilaPOSH 
Physicians for Reproductive Health 
Progress America 
Progressive Democrats of America 
Progressive Doctors 
Public Advocacy for Kids 
Public Citizen 
Public Justice Center 
Right Care Alliance 
SafeWork Washington 
San Francisco AIDS Foundation 
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 
Social Security Works 
The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers 
United Steelworkers 
Universal Health Care Action Network 
V. Ram Krishnamoorthi, M.D., M.P.H., Chicago, Illinois 
Virginia Organizing 
Western New York Council on Occupational Safety & Health 

(1) See https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927541 and https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927528.

In these tough times, there's help with mental health, substance abuse

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 13:11

Click here to download a printable PDF fact sheet on emergency EAP services. 

In these tough times, many people may be struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. We know the stress of having to work in the midst of a pandemic or suddenly being forced out of work can take its toll.

Many of our union contracts have bargained Employee Assistance Programs with their employers. These vary by workplace so check with your employer or local union for specifics.

The EAP Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Disaster District Hotline that can be reached at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.  More information can be found at https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.  

Connecticut 3M Workers Help in Fight Against COVID-19

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 09:00

Local 4-753 members at 3M’s Meriden, Conn., facility are helping in the fight against COVID-19.  

The members make filters that are used by Regeneron Pharmaceutical. The filters are needed in Regeneron’s research efforts to develop an effective treatment for the COVID-19 virus.  

District 4 Staff Representative Abdellatif El Berchoui said USW members at the facility have been working overtime to help the plant catch up on orders for all of its customers.

The 70 workers also make filtration systems for residences, industry and the commercial food sector.

The local ratified a three-year contract last summer that’s proving important as business increases and the stakes for meeting orders become higher.

Changes to the attendance policy, provisions limiting the use of contract workers and wage increases have all helped retain a skilled workforce and keep the production process flowing for the filters needed by companies like Regeneron and others.

“Our negotiating committee worked very hard on behalf of our members,” El Berchoui said. “In the end, we managed to keep what we had, but we also enhanced existing items in the contract and addressed members’ concerns.”

Even now, we're still fighting for fair trade, jobs

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 09:37

Even as the novel coronavirus forces the cancellation of many in-person meetings, the USW continues its important work protecting members from unfair trade.

This week International Vice President Roxanne Brown provided written testimony to the International Trade Commission on behalf of the approximately 3,700 USW members in the aluminum industry, whose livelihoods are jeopardized by dumped and illegally subsidized common alloy sheet imports.

“Normally, this hearing would have taken place face-to-face, but as we all take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19, we’ve had to adapt so that we can advance our union’s vital mission,” said Brown. 

“The virus is rightly getting a great deal of attention from top lawmakers and the media, but that doesn’t mean that unfair trade has disappeared or that we can relent in our struggle for a level playing field.” 

Brown testified that a deluge of unfairly traded imports from 18 countries threatens USW members, including those at Aleris Corporation in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia; Arconic in Iowa; Constellium in West Virginia; and Jupiter Aluminum in Indiana.

“We will never stop fighting to save our members’ jobs or to protect the benefits of our retirees,” Brown said.

Click here to download Vice President Brown's full written testimony.

Message from Our President: We fight on for working people in face of Covid-19

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 10:39

International President Tom Conway has sent the following message regarding the union and the Covid-19 pandemic: 

I want to update you on some of the important work our union is doing in these difficult, uncertain times.

The COVID-19 crisis is impacting everyone differently depending on region, industry, and even family situation 

However, we remain committed to helping every single one of our members and continuing the important work of our union, even if that work now looks slightly different because of the current circumstances.

Health care

Our approximately 50,000 health care and other front-line workers are among the most immediately impacted by COVID-19.

Our Health, Safety and Environment Department has been working around the clock to help get them the support they need so that they can continue to do their jobs safely.

This has included coordinating with the AFL-CIO and the steering committee of the USW’s Heath Care Workers Council (HCWC) to establish what health care members need and how we can get it to them, as well as developing a guide for USW members working in nursing homes

Health care workers around the country face a dangerous shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), and locals from across all our sectors have been rallying to help keep them safe, donating gloves, masks, respirators, eye goggles and more. More information about this important action can be found here.

Communication and coordination

Many of our offices, including the International Headquarters, have been forced to shut their doors as a result of the pandemic, and we’ve had to work quickly to be able to provide many of our vital services remotely. 

This has required canceling numerous in-person events and meetings to keep everyone safe. However, we are rapidly adapting so that we can remain in constant communication.

Many important resources are available on the web, including this COVID-19 guide, and all the Districts and departments are holding calls and video conferences to coordinate our efforts and develop strategies.

We will soon start to offer online versions of the classes that had to be canceled, starting with our FMLA class, which will be rolled out later this week. Other webinars will follow.

We are also remotely responding to inquiries from the field. This includes continuing support for negotiations, as well as helping our members, retirees and their families with pension, insurance, and other benefits problems.

Advocacy work

Finally, we continue to fight for our members and their jobs at every turn.

Our Washington, D.C., Legislative and Policy Department remains in constant contact with elected officials and their offices so that we can continue our fight on behalf of working people. There have already been two bills related to COVID-19, and we can expect more in the coming weeks.

Our job is to ensure that any economic relief that comes out of this legislation goes directly to workersrather than simply bailing out corporations. We’re prepared for this fight.

We’ve also been on the front lines at the state level, working with governors to keep our facilities safely operational, even as many parts of the economy are forced to shut down. This has included keeping a close eye on workplace issues and exposures related to COVID-19, so that workers aren’t forced to take unnecessary risks on the job.

For those that were forced to close as a result of the virus, we have been engaging directly with employers to make sure that any work force reductions are done in an orderly way and that our members are getting as much relief as possible. 

This has included a great deal of information gathering regarding states’ rapidly evolving unemployment processes and close work with the Districts to keep them up to date on which states have waived waiting weeks to file for benefits.

I encourage you to watch our social media sites, on which we’re posting our most up-to-date informationon these and many other important topics. Rapid Response will be sending action calls as well, so please check your inboxes regularly for opportunities to help.

Stay in contact, and please try to stay healthy. It’s impossible to know exactly what the future will bring, but through our solidarity and hard work, our fight on behalf of all workers will endure. 

In solidarity,

Tom

 

 

COVID-19 Action Call: Congress Must Put People Before Corporations

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 09:38

As the nation and the world continue to face the Covid-19 pandemic and an ever-expanding economic emergency, our union continues to aggressively fight to make sure we avoid worst outcomes now, and when this crisis is over, to prepare the country for economic recovery.

That means we need to inject stimulus monies into the hands of working families and not offer a giant handout to corporations who have notoriously left workers behind.

Last week, we told you about a series of measures signed into law that are meant to help our country deal with this quickly changing crisis. That work has continued as Congress negotiates a stimulus package this week. We need to ensure this effort puts workers first by providing economic justice and support. That starts with:

  • Ensuring Health Care for Laid Off Workers - Workers are being laid off to not only keep the virus from spreading, but because industries are suffering from economic impacts from the pandemic. As it stands, these businesses are not required to provide health care for workers or provide temporary assistance while they are out of work. We must demand they are taken care of.
  • Protecting Workers’ Rights - We know without restrictions, companies could use bailout funds to fight union organizing, buy back stocks, and enhance their CEOs, while still firing their workers. This global emergency should not be an open invitation to exploit working people, and we must have protections included to prevent that.
  • Requiring Retirement Security - Congress is preparing to inject two trillion dollars into the economy, but not a dollar of those funds is set aside for retirees in already vulnerable pensions. This is unacceptable. If Congress is willing to put hundreds of billions into companies and CEO’s hands, they can find money for promised retiree benefits.

It’s simple, workers need to come first. Our members and workers across the country are protecting our communities during this pandemic. It’s time for Congress to protect them.

Call Congress Today!

Please make calls to your Senators and Representative! 

  1. Dial our toll-free number to the U.S. Senate: 877-607-0785. Please be sure to make two calls, one to each of your Senators.
  2. Tell the office who you are and where you are from, and tell them that workers need to come first when economic aid is negotiated.
  3. When you finish your Senate calls, please also call your Representative. The toll-free number for the U.S. House is: 866-202-5409.

We cannot allow corporations to cash in and leave laid off workers behind while taking federal funds. Congress must do their part by passing this bill swiftly and fairly.

USW Negotiates Coronavirus Protocol with BASF to Protect Workers, Families and Communities

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 08:45

The USW negotiated a COVID-19 coronavirus protocol with chemical giant BASF that may serve as a model for the rest of the chemical industry in keeping facilities operating and workers safe during this worldwide pandemic.

“As a labor organization, we must work with the companies we represent to address the concerns associated with the pandemic,” said USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo, who negotiated the agreement with BASF Senior Director of Labor Relations for BASF North America Robert Tokar.

Pictured: BASF Council

“Also, at the same time, we are doing all that we can to keep the facilities we work at operating, and we are providing the level of job security that we all expect. We must do this in a manner that does not overreact, yet allows us to take proactive approaches. Ensuring the health and safety of our members is paramount!” Flippo wrote in a letter to USW local unions within BASF.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) laying out the COVID-19 plans covers all workers at USW-represented BASF sites in Attapulgus, Ga. (Local 170-01); Geismer, La. (Local 620); Gordon, Ga. (Local 233); Jackson, Mich. (Local 2659); Kankakee, Ill. (Local 7-429); McIntosh, Ala. (Local 9-562); McIntyre, Ga. (Local 9-237); Monaca, Pa. (Local 10-74); Quincy, Fla. (Local 174); Sandersville, Ga. (Local 9-237-01); Streetsboro, Ohio (Local 8565-01) and Vidalia, La. (Local 9335).

MOA provisions

The MOA addresses workers who are in self-quarantine for a variety of reasons, such as being exposed to or getting ill from coronavirus, having a sick family member and having a chronic health condition like a respiratory or cardiac disorder, diabetes and an immune system deficiency.

In the agreement, BASF will offer up to 14 consecutive calendar days of base pay. .During the pandemic, the company will waive the eligibility waiting period for medical and prescription benefits and the accident and sickness plan.

After 14 days, workers can use what remains of their vacation time, accrued paid time, and unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act time.

If there is a worksite closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, BASF will notify the union 30 days in advance. The company will cover base pay for a month, and pay monthly premium costs for medical, prescription and dental benefits for up to three months.

Also, at each facility there will be a non-evasive body temperature test each day as workers enter their plants to determine if they have a fever. Those who do will be sent home and asked to see a doctor.

Forward-thinking document

“This is the most forward-thinking agreement we’ve received in the chemical sector,” said USW Secretary Treasurer John Shinn, who heads the union’s chemical segment. “It gives us a sense of security.”

Flippo approached Robert Tokar, BASF’s senior director of labor relations for North America, on March 11 about having one uniform agreement to address coronavirus that would cover every USW-represented site. After several conversations, Flippo said, Tokar came to the same realization.

“The reason Tokar took our comments strongly is because of the work of this council. You understand strength and unity and what that means to stand together. That is what brought this about,” Flippo said. “I hope we can duplicate this in other areas.”

BASF Council members are distributing Flippo’s letter and the MOA via email, postings on union bulletin boards and other methods that honor the social distancing guidelines from the federal government.

“It’s important that members understand what the council can achieve here,” Flippo said. “One thing that helps us with this pandemic is knowledge and information.”

Anna Fendley Discusses Women’s Activism on The Leslie Marshall Show

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 14:12

USW Director of Regulatory and State Policy Anna Fendley appeared on The Leslie Marshall Show last week to discuss women’s activism at home and internationally.

As the USW marks women’s history month, she also addressed the work the union is doing to advance women’s interests, including protecting the USW’s health care workers, many of whom are women, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the 1980s, the USW’s Women of Steel program has worked to empower women leaders and advocate for issues that are important to women both in the community and globally.

“The only way someone is going to join a union and be a part of this movement is if women see themselves in the leadership,” Fendley said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for occupational protections for health care workers across the board, the USW has long fought for safety advancements for its roughly 50,000 health care worker members.

Fendley said the rate of violence in the health care sector has risen over the past decade. In response, the USW continues to fight for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which passed the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.

Now, facing COVID-19, the union is fighting for an emergency OSHA standard and other measures to help keep them safe.

“I think we are in a moment that will go down in history for women who are stepping up on the front lines of this pandemic. Thank you to them,” Fendley said. “We have fought for you, and we will keep fighting for you.”

For the entire interview about the USW’s efforts to increase women’s union leadership and workplace protections, listen below:

Minnesota Iron Range nurses join USW after year-long negotiations​

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 11:18

After voting to join the United Steelworkers (USW) in January 2019, 19 registered nurses at Essentia Health Northern Pines Hospital in Aurora, Minn., are now members of Local 9439 upon ratifying their first contract agreement on March 16.

The workers were able to maintain their current benefits with improvements in holiday pay for part-time nurses, increased continuing education funding, an increase in pay for surgery team leads, and more. They will also have multiple wage increases, including annual raises.

Along with these improvements, Kathy Johnson, a nurse who has worked at Essentia for 11 years, said one of the biggest outcomes is the voice she and her co-workers have now gained.

“We learned that you actually can speak up if something isn’t right or fair,” said Johnson, who joined two other nurses on the unit’s negotiating committee. “With a union, you’re more easily heard by management.”

Johnson believes one of the primary reasons they were able to navigate the 22 negotiating sessions over 13 months was because of their solidarity.

“The three of us on the committee worked well together and shared a lot of the same ideas,” she said. “We also had a lot of support.”

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