Our History

The seeds of this great union were planted in the late 1800s by our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our great-grandparents and so on. They were seeds of commitment, solidarity and a common interest to fight for better conditions for working men and women everywhere. Through wars and recessions, good times and bad times, we established our family roots: better wages, job security, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. Thanks to the strength and activism of our members, our branches reached out to lead movements to stop child labor, provide aid to injured workers, fight for retirees, stand up for civil and human rights and so much more.  Today, we are a strong union, bold and proud. We continue to believe in better, and together, we are still standing up and fighting back for everyone. Review highlights of our proud history by clicking on the decades in the timeline below.

1930s

October 1935

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) established its own organizing committee for paperworkers.

June 17, 1936

Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) forms.

March 7, 1937

Union signs first contract, with Carnegie-Illinois Steel, for $5 a day wage and benefits.

May 1937

"Little Steel" strike, called to organize workers at Bethlehem, Jones & Laughlin, National and other companies, results in police riots, attacks on workers by company guards and other hardship for steelworkers, yet ultimately leads to successful organization of these companies and confirms validity of the National Labor Relations Act.

1940s

May 22, 1942

Delegates to SWOC convention in Cleveland create United Steelworkers of America and elect Philip Murray, chairman of SWOC, as first USWA President and approve geographic districts 1- 39.

June 30, 1942

Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel & Tin Workers merges with USWA.

June 30, 1944

Aluminum Workers of America merges with USWA.

February 13, 1945

USWA holds first secret-ballot referendum for international officers, dis­trict directors, and national director for Canada. Murray elected USWA president.

October 2, 1946

Steelworkers in Hamilton, Ontario, win historic strike for union recognition at Steel Company of Canada (now Stelco), using solidarity, organization, and political and com­munity support to overcome more than 1,000 company scabs and firmly establish the USWA as the predominant union in Hamilton.

October 31, 1949

USWA wins first company-funded pension plan for workers in contract with Bethlehem Steel.

1950s

November 9, 1952

Philip Murray dies of a heart attack.

November 15, 1952

David J. McDonald, International Secretary-Treasurer, is appointed to succeed Murray.

In 1955

The United Gas, Coke & Chemical Workers of America and chemical workers from District 50 form the modern Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW.)

July 1, 1956

Start off our-week "Big Steel Strike."

In 1957

The CIO Paperworkers merged with the Papermakers to form the United Papermakers and Paperworkers (UPP).

1957-1966

The long struggle to establish the Steelworkers as the union for miners at the Noranda-owned Gaspe Copper Mine in Murdochville, Quebec. The mine and smelter were closed by 2002, effectively turning Murdochville into a ghost town.

July 15, 1959

Start of record 1l6-day steel industry strike.

1960s

July 31, 1961

Steelworkers join other trade unionists to help create New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada.

July 1, 1962

NDP government in Saskatchewan enacts Medical Insurance Act, the beginning of universal health care in Canada.

February 6, 1965

I.W. Abel elected USWA President.

June 30, 1967

International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers merges with USWA.

1970s

December 20, 1970

Occupational Safety and Health Act, lobbied for by USWA, becomes law.

January 1, 1971

United Stone and Allied Products Workers of America merges with USWA.

In 1972

The United Papermakers and Paperworkers (UPP) merged with the Pulp and Sulphite Workers to form the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU.)

September 17, 1972

District 50, Allied and Technical Workers, merges with USWA.

Labor Day, 1974

USWA-promoted Employee Retiree Income Security Act (ERISA) becomes law.

February 8, 1977

Lloyd McBride elected USWA President.

1980s

November 17, 1983

Lynn R. Williams elected temporary acting president following death of Lloyd McBride.

March 29, 1984

Lynn R. Williams elected USWA President, the first Canadian to head an international AFL-CIO union.

October 31, 1985

Upholsterers International Union merges with USWA.

1990s

In 1991

74 locals of the Independent Workers of North America (IWNA), representing 7,500 members, voted to affiliate with the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU.)

June 1992

Restructuring of Algoma Steel creates the largest employee-owned company in Canada, saving 6,000 jobs and the community of Sault Ste. Marie, and leading to the modernization of a company that continues to employ thousands of Steelworkers and serves as the economic anchor of its community.

November 23, 1993

George Becker elected as sixth International President.

January 1994

The United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU) merged with the Allied Industrial Workers (AIW)

June 1, 1995

In a sweeping restructuring approved by the International Executive Board in April, the 18 American districts are consolidated into 9 districts.

July 1, 1995

In a special United Rubber Workers' convention, delegates vote to merge their 98,000-member union with the USWA.

November 4, 1996

Capping a worldwide struggle that lasted two years, three months and 24 days after United Rubber Workers struck Bridgestone/Firestone, the union wins a settlement covering 6,000 members at seven B/F plants.

December 17, 1996

Delegates representing 40,000 members of the Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers vote to merge with USWA.

April 1998

Canadian Steelworkers, backed by 40 labour and human rights groups, file first-ever complaint under NAFTA's labour side agreement, supporting the attempt by an independent Mexican steelworkers union to organize a brake manufacturing plant near Mexico City.

September 10, 1998

"Stand Up for Steel" coalition of domestic steel companies and the USWA launches nationwide public awareness campaign about the dangers of massive illegal steel imports triggered by the Asian financial crisis.

January 1999

United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU) and  Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) came together and approved the merger to become the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE.)

November 28, 1999

Massive Steelworker participation in the "Battle of Seattle" helps to establish labor-environmental alliance against "globalization in the hands of multinational CEOs," which President George Becker says is "destroying millions of industrial jobs, degrading the environment, and undermining our basic rights as workers and citizens."

2000s

January 11, 2000

More than 4,000 administrative and technical support staff at the University of Toronto ratifies their first collective agreement as members of United Steelworkers Local 1998, expanding the benefits of Steelworker representation to workers in higher education with the largest single organizing victory in years.

February 1, 2000

Charter issued to Local 1976, a 5,000-member national local, following the merger of the Canadian section of the former Transportation Communications Union with the USWA.

February 28, 2001

George Becker retires. International Executive Board appoints Leo W. Gerard the union's seventh International President. Jim English appointed Secretary-Treasurer.

 

February 12, 2002

Local 4120 is chartered at the University of Guelph, bringing the number of university employees represented by the Steelworkers to more than 5,000.

June 3, 2003

Delegates representing the 12,000 members of the American Flint Glass Workers Union vote by an overwhelming 80 percent to merge with the USWA.

November 2003

After a decade-long campaign led by Steelworkers in Canada, the Westray Bill is finally passed into law, changing Canada's Criminal Code to make corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for putting workers' lives at risk.

April 23, 2004

Lawrence McBrearty retires. International Executive Board appoints Ken Neumann the union's National Director for Canada.

August 31, 2004

Workers at Armstrong World Industries in Macon, Ga., vote overwhelm­ingly to merge their Directly Affiliated Local Union with the USWA.

September 1, 2004

Members of the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers (IWA Canada) vote to merge their 50,000-member organization with the USWA, creating the largest private­ sector union in Canada.

November 26, 2004

After a year-long campaign to win Steelworker representation, 3,000 former members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees on Canadian National Railway are certified as Steelworkers by the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

February 7, 2005

The USWA signs a strategic alliance with the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) to develop joint strategies, including "cross-national bargaining and organizing support" and "coordination of bargaining across national borders."

February 11, 2005

The USWA and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union of Australia (CFMEU) form a strategic alliance and "commit to building power by increasing communication, collaboration and coordination across our national borders," responding to corporate globalization with global solidarity.

March 1, 2005

Andrew "Lefty" Palm retires. International Executive Board appoints Thomas M. Conway the union's International Vice President (Administration).

April 2005

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) signs a strategic alliance with the Steelworkers. The alliance is aimed at taking on the global­ization of the culture industry and to address a range of common issues.

April 13, 2005

The USW signs strategic alliances with the National Union of Mining, Steel and Allied Workers of the Republic of Mexico (SNTMMSRM) and with CNM-CUT, the largest metalworkers' union in Brazil, to strengthen the close working relations between the unions and increase communication, collaboration and coordination across national bor­ders.

April 14, 2005

The USWA and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) International Union merge to form the largest industrial union in North America, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW). With more than 850,000 active members in over 8,000 bargaining units in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, the combined union is the dominant union in paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, mining, glass, chemicals, petroleum and other basic resource industries.

May 24, 2005

Canadian Steelworker Carol Landry is elected as one of eight women on the-executive committee of the International Metalworkers' Federation, joining International President Leo W. Gerard as one of two Canadians on the 25-member executive board.

August 1, 2005

International Executive Board appoints Richard "Dick" LaCosse International Vice President with responsibility for national paper industry bargaining, follow­ing the July 31 retirement of former PACE President Boyd Young, who is named USW President Emeritus.

August 9, 2005

USW and Amicus, the largest manufacturing union in the UK with over one million members in the private and public sectors, including: steel and other metals; ener­gy; paper; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; shipbuilding; health care and transportation form a strategic alliance to increase solidarity and communication between the two unions, develop cross-national networks of unions with common employers and support cross-national orga­nizing and bargaining.

September 1, 2005

John Sellers retires. International Executive Board appoints Ron Hoover as Executive Vice President of the USW Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference (R/PIC).

November 22, 2005

The slate of candidates for international office headed by President Leo W. Gerard wins election without opposition. It is the first time in the union's 63-year his­tory that the entire International Executive Board is elected by consensus.

May 26, 2006

Members of the National Pharmacists Association (NPhA), representing approximately 1,100 registered pharmacists at Walgreens retail pharmacies in the Chicago area, as well as many other parts of northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana, have voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the United Steelworkers (USW).

June 7, 2006

The United Steelworkers (USW) and the Sierra Club announced the formation of a strategic alliance to pursue a joint public policy agenda under the banner of Good Jobs, A Clean Environment, and A Safer World.

February 4, 2007

Former President George Becker, a second-generation steelworker who became the sixth international president of the United Steelworkers (USW), died Saturday at his home in Gibsonia, Pa. He was 78.

April 13, 2007

USW International President, Leo W. Gerard and Mark Glyptis, former president of the Independent Steelworkers Union, signed a merger agreement for 1,150 members of the new USW Local 2911.

April 18, 2007

The United Steelworkers (USW), Amicus and the Transportation & General Workers Union (T&GWU) of the United Kingdom, today announced a formal process to prepare the ground for the creation of the first Trans-Atlantic trade union.

July 17, 2007

The United Steelworkers (USW) and the Canadian Region of the Communications Workers of America  (CWA)  have signed a Strategic Alliance to work together on issues of common interest in Canada and globally. The CWA/SCA Canada Region represents about 9,000 workers in every aspect of media across Canada, including newspapers, broadcasting, news agencies and online media.  Other members are in social work, interpretation services and light industry.

December 17, 2007

Québec's largest private sector union, the United Steelworkers (FTQ), is now under the leadership of Daniel Roy and his assistant, Guy Farrell. The new Director declared that the United Steelworkers (FTQ) will be involved in all actions intended to halt the shift to the right that is evident around the world.

December 20, 2007

In accordance with the constitution of the United Steelworkers, the USW’s International Executive Board has by unanimous vote named District 2 Director Jon Geenen the union’s international vice president with responsibility for national paper industry bargaining.

March 11, 2008

United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond is one of four new members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, a key decision-making body of the 10.5 million member labor federation. Redmond, 53, and three others were elected to the Executive Council on March 4.

March 25, 2008

Four of America’s largest unions have announced a political, electoral and legislative alliance pledged to “renew core American values:  dignity, decency and fair treatment in the workplace.”

April 25, 2008

Members of the United Steelworkers Union (USW) overwhelmingly approved by 77 percent a new four-year master economic and security agreement with International Paper (IP) covering 32 converting facilities that take paper and make it into paperboard, cardboard and other paper products.

May 9, 2008

Over 2,000 members of the United Steelworkers Union (USW) voted by a 4 to 1 margin to accept a four-year umbrella agreement with Domtar that covers 4,000 members at 10 Domtar facilities.

June 28, 2008

The United Steelworkers (USW) top international officers, executive board and 3,500 elected local union leaders from North America’s steel, paper, rubber and tire, mining, oil and service sector workplaces will meet for an International Convention, Jun. 30-Jul. 3 at the Paris-Bally’s Conference Center in Las Vegas to create the first global union.

July 2, 2008

Carol Landry, a union activist and seasoned contract negotiator who joined the USW in 1987 at Canada’s largest copper mine, was appointed International Vice President (First Woman to the Executive Board) by unanimous vote of the 27-member IEB during the USW’s 2008 Constitutional Convention.

September 10, 2008

The United Steelworkers today announced the appointment of veteran labor attorney Richard J. Brean as the union’s General Counsel. Brean, 60, of Pittsburgh, succeeds General Counsel Paul Whitehead.

October 30, 2008

The United Steelworkers (USW) joined Appleton Papers in applauding today’s U.S. International Trade Commission’s (ITC) final determination to impose both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on unfairly traded imports of lightweight thermal paper (LWTP) from China and Germany.

February 4, 2009

Some 4,000 workers from all over the U.S. joined together on Capitol Hill today to deliver more than 1.5 million petitions to Congress urging the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

July 8, 2009

Trade union and parliamentary leaders from 13 countries are visiting Mexico this week to support the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers, which has been under attack by the Mexican government and the Grupo Mexico mining company.

2010s

June 25, 2010

A new 4-year labor agreement between the United Steelworkers (USW) union and Alcoa covering some 6,000 workers at 11 U.S. locations.

September 9, 2010

The United Steelworkers filed a comprehensive trade case under Section 301 of the trade law identifying a broad array of Chinese policies and practices that threaten the future of America’s alternative and renewable energy sector.

September 17, 2010

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard accepted an appointment by President Barack Obama to the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.

December 13, 2010

United Steelworkers reported that a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel found in favor of the United States, a challenge by China on imposition of import duties on passenger and light truck tires.

August 12, 2011

Over 3,000 elected United Steelworkers local union leaders from across North America met with top international officers and executive board members for an International Convention Aug. 15 - 18, at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

August 22, 2011

United Steelworkers mourn the loss of a treasured friend and great Canadian, but they are comforted by Jack Layton's incredible legacy - of unbridled hope and optimism for a brighter future for our country.

November 18, 2011

United Steelworker members at oil facilities nationwide overwhelmingly ratified the National Oil Bargaining (NOB) policy after delegates to the September oil bargaining conference adopted it.

January 30, 2012

The World Trade Organization (WTO), in clear and unequivocal language, stated that China’s decision to limit the export of key raw materials violates the commitments China made when it joined the WTO.

February 02, 2012

Fred Redmond, USW International Vice President (Human Affairs), has been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

May 07, 2012

The United Steelworkers (USW) is saddened to announce the death last Friday of former International Vice President Leon Lynch, who retired in 2006.

December 13, 2012

Nancy Lessin, a longtime United Steelworkers activist on behalf of worker health and safety, was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to a seat on the 12-member federal Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC)

April 25, 2013

The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that International Vice President Fred Redmond will be honored to accept the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Dr. Annie B. Martin Labor Leader Award at its annual Northeast Region Civil Rights Advocacy Training Institute

September 27, 2013

President Barack Obama has announced the appointment of United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and 18 others to the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee “2.0.”

December 6, 2013

The United Steelworkers' (USW) 1.2 million active and retired members join the citizens of South Africa and people across the world in mourning the loss of a great leader and humanitarian, Nelson Mandela.

March 26, 2014

The United Steelworkers hailed today’s ruling from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 13 Director Peter Sung Ohr declaring that Northwestern University football players fit the legal definition of employees and thus are eligible to form a union.

May 5, 2014

Retired USW President Lynn Williams, the son of a Canadian mill-town minister who led the United Steelworkers as its international president during a turbulent decade of steel industry consolidation, died May 5 at age 89 in Toronto, Canada.