USW Local Union President Terry Howard Talks About Hillary Clinton and Jobs

Leo W. Gerard USW President Emeriti

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, as a half dozen labor leaders including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took the stage and as the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) stressed making it in America, USW Local 235A President Terry Howard talked to me about Hillary Clinton and jobs. 

Howard, 62, president of USW Local 235A for 18 years, is a delegate from Texas to the Democratic National Convention, and in addition to those duties is spending the week in Philadelphia with a group of Steelworkers telling every Democrat they find about labor’s needs. He came to Philly as a Bernie Sanders delegate. But like Bernie and his party, he is now backing Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats made clear their support for labor when they gave significant time to Trumka, Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, and half a dozen other labor leaders, people who strive to improve the lives of working people.

For Howard, from Corpus Christi, Texas, and me these speeches Monday night followed a jobs and manufacturing event we attended at the Philadelphia Museum of Art conducted by AAM.


There, Gene Sperling, who served as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, spoke about Hillary Clinton’s commitment to both infrastructure improvement and manufacturing in America.

Sperling also served as chief economic advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination for president and on this campaign. He knows her philosophy and her plans from way back. He knows that when she was a Senator in New York, she intervened to help the Steelworkers preserve jobs at a Corning plant there when China targeted it with tariffs and intellectual property theft.

Sperling talked about Clinton’s manufacturing in America initiative, something to which she has been committed for a long time, and her devotion to infrastructure improvements to both create jobs and improve lives.

Howard told me he thinks infrastructure is persuasive because it is a pocketbook issue and because every town in America has some sort of need, a falling down bridge, a broken sewage system or a failing water system. It’s not just Flint, Mich., he said.

So people can relate to that. They know their own town needs the help. And they know their own town residents could use the jobs, he said. 

And, he told me he knows Clinton wants to bring manufacturing back to the United States. I assured him that when she was a Senator, every time the Steelworkers called her for help on a manufacturing issue, she came to our aid.

Howard said he will have it easier than some local union presidents when talking to his 455 work brothers and sisters about supporting Hillary Clinton. That’s because they’ve been locked out of their jobs by Sherwin Alumina at their Gregory, Texas, plant since Oct. 11, 2014. To this day they conduct a 24-7 picket line in front of that plant where the corporate owner, Glencore, is trying to slash their health and pension benefits.

These USW members all know what 1 percenters like Donald Trump are capable of, Howard told me. They’ve suffered under it for the past two years. They know Trump grossly underpaid working people and small contractors during his many bankruptcies in New Jersey and they know he won’t negotiate with his workers who unionized in at his Nevada casino, Howard said.

Outside of his local, he said the best way for him to talk about this election is the pocketbook because working people understand that. Howard believes Hillary Clinton, raised in a middle class family, can related to that. A guy who is a billionaire ten times over, who was born rich and raised rich and always rich, does not get that. 

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: From the USW International President