New Leadership for USW

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
As many of you have heard by now, I’ve announced my decision to retire as USW International President, effective July 15, 2019. Fighting alongside all of you has been my privilege for more than 50 years. Our shared mission to improve the lives of all working people will always be my guiding light, as well as the enduring purpose of our union.
 
But now it’s time for other activists to take up the mantle of leadership.
In my decades as a local union activist, union staff, District Director, National Director of Canada, Secretary-Treasurer and finally International President, our union has grown and changed.
 
Our great union has welcomed new members in new sectors. We’ve weathered difficult negotiations, and we’ve taken our fights on many issues important to our members to our nations’ capitals.
 
We developed key partnerships with international allies, including forming the first global union, Workers Uniting. And our union was one of the founders of the Blue Green Alliance (BGA) and the Centre for Research in Occupational Health and Safety (CROSH).
 
We took on big, multinational corporations, we beat back unfair trade deals, and we made our workplaces safer.
 
My work with the union is not ending. Over the course of my career I was deeply touched to be awarded honorary degrees from three Canadian universities in recognition of our union’s important work: Laurentian University, Brock University and the University of Guelph. Now, I intend to remain active in the labor community, and I’ll always fight on the side of workers’ rights.
 
However, I also intend to step back, to enjoy my retirement and spend more time with my wife and family.
 
As union brothers and sisters, we’ve stood together through good and bad. I now ask you to join me in supporting the next step in our union’s future.
In addition to my announcement, Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson, Vice President At Large Carol Landry, and Vice President Jon Geenen have also stated that they will all be stepping down on July 15.
 
Each of these individuals has done immeasurable work on behalf of the union, and we owe them our thanks.
 
Stan began his union career at a URW tire plant in 1975 as a tire builder. He has held many union positions throughout his career, including as Secretary-Treasurer since 2009. As the union’s CFO, Stan brought stability, strength and confidence to the union’s finances. He oversaw the union’s crucial Rapid Response program and chaired the union’s Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference, leading negotiations with some of the nation’s largest tire makers as well as chairing bargaining within the paper industry.
 
Carol joined the USW executive board in 2008 as the first woman to ever serve on the board, bringing with her years of experience as an activist and negotiator. She began her career in 1986 and held many union positions. She has been responsible for the union’s nuclear and chemical sectors and served as co-chair of the USW’s Next Generation Program. She also served as Vice President of the IndustriALL Global Union and spearheaded programs encouraging women to take leadership roles in the union.
 
Jon joined the USW Board in 2008 and has overseen bargaining, trade issues and public policy related to the domestic paper industry. He began his career in 1977 as a journeyman maintenance tech in the pulp and paper industry. Since then, Jon has worked tirelessly to guide USW paper workers through a maze of mergers and acquisitions, to develop a coordinated pattern of labor agreements within the industry and to improve contract language and a stronger voice for members.
 
Stan, Carol, and Jon’s announcements, along with mine, have paved the way for a new leadership team, and the decision to announce these changes together will ensure that a capable and experienced group of trade union leaders will hit the ground running together.
 
The International Executive Board met May 28-30 and passed a resolution approving a plan to transition the union leadership. The result was unanimous support for the following candidates, who will now join Vice President Fred Redmond and Canadian National Director Ken Neumann in leading our union:
 
Thomas M. Conway, International President
John Shinn, International Secretary-Treasurer
David R. McCall, International Vice President/Administration
Roxanne Brown, International Vice President At Large
Leeann Foster, International Vice President
 
I’ve personally known Tom Conway, our current Vice President for Administration for more than 25 years. In this time, he’s earned my admiration, demonstrating a special toughness and a willingness to take on the most difficult jobs and negotiations. He has a strong vision and unique perspective about the future direction of the union.
 
Tom has my complete support as our new President.
 
Tom has served as USW Vice President since 2005. He began his career as a millwright at Bethlehem Steel in 1978, and then worked as a staff representative and as the secretary of the USW’s Basic Steel Conference. He has also chaired many of the union’s major sector negotiations in steel, mining, aluminum, tire and rubber, oil, and other metals and manufacturing operations.
 
He led the charge on trade issues affecting these sectors, including the union’s efforts in trade enforcement. He stood shoulder to shoulder with me and hundreds of our members during the Battle in Seattle. Tom’s also spearheaded the USW’s efforts in fighting to bring change to the nation’s trade and manufacturing policies.
 
In addition to serving on the governing board of the Institute for Career Development and the board for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), Tom has been instrumental in building and guiding the USW staff training program and in helping to develop the union’s leadership development program.
 
You may also already know the other new board members, all of whom are also dedicated activists and negotiators.
 
John Shinn is our union’s Director of District 4. John joined the USW executive board in 2012 and has aggressively promoted job creation within his district. He chairs the Inter-Union Gas Conference and various committees within the union’s paper conference. John joined the labor movement in 1974 as a member of the United Glass and Ceramic Workers International Union (UGCWIU), which later merger to become the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers (ABG). He served as a staff representative in the ABG and as a sub-director in the USW before becoming director.
 
David R. McCall is our union’s Director of District 1. He first joined the union’s international executive board in 1998. Beginning his career as a millwright, he has held many union positions, including serving as a staff representative, assistant director and director. Dave has more than 40 years of bargaining experience across the union and chairs major negotiations in steel, paper and other sectors.
 
Roxanne Brown is our Legislative Director in the union’s Washington, D.C., office. She will continue to oversee legislative, public policy and political matters while remaining based in the capital. Roxy has a broad base of experience working for legislation that supports USW members and all working people. She also works with the various companies and associations that are impacted by regulations and laws under consideration in the nation’s agencies and Congress. 
 
Leeann Foster is an Assistant to the International President and has served as Associate General Counsel since the 2005 USW/PACE merger. Leeann works as a lead bargainer within the paper sector, as well as leading the union’s Women of Steel leadership program. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the IndustriALL Global Union working group for the pulp and paper sector. Leeann has been instrumental in leading the USW paper industry through difficult bargaining and has worked to develop a safety strategy within the sector. 
 
Our union is changing and becoming more diverse, and our board is changing to reflect that growth. The USW is committed to bringing forward the next generation of labor leaders and to providing the tools, training, and opportunity they will need to succeed. 
 
These changes in leadership do not mean we are shrinking from any of our longstanding commitments, and there are still fights we must take on. The new team brings vast experience and knowledge of our industries and issues and will continue the proud traditions the union has always stood for. 
 
All of us – Stan, Carol, Jon and myself – stand humbled to have had the opportunity to represent you and all our members. I look forward to the next few months as we enact this transition in leadership, and I hope I can count on all of you to support our new board members. 
 
It’s truly been an honor working with all of you. I can say in all honesty that I leave our union in good hands. 
 
In solidarity,
Leo W. Gerard
International President

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

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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