Category: From the USW International President

The Looming Plot Against Workers

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

The Looming Plot Against Workers

Kumho Tire herded workers into anti-union brainwashing sessions, fired union supporters, including a mother of seven who was eight months pregnant, and plastered the plant with anti-labor literature during the workers’ drive to join the United Steelworkers (USW) several years ago.

“They even had caps that said ‘Vote No,’” recalled Christopher Burks, who helped to lead the organizing effort. “The managers wore them, and they tried to hand them out to the hourly workers.”

Kumho broke so many laws during the desperate scorched-earth campaign at its Macon, Ga., plant that an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took the extraordinary step of ordering the company to call workers together and read a statement admitting its egregious wrongdoing.

The workers ultimately stood up to Kumho, stayed the course and joined the union. But without the NLRB to hold the company to account, “we wouldn’t have won,” said Burks, who now serves his co-workers as president of USW Local 09-008.

Future victories like that are in jeopardy right now as right-wing extremists plot to regain control of the White House, gut Americans’ labor rights and subjugate workers to greedy corporations.

These fanatics coined a catchphrase for their attack on working families: Project 2025.

They’re scheming to replace Joe Biden, the most pro-worker president in history, with a Republican eager to neuter the NLRB, cripple similar agencies and roll back the gains workers continue making in Biden’s booming post-pandemic economy.

Biden not only empowered the NLRB and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to better serve workers but created a White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment to give more Americans a pathway to the middle class.

But right-wingers view labor rights and safety regulations as so many impediments to corporate profits and control. So the cabal behind Project 2025 contrived a solution.

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Protecting America’s Freedoms

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

Protecting America’s Freedoms

Sean Clouatre promised accountability, stability and transparency when he ran for alderman in his hometown of French Settlement, La., in 2022.

That was the commitment that his colleagues demanded of him years earlier when they elected him president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 620, the union representing hundreds of workers at BASF and Oxy plants in the state’s chemical manufacturing corridor.

And Clouatre knew that voters in the village of 1,000 desired the same kind of leadership as the community approached crucial decisions about finances, infrastructure and the future.

“The union gave me the knowledge and confidence to do this,” said Clouatre, who won his race for alderman, noting that the USW not only showed him how to stand up for others but instilled in him the true meaning of leadership.

Unions protect Americans’ freedoms. They model democracy, empowering members to elect leaders, vote on contracts and use their voice to advocate for safer working conditions along with other needs.

They also embody the nation’s highest ideals, bringing workers together to fight for fairness, inclusiveness and the level playing field that gives everyone an equal say and a shot at getting ahead.

“I have one vote, just like everybody else,” said Clouatre, an operator at the Oxy plant in Geismar, noting union members collectively set the union’s agenda and expect him to carry it out.

“We stand up for workers’ rights, and that’s what this country was founded on,” he said of unions. “We fight for those principles, still, to this day.”

The democracy fostered in the union spills over into the community. Union members vote at higher rates than other workers in congressional and presidential elections, for example, and their family members also turn out to vote more often than non-union households.

“To be clear: this is not just the result of any particular GOTV (get-out-the-vote) activity, but rather a function of being in a union, the transformative effect that it has,” wrote Tova Wang, visiting democracy fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, in a 2020 study.

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To the Rescue

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

To the Rescue
Wayne Creasy

Wayne Creasy turned the corner in his municipal work truck, saw emergency vehicles idling at the railroad crossing, and instinctively pulled over to help.

About 12 feet in the air, a railroad worker writhed in agony, pinned against his seat by a 39-foot-long, 1,500-pound slab of rail that fell from the claws of the crane he’d been operating.

Creasy—crew chief for the Bloomsburg, Pa., Public Works Department and president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1928—knew exactly what to do.

He summoned a town backhoe, moved a police car out of the way, and secured the backhoe’s chains to the piece of rail. Then he guided the backhoe operator, a fellow union member, as he hoisted the rail high enough for emergency workers to slide the man over the back of his seat to safety.

Decades of union empowerment prepared Creasy to act decisively and heroically on that summer day four years ago. Now, swift passage of federal legislation, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, would help build the same kind of leadership, skill and teamwork in communities nationwide.

“We try to rise above and beyond,” Creasy, a town worker for nearly three decades, said of his 10-person crew, responsible for snow-clearing, street paving, flood control, tree maintenance, the town park, an airport, traffic signals and many other community essentials. “If you know what to do, you do it.”

Some states unfairly deny public servants—not only road crews but sanitation, maintenance and office workers, among others—the same right to union membership that counterparts in the private sector enjoy.

A right-wing governor in Wisconsin signed legislation in 2011, for example, that essentially eliminated bargaining rights for public workers there. Florida’s anti-worker governor last year signed a law aimed at bankrupting and decimating public-sector unions, costing tens of thousands of workers their labor rights so far.

And Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature recently introduced several bills intended to strip public workers of their unions.

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More Jobs, Higher Wages

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

More Jobs, Higher Wages
A USW member at Constellium

John Ralston went into bargaining with Transco last fall intending to negotiate one of the strongest union contracts in his three decades with the company.

Carmakers urgently wanted to get new vehicles to market. The railroads needed to get more autoracks—enclosed rail cars used to transport vehicles—into service.

And Ralston said he and his co-workers, who maintain autoracks and other rail cars at a sprawling yard in Logansport, Ind., had “more work than we could handle.”

He and other members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-00007 ended up exceeding their expectations, winning wage increases of 24 percent over three and a half years along with important benefit enhancements.

It’s one more example of the significant gains that workers across the country are making as the nation continues to add jobs, invest in manufacturing and meet growing demand for products ranging from aluminum and steel to automobiles, appliances and many other kinds of goods.

“They knew they were going to have to offer a pretty substantial wage increase in order to hire more people and keep them there,” Ralston, the local’s recording secretary and a bargaining committee member, said of Transco management.

“I think they knew they were going to have to do something. They really want to add a second shift. They really want to expand our operations,” added Ralston, who repairs the air brake systems on rail cars.

The hiring buzz at Transco reflects a nationwide trend.

Employers created 15 million jobs, hundreds of thousands of them in manufacturing, over the past three and a half years. The nation added another 272,000 jobs in May alone, beating economists’ projections, and workers are benefiting with strong wage gains that outpace the cost of living.

“The American middle class is seeing their economic standing improved. The strong wages and improving living standards are the main takeaway from this very strong jobs report,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at the accounting firm RSM US, explained to The Washington Post.

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We’re Here. And We’re Strong.

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

We’re Here. And We’re Strong.
Getty Images

Donneta Williams, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1025 and a longtime optical fiber maker at the Corning plant in Wilmington, N.C., knows how important it is for workers intent on forming a union to speak directly with peers who walk in the same shoes.

So Williams agreed to send three of her colleagues to Corning’s Tarboro facility, about 145 miles away, when workers at that site approached the union with questions about organizing.

Local 1025 members shared firsthand accounts of how the union boosted their wages, gave them a voice and kept them safe on the job. And about two weeks ago, the workers at Tarboro filed for an election to join the USW.

They’re among a growing number of workers across the South eager to leverage the power of solidarity and build brighter futures, even as CEOs and Republicans in this part of the country still conspire to hold them down.

“It’s all about making life better,” said Williams, who also serves as a vice president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, noting that workers are organizing across numerous industries in a string of Southern states with traditionally low numbers of union members.

“The narrative on unions in the South needs to change,” she added, pointing out that growing numbers of workers are grasping the benefits of collective action and demanding their fair share in the booming post-pandemic economy.

“We’re here,” she said. “We’re strong. We’re standing up, and we’re fighting with all that we have.”

About 1,400 workers at the Blue Bird electric bus factory in Fort Valley, Ga., last year voted overwhelmingly to organize through the USW.

The vote was a breakthrough for workers on the front lines of a vital, growing industry. It also sent a pointed, defiant message to a Republican governor who lies about unions and tries to prevent Georgians from joining them.

On the heels of that monumental victory, autoworkers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., overcame Republican opposition and voted by a huge majority last month to unionize.

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Solidarity Sends the Bullies Packing

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

Solidarity Sends the Bullies Packing

Management at Amfuel tried to bully Jo Tucker and her 200 co-workers—most of them Black women, a number of them single moms—into accepting dozens of unnecessary concessions in a new contract.

For four years, however, the manufacturing workers in Magnolia, Ark., remained strong and resolute as the company tried to break the union and wear them down.

And then, just as the workers prepared to launch an unfair labor practice strike a couple of weeks ago, Amfuel surrendered. Because of their unflinching solidarity, the workers beat back the concessions and won a contract with life-changing raises, additional holidays and other benefit enhancements.

“We didn’t lose anything,” noted Tucker, a negotiating committee member and the financial secretary for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 607L. “That was good.”

Employers frequently try to kill morale, punish workers, or force them into concessionary contracts by dragging their feet at the bargaining table. But as union members at Amfuel and other companies prove time and again, a united front sends the bullies packing.

“We all hung in there together,” Tucker said of the workers, who make fuel cells for military helicopters and fighter jets. “It wasn’t easy. But we prevailed, and I thank God that we did.”

“It was teamwork,” she added. “Everybody was working together.”

As the workers geared up for bargaining in 2020, Amfuel received an infusion of money from new investors and additional support from the Defense Department and local community leaders. The company embarked on a growth plan, intending to rely ever more heavily on the skilled work force. It even bragged publicly about giving workers a bigger voice on the job.

Yet Amfuel stunned workers with a contract proposal demanding nearly 70 concessions.

Among other untenable proposals, Amfuel wanted to abolish seniority, reduce vacation pay and eliminate the grievance process, which would have made it easier for management to try to eliminate workers for any reason or none at all.

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Building Resilience, Saving Lives

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

Building Resilience, Saving Lives
Getty Images

Scott Cox sprinted across the field, slogging through ankle-deep water, to where his parents’ house stood moments before.

He found a mountain of debris from the EF5 tornado, a milk truck that the unusually powerful twister had flung into the yard, and his parents’ horse, bleeding, covered with welts, standing dazed near the remnants of the back deck.

And then Cox, a longtime member of the United Steelworkers (USW), heard his mother’s cries. He dug her out of the rubble by hand, saving her, only to lose his father, who was too injured even for CPR and perished along with 15 others in Smithville, Miss., that day.

The people of Smithville opened a domed tornado shelter following the April 2011 disaster, but that merely underscored America’s need for a comprehensive, forward-looking approach that empowers communities to fortify defenses, construct new bulwarks and avert climate-related destruction in the first place.

Now, thanks to President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the nation is building that kind of lifesaving resilience.

The USW-backed IIJA delivers billions for projects to end droughts, protect the coasts against hurricanes, harden infrastructure, build stronger buildings, and provide grants for storm-resistant safe rooms.

Mississippi alone received hundreds of millions so far, including $4.8 million announced just this month to upgrade two hurricane evacuation routes.

“The ultimate responsibility of the government is to keep people safe,” observed Cox, president of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 9-8. “That’s the No. 1 priority—and not only safe from enemies foreign and domestic but also from natural disasters.

“Having these resources, I think, is very, very important, especially in rural areas,” continued Cox, describing the Smithville disaster as a “traumatic experience that won’t end.”

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A New Manufacturing Frontier

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

A New Manufacturing Frontier
Getty Images

Tom Bixler and several hundred of his co-workers produced top-quality glassware at the Libbey Glass plant in Toledo, Ohio, over the years while keeping the aging equipment there operating through sheer grit.

They even set efficiency standards despite the steep odds and carried the company through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all to ensure the sprawling manufacturing complex remained viable and a centerpiece of the local economy.

But while they’re rightly proud of all they’ve done to sustain the facility, Bixler and fellow members of the United Steelworkers (USW) know they need to continue innovating to build a more secure, sustainable future. They’re now embarking on a critical transformation of their plant that will not only safeguard Northwest Ohio’s glassmaking jobs for decades to come but help forge a new frontier in American manufacturing.

Bixler, president of USW Local 65T, joined U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur last week as they highlighted a federal grant award of up to $45.1 million that will enable the plant to install a pair of larger hybrid electric furnaces intended to boost efficiency, reduce pollution and expand employment.

The cutting-edge furnace technology—combining the advantages of oxygen fuel and electric melting to process the raw materials for glassmaking, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 60 percent—has the potential to set a new standard for the industry and revolutionize glass production nationwide.

And this commitment to the glass industry represents just one part of President Joe Biden’s initiative to grow the manufacturing economy with clean energy and union jobs. In all, his administration this month announced $6 billion for 33 decarbonization and modernization projects, deploying a range of new technology, in iron, steel, chemicals, refining, cement, pulp and paper, and other industries.

Historic union-backed legislation—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act—will fund the grants.

“This is something that’s going to blaze a whole new trail,” said Bixler, a mold maker at Libbey for 41 years, who considers the federal grant, to be matched by the company, as Biden’s investment in workers who have worked so hard to preserve the plant and keep the community strong.

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A New Shipbuilding Era

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

A New Shipbuilding Era
Getty Images

James Crawford served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps maintaining the radar systems on super-sophisticated warplanes built to fend off enemy attacks from air, sea and land.

But not once during his time in numerous ports as far away as Asia did he see a U.S. commercial vessel plying the seas, a sign, he now realizes, of another kind of threat to the homeland.

America’s security begins with skilled union workers manufacturing the goods, equipment and other essentials, including cargo freighters and tankers, needed to keep the nation independent and free.

And so Crawford joined fellow members of the United Steelworkers (USW) recently in taking action to resuscitate the country’s decimated commercial shipbuilding industry and end a growing, perilous dependence on Chinese shipping.

The USW and other unions filed a petition with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai seeking an investigation into China’s illegal predatory trade practices, unfair state support for its own commercial shipbuilding industry, and plot to dominate global logistics networks.

China’s network of policies—including massive subsidies for the industry, such as cash payments, tax incentives and other handouts—continues to kill competition in America and other countries. As a result, China not only controls an enormous percentage of the world’s commercial shipbuilding output but wields the power to cut off access to ships it builds and operates at any time, for any reason.

“You can’t go somewhere to fight if you’re weak at home,” observed Crawford, unit president for USW Local 3372-07 who works at Hunt Valve in Salem, Ohio, noting that the U.S. not only needs commercial ships to carry manufactured goods to the far corners of the world but to provide sealift capacity to the military in times of crisis.

The United States once had about 30 major shipyards with 180,000 workers and contracts for more than 70 commercial vessels a year. But tens of thousands of those shipyard jobs disappeared since the 1980s as China hijacked the industry.

Some shipyards, like the USW-represented complex in Newport News, Va., began focusing entirely on military contracts. Others, like the Sun Shipping and Dry Dock complex in Chester, Pa., once the world’s largest shipyard and a center of shipbuilding innovation, simply closed. A casino now occupies the property.

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Building America, Fighting Greed

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

Building America, Fighting Greed
Getty Images

The widowed single mom attacked grocery shopping with the doggedness of a Marine on a mission.

To provide for her family in the face of corporate price-gouging, she bought off-brand items and selected eggs for protein instead of higher-costing meat. She even worked multiple jobs to keep the family solvent.

And despite the challenges she faced, she never complained, recalled Denny Mitchell, a longtime United Steelworkers (USW) activist who’s filled with admiration for the way the woman raised her family.

Ordinary working people like Mitchell’s friend continue to build America with humble heroism, even as the greedy rich try to cheat them not only at the checkout line but everywhere from the workplace to the halls of power.

“It’s a fight. It’s always a fight,” observed Mitchell, noting that Kellogg’s CEO Gary Pilnick underscored the arrogance of the 1 percent when he flippantly suggested a few weeks ago that struggling families eat cereal for dinner.

Pilnick, who pockets millions in salary and incentive compensation, runs a corporation largely responsible for the rampant price-gouging in the nation’s grocery stores.

Kellogg’s jacked up prices by more than 14 percent over the past couple of years while announcing plans to shower shareholders with stock buybacks and dividends.

Other food-makers joined in the exploitation, raising prices, reducing the amount of product in their packaging or switching to cheaper, lower-quality ingredients that enable them to pad their bottom lines on unwitting consumers’ backs.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania released a report in December assailing numerous companies for “shrinking products to super-size profits.” Among many other examples, Casey revealed that General Mills quietly shaved 1.2 ounces from boxes of Cocoa Puffs in 2021 while Conagra started skimping on ingredients in its Smart Balance spread in 2022, “resulting in a watery product that sparked consumer backlash.”

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