Gerdau Council: It’s All about Solidarity

About two dozen union leaders from eight Gerdau locals traveled to Pittsburgh in mid-December to build solidarity, share information and plot a course for future success for some 3,000 members at steel mills across North America.

The USW’s Gerdau Council, created in 2005 in response to a six-month lockout at the company’s Beaumont, Texas, facility, meets annually - in Pittsburgh in even years and at a different Gerdau location in odd years.

John Catto of USW Local 6571 in Whitby, Ontario, said the council meetings are valuable because they allow locals to strategize together and prepare for issues that might come up at their plants, because they see what Gerdau is doing elsewhere.

“We learn from each other,” Catto said. “We’re prepared, and we can develop a strategy to fight.”

The council members met for two days at the USW International Headquarters in Pittsburgh. The group included members from seven USW locals and one UAW local.

Members discussed recent bargaining successes that came during a particularly challenging time for the industry, including new contracts for locals in Beaumont, Fort Smith, Ark., Wilton, Iowa, and St. Paul, Minn.

The council also looked ahead to upcoming negotiations in 2017 in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Cambridge, Ontario, and Slekirk, Manitoba, and discussed ways in which members could support the locals engaged in those campaigns.

 Council members also discussed grievances, working conditions, opposition to behavior-based safety programs, organizing opportunities, trade and other concerns, and also held a conference call with allies from the Gerdau Workers World Council.  

Gerdau is a Brazilian steelmaker with mills in its home country as well as in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela. Union members in many of those countries strategize through the Gerdau Workers World Council.

Mark Lack, of USW Local 8586 in Beaumont, said the council helps make every individual Gerdau local more powerful.

“When I talk to new members, this is one of the most important things we talk about,” Lack said. “Without this council, they could just pick us off one at a time.”

Lack said that the key to the success of the council is solidarity.

“That is what is going to make or break us as an industry,” he said. “The more we stick together, the stronger we will be.”

                               

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