Joe Villines Retires After Servicing Paducah Local 8-550, Brandon Duncan To Take Over

Joe Villines, USW staff representative for District 8, had never dealt with the atomic industry before getting assigned to Local 8-550 at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.  He soon discovered it was a “whole different ballgame” from being a representative in the private sector.

First, he had to learn all the acronyms used during USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) meetings. Then, he had to learn about the contractors and their relationship with the Department of Energy (DOE) career and appointed staff, along with the numerous regulations, executive orders, laws, and other governmental rules that applied at the site. It was not long before he became well-versed in the ways of the contractors and DOE bureaucracy.

He came out of the steel industry, and had been a local union officer for about 14 years at North Star Steel (later Gerdau Steel) in Calvert City, Ky. Gerdau purchased North Star in the early 2000’s and shut down the Calvert City plant in November 2016.

Villines spent 20 years as a staff representative, and retired May 1, 2018. He said he misses the people—the members, officers and staff—and the work that turns out well.

“They become your friends,” he said.

Before he retired, he worked with his replacement, Brandon Duncan, for a month-and-a-half.  He introduced Duncan to everyone and worked with him during that transition time.

“It was a great experience, and it was good to work with Joe,” Duncan said.

In July, Villines helped Duncan and the Paducah local with contract negotiations for the Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS) agreement. MCS is the contractor in charge of the depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion project. DUF6 is being converted to more stable compounds for safe reuse and disposal.

Villines started the negotiations before he retired and they were on hold because both parties were waiting for a decision from the Department of Energy.

“We will certainly miss Joe’s valuable knowledge and experience in contract negotiations, along with his friendship,” said Local 8-550 Vice President Jim Key. Key is also president of the AEWC.

Besides easing the transition for Duncan and the local, Villines has had the chance to fish a little bit, travel to New Orleans with his wife for a few days, and do a lot of work around the house.

“When you’re working, you don’t have time to get stuff done,” he said. “One good thing about retirement is you can always say, ‘If I don’t get it done today, I can always get it done tomorrow.’”

Brandon Duncan Services Paducah Local 8-550

Before District 8 Staff Representative Joe Villines retired, he made sure that Brandon Duncan, his replacement, had met the people and sites he would encounter during his assignment.

“Joe was very helpful,” Duncan said. “Being a staff rep. is stressful and involves a lot of work, but I’ve had three excellent mentors to learn from: Kip Phillips, Ron Spann and Joe Villines.”

Kip Phillips headed the USW’s atomic sector before retiring several years ago, and Ron Spann was a District 9 staff representative.

“I can still lean on them,” Duncan said. “I’ve been blessed to have them not only in my personal life, but in my work life as well.

“The nuclear sector is tough to learn. It is very different from the private sector,” he added.

Like Villines, Duncan comes out of another industry. He started working at Evonik’s Calvert City, Ky., chemical plant in 1994 and joined the OCAW (now USW Local 8-727). Phillips also worked at that facility, and had been the local’s president while Duncan worked there.

In 2001, Duncan became a steward. The Local 8-727 membership elected him trustee in 2004, vice president in 2006 and president in 2009. He proudly served as union president of his amalgamated local until coming on staff in 2018. He is a graduate of the USW’s leadership training program.

“I truly miss my brothers and sisters of Local 8-727 with whom I served for 24 years,” Duncan said.

He was noted for concluding the local union meetings by saying these words: “Sometime this week say something good about your union brothers or sisters, and say something good about your UNION!”  

“It’s an honor to be a servicing representative for this great union,” Duncan added.

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