USW Mourns Loss of John DeFazio

The United Steelworkers (USW) mourns the loss today of longtime Western Pennsylvania labor and political leader John DeFazio, who served as director of the USW’s District 10 for 12 years.

DeFazio followed in his father’s footsteps to become a steelworker, starting his career as a member of USW Local 1843 at the former J&L Steel and winning election as president of the 5,000-member local union in 1970, when he was just 29 years old.

At the time, DeFazio was the youngest local union president in the steel industry.

“The spirit and solidarity of labor was in John DeFazio’s blood, and he never forgot where he came from,” said International President Tom Conway. “The members of this union – and all working people in Pennsylvania and around the country – owe John a debt of gratitude for his years of dedication and leadership.”

DeFazio joined the staff of the USW in 1977, eventually serving as the District 10 Civil Rights Coordinator and Sub-District Director.

As a staff representative, he skillfully helped workers navigate through what was a difficult time for the U.S. steel industry. During his tenure, DeFazio worked with union leaders in the steel, aluminum, glass, health care, public sector and service industries.

DeFazio became USW District 10 Director in 2001, representing about 50,000 Steelworkers across the state of Pennsylvania.

“When he was speaking up on behalf of working people, John was a force to be reckoned with,” Conway said. “But that fierce dedication to justice in some ways disguised the fact that he was also a gentle and generous soul. He will be missed.”

In addition to his work with the union, DeFazio served for 20 years as a member and as president of the Allegheny County Council and as vice president of the Allegheny County Labor Council.

In the 1960s and 1970s, DeFazio also made a name for himself as a professional wrestling champion, known by the moniker “Jumpin’ Johnny,” a nickname that continued to follow him long after his wrestling days were over.

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