3M Council focuses on membership engagement, health and safety at conference in Pittsburgh

Members of the USW 3M Council took advantage of their first in-person meeting since before the COVID-19 pandemic to strategize about engaging new members and improving health and safety.

The two-day conference was held at USW Headquarters in Pittsburgh on March 28-29 and was led by USW Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, who kickstarted the meeting by thanking the members for their steadfast commitment over the past few demanding years.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the work everyone did protecting workers throughout the pandemic,” said Shinn. “The fact that we have this council set up is a main reason we were able to get through this challenging period.”

Tom Duffy of the USW Health, Safety and Environment Department led the council through a discussion on the new chemical sector safety proposal the union is pursuing to combat the many blame-the-worker and behavior-based language in contracts.

“We have a lot of work to do in this sector,” he said. “Together we need to send a unified message to the employers, putting them on notice that we expect them to work with us to provide a safe workplace.”

Mobilizing membership

Council members also used the gathering to brainstorm about organizing—both internal and external—including how to engage new and veteran members to take action and be a part of the union. Sabrina Liu from the USW Strategic Campaigns Department helped the council brainstorm ideas for hosting events, starting newsletters, and creating a sense of community among their locals.

Local 187 Vice President Darren Coons detailed how he and his fellow leaders who took office in 2018 did just that by talking to each member one-on-one about the importance of joining the union. For their facility, active membership is critical as it is located in Indiana, a right-to-work (for less) state.

“Most people were just upset that no one talked to them when they were thinking about stopping paying dues,” said Coons. “I just talked to them like a person, and within a few months, everyone was back in. We’re at 100 percent now.”

Solidarity across borders 

The group continued the theme of solidarity by chatting virtually with leaders from La Liga, an independent union at 3M in San Luis Potosi in central Mexico. They announced that they reached a tentative agreement on March 27 after winning the right to negotiate with 3M for the first time as an independent union as opposed to a company union.

The agreement, which covers 1,700 workers, includes an 8 percent increase in wages with an additional 3 percent in benefits. This is the biggest increase the workers have ever seen and also includes unification of the wage scale. The next step for the union is to hold a ratification vote—also a first for the workers—on April 18.

Shinn told the union members that the USW plans to stay connected with La Liga and will invite their leadership to attend upcoming 3M Council meetings. Paolo Marinaro from the Solidarity Center, who has been assisting the Mexican workers, also said he looks forward to this continued relationship.

“We believe in international solidarity for the benefit of all workers,” said Marinaro.

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