United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed http://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/rss United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed Liquid error: undefined method `match' for nil:NilClass AMPS en hourly 1 Final Day of the International Women's Conference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/final-day-of-the-international-womens-conference Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:44:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/final-day-of-the-international-womens-conference I Am With You, Sisters!

Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada addressed delegates on the last day of the International/National Women’s Conference in Toronto, Ontario.

“I have had the privilege to be here over the last several days and hear the women of our great union – on both sides of the border – set out your plans and your ideas for how you will continue the struggle for women’s equality,” said Neumann.

“I want to say that I hear you. I support you and I am with you, sisters!”

Neumann credited the women of the United Steelworkers for the gains and progress USW has made on behalf of women workers.

“I am proud of all we have done and will do. I also recognize that men have a role – as supporters and as allies,” said Neumann.

Neumann highlighted the need to do more to end violence and harassment against women. Delegates applauded Neumann when he said that one of the ways the USW is answering the call to action is by joining the call for a National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

Neumann recognized the success of Women of Steel negotiating domestic violence leave into USW collective agreements.

Today, governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario have passed laws providing all workers with domestic violence leave.

“But it began at the bargaining table,” Neumann noted. “This is a victory of women in the labour movement.”

Neumann cited the USW’s Be More Than a Bystander program that is training male Steelworkers to speak out against harassment.

“Ending violence and harassment is key, but it is not the full solution. Women’s equality is about the presence of respect and opportunity, not just the absence of violence and harassment,” he said. “That is part of what unions deliver and why the work of our union is so important.”

Neumann recounted his personal experiences visiting Bangladesh on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,138 garment workers, mainly women, injuring 2,500 others.

Visibly moved, with his voice breaking, Neumann told of how he was with the families who had lost loved ones at their first opportunity to visit the rubble of Rana Plaza.

“The families were standing in front, clutching photos of their loved ones. And what they were looking for was closure. Because after the collapse, the building was imploded. They were looking for DNA so they could have some kind of closure, but they didn’t get that,” said Neumann.

“Sisters, you are part of our union’s solidarity,” Neumann told the delegates. “We are stronger together.”

“For three days, this stage and this room has been full of smart, capable Women of Steel who are making our union and the world a better place. We need to see more women in union leadership. Our union will not be a success if we don’t,” said Neumann.

Neumann thanked the sisters for bringing dedication and energy to the conference and thanked delegates for all they will do in answering the call to action.

“Sisters, you have proven again that there is nothing stronger than a Woman of Steel!”

The Women Speak

Women took their seats on the final day of the International/National Women’s Conference in Toronto, Ontario, exhausted, yet grateful and ready for action following from three full days of plenaries, workshops and networking.

Women lined up at microphones to speak – many of them first-time delegates and first-time speakers – sharing their inspiration, their action plans and their challenges to our union.

International Vice-President Carol Landry chaired the session Hearing From the Women.

Delee from District 3 began with a moving and emotional plea to take action on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada.

“I’m hopeful we will find a way to mitigate and eventually eradicate the violence against Indigenous women.”

Julie, from Local 1944 shared her Call to Action, motivated by losing a union sister to the disease of addiction. “The call to action for me will be for Local 1944 bargaining in 2021. I’ll be putting forward a proposal to have domestic violence leave in our next agreement.”

Many sisters thanked the United Steelworkers union for hosting women’s conferences and providing the opportunity for women to connect, inspire one another and build a network of ideas and support beyond their Women’s Committees and local unions.

A sister from District 8 spoke of encouraging the women in her local: “I’m going to set a plan. Start the actions. Invite the women and encourage those within my local to get moving.”

A number of delegates spoke of their struggles during strikes or lockouts.

Chantelle from District 7, Geary Works, said, “We stood together for a fair contract and it looks like we got something going. When you stand together and pull together, it helps unite us.”

Multiple women challenged the USW to move forward on increasing the representation of women and people of colour on the International Executive Board. A sister called for USW to pick up on Unite the Union’s “Step Aside, Brother.” Another suggestion was to adopt quotas on the executive board to reflect our own union’s diversity and proportion of women.

Diane from District 6, along with two other sisters, reported that their local, after 60 years, now has a women’s committee.

There was widespread support for Women of Steel and political action. From going out and supporting local candidates, sisters are also stepping up to put their names on the ballot.

“If you don’t like the lack of diversity on your executive board, RUN! If you don’t like the makeup of your government, RUN!” said Tanya, from District 2.

Christa and Sharmin from District 6 committed to take action on mental health.

Bonnie from UBCP ACTRA called for programs of education and awareness for men.

“I know the difference between flirting and harassment. The people that don’t are mostly our brothers. Education has to be towards the men and they need to change their culture,” she said.

Lisanne and Jennie from Local 9700 in District 5 have been locked out by Alcoa and Rio Tinto for 36 weeks. Their passionate call for solidarity brought delegates to their feet.

“Our call to action is solidarity. We need you to help us continue. Go back to your union and tell those men you need to support our local. It’s been so hard on our families,” said Lisanne.

A sister from Local 6787 in District 7 thanked the conference organizers for providing child care during the conference, so she could attend with her child.

Kayla, from Local 7913 in District 3 called for better personal protective equipment for women.

“One size does not fit all. Many of the women talked about ill-fitting gear and having to modify procedures to make up for work gear that doesn’t fit,” she said.

She went on to call for better education through our locals and districts for our brothers on women’s issues.

Josefina Martinez-Hernandez from Los Mineros in Mexico told a story of success.

“Our company has more than 6,000 employees, many of them suspended from their work. This led us to protest, day after day, asking to be reinstated. At the same time, many sisters telling us about sexual harassment they have suffered from some of the leaders or supervisors,” she said.

“We have been standing outside the main entrance of the company and denounced this with megaphones and flyers, saying the name of the perpetrator. This has had results, because the perpetrator is being shamed, and has stopped harassing,” said Martinez-Hernandez.

A sister asked the delegates to change the channel on hatred.

“Check your privilege at the door. We have to realize that racism is here, in our union.”

Joelle from District 3 reported that she and her sisters were going to work for language on getting a safe place to pump for breast-feeding mothers.

“I personally had to go back to work early and had to stop breastfeeding my daughter so this is personal to me,” she said.

Cheryl, from District 8 called for an end to female-to-female bullying.

“My call to action is if you see this going on, put an end to it – in your women’s committees, in your workplaces. We need to work together, not fight amongst ourselves.”

A sister from District 9 said, “I’m retired but I’m not finished. It is time for us to be the change that we wish to see.”

Women were on their feet with a standing ovation for Sister Christiane Aparecida dos Santos of the CNM/CUT (National Confederation of Metal Workers) in Brazil when she called for women to occupy space in their unions.

In closing, Landry emphasised, “Have your voice. Use your voice. Make your presence known. In your locals, in politics. We need to fill those seats with more women. The things we’re seeing in the U.S. and in Canada – I always remember the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, ‘We put them in there – and they should be speaking on our behalf.’ Thank you sisters!”

Taking Action at IKEA and Canadian Tire

Sister Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity began her keynote address with action by asking delegates to sign letters to IKEA and Canadian Tire calling for these companies to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

IKEA sources their curtains, bedsheets, pillow covers and towels from Bangladesh. But those workers are still in unsafe working conditions.

“We are asking IKEA to sign the accord – a legally binding agreement. We are asking brands and retailers to sign the accord, to save these workers’ lives,” she said, noting that if the accord had been in place before the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza collapse, we could have saved these workers.

“In Canada, Canadian Tire is one of the companies that is sourcing from Bangladesh but hasn’t signed the accord. Workers are working in unsafe conditions and that factory could be another Rana Plaza,” said Akter.

Delegates signed letters to Canadian Tire calling on the company to sign the accord and ensure the workers get a living wage in Bangladesh.

“Everyone knows we live in a global village. It is our responsibility to level up the workers who are making our clothes. We are fighting for a package of jobs with dignity. That doesn’t come without a living wage, a voice at work, a safe workplace and a workplace that is gender-based violence free,” said Akter.

Akter called to the crowd, “Do you have our backs?” “YES!” the sisters answered in unison.

To conclude the conference, sisters sang “Solidarity Forever” including a new verse for women.

We’re the women of the union in the forefront of the fight,
We fight for women’s issues; we fight for women’s rights.
We’re prepared to fight for freedom; we’re prepared to stand our ground,
Women make the union strong!


2018 USW Women of Steel Conference

Highlights from Day Two of the 2018 International Women's Conference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/highlights-from-day-two-of-the-2018-international-womens-conference Tue, 16 Oct 2018 14:35:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/highlights-from-day-two-of-the-2018-international-womens-conference USW President Gerard Calls for Movement, Not Musing at WOS Conference

USW International President Leo Gerard took the mic for the keynote speech on the second morning of the International Women of Steel Conference and said the shameful confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh illustrates how vital it is for women to be heard – in the workplace and particularly this November at the polls.

“This election is not only going to set the direction for the country but for human rights and women’s rights,” Gerard said. “If Republicans win in November, they’re going to feel like they have a blank check to do whatever they want.” Republicans rammed Kavanaugh onto the highest court in the United States despite the fact that the judge stands accused of molesting several women.

Republicans in the United States continue to wage wars against voting rights, against workers right to organize, and against immigrant children, many of whom remain in cages along the southern border. Women also are one of the right-wing party’s primary targets, and the solution, Gerard said, lies in organizing.

“Women still make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in the United States,” Gerard said. And it’s less than that in Canada. “Want to change that? Get a union.”

For Gerard, though, organizing isn’t merely a necessity for pay equity—it’s the fight of a lifetime.

“We need to organize politically, organize for our rights, organize to build the union, organize so we have a better life for those who come after us.”

At the convention in Toronto, attended by both American and Canadian USW members, Gerard acknowledged the tension President Trump created by failing to exempt Canada from the tariffs he imposed for national security reasons on steel and aluminum.

“The USW executive board voted unanimously that Canada should be excluded from the tariffs,” Gerard pointed out. Imposing them on Canada, an ally, he said, was offensive. “It was offensive for America to put a tariff on Canada and say it was because of national security. Workers on both sides of the border know whose side they should be on.”

Touching on the conference’s theme ­– A Call to Action – Gerard reminded the more than 1,200 attendees that musing means nothing without movement.

“There’s so much to talk about, but there’s so much more than talk that has to take place,” he said. “If we’re going to make the difference that we need to make, we’re only going to make it through activism.

“There is huge talent here and in this audience. If you go home and do nothing, you have been here under false pretenses. The future is in our hands this time.”

Finally, Gerard urged the delegates, “Take the solidarity and relationships you have gained here and go back to your region, you district, your country and fight like hell for the future.”

Answering the Call to Action Through Global Solidarity, Tapping the Power of Authenticity

Tuesday morning, delegates to the International Women of Steel Conference were inspired by the experiences of women activists and union leaders from around the world. USW’s international partners play an important role in the union’s work.

Women are answering the call to action in different ways, responding to unique challenges.

The delegates heard from international guests from Brazil, Mexico, Bangladesh and the U.K.

In Brazil, women are 51% of the population; Black people are 54%. Christiane Aparecida dos Santos of the CUT (National Confederation of Metal Workers), noted that women make up 18.7% of metalworkers. Black women in Brazil face a staggering gender wage gap of 50% compared to white men. Women end up working two to three jobs.

“That influences their ability to dedicate themselves to the struggle on the job,” said dos Santos.

“In our collective bargaining, we try to include clauses that allow women to participate in the labour market: child care, maternity leave,” said dos Santos.

As a result, the CUT has been able to achieve some negotiated agreements with 180 paid days of maternity leave.

Raising Consciousness

“Our fight is to raise the women’s level of consciousness – to draw them into union struggles. We offer training. And we also try to raise the consciousness of the men; we are together in the struggle.”

For Unite the Union in the U.K., women are rising. “We’ve got good structures and we’re proud of those, but we have more to do,” said Louisa Bull a Unite representative from the paper and packaging sector, an area where women make up 17% of the workforce.

In addition to the formal structures that help make gains for women, Unite women are saying to the men in leadership, “Stand aside, brother.”

Unite the Union Vice President Jayne Taylor got started by attending a women’s leadership school. After completing the school, she didn’t just stand for a position as equalities officer; she went back to her local union and ran for branch secretary.

One struggle in paper and packaging is outsourcing to countries with lower wages. So now Unite finances organizing where the workers are, leading organizing in Poland and Hungary to bring up the wages and working conditions of those workers – to improve their lives and to level the playing field.

In Bangladesh, Kalpona Akter fights on behalf of garment workers, 85% of whom are women.

Minimum wage is $68 per month – not enough for one person to live; and many of these women have families and children to support.

“The garment industry is the backbone of our economy, but they’ve been left out,” said Akter.

We Are Fighting Every Day

“Are we sitting down? No! We are fighting every day!”

Answering the call to action means speaking up.

In Mexico, women face exploitation and assault at work. Changing this culture happens through unions like Los Mineros, but also by electing pro-worker representatives.

Los Mineros’ Josefina Martinez shared how women in Mexico wanted a new government and organized “house by house” in her district.

“We needed 42,000 votes,” said Martinez. “We didn’t get 42,000, we got 90,000!”

Now Los Mineros’ General Secretary Napoleon Gomez Urrutia is a senator in the Mexican congress.

“Thanks to the work that was done by women, we brought down barriers,” said Martinez.

Keynote speaker Ritu Bhasin, an author, motivational speaker, and expert in diversity, inclusion and women’s leadership, inspired delegates with her personal story. She told of growing up bullied from the age of five because of her brown skin and Sikh religion.

As a young adult, Bhasin sought to fit in and carried a spirit of sameness, seeking social acceptance. Then she realized how unhappy she was trying to be someone she wasn’t.

Embrace Authenticity

Bhasin’s answer to the call to action is authenticity: to embrace differences as strengths.

“Authenticity is the consistent practise of choosing to know who I am; to embrace who I am; to be who I am.”

Through authenticity and by embracing differences, people can come together and support each other.

Bhasin encouraged delegates to do the work to embrace authenticity.

“When we do this for ourselves, we thrive. But then, it’s incumbent on us to lift others while we climb.”

“Globally, we are in a desperate need to course-correct on how we are living so that everyone can experience belonging,” said Bhasin.

“My hope for today is that you will join me!”


2018 USW Women of Steel Conference

More than 1,200 Women of Steel Answer the Call https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/more-than-1200-women-of-steel-answer-the-call Mon, 15 Oct 2018 17:30:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/more-than-1200-women-of-steel-answer-the-call The 2018 USW Women of Steel (WOS) Conference in Toronto, Ontario, was called to order on Monday, Oct. 15, with a short ceremony conducted by Valarie King honoring the traditional territories of Canada’s local Indigenous tribes. After a Sister carried sage throughout the ballroom to cleanse the space of mental and spiritual impurities, King performed a traditional song and dedication for the approximately 1,200 attendees.

The WOS coordinators for each of the 13 USW Districts, represented by a massive showing, introduced their delegations with a brief history of their leadership, sector statistics, and passionate chants that nearly shook the chandeliers. By the time USW International Vice President-at-Large Carol Landry took to the stage, the room was fired up and ready to act.

“We are all being called to action here,” Landry said. “This is not a sit-down conference.”

Landry spoke on how the International had to do some soul searching throughout its history, rework its image and its foundation, and find ways to welcome women into the union as they stepped into the workplace. She reminded the conference that this work is far from over. 

“We have to re-energize, and we have to recommit,” Landry said. “Today, we are being called to action, and WOS have once again found their voice.”

Landry noted how many women, in both the United States and Canada, are still trapped in low-paying jobs, and most women are still the primary caregivers in the home.  When you add in domestic violence and harassment in the workplace, as well as the lack of voice women have in positions of power, that call to action, she said, is needed just as much today as it was thirty years ago, especially in the realm of domestic and workplace violence.

On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women seek refuge in a women’s shelter along with some 2,500 children. That number does not include the women who can’t get into a shelter because there isn’t enough room.

“Unions have fought for respect, for civil rights, and freedom from violence,” Landry said, “so there should be no need to ask why we as a union are committed to ending violence against women.”

Landry reminded the delegation that although the political and social climate seems anything but positive, one phenomenon that sparks hope is that as women are being called to action, they’re answering in record-breaking numbers.

As of September, 256 women in the U.S. had won their primary in either a House or a Senate race. There are also 13 women running for governorship, with Stacey Abrams of Georgia on tap to possibly become America’s first Black woman governor. Landry noted the importance of women participating in these races as voters.

“Your first call to action is to urge every woman in your family, in your workplace, and every woman you see in your community to get out and vote,” Landry said. “You can change the direction your country is heading with your vote.”

Following Landry’s rousing speech, the delegates saw a video highlighting the many ways Women of Steel have stepped up throughout their careers and throughout crises to take action, from a Sister who worked on the ground during the devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to another who refused to allow a male-dominated workplace to hold her down.

Ann Flener Gittlen, director of the USW Women of Steel program, then took to the podium to introduce delegates who highlighted moments when their own locals answered calls to action for their communities. The attendees heard about mentorship programs, Get the Lead Out campaigns, Habitat for Humanity projects, Black labor education workshops, start-up kit collections for domestic violence survivors, and more.

A panel of diverse participants ended the morning plenary with an intense discussion on gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women. Panelists spoke on the importance of including anti-violence contract language in collective bargaining agreements as well as the implementation of programs like Be More than a Bystander in Western Canada, which aims to give male allies the tools they need to be allies with women.

Women of Steel Take to the Streets for Ontario’s $15 Minimum Wage

Delegates converged on University Avenue in downtown Toronto for the Ontario Day of Action for Workers’ Rights, marching over from the conference waving USW and Women of Steel flags while chanting “Hands Off!” and “Fight Back!”

The women joined hundreds of others calling for fairness for workers at the energetic rally outside the offices of Minister of Labour Laurie Scott. Once the Women of Steel delegates arrived, the rally spilled over into the street.

The action was one of more than 50 across Ontario on Oct. 15 showing widespread support across the province for the $15 minimum wage and decent work laws.

The minimum wage is $14/hour in Ontario, slated by law to rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019, joining Alberta as the second province in Canada to have a $15 minimum wage.

Conservative Premier Doug Ford has announced his intention to roll back that increase along with other basic labour rights, a major policy shift that was never mentioned during last June’s provincial election.

“We are here to say to Minister Laurie Scott: Hands off our basic labour rights,” said Deena Ladd from the $15 and Fairness campaign. “It’s not frills. Not luxuries. These are basic necessities! Let’s take it to the streets. We are the people!”

“The minimum wage increase meant we could make plans to pay down debt, get insurance and a winter coat,” said Christine, who works four minimum-wage part-time jobs.

“It’s hard to feel you are human when you can’t pay your bills and are living in poverty,” she said.

USW International Vice-President Carol Landry called for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to “Do the right thing.”

“Sixty per cent of minimum wage workers are women. They should not have to make a choice between feeding their family and taking a day off work when they’re sick,” said Landry.

“The theme of our conference is A Call to Action,” said Landry. “This is our first action – saying to Premier Ford: ‘Hands Off!’”

Steelworker and recently elected Member of Provincial Parliament Jamie West is the Labour Critic for the Official Opposition New Democratic Party.

“Any time labour is in the streets is a good thing. It’s time for power of the people,” said West.

“This law is already in place. The Premier and the Conservatives are telling you that you deserve less – that workers have it too good,” said West. “I’m here to tell you that Andrea Horwath and the NDP will fight Ford every step of the way. We are with you shoulder-to-shoulder.”

“The union movement is standing with the community, those who have led this fight,” said Carolyn Egan, President of USW Local 8300 and the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, co-host of the rally along with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

“We can win. Do not give up!” Egan said.


2018 Women of Steel Conference

'Vote No on Prop 11’ Drive Heats Up https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/vote-no-on-prop-11-drive-heats-up Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/vote-no-on-prop-11-drive-heats-up California’s first responders are working hard to spread the word about a dangerous initiative that will show up on their state’s ballot Nov. 6.

Proposition 11 would change California’s labor code so that emergency responders at private ambulance companies would remain on call during their meal breaks, leaving them with little or no chance to rest during what are typically long, demanding shifts.

“We cannot let this pass,” said Local 12-911 President Lee Almeida, whose local includes some 1,400 first responders. “If this is voted in, what other kinds of employers are going to say ‘this should apply to us too’?”

Following the money

The measure is backed almost exclusively by the private medical transport company American Medical Response (AMR), which has so far spent nearly $22 million to support the proposal.

In addition to relieving the company of tens of millions of dollars in labor costs, Prop 11 would also rid AMR of the obligation to pay on millions of dollars’ worth of pending and future lawsuits for meal and rest break violations.

To cloak these true intentions, the proposition is worded to suggest that it would increase public safety by expanding training services for first responders.

“That story sounds good, but it’s just not true,” said Almeida. “We already get this training because it’s already required. For example, we all have to get MCI (mass casualty incident) training to get our state certification.”

Stakes high

The stakes of this ballot initiative are high, which is why USW members across the state are working to defeat the proposal.

Almeida and his local have been networking with members of other area locals, including teachers, firefighters, highway patrolmen and other health care workers, as well as telling their story to the media to help get their message out beyond the labor community.

“We’ve been doing a lot of community outreach,” said Almeida. “It’s our goal is to get the word out to everyone in the whole state.”

Other USW members, including those of Local 1853 in Fontana, Calif., and the ProTrans unit of TEMSA Local 12-911, are spreading the word by distributing flyers and going door-to-door to help educate voters.

USW members also joined Freddie Rodriguez last week at a rally outside the state capitol in Sacramento. In addition to being an elected member of the California Assembly, Rodriguez also works as an EMT in the San Gabriel Valley.  

In July, California State Labor Federation affiliates voted unanimously at their 2018 political convention to work to defeat the proposition.

After encouragement from the USW Rapid Response department, the fed has since sent flyers to every union affiliate, reminding them how important it is to vote no on Prop 11. It also included the flyer on its order form and website for free printing, shipping or download so that all locals and central labor councils in the state can order and distribute the information.

USW Rapid Response also sent out a text and email blast to all California activists.  To read the Info Alert, click here.

Flipping for Fiestaware https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/flipping-for-fiestaware Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:38:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/flipping-for-fiestaware

Local 419M Members Create Classic, Colorful China

The more than 500 USW members who work at the Homer Laughlin China Co. factory take great pride in the fact that they spend their days producing some of the best-known tableware on the planet.

The company, located in Newell, W. Va., produces Fiestaware, the collectible mix and match dinnerware prized for its brilliantly colored glazes, along with other high quality china found in the best hotels, restaurants and dining rooms.

“If you buy Fiestaware or china from Homer Laughlin China Co., you’re not only buying the finest quality ware, you’re also supporting quality people and good manufacturing jobs,” said Local 419M President Tom Hubbard.

Those good jobs have in turn supported the families and community in and around Newell for nearly 150 years. Founded as Laughlin Pottery in 1871 in nearby East Liverpool, Ohio, the company opened its West Virginia facility in 1903. Today, that site includes two nearly identical facilities that cover 37.5 acres.


In 1936, Homer Laughlin gave birth to a classic piece of Americana when the company introduced its Fiesta brand of tableware, a line of vibrantly colored products that today are produced in 14 unique hues, including the popular mulberry line introduced in 2018.

The line also has included 36 other limited-edition or discontinued shades, which have helped to make Fiestaware not just a vital part of American dinner tables, but also a prized collectors’ item.

In fact, the brand has a group of dedicated fans, known as the Homer Laughlin China Collectors Association, a non-profit organization that includes more than 1,000 dues-paying members, produces a quarterly magazine and hosts an annual conference for members every summer.

That level of customer devotion is not lost on the USW members at Homer Laughlin, many of whom take an equal measure of pride in their handiwork. The company is proud of its workers, too. A sign on an outside wall declares: “Through these portals pass the best potters in the world.”

“They want this stuff to be perfect,” Hubbard said of the USW members who work at the factory.

Devotees of Homer Laughlin products, including members of Local 419M, are known to each other as “plate flippers” for their habit of turning hotel and restaurant china over to find out where it was made. Homer Laughlin products are stamped on the bottom.

“You flip a cup to see where it’s made, or flip a plate to see if it’s made here,” said 34-year member Brenda Kraft.

It’s important to check, because imported dinnerware often does not adhere to the same standards, for factors such as lead content, as the ware produced in Newell, said Marilyn Boyd, a 37-year employee who spends her days painting gold designs onto pieces of high-end dinnerware.

“If somebody serves me dinner in a restaurant and I get an imported plate and it has a chip in it, I’ll send it back. I won’t eat on it,” said Boyd. “It doesn’t matter where I go to eat – I have to see where the ware is from.”


The iconic status of Homer Laughlin products means that quality control is a high priority for the members of Local 419M. No piece of china leaves the factory without being inspected several times over by members of the union.

“Quality control– they’re really the backbone of the operation,” Hubbard said.

Chuck McIntire, who produces handles for Fiesta pieces such as teapots and coffee mugs, works hard to make sure every piece of ware that leaves his shop is flawless.

While McIntire makes an average of about 1,200 handles per day, he said there have been days when he’s made twice that many.

Despite the hard days, the presence of the USW at the factory makes the jobs at Homer Laughlin worth keeping, he said.

“You have good days and bad days, but it’s a really good job,” McIntire said.


Brandon Adams’ job places him at the very beginning of the production process, where he mixes clay and loads finished chunks of the material onto carts. The slabs are then separated into small pieces that are crafted into some of the more than 140,000 items the facility turns out each day.

“This is where it all starts, right here,” he said.

On its website, the company estimates that it has made more than 25,000 unique products over the years.

Other than the raw materials used to make clay, the workers at Homer Laughlin create nearly everything they need to produce all of its products, from mixing the dyes used for each unique color, to making their own molds and hand tools, to printing customized decals in a small shop inside the factory.

Lori Barrett is one of the curators of the dozens of decals that have adorned Homer Laughlin products over the years. In case of replacement orders, Barrett keeps meticulous track of the numbered designs, down to the very first one ever made. During a recent shift, Barrett dug out design No. 1, a simple double-circle decal that decorated the outer rim of a plate.

Other designs are far more ornate, such as those that have adorned plates at the historic Café du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans, one of the many well-known restaurants for which Homer Laughlin has produced china.


Like its products, the work force at the Homer Laughlin factory has a long history. A majority of the workers have been on the job for several decades.

Edna Pitcock is one of the longesttenured workers, having been at the factory for 46 years.

Pitcock said that through the years she’s seen countless changes at the plant – from the work environment to materials, product lines and production methods – but has always looked forward to spending her days at the factory.

“I’ve never minded the job,” Pitcock said. “It’s fulfilling work.”

One major change Pitcock noted has been increased automation, which has slowly eroded the USW membership from a peak of about 900 to just over 500 today.

Still, automation is not the biggest challenge facing workers at the Newell plant. An even bigger threat, members say, is competition from unfairly traded and inferior overseas imports.

“Orders haven’t been what they used to be,” Hubbard said, citing attempts by competitors from China and elsewhere to “knock-off” the look and feel of Fiestaware.

“That’s what we’re up against right now,” Hubbard said, noting that while some competitors’ products might look like Fiestaware, the quality of the products at Homer Laughlin is difficult to match.

“You have to touch it to know the quality of what you’re getting,” Hubbard said, noting that customers often purchase china online without getting a chance to examine it, then are disappointed to find that they got what they paid for, a low-quality piece of tableware.

At the Newell factory, customers not only have the opportunity to see, touch and purchase china at the Homer Laughlin outlet store, they can tour the factory and also visit an on-site museum devoted to the company’s rich product history.


“Pottery has always been here,” said Shelba Kirkbride, a 42-year employee who also serves as Local 419M secretary.

The Newell area at one time was home to more than a half-dozen pottery companies, she said. Today, Homer Laughlin is the only one left in the region and one of the few remaining in the United States.

Local 419M was part of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union (GMP) before the GMP merged with the USW in September 2016.

The union has worked hard over the years to keep the factory running efficiently and safely, Kirkbride said.

“The union makes this a stable job,” she said. “And the union is about the only leverage we have to get things done.”

Still, working for a company like Homer Laughlin isn’t for everyone, Hubbard admitted, noting that the job requires a high level of skill, precision and concentration.

“This is challenging work,” said 42-year employee Kevin Manypenny as he painted decorative lines on saucers by hand. “We want our products to be of good quality, products that people want.”

Hubbard said that members of Local 419M will keep working as hard as they can toward that goal, to ensure that the factory remains a source of good jobs and quality products for generations to come.

“Pottery is no fun for people who don’t want to work, but this is a hardworking bunch,” Hubbard said. “We want to keep the doors open.”

Taking pride in their hard work will be what continues to sustain the members of Local 419M, he said.

“We preach that every day,” Hubbard said. “That’s what’s going to keep us in business - the pride in our ware.”

2018 International Women's Conference Delegate Bios https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/2018-international-womens-conference-delegate-bios Sun, 14 Oct 2018 17:54:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/2018-international-womens-conference-delegate-bios We asked some of our most stellar sisters who are attending the 2018 International Women's Conference in Toronto, Ontario, some questions about being an activist and more. Check out some of their bios below.

Not at the conference? Stay connected to what's happening at the conference on social media! Follow @steelworkers and @steelworkersCA on twitter.


Name: Kathy Hardesty
Local: 731
Hometown: Chillicothe, Ohio
Employer, Job Title: Glatfelter Paper, Maintenance safety advocate

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No, it’s been a while since my first one.

What are you most looking forward to?
Right at the moment, I want to look at the SOAR program, because I’m at the end of my career, but I’m not ready to give up the union and the union activity.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
Leader, activist, compassion

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think they do a good job now. I’ve been around it for a good while, and it continues: they keep trying to get more and more people involved. They are giving women the opportunity to learn by promoting what women can do and how they can raise their voices.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Pro union, strong opinions

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Nicole Perry
Local: 979
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Employer, Job Title: ArcelorMittel, Service Tech in quality department

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No, this is my second. I was at the one in Pittsburgh three years ago.

What are you most looking forward to?
The last conference led me to step up and take on a position as WOS chair, and it led me to run for office as treasurer, even though I didn’t win. This time I want to gain information so I can get more of the women in my local involved and get the committees to work together like our Next Gen and Rapid Response and Veterans’ committees.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It’s empowering. It means I have a support system. I know each local is different, but for me it’s a real sisterhood because I had some good mentoring coming out of Women of Steel.  In this industry, it’s not always welcoming to women, but having that support system lets us go forward and make the changes that need to be made.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think we need to get away from some of our past ideas and add more inclusion of women. I think if we need to educate some of our male members. Lots of times when they go and look for people to do certain jobs in the local, they automatically go to men. We have “committeemen.” We need more “committee persons.” I believe in respecting our past, but we need some new traditions that include everyone and make them feel comfortable.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?


Name: Jackie Anklam
Local: 9899
Hometown: Saginaw, Mich.
Employer, Job Title: St. Mary’s of Michigan/Touchpoint, Environmental tech

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No. I first went to the one 2009 in Toronto.

What were/are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to getting information to take back into my local especially so we can start working to get more women to get active. It’ll be good to re-energize our Women of Steel committee, given than the primary membership at my local is about 85 percent female.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I’ve listened to a lot of the other Sisters talk about the hurdles they struggled to overcome to be active in their locals. It makes me feel good that my local doesn’t have some of the same struggles, like male dominance, because I work with primarily women. And when you work as a big group of women, as Women of Steel, on a project like volunteering or on an action like phone banking, it makes you feel like you belong there, that you are actually doing something to make the world better. Women of Steel gives the union a more female structure.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think, first and foremost, there needs to be a lot more education when it comes to defining what exactly our roles are. I think that along with that comes the need for more opportunity for women. They ask us to step up when they need us for political action or at rallies. We’re there when they call, and I think they depend on us so much. But they need to realize that given the chance, we could mobilize this union even more.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Karen Sweere
Local: 247
Hometown: Green Bay, Wis.
Employer, Job Title: Procter and Gamble, Technician operator in Charmin department

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No, it is my second.

What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting the sisters that I’ve seen at the last conference and seeing new ones. I’ve met a few new people already who are just amazing.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I am so proud to be a Woman of Steel because I support everything the union stands for, and I want to empower women to be all they can be.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
It can help by just supporting us in everything we bring up, supporting our needs. It can help us address issues that we’re fighting for. Right now, for me, it’s the issue of homeless women. I have one in particular that I’m coaching, earning her trust, trying to help her as much as I can and hopefully get her out the situation she’s in. Our WOS committee does blessing bags, and that’s how I first approached this.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Building strength

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
Netflix. I don’t watch Netflix.


Name: Alecia McLeod
Local: 7913
Hometown: Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Employer, Job Title: Behlen Industries, Welder

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Yes – for International conferences. I attended a Canadian Women’s Conference 10 years ago in Saskatoon.

What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to the courses – dealing with female subjects: health and safety, gloves not fitting, having proper changerooms, not just the washroom.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I’m quite proud of it. It means having a sense of belonging. I was on vacation in South Dakota this summer and saw a woman wearing a Woman of Steel shirt. I didn’t speak to her, but I knew I could have – it gives me a sense of connection.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equality?
It’s having a voice behind you. In our workplace, there are only two of us. It’s having support, ideas and learning from others who have overcome the same type of roadblocks.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be? (Be nice!)

If you had to live without one of your phone, Netflix, cheese or men, which it would be?

Name: Michelle Strickland
Local: 1-405
Hometown: Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada
Employer, Job Title: East Kootenay Community Credit Union, Commercial Sales Representative

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?

What are you most looking forward to?
The whole experience is huge for me. Networking. Any opportunity to see other sisters is big. I’m here with two sisters from my local and one of them is new to the union.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I find any Women of Steel activity such as meetings empowering. It’s important for women to stand together. I’m a woman of recovery and it’s very much intertwined. I had to learn to look after myself and Women of Steel is about that, too – strengthening and supporting each other.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equality?
There has been a lot of focus on mental health issues. And women are going to help get rid of the stigma because women are open and accepting and stepping up to help people who are suffering. We need to head in that direction because so many are affected by mental illness and addiction.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be? (Be nice!)

If you had to live without one of your phone, Netflix, cheese or men, which it would be?


Name: Cindy Marlow
Local: 8823-09
Hometown: Lancaster, N.Y.
Employer, Job Title: Hale Northeastern, Department head of wardrobe

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No. My first was over 20 years ago.

What were/are you most looking forward to?
The networking, the camaraderie, the gathering of any knowledge I can take back, the new friendships and the ability to mentor.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It is in my blood. It’s extremely fulfilling. It’s actually a passion now. I’m happiest when I’m doing this above all other things besides being with my son. I survived at my job because of the knowledge I received from the union at large and the Women of Steel.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
They have to make sure there’s always an open door to let women voice their opinions. I’d like to see a different type of chain of command. If a woman has a problem, she goes to her local union president and chances are, he’s a man and chances are he’s not going to want to work to deal with it. I’d like to see a different channel so a woman can get the help she needs—one that helps women.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Never a dull moment

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
Netflix—I don’t have it anyway.

Name: Jessica Rios Viner
Local: 6135
Hometown: Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Employer, Job Title: GFR media, Reporter

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to just learning and connecting with all the sisters from all over, learning about each other and what we can implement in our locals and teach them about the troubles we’re facing.  It’s about building power together.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It means power. It means strength. It means unity. It means being able to build and rely on a sisterhood so we can not only help and fix problems not only in our local but also in our communities.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
First of all, they already help with the wage gap with a contract and visibility and giving light to the problems women are facing. It helps us overcome them together—in many places around the world at the same time, not just in one area.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Together. All in.

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
Men. We don’t really need them. We kind of do, but not really.


Name: Nancy Lapointe
Local: 1976
Hometown: Montreal, Canada

Employer, Job Title: Canadian Pacific Rail, Inspector of containers and other equipment, but currently on leave working full time for my local

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Yes! As the vice president of my local for District 5, I usually try to get other women involved.

What are you most looking forward to?
Because this is an international conference, I was looking forward to seeing people from my leadership course and to meet new Women of Steel.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
We are a visible minority in the union. Even though there are more and more of us, we are still a minority, and we need to take our place!

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
We can’t bury our heads in the sand. Sometimes when we want to take our place in the union, we are put in our place. In my local, there is lots of space for women to lead, but I’d like to see the same thing within our larger union.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Nancy Thibault
Local: 9291
Hometown: Rouyn-Noranda, Canada
Employer, Job Title: Au Jardin Pierrot Childcare Centre, Early childhood educator, but I’ve been released full-time for most of the past seven years to do Organizing in District 5.

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No, my first WOS conference was a national conference held in Toronto at the Holiday Inn about six years ago.

What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to getting a good dose of energy from my sisters!

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
To me it means we add diversity to the union. We are one hell of an asset!

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think the USW could start by having true equality within our union. At the Steelworkers, we are good secretaries, good staff reps, but not yet area coordinators or directors. Even though we only represent 20% of the membership, we don’t see that level of representation in the union’s leadership. We ask governments to improve women’s representation, we should be doing the same within our own organization. I don’t think there’s a lack of good will. I just think we are a bit stuck in the very masculine tradition of the union (mines, steel, etc.)

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Egalitarian – within our local men and women are in equal numbers around the table (as elected representatives)

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?


Name: Meg Grimes
Local: 4120
Hometown: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Employer, Job Title: The Univeristy of Guelph, Awards and Agreements Officer

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
My first was the District 6 Women’s Conference last July.

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to meeting women organizing in female-dominated workplaces, and I’m interested in meeting women from the U.S. who are working on internal organizing.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It makes me feel very proud and powerful. I feel that when I give my opinion, that I’m listened to within the organization. It gives me a voice.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equality?
It’s the fact that our union is growing in female-dominated workplaces – universities, education, health care. It’s giving credence to the fact that women’s labour should be valued and women should be paid appropriately for what they do.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
My phone

Name: Donna Wingrove
Local: 8782
Hometown: Simcoe, Ontario, Canada
Employer, Job Title: Stelco, Boiler Operator

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is my fourth international conference. The first may have been in Vancouver.

What are you most looking forward to?
Networking. Hearing sisters’ stories, fights and struggles. Times have changed. The basis of our union has changed with more women in predominantly male jobs; our union is growing into different sectors.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
Power and pride.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equality?
The union offers huge support. Everybody’s equality is different – pay, education, jobs. You ask for what you need and Women of Steel will give it to you.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
My phone

District 7

Name: Phyllis Davis
Local: 166M
Employer/Job Title: Lead shop steward, Local166M at Ardagh

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Yes, and I’m extremely excited to be here. Thank you, Madam President Turner!

What are you most looking forward to?
The workshops, getting the tools by which to develop and spearhead activities within our local.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
Knowledge—how to get things done!

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
Through organized legislation that addresses any attacks that would roll back our gains made this far or limit our efforts in the future.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Megan Seller
Local: 12775
Hometown: Porter, Ind.
Employer, Job Title: Schahfer Generating Station, Station Mechanic

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is my second.

What are you most looking forward to?
I just started rebuilding our local’s WOS committee, so I wanted to find out how to get more women involved and also to better help pregnant women to prepare for life with children. I also want to get contract language that provides assistance with childcare.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
For me, it’s empowering other women and being positive. We are so often our own worst enemies.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
In our local, we have a sliding pay scale, so I get pay raises every six months and annually, and when I become a journeyman, I will get paid the same as the men. Pay equity alone is huge.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?


Name: Cheryl Husk
Local: 9423
Hometown: Lewisport, Ky.
Employer, Job Title: Century Aluminum, Recording secretary at Local 9423; Hawesville aluminum smelter

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Yes, this is my first. I’m the WOS facilitator for Kentucky, and I’m here helping them facilitate.

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to meeting people and hearing about the different sectors in our union. I’m also looking forward to the workshops. I really like to absorb things.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
Empowerment. I was a Steelworker for several years before I got involved with WOS. I went to our District 8 summer institute, and they showed me how this isn’t just a men’s union. There’s a place for us both in our plant, in our local union, and even at the International. That’s really empowering.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
Training is key, which my district does really well. It gives you a voice to speak up on things, like equity in the workplace. For example, when I first started working 23 years ago, there was one restroom in the entire plant. We also have dealt with things such as all of the uniforms being men’s uniforms, so they didn’t fit the women right. It sounds silly, but little things like that matter.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Family. Sometimes we bicker, but everyone comes together.

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
Netflix, because I never have any time to watch it anyway!


Name: Margie Darwin
Local: 12
Hometown: Gadsden, Ala.
Employer, Job Title: Goodyear, Maintenance

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is probably my fourth conference.

What are you most looking forward to?
You’re always meeting new people and learning their opinions and struggles. It’s always something different.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It means everything. I’ve been the WOS chair at my local for about ten years. Being able to relate to people, being there for both the women and the men—I love it. It’s really rewarding.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
We’re already doing things—the education conferences, and the union just backing us up. I think every year it gets a little better and we’re really advancing.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Great. It’s just great.

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Margaret Mullins
Local: 7739
Hometown: Johnson City, Tenn.
Employer, Job Title: American Water Heater, Cycle counter

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Yes. I’ve been in the union for almost 11 years, but have just recently gotten really involved.

What are you most looking forward to?

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I think we’re awesome. I love what we do and what we stand for, and I like being a part of that. We’re here to help and to reach out.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think we just need to try to get more women in there (in the union), and to keep doing these conferences.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?
Let’s just say we’re awesome.

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?


Name: Evelyn Cruz Redd
Local: 1165-06
Hometown: Coatesville, Pa.
Employer, Job Title: AGC Chemical, Quality Control Technician

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No. This is the second.

What are you most looking forward to?
Education and growth.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It means a lot. I am the only female at my job. I am the only Woman of Steel at my job, so just to know I have rights as a woman means a lot. I am the Woman of Steel there.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
Because of the union, the women have the same rights as men. The only difference is gender. There no longer is this, “You can’t do this because you are a women.” That has helped a lot of women, especially women who can do stuff better than men.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Stacey Jones
Local: 1165
Hometown: Coatesville, Pa.
Employer, Job Title: ArcelorMittal, Senior Operator Technician, Number One Screw Operator

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
No. I have probably been to four or five.

What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to meeting new people and getting educated and taking information back to my local. The best part is meeting all the women and then seeing them at another conference later. I give the new people from Next Gen a hug to let them know they are welcome. That is just me. I am Miss Hospitality. It is in my blood.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
Women of Steel means a lot, especially when people come up and ask me what I do in the local. I say I am the chair for the Women of Steel. Our WOS got active in the community.  We go out, for example, to people who are bereaved and take them food and flowers and fruit to comfort them a little bit. We have an opportunity to get together and discuss issues that we cannot discuss with the men.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think by giving women a greater opportunity and encouraging women to get on the executive board, not just sit back, but step forward. The union encourages us. Leave it to Beaver days are over. It is time for us to step up and show our faces.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
I have never watched Netflix, so I have to go with Netflix.

Name: Carolyn Scott
Local: 1165
Hometown: Coatesville, Pa.
Employer, Job Title: ArcelorMittal (steel plate mill), Test processor

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is my second.

What are you most looking forward to?
I am learning. It is a learning process. I will learn things to take back to the women, first of all in my company, and second of all in my community because I feel women as a whole should be supportive of each other.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
What it has done for me is provide for my family, as a single parent. I feel like I am as strong as the plate I make. To be a union member is the one thing I am most proud of. I have fair wages because I work for a union shop. The union brothers before me have made a path for me to make a decent wage to take care of my family. I could not have done for my family on a minimum wage job. I would have to work two jobs at minimum wage, and then who would raise my children? Thank God I found a union job that could provide for my family. My company, by court decree, was forced to hire people of color and women, and I know that is how I got my job. They got two credits for one with me.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
For one, we have to support each other. If one woman is fighting a battle, it belongs to us all. It starts with us supporting each other. You can network as women within Women of Steel, and if you are being discriminated against, then you call your other women and let them know this is happening. Then we as a group say, “No, you can’t do that!” If you don’t demand respect as a woman, you will never get it.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
All of them can go. They can all go. I could drop all four of them and not look back. That is the truth.


Name: Marketa Anderson
Local: 9349
Hometown: Chisholm, Minn.
Employer, Job Title: Range Center Inc., a residential and vocational center for people with mental and physical challenges, Support Service Manager

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is my second one in Canada. I have been to every one since 2002.

What are you most looking forward to?
The classes: Healthy Minds and Better Care of Women’s Health and Safety.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It is important because it gives women an outlet in their unions to be active. My executive board is all women except for one man. I have an advantage because there are mostly women in the unit. My unit is one of bigger ones with 150 people, maybe 10 men. The men have to work to be active.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
Since I have been active, I have heard how we have gotten more women in top positions, but I have not seen it. I don’t see anyone up there with Carol (Landry, USW Vice President).

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Name: Christine Gardiner
Local: 11-0001 trustee and chief steward on workers’ committee
Hometown: Joliet, Mont.
Employer, Job Title: Sibanye Stillwater (platinum and palladium mine, refinery and smelter), Operator 1 in the smelter, operating the furnace, converters or in other areas

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
This is my first International Women’s Conference but I attended a District WOS Conference.

What are you most looking forward to?
Talking with other women from the mining industry and comparing notes on their process at work and working conditions and safety.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It means fighting that fight every day for future women.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
That is a tough one. We are going to have to get creative because I don’t feel it is obvious as it used to be. It is obvious when it is equal pay. Right now, there is more inequality under the surface that we need to hash out.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?


Name: Venessa Smith
Local: 1226
Hometown: Leesville, La.
Employer, Job Title: Packaging Corporation of America, Electrical and Instrumentation Mechanic

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?

What were/are you most looking forward to?
One of the things I really want to do is to learn how to handle issues of racism and to be a speaker for women’s rights.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I didn’t get involved when my union president first asked me, but then I thought I would give it a try. It has brought me out of my shell and I’ve had a lot of support from all the women at the mill.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
I think the union is doing a lot – promoting the committees. A lot of companies didn’t know the Women’s Committee was mandated. Now we can get the word out. When we do projects, people see it.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?
My phone

Name: Sue Walton
Local: 985 L
Hometown: Ada, Okla,
Employer, Job Title: Flex-N-Gate, Press Attendant

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
I have been to two trainings. This is my second International Women’s Conference. I attended my first in Pittsburgh two or three years ago.

What were/are you most looking forward to?
The speakers are always so excellent. And the workshops are really beneficial.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
It means unification of the women. I enjoy the projects that we do, such as Relay for Life that raises money for the Cancer Society and the funds are directed locally. We have done eight projects in the last two years. It’s brought recognition to our union and now the community comes to us.

How do you feel unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
We wouldn’t have equity without the union. I know it would be totally different for women without the union.

If you could describe your local union in one word, what would it be?

If you had to live without either your phone, Netflix, cheese, or men, which it would be?

Billboards Proclaim Union Town https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/billboards-proclaim-union-town Thu, 11 Oct 2018 10:18:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/billboards-proclaim-union-town

The Southern Colorado Labor Council raised money from t-shirt and button sales to honor union members in Pueblo, Colo., with three billboards proclaiming the city a “Union Town.”

Labor unions, including the USW and the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), came up with the idea after a successful teacher’s strike galvanized community support.

The teachers’ strike revived memories of an historic Steelworker labor dispute against the former Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I) from 1997 to 2004. SOAR activist Joel Buchanan, a veteran of the CF&I dispute, helped organize the striking teachers, one of whom was his son, and pushed for the billboards.

Two billboards were placed on Interstate 25 which runs north and south. A third was erected on Santa Fe Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Pueblo.

USW Stands in Solidarity with Brazilian Unions Facing Right-Wing Attacks https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-stands-in-solidarity-with-brazilian-unions-facing-right-wing-attacks Tue, 09 Oct 2018 10:43:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-stands-in-solidarity-with-brazilian-unions-facing-right-wing-attacks USW International Vice President Fred Redmond led a union delegation to Brazil to observe the first round of presidential elections on Oct. 7.

Joining Redmond were Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and staff members from the USW and the United Auto Workers.

“The global labor movement must support our union sisters and brothers in Brazil whose rights are under attack,” Redmond said.

Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad won 28 percent of the votes in the first round, and far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent. The two will compete in a second round of elections on Oct. 28.

Haddad entered the race after former president and union leader Lula da Silva, the overwhelming favorite in the polls, was imprisoned on fabricated corruption charges and disqualified from running. The United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized the lack of due process, concluding that Lula has the right to run for president as guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution.

“Lula is a political prisoner and people know it,” said International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Bolsonaro, who has strong support from business, corporate media and the military, has threatened to roll back human rights and civil rights laws and empower police to shoot to kill. He has publicly disparaged women, Afro-Brazilians, and LGBT people.

The rights of Brazilian workers were already weakened by labor law reforms earlier this year that weaken unions, raise the retirement age and allow any jobs to be contracted out.

The U.S. union delegation visited a polling place and met with leaders of Brazilian and international political parties. In addition, Brown and Redmond met with Afro-Brazilian union leaders to discuss ongoing joint work to fight racism and develop black labor and community leadership at a time when the gains of black workers in both Brazil and the U.S. are threatened by head-on right-wing assaults.

“We can’t allow the advances we have made for racial equality and justice over the past 50 years to be destroyed,” Redmond said. “We have to stand strong and fight together.”

Contract Win for Kaiser Alliance https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/contract-win-for-kaiser-alliance Tue, 09 Oct 2018 07:16:37 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/contract-win-for-kaiser-alliance It took six rounds of difficult bargaining and nearly five months, but members of the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU) last week notched a contract win, ratifying an agreement that increases wages, improves benefits and assures them a voice in their workplaces.

There are some 48,000 members of the AHCU, including nearly 7,300 members of Local 7600, which represents workers in more than 100 Kaiser Permanente facilities across Southern California.

“Every member of the Alliance of Health Care Unions worked incredibly hard and stayed unified and focused,” said Mandy Hartz, USW health care coordinator. “That’s how we were able to walk away with a win.”

Solidarity works

Local 7600 President Valery Robinson said that the Alliance’s huge July 8 rally and other solidarity actions were a crucial part of getting a good contract.

“We had 2,500 union members turn out for our rally in Costa Mesa in July, including 500 USW members,” Robinson said. “And our solidarity didn’t stop there.”

After the rally, alliance members distributed buttons and stickers, and established “union color days” where they each wore the colors of their union every Tuesday. They also gathered tens of thousands of signatures on cards and petitions to management, calling for a fair contract.

Bargaining ended with a marathon six-day session that resulted in a contract that included not just strong health care benefits and across-the-board wage raises but also other key priorities, like increased contributions to funding for further education and language that protects workers from last-minute cancellations of their shifts.

Protecting Labor Management Partnership

Maintaining Kaiser’s Labor Management Partnership was another big goal that the contract achieved, said Robinson.

In March, Local 7600 left its previous coalition and, with seven other like-minded unions, formed the AHCU, which represents workers in hundreds of job classifications in nearly every geographic area Kaiser has a presence.

As bargaining got underway the committee wanted to ensure Kaiser’s commitment to their Labor Management Partnership, even though the labor side of the partnership had shifted.

“It was really important that Kaiser committed to improving the partnership,” Robinson said. “Kaiser puts money into a trust fund, and it allows us to do things like our service work and trainings. It also funds our committees so that front-line workers have a chance to be involved in making decisions on how their jobs are run.”

District 9 Hosts Rubber and Plastics Industry Council https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/district-9-hosts-rubber-and-plastics-industry-council Fri, 28 Sep 2018 13:16:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/district-9-hosts-rubber-and-plastics-industry-council Delegates and USW staff from across North America attended the 7th annual Rubber and Plastics Industry Council (RPIC) conference last week to review the state of the rubber and plastics industries, discuss important health and safety matters, share information about individual locations and to discuss the impact of trade on the industries represented. The RPIC Advisory Board Members were also unanimously elected, those members are Ken Frankforther, Local 207L; Brock Hatlevig, Local 715L; Jody Jaurez, 307L; Todd Hastings, Local 745L; and Steve Vonk, Local 310L.

USW District 9 Director Dan Flippo hosted the conference in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Tenn. AFL-CIO President Billy Dycus welcomed delegates and guests. Chad Apaliski from the USW presented detailed industry and trade information important to the delegates and members they represent.

Check out photos from the conference below.

7th USW Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference

USW fights for "Freedom to Negotiate" Act, end to firings in organizing drives https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-fights-for-freedom-to-negotiate-act-end-to-firings-in-organizing-drives Fri, 28 Sep 2018 12:33:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-fights-for-freedom-to-negotiate-act-end-to-firings-in-organizing-drives Imagine having your livelihood ruined just because you wanted to have a union at work. That's what happened to Mario Smith, and why we're fighting for him and others who want the freedom to organize for better lives.
Smith joined brother Joe Patterson from USW local 572 in Macon, Ga., this week in Washington, D.C., to talk about the anti-union tactics deployed by Kumho Tire. 
Workers trying to join our union were subjected to anti-union videos put on repeat in the break rooms and threats of plant closure. After a close election which where the company used alleged illegal tactics they fired Mario for trumped up charges.
We are asking Congress to improve workers rights by passing the “Workers' Freedom to Negotiate Act” and asking Congress pay attention to the illegal anti-union tactics deployed by Kumho.
USW International President Leo W. Gerard submitted the following letter: (Click here to download a PDF version.)

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 850,000 union members of United Steelworkers and the millions of Americans who want to form a union, I urge you to co-sponsor and pass H.R.6080 the “Workers' Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2018”.

Wages for private-sector workers have stagnated over the past three and a half decades. It is beyond time to change the ability of workers to get a raise. H.R. 6080 will empower workers to realize their economic potential with some of the most significant labor reforms since 1947.

The ability to form a union is one of the surest ways to improving economic outcomes. According to the Department of Labor, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,041 in 2017, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $829.1 Diving deeper into the numbers provides even more significant contrasts between unionized workers and non-union workers. African-American workers in a union make approximately 21 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Women organized by a union make approximately 24 percent more than their non-union counterparts. It is in the economic interest of all workers to have collective bargaining easily accessible.

However, the ability of employers to flaunt the law and receive insignificant punishment for undermining union organizing has become one of the greatest economic injustices in the U.S. 92 percent of companies force employees to attend mandatory anti-union presentations.  Workers trying to form a union often report threats of termination and threats of plant closure. The “Workers Freedom to Negotiate Act” will not stop all illegal tactics by employers trying to avoid a union, but it will hold them accountable through increased penalties for illegal tactics done during a union organizing effort.

H.R. 6080 removes prohibitions on workers acting in solidarity with workers at other companies, it protects workers who engage in peaceful protest actions with their fellow workers, and it safeguards the right to strike, a tool workers rarely wish to use but are often left with no other option to protect their rights at work.

The “Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act” would create a counterweight and modernize labor relations to empower workers to act collectively. Recent statistics indicate that workers’ desire to join a union is at a four-decade high.  Now is the time for Congress to act and provide millions of America’s workers with the tools they need to secure a better future for themselves and their families. I strongly urge you to co-sponsor and support the “Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act”, H.R. 6080.

Local 9265 Participate in Area Labor Day Parade https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/local-9265-participate-in-area-labor-day-parade Fri, 28 Sep 2018 12:28:58 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/local-9265-participate-in-area-labor-day-parade

The Albany Labor Day Parade is an annual event that brings labor and community together in the Tri City Area. Hundreds of Unions participate and march together in Solidarity. Michael L. Burns of the Ironworkers Local 12 was the organizer of the parade. Michael passed away on December 20, 2002 at the much too young age of 60. Michael was true union activist and they changed the name to honor his memory.

Pictured: Members and family of USW Local Union 9265.

California PERB Bolsters Workers’ Rights https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/california-perb-bolsters-workers-rights Mon, 24 Sep 2018 15:27:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/california-perb-bolsters-workers-rights Public sector workers in California won a major victory this month, thanks in large part to the work of the USW.

Late last year, an administrative law judge sided with the USW on a case involving a decertification effort at Oak Valley Hospital District in Oakdale, Calif.

The 220 members of Local 12-911 remained in the union, but there was still a concern that the decision put workers’ long-term collective bargaining rights in jeopardy.

On Sept. 10, California’s Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) remedied this, reversing the basis of the decision and ruling that public sector employees covered under California’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) must have an election before an employer can withdraw union recognition.

Elections not petitions

Holding elections – rather than relying on petitions – is important. People are not always sure what they’re signing when they have a petition thrust in front of them, and the process is susceptible to intimidation and forgery.

In the case of Oak Valley, the decertification effort was led by a few disgruntled workers who felt that people with certain jobs should receive much higher wage increases than others.

“A lot people got misled,” said Mendy Muniain, who serves as a steward. A description labeling the petition as a decertification was on the top sheet, but there were many pages stapled together in a packet, leaving subsequent pages bearing nothing but signatures.  Some who signed thought the petition was about the contract.

The process of gathering signatures was also fraught. “We had one person who was really aggressive,” Muniain said. “They would harass people so many times that people would sign the petition just to make them go away because they thought it would go to a vote anyway.”

When the local started clarifying what was happening, many members were unhappy, Muniain said. “We had some people who wanted to take their names back but the decertification group would call them names.”

Elections help eliminate these concerns.

Solidarity in a diverse unit

The Oak Valley unit is made up of a wide variety of workers, including nurses, housekeepers, building engineers, dietary staff, radiology and mammography technicians and billing clerks. 

Muniain said she thinks it’s telling that after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, only a handful of workers have opted out of paying dues.

“This was really just about a few people who were really upset. They just wanted their 8 percent raises, and they didn’t want people to get the same as they got,” she said. “Most of us understand that the tiered system hurts retention. It hurts us all.”

California’s labor laws are distinctive in the protections they offer public sector workers, and the recent PERB decision offers a strong precedent to bolster those rights.

En español:

La Junta de Relaciones de Empleo Público de California respalda los derechos de los trabajadores

Los trabajadores del sector público de California obtuvieron una victoria importante este mes, en gran parte, gracias al trabajo de la USW.

A fines del año pasado, un juez de derecho administrativo se puso del lado de la USW en un caso relacionado con esfuerzos por anular una certificación en el Oak Valley Hospital District de Oakdale, California.

Los 220 miembros de la Asociación profesional (Local) 12-911 permanecieron en la asociación, pero aún existía la preocupación de que la decisión pusiera en peligro los derechos de negociación colectiva a largo plazo de los trabajadores.

El 10 de septiembre, la Junta de Relaciones de Empleo Público de California (PERB, por sus siglas en inglés) remedió esto al revertir la decisión y resolver que los empleados del sector público amparados por la Ley Meyers-Milias-Brown (en inglés, MMBA) de California deben tener una elección antes de que un empleador pueda retirar el reconocimiento de la asociación.

Elecciones; no solicitudes

Celebrar elecciones, en lugar de basarse en las solicitudes, es importante. Las personas no siempre están seguras de lo que están firmando cuando tienen una solicitud delante de ellos y el proceso es susceptible de intimidación y falsificación.

En el caso de Oak Valley, los esfuerzos por anular la certificación fueron liderados por unos cuantos trabajadores descontentos que sentían que las personas con ciertos trabajos deberían recibir aumentos de salarios mucho mayores que otros.

«Mucha gente se sintió engañada», declaró Mendy Muniain, quien se desempeña como representante sindical. En la hoja superior se encontraba una descripción que etiquetaba la solicitud para anular la certificación, pero había muchas páginas engrapadas juntas en un paquete, y se dejaban las páginas subsiguientes con nada más que firmas.  Algunas de las personas que firmaron pensaron que la solicitud era acerca del contrato.

El proceso de recolección de firmas también estuvo lleno de incertidumbres. «Hubo una persona que fue realmente agresiva», señaló Muniain. «Hostigaban tanto a las personas que finalmente terminaban firmando la solicitud para que los dejaran tranquilos porque pensaban que se realizaría una votación de todos modos.

Cuando la asociación empezó a aclarar lo que estaba sucediendo, muchos miembros se mostraron molestos», agregó Muniain. «Había algunas personas que querían retirar sus nombres, pero el grupo que pedía anular la certificación los insultaba».

Las elecciones ayudan a eliminar estas preocupaciones.

La solidaridad en una unidad diversa

La unidad de Oak Valley está compuesta por una amplia variedad de trabajadores, que incluye a enfermeros, personal de limpieza, ingenieros de la construcción, especialistas en nutrición, técnicos de radiología y mamografía y empleados de facturación.

Muniain expresó que ella piensa que después de la decisión acerca de Janus por parte de la Corte Suprema de los EE. UU., solamente un puñado de trabajadores optaron por dejar de pagar la cuota sindical.

«Esto fue solo acerca de unas cuantas personas que estaban muy molestas. Simplemente querían sus aumentos del 8 % y no querían que otros obtuvieran lo mismo que ellos», agregó. «La mayoría de nosotros comprende que el sistema escalonado perjudica a la retención. Nos daña a todos».

Las leyes laborales de California tienen particularidades en las protecciones que ofrecen a los trabajadores del sector público y la decisión reciente de la PERB proporciona un precedente importante para respaldar esos derechos.

SOAR Members Join Fight for Fairness in Steel Industry https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/soar-members-join-fight-for-fairness-in-steel-industry Tue, 11 Sep 2018 10:01:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/soar-members-join-fight-for-fairness-in-steel-industry SOAR members from across the United States stood side by side with thousands of their USW brothers and sisters on Aug. 30 as the union held a series of rallies and marches calling for fair contracts with steelmakers ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel.

“Today, we saw hard-working people standing up with one voice demanding fair treatment for themselves and their families,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard said of the events.

The union’s negotiations with ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel cover a total of 31,000 active workers and also set health care and retirement benefits for thousands more retired workers. The companies’ most recent proposals have sought to impose higher health care costs on both active and retired employees.

“These workers and their families have made significant sacrifices over the years to put these two companies in a position to be successful,” Gerard said. “They deserve to share in that success.” 

For more updates about steel, visit usw.org/steel.

Kavanaugh's track record is not good for workers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/kavanaughs-track-record-is-not-good-for-workers Mon, 10 Sep 2018 14:50:05 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/kavanaughs-track-record-is-not-good-for-workers To get a sense of where a nominee to the Supreme Court would rule on workers’ issues in the future, we can look to his or her past. That holds true for nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and has held a number of legal and political positions in the past. While only a small fraction of his records have been released for review in the confirmation process, there are notable cases where his positions are publicly available.

Undermining Collective Bargaining

In American Federation of Government Employees v. Gates, Kavanaugh wrote an opinion that would undercut collective bargaining rights for hundreds of thousands of Department of Defense civilian employees. Another judge wrote that Kavanaugh’s position would “abolish collective bargaining altogether – a position with which even the Secretary [of Defense] disagrees.”

Reminder: The Supreme Court recently sided against workers in the Janus case, making it tougher for public employees to collectively bargain. Kavanaugh’s views would likely further stack the court against workers for many years to come.

Backing Employers

In Venetian Casino Resort v. NLRB, Kavanaugh sided with an employer who had requested police officers issue criminal citations to union demonstrators who were protesting legally. He backed CNN when the National Labor Relations Board found that the company discriminated against union members and needed to recognize and bargain with the workers. He sided with Verizon’s decision to prohibit union members from displaying pro-union signs in their cars at work.

Disregarding Worker Safety

In SeaWorld of Fla., LLC v. Perez, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited SeaWorld for not adopting sufficient safety standards after multiple workers were killed by an aggressive whale. When Sea World challenged the fines, Kavanaugh argued that the idea that employees should be protected from death or significant injury was “paternalistic” and he would have reversed OSHA’s actions.

Interested in reading more? For information on union- and worker-specific court cases, please check out the sources listed below. 

Why You Should Care About the Supreme Court Nominations https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/why-you-should-care-about-the-supreme-court-nominations Thu, 06 Sep 2018 08:27:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/why-you-should-care-about-the-supreme-court-nominations

This week the U.S. Senate is holding hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. This is the first step in the Senate’s process of deciding whether or not Kavanaugh should ultimately serve as a Supreme Court Justice. While the issues covered in the hearing are wide-ranging, our focus is on the workplace implications of past and future Supreme Court decisions that aren’t often part of the news cycle. 

Here are five things working people should know:

  1. The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or U.S. law. The court weighs in on issues that impact us at the bargaining table, from our right to have unions to the issues we negotiate over.
  2. Our union has been involved – directly or indirectly – with many cases heard by the Supreme Court. For instance, in 1960, a series of three cases known as the Steelworkers Trilogy established principles for arbitration. These influential cases are still cited today as we fight for our members.
  3. One Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices make up the court. When a vacancy arises, the President nominates new Justices and the Senate confirms or rejects the nominee. The current opening resulted from the retirement of Justice Kennedy. This is President Trump’s second opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court.
  4. Rulings can have major implications. For instance, the court recently took an anti-union stance in Janus v. AFSCME. As a result, non-members no longer have to contribute towards negotiating or maintaining the contract they benefit from. This can weaken unions and their members’ ability to fight for a good contract. Some of the same types of billionaire-backed organizations that funded the case are now targeting public employees and urging them to leave their unions. This case directly impacts our Steelworker members working for government entities and indirectly impacts us all.
  5. Justices serve for life, making the decision over nominees a very big deal.
USW Succeeds in Lawsuit to End Delay of Chemical Disaster Rule https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-succeeds-in-lawsuit-to-end-delay-of-chemical-disaster-rule Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:13:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-succeeds-in-lawsuit-to-end-delay-of-chemical-disaster-rule In a victory for the USW, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule delaying enforcement of safety standards for plants using hazardous chemicals.

The USW was the only union, along with community and environmental groups, to sue the EPA, and demand that the agency end its delay of protections against chemical releases, explosions and fires that harm workers and the community.

The court agreed with the union and other plaintiffs and intervenors supporting the case. It said the EPA failed to justify the 20-month delay. In its 36-page opinion, the court said EPA “makes a mockery of the statute” with a rule that was “calculated to enable non-compliance.”

“We’re pleased with the DC Circuit’s decision vacating the delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule,” said Anna Fendley, USW legislative representative. “As the opinion highlighted, workers would be impacted by the delay, and EPA cannot ignore its original findings when it issued the Chemical Disaster Rule.

“Although this is a victory, we continue to fight back against the EPA’s latest proposed rollbacks to the Chemical Disaster Rule,” she added.

The EPA, under the current administration, had tried to delay the previous administration’s regulation updating the Risk Management Program, or Chemical Disaster Rule as it is commonly known.  

The updated rule contained common-sense provisions like increased coordination and information-sharing with first-responders and local governments; employee involvement in determining root causes of incidents and near misses, and increased information about chemical risks for surrounding communities.

The Obama administration updated the chemical safety provisions as a result of incidents like the horrific explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant in 2013 that burned down half the town and killed 14 first-responders and onlookers.

But the new protections did not suit the chemical industry and it fought them. When the current administration took over, the chemical sector petitioned the EPA to delay and then eliminate the protections. The agency issued a series of administrative delays, and in June 2017 it created a rule to delay the new regulations until February 2019.  EPA said it wanted time to modify or eliminate the Chemical Disaster Rule.

Right to Sue

This case was also important because the court determined that the USW had standing, meaning the union had the right to bring forth this case because it impacted its members. The court’s ruling made it clear that unions have the right to defend their members, not only in the workplace, but in the community as well.

Ben Lilienfeld, USW Sub-District director in District 13, and Kim Nibarger, head of the union’s oil sector, submitted affidavits about the risks USW members face as plant workers, first-responders and community residents. Their statements strongly influenced the court to agree the union had standing.

Since the community and environmental groups joined the USW as plaintiffs or as intervenors (supporters of the plaintiffs’ case), they obtained standing through the USW. A standing decision for one party applies to all.

This should help the union in its coalition-building, which will be necessary to defend the Chemical Disaster Rule’s protections from EPA’s proposals to eliminate almost all of them.

California Regulators Fine Refiners for Not Involving Workers in Process Safety Management Planning https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/california-regulators-fine-refiners-for-not-involving-workers-in-process-safety-management-planning Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:11:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/california-regulators-fine-refiners-for-not-involving-workers-in-process-safety-management-planning Ten months after California’s new Process Safety Management (PSM) rules came into effect, some refiners are having difficulty with the employee “participation” requirement and are interpreting it differently than unions.

Since the refiners have not put the PSM rules into practice, California regulators have issued enforcement actions. The state is seeking over $100,000 in fines for alleged violations at four refineries operated by Chevron USA Inc., Andeavor and Kern Oil & Refining Co.

Meanwhile, Washington State regulators, unions and company officials are watching the situation closely because they are using California’s PSM rules as a model.

The rules were created to make refineries safer for workers and surrounding communities. They specify the steps that must be taken to ensure operations are run safely.

These protections were created after a 2012 fire at Chevron’s Richmond, Calif., oil refinery that sent a cloud of toxic smoke over the city, prompting 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board determined that technical and management failures led to the fire.

Meaning of “Consultation”

A Chevron spokesman told the media that his company finds that some of the PSM requirements are complex and lack clarity. Another Houston lawyer said refiners only have to allow workers to review and comment on proposals, but they do not have to write plans with workers or listen to their comments.

Their views are in stark contrast to those of labor.

 “The California PSM rules specify that workers are to actively work with management in developing safety procedures and plans. It is not a matter of management “telling” workers what is going to happen,” said Kim Nibarger, head of USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program.

“Collaborating with workers makes sense because they know how refineries are supposed to operate, have detailed knowledge of plant equipment and processes, and have a vested interest in keeping the plant safe,” he added.

The national and California PSM standards both require that employers consult with employees and employee representatives in developing, implementing and maintaining a written plan for employee participation in all the PSM elements.

After watching California’s PSM rule unfold, Washington State agencies decided to tighten up the employee participation language by requiring employers to collaborate with workers.

Left Out of the Process

Ironically, before the enactment of California’s PSM rules, workers did not have a problem obtaining PSM information from the company, said Michael Smith, a former Local 5 staff representative at Andeavor’s Martinez, Calif., refinery who is now assigned to the USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP).

He said companies like Andeavor are curtailing employee involvement  by withholding relevant documents, demanding that union officials sign nondisclosure agreements to prevent discussion with other union leaders, and preventing workers selected by the union from participating in safety planning.

The disagreement over worker involvement is causing a delay in the completion of some of the required safety planning elements, Smith said. State regulators are taking notice.

California cited Andeavor’s subsidiary, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. LLC, in Martinez, Chevron refineries in Richmond and El Segundo, and Kern Oil & Refining Co. in Bakersfield under the PSM standard.

Alleged Violations

The state cited Tesoro for two general violations: The company allegedly prevented Local 5 representatives access to the rules and standing instructions for the mechanical integrity program. It also allegedly prevented access to a number of PSM documents the union requested. The proposed penalties totaled $1,270.

Chevron’s Richmond plant allegedly committed two general violations with proposed penalties totaling $370.  The refiner allegedly did not give employees access to PSM documents; allegedly denied a worker access to employee participation plan development meetings, and allegedly prevented union-chosen workers from participating in PSM teams and other PSM activities.

Chevron’s El Segundo refinery was cited for one general and two serious alleged violations for total proposed penalties of $57,470. The company received a general violation for allegedly not ensuring employee participation by experienced operators, maintenance workers and engineers in a temporary pump evaluation process. Chevron also received two serious citations for allegedly not following PSM requirements during the pump evaluation process.

The state cited Kern Oil for two general and three serious alleged violations of the PSM rules and one serious accident violation over two inspections. The total proposed penalties were $81,270.

Company and state officials said the three oil companies are appealing some of the citations.

Gas Workers Raise New Safety and Cost Concerns as National Grid Lockout Enters Third Month https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/gas-workers-raise-new-safety-and-cost-concerns-as-national-grid-lockout-enters-third-month Mon, 27 Aug 2018 12:31:05 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/gas-workers-raise-new-safety-and-cost-concerns-as-national-grid-lockout-enters-third-month MEDIA CONTACT: Laura Wareck, lwareck@oneillandassoc.com, 978-660-9587

Gas workers with United Steel Workers Locals 12003 and 12012 are raising new safety and cost concerns as National Grid’s lockout of 1,200 experienced employees enters its third month.

National Grid’s decision to lock out workers rather than allow employees to continue doing their jobs while negotiations continue has become increasingly expensive. The company has already spent millions of dollars to cover a variety of costs, including a summer barbecue and housing for replacement workers and ongoing police details on worksites.

“It’s concerning that National Grid is wasting millions of dollars on a lockout that never needed to happen – particularly given the company’s history of trying to recoup those costs from Massachusetts’ ratepayers,” said John Buonopane, president of USW Local 12012. “This fall National Grid will be asking for $51 million from Massachusetts consumers in its upcoming rate case and is expecting to tack on another rate hike. National Grid says it cares about costs, but ultimately it’s ratepayers that will be on the hook for the company’s wasteful and reckless decisions.”

More than 50 potential safety violations by National Grid replacement contractors have been recorded and reported to the Department of Public Utilities since the lockout began. These violations, many of which have put workers and residents at risk, are a direct consequence of National Grid refusing to allow its most experienced and well-trained employees to enter job sites.

As a result, several major cities and more than a dozen local communities across Massachusetts have issued moratoriums or called for additional review of non-emergency National Grid projects, including Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Somerville, Quincy, Revere, Abington, Arlington, Dracut, Braintree, Everett, Haverhill, Malden, Medford, Methuen, Milton, Stoneham and Weymouth.

“The reckless National Grid lockout is putting Massachusetts residents at risk and that’s why so many communities are taking action to halt non-emergency gas work,” said Joe Kirylo, President of USW Local 12003. “It makes no sense that National Grid continues to force its most knowledgeable and experienced workers to the sidelines, while inexperienced replacement workers are making mistakes on complicated and potentially dangerous jobs.”

Union leaders have also filed six lockout-related charges with the National Labor Relations Board, including at least one challenging the legality of the lockout. The lockout continues to take a toll on workers, who have been without paychecks and health insurance for over two months.

“Our workers have been scrambling to pay for essential medical care – not out of necessity, but because National Grid is using the paychecks and health insurance of workers and their families as leverage to strengthen its bargaining position,” added Buonopane. “We are continuing to negotiate, but so far National Grid has failed bring any serious proposals to the table that take into account public safety and the hard work of our members.”

National Grid’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract comes as the company’s profits soared 24 percent last year. The company also received a massive tax cut from the Trump Administration.

USW Locals 12003 and Local 12012 represent about 1,250 gas workers in more than 85 Massachusetts cities and towns. 

For more information, please visit www.lockoutatnationalgrid.com

New Contract at Bell Physician Practices https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/new-contract-at-bell-physician-practices Mon, 27 Aug 2018 09:45:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/new-contract-at-bell-physician-practices Some 50 members of Local 4950-11 in Ishpeming, Mich., this month ratified a new contract, increasing wages and maintaining benefits.

The negotiations with Bell Physician Practices were difficult, said Local President Chad Korpi, and ultimately required the presence of a federal mediator.

“The company brought in a lawyer,” said Korpi, “and they proposed concessions or status quo on everything. It’s a clinic attached to a hospital, so the way they do their books, of course they claimed to be losing money.”

The membership, composed of LPNs and staff handling billing, medical records, reception and more, stayed strong and united and finally ended up with wage increases in each of the five years of the deal.

They were also able to secure increases to pension contributions and stronger language for new-hire orientations, as well as maintaining a buyout option for members who don’t elect to use the company health insurance – one of the big concessions the company wanted.

“It was contentious, but the day we brought in the mediator were able to bargain the entire day, and finally got a tentative agreement,” said Korpi.

En español:

Nuevo contrato en Bell Physician Practices

Aproximadamente 50 miembros del Local 4950-11 en Ishpeming, Michigan, ratificaron un nuevo contrato este mes, que les permitió aumentar los salarios y conservar sus beneficios.

Las negociaciones con Bell Physician Practices fueron difíciles, dijo Chad Korpi, presidente del Local, y al final fue necesaria la presencia de un mediador federal.

“La empresa trajo un abogado”, dijo Korpi, “y propusieron concesiones o mantener la situación actual en todas las cosas. Es una clínica adjunta a un hospital, así que al hacer registros en los libros contables, por supuesto que decían que estaban perdiendo dinero”.

Los miembros, entre los que se incluyen enfermeros auxiliares y personal encargado de cobranza, personal encargado de historias clínicas, recepción y más, se mantuvieron fuertes y unidos y finalmente lograron aumentos en los salarios en cada uno de los cinco años del trato.

También lograron aumentos a las contribuciones para su pensión y términos más contundentes para la orientación de los recién contratados; también lograron mantener la opción de compra para los miembros que deciden no usar el seguro de gastos médicos de la empresa, una de las grandes concesiones que pretendía la empresa.

“Fue algo contencioso, pero en cuanto trajimos al mediador pudimos negociar todo el día, y finalmente logramos un acuerdo provisional”, dijo Korpi.