United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed http://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/rss United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed 2024-04-17 13:57:43 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 USW leaders meet with SOEPU activists in Argentina to strengthen global solidarity https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/usw-leaders-meet-with-soepu-activists-in-argentina-to-strengthen-global-solidarity Mon, 22 Apr 2024 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/usw-leaders-meet-with-soepu-activists-in-argentina-to-strengthen-global-solidarity

Leaders with the USW traveled to Argentina this month to attend the SOEPU (United Petrochemical Workers and Employees Union) Congress and forge relationships with chemical workers in South America.

USW attendees included International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, Carolyn Kazdin (retired from Strategic Campaigns Department), and Local 12075 President and Dow-Dupont North American Labor Council Chair (DNALC) Kent Holsing.

On the first day of the conference, April 8, Shinn was able to provide a report on the state of the chemical sector in North America while Holsing spoke on the DNALC. Activists from Argentina presented reports on the negative effect of President Milei's recent decree on labor law, which will potentially devastate working families, unions, and the country as a whole.

“It is incumbent on all of us to educate our members not just on the situation we experience at home but also about the experiences of workers around the world,” said Shinn. “Corporations have gone global, therefore our movement must be global as well.”

The second day of the conference provided an opportunity for the USW attendees and others to meet with municipal and provincial leaders. They were also presented with a proclamation recognizing the USW’s participation and the importance of the SOEPU and its Congress.

The SOEPU Congress closed with Secretary General Mauricio Brizuela urging delegates to understand the history and importance of labor's struggle, and the fight that is forthcoming to ensure the wellbeing of the union's members and their families.

“This conference was a ringing success for the SOEPU and solidified the importance of solidarity across borders,” said Holsing. “The struggle and challenges that are faced in one country and its unions will be felt and experienced by another country and its unions.”

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Local 1557’s Renee Hough reflects on how the union helped her find freedom from abuse https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/local-1557s-renee-hough-reflects-on-how-the-union-helped-her-find-freedom-from-abuse Thu, 11 Apr 2024 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/local-1557s-renee-hough-reflects-on-how-the-union-helped-her-find-freedom-from-abuse

Renee Hough has been a member of USW Local 1557 at U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works in southwestern Pennsylvania for 27 years. She works as a utility technician, or loader; it’s a job that Hough loves and that came along at the right time, and saved her life.

As Hough prepares to retire in less than two years, she finds herself looking back on her decision to leave an abusive marriage more than two decades ago. At the time, she knew she needed a good-paying job that would provide her the resources to leave and take her kids with her, and her job then as a cook at Denny’s wasn’t cutting it.

Then she saw an advertisement announcing that U.S. Steel was hiring in Clairton. It seemed like it was written in the stars, as getting the job would make her a fourth-generation union member.

“I needed better pay and security so I could remove myself from that situation,” Hough said.

A LIFE-CHANGING PROCESS

She got the job and began saving money. Seven months in, she was well on her way when her husband beat her so badly she had to spend a night in the hospital. Hough’s mother convinced her that this incident was a turning point she could not ignore. The next day, Renee moved in with her mother and began the process of divorcing her husband.

“I wouldn’t have been able to leave if I didn’t have my job to fall back on,” Hough said. “I owe both the union and my mother so much for that.”

What followed was a pain-staking year involving lots of counseling, court hearings, and other appointments. Hough believes unions can and should use their bargaining power to add language into contracts that allows time off for survivors of domestic violence for this reason.

Some local unions in recent years have done exactly this, including Local 2699 in Ontario, Canada. The USW’s Raising the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety action guide can be a resource for other locals looking to do the same thing.

Hough, who serves as chair of her local’s Women of Steel Committee, believes that this topic needs to be discussed more because of the shame and stigma that can go along with it, especially for men. She also wants other survivors to know they aren’t alone.

“If my story helps just one person, then it’s worth it,” Hough said.

When she isn’t working, Hough loves to bowl and spend time with her family, especially her three grandchildren.

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If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence in the United States, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or 7233. Additionally, teen survivors of domestic abuse can call Love Is Respect, a dedicated hotline for minors, at 1-866-331-9474.

You can also reach out to USW District 1 Assistant to the Director Teresa Cassady, who has offered to be a safe and nonjudgmental ear for members experiencing abuse, at tcassady@usw.org.  

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April Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/april-update-from-soar-president-bill-pienta-2024 Tue, 02 Apr 2024 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/april-update-from-soar-president-bill-pienta-2024 One of SOAR’s Three-Fold Purposes

SOAR has identified its purpose as threefold. Per the SOAR constitution, one of the three reasons for our existence is "to engage in political and legislative action." The USW has given us a number of ways to do this. One of the ways SOAR members can be involved is by participating in an online membership survey currently accessible on the uswvoices.org website. Information on how to access this survey is available in the beginning of this newsletter. This survey asks you to identify priorities regarding important issues facing working and retired Americans today.

As you know, the USW endorses candidates, not parties. Therefore, candidates must commit to supporting the core issues deemed important by our members. In April, the USW will begin holding town hall meetings to hear from our members so they can weigh in on the matters we consider most important to us. I encourage SOAR members to participate in these meetings when scheduled in your area.

In May, the SOAR Executive Board will meet in Washington, D.C., and then participate in the USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Policy Conference.

One of the tools SOAR representatives will be armed with when meeting with our elected representatives to discuss the issues our union has identified as a priority is their voting record compiled by the Alliance for Retired Americans, whose mission is "to protect and expand retirement security for all Americans." 

The Alliance publishes all U.S. senators’ and representatives’ annual and lifetime voting records on key retirement security issues. Learn more about the 2023 Congressional Voting Record on page 11 of this newsletter.

SOAR Chapters will soon be asked to get involved in helping to elect candidates whose values best align with ours as a union and who support our position on issues determined to be important by our members. SOAR members can volunteer by attending rallies, making phone calls, helping to write postcards to our members, and writing letters to the editor to ensure our members understand who stands with us on our issues and who does not.

The link for signing up to volunteer to write postcards is already active on the uswvoices.org website.

Whether taking the survey, participating in a town hall meeting, or writing postcards, SOAR members have plenty of opportunities to engage in political and legislative action.

-Bill Pienta, SOAR President

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April Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/april-update-from-soar-director-julie-stein Tue, 02 Apr 2024 09:52:19 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/april-update-from-soar-director-julie-stein Your Union, Your Voice

Based on the cover of this newsletter, you've likely concluded that our union is embarking upon another round of the Your Union, Your Voice campaign.   

Our union first launched Your Union, Your Voice in 2020 to ensure USW members' and retirees' opinions were reflected at every level of our union's work.  

We circulated a union-wide membership survey and held dozens of town hall meetings, providing valuable opportunities for our district directors, other elected union leaders and staff to hear what was on our members' and retirees' minds. 

Because this feedback proved so vital in shaping our union’s work, we repeated this effort in 2022 (see the results on page 9 of this newsletter), and it continues to inform our efforts as we head into 2024.   

Beginning in April, USW districts will again hold town hall meetings in locations across the United States. All USW members, retirees, and families are welcome to attend and participate in these important discussions.  

Additionally, our union has launched another membership survey to gauge our members' and retirees' views on some of the biggest issues facing working and retired Americans today.

You can access the survey here. Town hall meetings will be posted on this website, publicized through our social media channels, and shared by USW districts.

Our common values, such as fair pay, safe workplaces, a secure retirement, and vibrant communities, connect us as union members. 

Please take the time to attend a town hall meeting, participate in this survey, and share this information widely throughout your SOAR chapters and fellow USW retirees and families. 

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Chemical operators in Ohio vote unanimously to join the USW https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/chemical-operators-in-ohio-vote-unanimously-to-join-the-usw Wed, 13 Mar 2024 09:20:26 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/chemical-operators-in-ohio-vote-unanimously-to-join-the-usw Sam Howard has been a chemical operator at Detrex Corporation in Ashtabula, Ohio, for nine years. He and his fellow 20 workers produce high-purity hydrochloric acid for the pharmaceutical, food and beverage, semiconductor, and other industries.

As of late February, they are also now all members of the USW after a years-long campaign that reveals the power of persistence.

Howard and several other workers first began exploring joining the USW in 2020. The group was forced to run a mail-in vote due to COVID restrictions and endured a heavy anti-union campaign by the employer. As a result, they lost their election by one vote.

While the months passed, working conditions worsened. “Everyone quickly realized we had to try again,” Howard said.

The workers had stayed in touch with their USW-appointed staff representative and organizer, and decided to hold another union election in February 2024. This time, the victory was unanimous.

“We’re going to teach management how to treat us,” Howard said, noting that accountability is what he’s looking forward to the most with a collective bargaining agreement. “No more chaotic schedules and extreme vacation policies.”

The new members are in the midst of bargaining committee elections and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to get involved with the union.

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Rapid Response Info Alert: We Want to Hear from You https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-info-alert-we-want-to-hear-from-you Wed, 28 Feb 2024 15:07:29 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-info-alert-we-want-to-hear-from-you Click here to download a PDF of this Info Alert

We Want to Hear from You

Please Take our Survey


The work we do in Rapid Response always has been and always will be centered around the issues that impact us at the bargaining table and in our workplaces.

The legisation and policies we work to push back on or advocate for, center around our union's core issues; collective bargaining, safety and health, job security and trade, domestic economic issues, health care, and retirement security.

We know these are our core issues because we know that one hundred percent of our members can agree on them.

In 2020, we launched Your Union Your Voice to hear about the issues that matter most to you and share some of our union’s work to impact government decisions.

The feedback we have received from these efforts have helped make sure your priorities are reflected in our union’s work. This year, we’re doing it again, and it starts with hearing directly from you. 

 Please take a moment to take our online survey to tell us what issues matter the most to you HERE. 

We do our best advocating when we arm ourselves with your priorities. This helps us in our work to be better advocates for the issues that all our members agree can make an impact on their working lives. Please take a quick moment to fill out our survey.

Thank you for all the work you do each day to make Rapid Response the best grassroots legislative program in the labor movement. 


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Rapid Response Feedback Report: We Couldn't be Prouder of Our Virginia Veterans https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-feedback-report-we-couldnt-be-prouder-of-our-virginia-veterans Wed, 28 Feb 2024 14:54:41 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-feedback-report-we-couldnt-be-prouder-of-our-virginia-veterans Click here to download a PDF of this Feedback Report 

 We Couldn’t be Prouder of Our Virginia Veterans

Virginia becomes the fifth state to pass our Veterans Bill. 

Our nation is home to nearly 16 million veterans of the Armed Forces. Many have come home and entered the civilian workforce in a variety of occupations and industries. We’re extra proud of those who are USW members and retirees. 

That’s why in early 2023, Rapid Response partnered with our union’s Vets of Steel program to continue the good work that began in New York, working with state legislators across the country to author and introduce legislation that would require a standardized workplace posting.

This posting includes basic information about veterans’ benefits and a way for veterans to learn more about the resources they are entitled to. These resources help to ease the transition back into civilian life and ensure that families and communities are supported after giving selflessly for our country. 

We are so excited to pass along that Virginia has unanimously passed the bill in both chambers and it is onto the Governor to be signed into law.

It is extremely rare for a bill to pass without any opposition, so we know we are working in the right direction to give our veterans the resources they need. 

Thank you to each and every person that lobbied their legislator to make this happen. We did this together and will continue to work until this law has been passed in every state in the Nation. Well done, Virginia Steelworkers! 


Honoring these courageous individuals should happen not only while they are actively serving, but also when they return home. Within our union, the “Veterans of Steel” program honors military service and identifies ways to assist veterans and their families in Steelworker-represented workplaces. If you are a veteran, and would like to join Veterans of Steel, click HERE.  


 Larry R. Ray, Director District 8 

For additional questions about this issue or ways to get involved in Rapid Response, contact Chad Conley,

USW District 8 Rapid Response Coordinator, at (606) 465-6862 or cconley@usw.org. 

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Rapid Response Action Call: West Virginia Unemployment benefits are Once Again Under Attack https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-west-virginia-unemployment-benefits-are-once-again-under-attack Wed, 28 Feb 2024 09:35:31 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-west-virginia-unemployment-benefits-are-once-again-under-attack Click here to download this Action Call as a PDF

  West Virginia Unemployment Benefits are Once Again Under Attack

The bill passed the House; Help us stop it in the Senate! 

For the last two years, our union and our allies have fought diligently to defeat a harmful piece of legislation that makes drastic changes to Unemployment Insurance and threatens the security of every worker in the state. 

Decades ago, workers fought for, and won, benefits which provide some financial stability during times of unemployment. In a state like West Virginia, that has had historically high unemployment numbers due to extenuating circumstances affecting the state’s main industries, cuts to unemployment compensation are especially harmful. 

In addition to the Cleveland Cliffs closure we mentioned last week, Appalachian Wood Products has announced it will close. That’s 1,800 jobs lost in less than a week! 

 “It is simply unimaginable that state lawmakers would consider legislation to reduce the amount of unemployment benefits workers could qualify for, especially considering the devastating news that 1,000 West Virginia workers at Cleveland-Cliffs in Weirton are losing their jobs on top of recent plant and mine closures elsewhere in West Virginia. Legislators should be seeking to help rather than hurt these workers and their families.” - District 8 Director, Larry Ray 

Currently, West Virginia does not have a maximum duration of time that a person is eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Instead, it uses a maximum benefit amount to determine how much a worker can receive per year. These current pieces of legislation SB 840 (usw.to/4xf) and SB 841 (usw.to/4xg) would limit and restrict benefits, make 20 weeks the maximum duration of benefits and more to those eligible. West Virginia lawmakers need to do better by these workers. 


 We have to act fast! 

A vote could come as soon as Wednesday. Click HERE (usw.to/3Li) to find your senator and place a call today. 

Tell your senator to oppose any legislative push to cut and/or index unemployment benefits. 

Tell them to reject SB 840 (usw.to/4xf) and SB 841.(usw.to/4xg) 


 Larry R. Ray, Director District 8

For additional questions about this issue or ways to get involved in Rapid Response, contact Chad Conley,

USW District 8 Rapid Response Coordinator, at (606)465-6862 or cconley@usw.org. 

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Rapid Response Feedback Report: We did it again! So-called Right to Work has been defeated in New Hampshire https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-feedback-report-we-did-it-again-so-called-right-to-work-has-been-defeated-in-new-hampshire Wed, 28 Feb 2024 09:15:41 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-feedback-report-we-did-it-again-so-called-right-to-work-has-been-defeated-in-new-hampshire Click here to download a PDF of this Feedback Report

 We Did It Again! 

So-called Right to Work has been defeated in New Hampshire. 

Yesterday, with Steelworkers and our allies once again stationed in the gallery, the New Hampshire House soundly killed the latest attempt by state and national proponents to pass so-called right-to-work legislation (HB 1377) by a bipartisan vote of 212 to 168.

The measure has been buried with an indefinite postponement vote which means it cannot be resurrected until 2026. 

For nearly two decades anti-worker legislators have been pushing to usher so-called right to work into the state. And each time, New Hampshire workers have stood their ground and used their voices to push back and defeat it.

We could not be prouder of the efforts that went into this defeat, and we thank each and every worker who made yesterday possible 


 “We are so proud of our members from across New Hampshire who showed up at the District meetings, rallies, and the Statehouse. They knew what a disastrous policy Right to Work is to the standard of living and they let their voices be heard loud and clear. They are why we are able to defeat legislation like this time after time. We have them to thank.” – District 4 Director, Dave Wasiura 


How Did Your House Member Vote?

Click HERE (http://usw.to/4xb) to see the Roll Call. (Search Bill No HB1377) 

This good work never gets done without you. Thank you! 

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Rapid Response Action Call: Keep Up the Pressure, Georgia Steelworkers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-keep-up-the-pressure-georgia-steelworkers Wed, 28 Feb 2024 08:57:45 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-keep-up-the-pressure-georgia-steelworkers Click here to download this Action Call as a PDF

Keep Up the Pressure, Georgia Steelworkers

For the last few weeks, we have been diligently pressuring Georgia legislators (http://usw.to/4wn) to oppose S.B. 362 (http://usw.to/4wi), a bill that would prohibit Georgia businesses receiving state economic subsidies from voluntarily recognizing a union in their workplace.

This bill is clearly illegal because the federal government already protects this right. If passed it will deplete taxpayer dollars on costly legal fees and is nothing but a waste of time and resources that could be used to craft policies that are beneficial to Georgia families and communities. 

They knew we were coming. 

Yesterday, working people showed up at the statehouse in solidarity to urge lawmakers to oppose the bill in an anticipated vote in the House. Those efforts made a critical impact and the vote has been postponed until likely next week. 

We can’t stop now! 

We know better and we see right through this. When Steelworkers organize, we win! (http://usw.to/4x9) The new era of the Georgia labor movement is here and S.B. 362 is evidence that anti-union legislators funded by corporations are scared of workers getting their fair share. So, we must keep the pressure on!  


We Need You Now More than Ever! 

It's time to take action and reach every state representative. (http://usw.to/4x8)

S.B. 362 is a bill that prevents employers in Georgia from receiving state incentives if they recognize union representation without first holding a secret ballot election. Private businesses would also be prohibited from receiving such subsidies if they share the contact information of employees with a union. These practices are legal under federal law and help workers get the unions they want. Let's stand together against S.B. 362 and safeguard the rights of workers and businesses in Georgia. 

Please take a moment to click HERE (http://usw.to/4x8) to send a prewritten email to your Georgia representative urging them to OPPOSE S.B. 362. It just takes a minute and makes a real impact! 


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Women of Steel Own Their Power! https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/women-of-steel-own-their-power Tue, 27 Feb 2024 14:09:55 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/women-of-steel-own-their-power The United Steelworkers (USW) know that women deserve a voice on the job and a seat at the table, and that isn’t just a catchy slogan. We firmly believe in amplifying women's voices and ensuring their representation at all levels of decision-making.

Through education, inclusivity, and programs like Women of Steel we uplift women’s voices from the shop floor to the bargaining table, to the board room and beyond. Women of Steel know our power and we aren’t afraid to use it. 

On February 15, 2024, Megan Salrin, a legislative representative with the USW based in our Washington, D.C., Legislative and Policy Department, testified before the United States House Transportation and Infrastructure, Highways and Transit Subcommittee regarding the implementation of Buy America Provisions under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

A proud Woman of Steel, Megan understands the significance of worker voices, especially those of women and other marginalized groups, in shaping legislative and regulatory frameworks.

In her capacity, Salrin plays a vital role in researching and assessing legislation and regulations affecting USW members, their employment, and our communities.

The subcommittee hearing, chaired by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AZ), focused on how the Buy America provisions of the IIJA affect U.S. workers, employers, and our economy.

Effective enforcement of these provisions not only stimulates demand for goods and services produced by our members but also highlights gaps in the supply chain, encouraging investment in North American facilities.

As the sole woman on the panel of witnesses, Salrin spoke with confidence and conviction, advocating for steelworker jobs and facilities.

She cautioned against loopholes and blanket waivers, warning against their potential exploitation by profit-driven corporations, which could undermine the law to prioritize their bottom line, leaving workers, the economy, and the environment behind. 

As an international union with members across the United States and Canada, the USW advocates for domestic procurement provisions in legislation in both countries. While this presents unique challenges, we advocate for collaboration between our governments on trade and procurement policies.

As our union engages with legislators in North America and beyond to develop equitable solutions that safeguard our members' jobs and livelihoods, irrespective of their geographic location, Women of Steel like Megan are integral to ensuring that workers voices are heard.

Want to learn more about Megan and her experience testifying before Congress?  See below for Seven Questions with Megan Salrin, a video from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

For more information on the USW’s U.S. based legislative and policy work, and to learn how you can get involved go to uswrr.org and sign up for Rapid Response emails at usw.to/4sT today!

Have questions? Email us at wos@usw.org.

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Long-term care workers in Wyoming vote to join the USW https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/long-term-care-workers-in-wyoming-vote-to-join-the-usw Mon, 26 Feb 2024 12:55:02 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/long-term-care-workers-in-wyoming-vote-to-join-the-usw Workers at a long-term care facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., are now USW members after voting to join the union earlier this month.

The 40 new members work at Edgewood Healthcare Sierra Hills in a variety of positions, including Registered Nurses (RN), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), dietary aides, housekeepers, bus drivers, and more.

Taylor Ewig, who has worked as a CNA at the facility for nine years, said the most important issues that she and her co-workers hope to address are staffing levels and wages.

“During night shift, there are only two CNAs taking care of 80 patients,” Ewig said. “We also have a number of hospice patients who require a higher level of care.”

This is one of the many reasons why the group reached out to the AFL-CIO last December and were connected to the USW. Within just three days, they were able to collect enough cards to file for a union election.

District 11 Staff Representative William Wilkinson, who worked with Ewing during the drive, said this excitement reveals what he’s known for a while—that Wyoming is ripe for organizing.

“These deeply red states pay sub-par wages and safety is not prioritized,” said Wilkinson. “They’re also changing expectations regularly. That alone is driving a lot of organizing there right now.”

Ewig said she looks forward to getting to the table and being able to talk honestly with management about how to improve conditions.

“I’m just so proud of all my co-workers for coming together and doing this,” Ewig said. “We’ve never been so close.”

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Planned U.S. Steel Sale Meets Anger, Skepticism: USW Vows to Fight to Make Sure Company Lives Up to Obligations https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/planned-u-s-steel-sale-meets-anger-skepticism-usw-vows-to-fight-to-make-sure-company-lives-up-to-obligations Tue, 13 Feb 2024 14:22:39 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/planned-u-s-steel-sale-meets-anger-skepticism-usw-vows-to-fight-to-make-sure-company-lives-up-to-obligations banner

USW leaders and lawmakers across the political spectrum were united in voicing their disapproval when U.S. Steel announced in December that Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp. was planning to purchase the iconic American company for $15 billion.

“To say we’re disappointed in the announced deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon is an understatement,” International President David McCall said when the bid was announced on Dec. 18. “It demonstrates the same greedy, shortsighted attitude that has guided U.S. Steel for far too long.”

Fighting for Jobs, Benefits

While the union voiced its strong objections to the planned acquisition, McCall assured members and retirees that the union would fight with every tool at its disposal to protect good jobs, benefits and retirement plans.

“Our union intends to exercise the full measure of our contract to ensure that whatever happens next with U.S. Steel, we protect the good, family-sustaining jobs we bargained,” McCall said. “We also will urge government regulators to carefully scrutinize this acquisition.”

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Nippon Steel is Japan’s largest, and the world’s fourth-largest, steel company, with an annual output of more than 44 million metric tons. By comparison, U.S. Steel’s output in 2022 was about 14.5 million metric tons. 

Supporting Cliffs Bid

McCall pointed out that U.S. Steel management failed to consult with USW members before moving ahead with its plans.

“Neither U.S. Steel nor Nippon reached out to our union regarding the deal, which is in itself a violation of our partnership agreement that requires U.S. Steel to notify us of a change in control or business conditions,” McCall said. “We remained open throughout this process to working with U.S. Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead, it chose to push aside the concerns of its dedicated work force and sell to a foreign-owned company.”

In January, less than a month after U.S. Steel announced the planned sale, the USW filed grievances against the company, in part because of management’s failure to live up to its obligation to notify the union.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio agreed and said that if U.S. Steel must be sold, the winning bid should go to Ohio-based Cleveland Cliffs, which announced an effort, with the strong support of the USW, to purchase U.S. Steel after the 123-year-old company announced in August that it was on the market.

“Nippon and U.S. Steel have insulted American steelworkers by refusing to give them a seat at the table and raised grave concerns about their commitment to the future of the American steel industry,” Brown said.

In a letter to members at U.S. Steel, McCall and District 7 Director Mike Millsap noted that the company has a history of broken commitments, including shutting down steelmaking and other operations at Great Lakes and Granite City. U.S. Steel also broke a promise of more than $1 billion in new and updated technology in Western Pennsylvania, and instead purchased Big River Steel. 

USS has shut down the East Chicago Tin Mill, the UPI Tin Mill and idled tin operations at the Gary plant. In addition, the company shut down Lone Star Steel, the Lorain, Ohio, plant and coke batteries in Clairton, Pa.

Rather than changing course, Nippon intends to follow the current U.S. Steel business plan, McCall said.

National Security Concerns

In addition to the issue of jobs, shifting ownership of U.S. Steel, once the world’s most valuable company, outside the United States raises national security concerns, given the need for steel in infrastructure, military and defense applications.

For their part, many government officials reacted with similar skepticism when they learned of U.S. Steel’s plans, echoing the USW’s concerns about jobs as well as economic and national security.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, a longtime USW ally whose home sits across the street from the entrance to U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock, Pa., said he would work vigorously to prevent the sale.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that U.S. Steel has agreed to sell themselves to a foreign company. Steel is always about security — both our national security and the economic security of our steel communities,” Fetterman said. “I am committed to doing anything I can do, using my platform and my position, to block this foreign sale.”

Fetterman’s fellow Pennsylvanian, Sen. Bob Casey, also voiced strong objections to the sale, as did a group of Republican lawmakers who wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking her to actively oppose the acquisition.

The government “can and should block the acquisition of U.S. Steel by NSC, a company whose allegiances clearly lie with a foreign state and whose record in the United States is deeply flawed,” a group of three conservative Republican senators wrote to Yellen.

uss

Dan Simmons, president of Local 1899 at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works in Illinois, said he initially hoped the potential sale would bring a “fresh vision” to the company, but the Nippon acquisition did not present that opportunity.

“This entire process was not conducted as it should have been, but rather in typical USS fashion of keeping the union in the dark,” Simmons said. “We now find ourselves facing a new owner with the same USS leadership and business plan that, frankly, got us here in the first place.”

In addition, McCall said, trusting an iconic U.S. company to overseas control raises concerns about fair trade. The United States currently imposes 12 different anti-dumping tariffs on Japanese steel, McCall said. 

U.S. Steel, he said, “has been an active participant in these anti-dumping cases. We should question if Nippon Steel gets control of U.S. Steel, it could use its status as a ‘domestic producer’ to work against the trade cases from the inside,” he said. “Nippon Steel could order U.S. Steel to change its longstanding position.”

Regulatory Review

Still, the agreement between U.S. Steel and Nippon is not yet a done deal. Federal regulators, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes leaders from the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, will review the bid, as will President Joe Biden.

Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council, said the president “believes the purchase of this iconic American-owned company by a foreign entity — even one from a close ally — appears to deserve serious scrutiny in terms of its potential impact on national security and supply chain reliability.”

Regardless of what the future holds for the company, McCall vowed that the USW will continue to fight to make sure that its owners live up to their obligations to workers and retirees.

“This includes not just the day-to-day commitments of our labor agreement but also significant obligations to fund pension and retiree insurance benefits that are the most extensive in the domestic steel industry,” he said. “No union has actively engaged in more acquisitions in its core industries than the USW, and rest assured, our union will hold management at U.S. Steel accountable to every letter of our collective bargaining and other existing agreements.”

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Members Ratify WestRock Contract: New Master Agreement Covers 5,500 Paperworkers in 24 States https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/members-ratify-westrock-contract-new-master-agreement-covers-5500-paperworkers-in-24-states Tue, 13 Feb 2024 14:11:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/members-ratify-westrock-contract-new-master-agreement-covers-5500-paperworkers-in-24-states Web banner

Members at more than four dozen WestRock locations across 24 states voted in December to ratify a new four-year master agreement covering more than 5,500 USW members.

The agreement, which members ratified by a more than 3-to-1 margin through mail-in ballots, covers paperworkers at 15 mills and 36 converter plants.

Aggressive Agenda

International Vice President Luis Mendoza, who leads bargaining in the union’s paper sector, credited members for setting an aggressive bargaining agenda and demonstrating unwavering solidarity despite challenging circumstances.

“This bargaining team was determined to win a contract that would create stability and security for members now and into the future,” Mendoza said. “And they achieved that goal by working together.”

The new master agreement went into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and covers contracts with scheduled expirations through the end of 2027. The first year of the agreement includes a 3.25percent wage increase, with a 3 percent wage increase in each subsequent year.

The master agreement covers workers at WestRock mills and converter plants in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Best Deal in Years

Member Tim Cooks, chief steward for Local 819 in Fresno, Calif., has worked for WestRock for 17 years and said it was the best agreement he’s seen during his tenure with the company.

“All in all, we are moving in the right direction,” said Cooks.

In addition to raising wages, the contract held the line on health care costs and provided members with significant improvements to retirement contributions and vacation.

“In this environment, this was as good a deal as we could have gotten,” said Billy Smith, president of Local 9-0425 in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

In addition to the across-the-board financial gains, the contract contained no concessions and eliminated a two-tier wage system that members had made it a priority to abolish.

The agreement also improved life insurance and short-term disability benefits, while accelerating benefits for new hires.

Smith said that eliminating two-tier wages and improving benefits – particularly for newer workers – would improve members’ lives while also strengthening the union.

“That’s a big deal,” Smith said. “We brought a lot of people up, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

New Ownership

An added challenge that members faced as negotiations got underway was the announcement of a proposed merger of WestRock with Smurfit Kappa, one of the largest producers of containerboard in Europe, with additional operations in Mexico, Central America and South America.

Smurfit Kappa announced in September that it had reached an agreement to acquire WestRock, with a plan to close the transaction in mid-2024.

Mendoza said that the union still has concerns about the planned merger, which would make the new company one of the largest, if not the largest paper and packaging company in the world by revenue.

“This transaction raises questions for workers, including who will be leading the combined company into the future, how they will manage their work force, and how the results could affect USW members,” Mendoza said.

The USW’s agreement with WestRock does include a successorship clause that requires any new owners to act in accordance with the terms of the union’s existing collective bargaining agreements.

SAVE THE DATE: PAPER CONFERENCE

Save the date paper conference 2024

The USW will hold the 2024 National Paper Bargaining Conference from Aug. 5 to Aug. 8 in Austin, Texas. The conference marks the first time in six years that USW paperworkers will gather in person to network, learn, build solidarity and, importantly, set the union’s National Paper Bargaining Policy. For more about the conference, including registration, hotel and travel information, visit usw.org/events.

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Brewing Success: USW Members Turn Out High-Quality Beer at Historic Minnesota Company https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/brewing-success-usw-members-turn-out-high-quality-beer-at-historic-minnesota-company Tue, 13 Feb 2024 14:00:36 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/brewing-success-usw-members-turn-out-high-quality-beer-at-historic-minnesota-company banner

Customers who purchase beer from Minnesota’s August Schell Brewing are getting far more than just a high-quality, union-crafted beverage.

In each case, buyers get a package of top-to-bottom USW-made products, including the beer, the boxes, the bottles – even the sand used to make the glass. Down the line, USW members ensure customers receive the highest quality merchandise on the market.

“It all starts in the brew hall, and we follow it right on through to the package on the dock,” Eric Stade, president of Local 11-118, said of the brewery workers’ dedication to making top-of-the-line suds.

Stade’s local, which represents the approximately 25 hourly workers at the Schell brewing site in New Ulm, is one of four USW units involved in producing the contents of those cases of Schell beer. The others include Local 1259, which makes boxes for PCA, Local 129M, which produces bottles for Anchor Glass, and Local 460G, which supplies the sand used in the glassmaking process. All four are located in Minnesota.

Historic Location

The Schell brewery, which sits along the Cottonwood River in the small, picturesque town of New Ulm, is the oldest brewery in the Midwest, and the second-oldest in the country. The company, founded by German immigrant August Schell in 1860, is still owned and operated by Schell’s descendants. The charming 22-acre worksite resembles a Victorian-era German village, giving visitors the feeling they’ve been transported back in time.

The company regularly celebrates that heritage with annual Bock Fest and Oktoberfest events, while maintaining an on-site museum, open to the public, that tells the colorful story of the brewery’s history.

historic location

Inside the production facility, the beer-making process is far from old-fashioned. USW members combine old-school recipes with new technologies to create an award-winning lineup of beers. The Schell brand is a legacy that workers hope to uphold for generations to come.

Stade, who has worked at the brewery for more than 20 years, said he takes pride in knowing that he’s contributing a chapter to that story.

“This is my little thumbprint on the continuation of something,” he said. “That’s kind of neat.”

Dedicated to Quality

Like Stade, the other two dozen or so USW members at the Schell site take similar pride in their work, whether their role is in brewing, maintenance, bottling, distribution or the warehouse.

“The pride runs far deeper than just the family,” said company Vice President Kyle Marti, a sixth-generation descendant of founder August Schell. “We are very lucky to have the employees we have here.”

Pride runs deeper than just the family

The family puts their company's future directly in those dedicated workers’ hands, entrusting them with century-old recipes and encouraging them to develop new beer flavors of their own creation.

Brewer Jordan Walls, who started working at Schell in September of 2022, created the company’s peanut butter porter, one of the brewery’s more popular limited-edition flavors.

Extensive Lineup

Walls and the other USW members at Schell put in five- or six-day weeks, producing between 6,500 and 7,500 cases per day, as well as kegs. During a recent USW@Work visit to the site, the brewery had 19 varieties of beer available in the public tap house, along with two non-alcoholic sodas. One of those, the 1919 draft root beer, is a throwback to when the company had to survive Prohibition by selling root beer and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Extensive Variety

Schell’s offerings are available for purchase in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and North and South Dakota.

Many of the workers at Schell are also regular customers, sometimes stopping in the tap house at the end of their shifts to socialize with co-workers before heading home. The large room, resembling an old German beer hall, is also where Local 11-118 members gather for their union meetings.

On weekends, the taproom, and the adjacent outdoor beer garden, are packed with locals and tourists sampling Schell’s craft brews and soaking in the atmosphere, which includes peacocks, deer and other wildlife roaming the grounds.

One of Schell’s products, its Nordeast amber lager, has become so popular locally that local distributors once had two- to three-week waiting lists for customers. The company eventually ramped up production to catch up with the growing demand.     

Partners with USW

Marti said he was proud of the fact that the family-owned company has a strong partnership with its small USW work force, pointing out that negotiations for their most recent contract took 45 minutes, with only two proposals passing across the table between the two sides before they reached a tentative agreement.

“These are great people,” he said, gesturing toward USW members at work. “People come here with the idea that it’s a lifetime job.”

Many of the workers at Schell express a similar level of respect for their employers. Production worker and soon-to-be brewer David Widner said the good wages and benefits at Schell allowed him to buy a home, and his union contract provides him with a sense of security.

“I’ve always wanted to work for a company that’s morally sound,” said Widner. “There’s a lot of honor and pride in working here.”

District 11 Director Cathy Drummond said that USW members should be proud of their history at Schell as they look forward to continuing the tradition of brewing the highest quality products for the next generation.

Cathy Drummond at Schell

“Our union has a proud history of bargaining with employers to improve working conditions for members without compromising the viability of the company and sacrificing job security,” Drummond said. “August Schell is clearly committed to keep brewing and providing good, union jobs in New Ulm, and USW members are excited to be part of continuing the tradition.”

In addition to the pride they feel, the small, close-knit work force at Schell also genuinely seems to enjoy their jobs. 

As Slade, the local president, put it, “there’s a lot worse things you could be doing than making beer.”

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Nurses Win Staffing Fight: Members Overwhelmingly Approve Contract to End Strike, Raise Standards at RWJ Hospital https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/nurses-win-staffing-fight-members-overwhelmingly-approve-contract-to-end-strike-raise-standards-at-rwj-hospital Tue, 13 Feb 2024 13:46:35 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/nurses-win-staffing-fight-members-overwhelmingly-approve-contract-to-end-strike-raise-standards-at-rwj-hospital

Nurses who work at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey voted overwhelmingly in December to ratify a new contract that ended a four-month unfair labor practice strike and established staffing standards to protect workers and patients.

Local 4-200 President Judy Danella credited the solidarity of the local union’s 1,700 members, as well as the support of other union members and the New Brunswick community, with helping to bring about the groundbreaking agreement that ended the nurses’ unfair labor practice strike.

“This contract would not have been possible if the nurses hadn’t stood together and demanded what our patients deserve,” said Danella. “This campaign has always been about safety and quality care, and we are ready to get back to work doing what we love.”

Return to Work

Nurses began returning to work in early January under new staffing rules and enforcement mechanisms to help ensure that the hospital maintains safe nurse-to-patient levels, as well as infrastructure to facilitate greater communication between front-line nurses and the hospital administration.

“We are very excited to go back to work with those rules,” Danella said. “It’s a start. We are the only contract that I know of in the state of New Jersey with these staffing ratios.”

Under the agreement, the hospital also will add 70 registered nurse positions, effective May 1, 2024. Those positions will be a mixture of full-time and part-time employees.

“We are particularly proud that this contract includes accountability and communication, which will ensure that staffing will remain a top priority moving forward,” Danella said.

International Visit

The nurses got a lift in their fight from workers across the world. In late August, USW members who were attending the Congress of UNI Global Union in Philadelphia led a delegation of 38 workers from 16 countries to join the Local 4-200 picket line. 

In addition, the RWJ nurses received strong support from their fellow USW members across the country as well as workers in their own backyard. Students and unionized faculty members at Rutgers University offered continuous support, as did members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which includes workers who live just a short drive or train ride from the RWJ New Brunswick facility.

“We should not have to strike to win common sense solutions to protect our patients and communities,” said Nancy Hagans NYSNA president. “It is the responsibility of our government to enact policies that will protect us.”

New York nurses successfully pushed their state legislators to enact such policies, which went into effect in January 2023. Members of Local 4-200 have long been advocating for New Jersey to adopt similar safe staffing rules.

Staffing Fight

Last spring, before the strike began, USW members joined hundreds of other health care workers for a large rally in Trenton urging state lawmakers to pass measures similar to the New York law.

“Quite simply, safe staffing is good for patients and good for workers,” said International Vice President Kevin Mapp, who oversees the USW’s health care sector, which includes more than 50,000 workers across North America. “Health care workers put themselves on the line every day because they love what they do. Safe staffing improves patient outcomes and reduces burnout and turnover for nurses.”

Danella promised that, following the victory at RWJ, the fight would continue for safe staffing across New Jersey and the United States.

“Now we’ll take safe staffing to the next level,” she said. “We will continue to try to get the state of New Jersey to pass the safe staffing bill.”

As the strike neared the three-month mark in late October, USW members and other health care workers packed a nearby Rutgers University auditorium as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont led a Senate committee hearing on safe hospital staffing.

“Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson and workers all over this country want better wages and better benefits, but that is not the primary reason for the strike,” said Sanders, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “What nurses have told me, and I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to sit down and talk with these nurses, is that what this strike has everything to do with is the safety of their patients.”

Strong Contract

In addition to delivering on the nurses’ safe staffing priorities, the new three-year agreement includes annual wage increases, limits health care costs and boosts retirement benefits.

Though the fight was a difficult one for members, it also brought them together like never before, Danella said.

“People that you would never know, people you met on the picket line, we formed little families along the way,” she said. “Some days, being on the picket line, it gave people the boost they needed to continue.”

Now, Local 4-200 will shift the fight for safe staffing from the picket lines in New Brunswick to the halls of New Jersey government.

“It just kind of started a movement,” Danella said. “It has been 20 years in the making, but I’m hopeful that it’s taken to the next level. Every nurse and every patient in the state of New Jersey deserves safe staffing.”

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The Power of Our Union: On the Island of Puerto Rico, USW Members are Stepping up the Fight for Workers’ Rights https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/the-power-of-our-union-on-the-island-of-puerto-rico-usw-members-are-stepping-up-the-fight-for-workers-rights Tue, 13 Feb 2024 11:11:24 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/the-power-of-our-union-on-the-island-of-puerto-rico-usw-members-are-stepping-up-the-fight-for-workers-rights banner

Miguel Cruz spent 31 years as a union worker with Puerto Rico’s electric power authority.

Although he reached an age at which he could retire for good, Cruz still serves as president of his unit and continues to champion the labor movement on the island of 3.3 million citizens, working alongside other USW members and prospective members to build worker power.

“This is my passion,” Cruz said of his union work. “It isn’t about money. It’s about representation.”

Stronger Together

The representation that Cruz fights for – what he calls “the power of our union” – is essential for the 1,000 USW members across Puerto Rico. That’s a number Cruz believes could more than double in the next few years as multiple organizing drives begin to bear fruit on the island, an area about twice the size of the state of Delaware.

Sharon Pérez, Local 6135 president and journalist for GFR Media, said that extending the benefits of collective action to more workers in Puerto Rico will benefit everyone.

“When you’re at the table, you’re negotiating the future for our families,” Pérez said. “There’s no turning back.”

With an amalgamated local that includes workers at Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper as well as more industrial workplaces, Pérez faces the challenge of a diverse membership that is spread out geographically across the island.

For pressroom worker Agustín Santiago and many of his 120 USW siblings at GFR, the topics they typically discuss at the bargaining table – wages, benefits, health and safety, work-life balance – are the same as at other bargaining sessions. Other issues, however, are unique to a work force with a growing number of young, tech-savvy communicators in an ever-changing media landscape.

“We have to get more young members involved,” Pérez said, “so they know the union work is worth it for them.”

Organizing Efforts

Helping more workers – of all ages and industries – gain the benefits of unionism has been part of the USW’s mission in Puerto Rico for more than five decades. However, that work has taken on a greater urgency in recent years.

Before becoming international secretary-treasurer in 2019, John Shinn served for seven and a half years as director of District 4, which includes Puerto Rico and nine northeastern U.S. states. As director, he began to shift more USW resources toward servicing and organizing members on the island, an effort that continued under his successors, including current Director David Wasiura.

“It’s been clear for a long time that more workers in Puerto Rico want and deserve the benefits of unionism,” Shinn said. “With only about three percent of the private sector represented, the situation there offers tremendous opportunities for the labor movement to lift up the voices of working families across all sectors of the economy. Organizing more workers in Puerto Rico is good news for everyone on the island and beyond.”

Strengthening Bonds

Shinn and Wasiura recently joined International President David McCall, along with International Vice President Luis Mendoza, District 10 Director Bernie Hall and a handful of other USW leaders, on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico to meet with members, visit workplaces, learn about workers’ issues, and strengthen the bond between members on the island and those on the mainland.

As part of that effort, Wasiura said, members in District 4 want to be attentive not just to the needs of workers, but those of people throughout the communities where they live.

“If we truly want to make a difference in people’s lives, that work can’t end when we walk out the door at the end of the day,” Wasiura said. “We must be invested in the communities where workers live and focus on their well-being day in and day out.”

It was that approach that led Wasiura and other District 4 leaders to become supporters of the GoGo Foundation, an organization named in honor of a childhood cancer patient who passed away. The organization founded a clinic that provides comprehensive pediatric medical care to families in need.

Mayra Rivera, president of Local 8198, which represents municipal employees in Ponce, received a 2021 Multiplying Good award for her tireless activism on behalf of Puerto Rico’s workers and families, particularly in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Maria six years ago, when she created a community alliance to bring supplies, support and hazard education to residents.

Rivera chose to donate her $500 Multiplying Good prize to the GoGo Foundation, a decision that caught the attention of other leaders in her district and led them to get involved in the foundation’s fundraising.

“It was Mayra’s dedication and generosity that got the ball rolling,” said Wasiura, who joined USW leaders for a tour of the GoGo Pediatric Institute facility last fall. “We hope that the USW’s partnership with the foundation continues for many years to come.”

Series of Setbacks

Despite the hard work of Rivera and many others across the island, some parts of Puerto Rico still have not fully recovered from the devastating effects of Maria, a Category 5 storm that tore through the area in September 2017. It was the region’s worst storm in more than 100 years, killing 3,000 and inflicting more than $90 billion in damage.

Maria destroyed entire neighborhoods and laid waste to much of the island’s electrical grid. A lack of resources and a woefully inadequate federal relief effort only intensified those problems. Five years later, Hurricane Fiona, though not as deadly, brought with it days of massive flooding and more power outages.

For much of the time between those two storms, Puerto Ricans faced a series of earthquakes as well as another deadly crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While that series of setbacks dealt devastating blows to the people of Puerto Rico, the island’s significant financial and infrastructure problems pre-dated those disasters. More than a decade of debt-related austerity, a 2017 bankruptcy and widespread poverty also made the island’s population vulnerable.

So far, the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has earmarked nearly $700 million in funding for projects in Puerto Rico over 10 years, with more to come.

“Ensuring a strong future for the people of Puerto Rico depends on modernizing infrastructure, providing more strong, family-supporting jobs, and making sure the island is better prepared the next time a disaster strikes,” said Mendoza, the first USW international vice president of Puerto Rican descent. “These investments also will provide a significant economic boost to Puerto Rico’s working families and ultimately benefit every resident.”

Mendoza was one of about 20 USW leaders and activists whose stories were included in a USW-produced Spanish-language book “De Acero” (or “Of Steel”) – United Steelworkers En Puerto Rico.”

The publication – meant to be circulated widely to members on the island – was just one part of an effort by USW leaders and activists to educate themselves and other workers in Puerto Rico about the USW’s history and to ensure that the voices of Steelworkers are leading the way in strengthening the union’s presence on the island.

Mariel Cruz, who recently became the first woman president of Local 6871, was one member who shared her story in the book.

Cruz, also District 4 Women of Steel coordinator, said the most important thing union members can do is learn about their rights and how to fight for them. 

“You have to educate,” she said. “That is the key to everything, to educate and sow the seed for just causes, if we want to have a broad and powerful trade union movement.”

Another story was that of Ernesto Sepulveda Rivera of Local 6588, who produces luxury hand-made carpets for V’Soske Inc.

Those USW-made carpets can be found in the White House, the Vatican, and in the homes of some of the wealthiest people on the planet.

Before he went to work at V’Soske, Rivera already knew the collective power of the USW through stories from his father and grandfather, both of whom made carpets for V’Soske and were proud USW members.

Union Proud

USW members who work at Peerless Oil & Chemicals, Inc., outside of Ponce, express similar pride in the work they do, and in their USW connection. The workers there manufacture and distribute Castrol brand lubricants, detergents, and other petrochemical products at a sprawling site on the southern coast of the island.

Laborer Vladimir Salcedo, who has been a USW member at Peerless for more than 12 years, said he is thankful the union is there to ensure that he and other workers earn fair wages and benefits that allow them to take care of their families, and that they have the equipment necessary to make them safer at work.

“Thanks to the union, we have the PPE we need,” Salcedo said.

Knowing that he and his co-workers have a voice on the job is the most important reason to support the union, said mechanic Esteban Acevedo.

“We have a stable salary that we can count on,” Acevedo said. “And we have someone to stand up for us.”

The USW has a long history of standing up for workers on the island, despite the relatively small number of members there compared to other parts of the United States. That is a situation that members hope they can improve in the coming years as the political climate shifts in favor of unions, and the USW organizes across a number of sectors, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper, and other manufacturing sites.

Over the past year, USW members have held training sessions for rank-and-file organizers and launched an effort to reinforce to workers what it means to be a Steelworker by convening focus groups, seminars, meetings and other educational efforts.

“The working people of Puerto Rico have such a rich history, and the USW is proud to be a part of that,” said International President David McCall. “As we build on that success and continue to organize, workers will have an even brighter future.”

‘The Fight is Coming’

The fallout from Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy led to a push to privatize utilities such as power generation and distribution. That was part of what led Miguel Cruz’s former union, Unión de Empleados Profesionales Independiente (UEPI), to affiliate with the USW in March 2023.

Former UEPI members serve various roles as instrument technicians, construction inspectors and civil engineers.

Miguel Cruz said the USW’s effective representation of thousands of workers in energy and municipal government drove the decision to join the USW.

“We knew about the work they achieved representing thousands of workers in the energy sector,” he said.

He said the USW was attractive to the members of the formerly independent union because workers were able to maintain their identity and autonomy, while also growing their power by seeking out others to join the fight.

Puerto Rico’s effort to modernize its electrical grid to make it less vulnerable to weather makes the energy sector a hot spot for union organizing.

“As the transition to the private sector happens, the fight is coming,” Cruz said.

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Rapid Response Action Call: It’s Time to Act. Labor Unions in Georgia Are Under Attack https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-its-time-to-act-labor-unions-in-georgia-are-under-attack Mon, 12 Feb 2024 11:25:35 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/rapid-response-action-call-its-time-to-act-labor-unions-in-georgia-are-under-attack Click here to download this Action Call as PDF.

 Rapid Response Action Call: It’s Time to Act.
Labor Unions in Georgia Are Under Attack.

Last week, we told you about Senate Bill 362, a bill that violates federal labor laws, discourages economic growth in Georgia, and rewards union busting. Thursday, the bill was voted out of Senate by a vote of 31-23. It will now move to the House for a vote.

Why are they doing this?

Recently, a State Senator shared that this bill is a "message to the federal government”. As federal dollars are being sent to states as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), it’s become clear the language in these bills connecting the funding to supporting workers who want to unionize is problematic for corporations. We worked hard during the crafting of these bills to ensure companies who received these funds allow workers who want to organize have the ability to do so without pushback. This bill is clearly a way around that.

We know better and we see right through this. The new era of the Georgia labor movement is here and S.B. 362 is evidence that anti-union legislators funded by corporations are scared of workers getting their fair share.


Here are two ways you can join the fight!

It's time to take action and reach every state representative.

A majority of Americans would join a union right now if they could, and working people across all sectors of the economy are organizing like never before. The reason for this was simple: Union contracts are life-changing opportunities for pay raises, better benefits, safer workplace standards, and more. Yet, anti-labor state legislators are working to weaken organized labor and worker power in the state of Georgia. We must stop this legislation!

  1. Tell your state representative to OPPOSE S.B. 362. Click HERE to send a pre-written email to them.
  2. Join us for a Labor Lobby Day on February 22 in Atlanta! Click HERE to register.

For more information on this issue or how you can get more involved with Rapid Response, please contact District 9 Rapid Response Coordinator, Shane Mitchell at smitchell@usw.org.

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All-Hands-On-Deck: Arizona Part 1- Election Connection https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/all-hands-on-deck-arizona-part-1-election-connection Fri, 09 Feb 2024 09:28:33 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/all-hands-on-deck-arizona-part-1-election-connection While both chambers of Arizona’s state legislature have been controlled by an anti-worker majority for more than three decades, significant progress has been made in recent years to elect lawmakers who are committed to advancing an agenda that favors working people. 

In fact, in 2024, only a handful of seats across both chambers need to be flipped to secure an historic union-friendly trifecta consisting of a pro-union governor, and a majority in both legislative chambers in the state. 

Statewide elections in Arizona have also become much more competitive in recent years, with labor-backed candidates winning the gubernatorial and presidential elections in 2022 and 2020, respectively, for the first time in numerous election cycles. 

Momentum Builds to Benefit Hard-Working Arizonans 

Although her ability to pass labor-friendly laws has been limited because of the current composition of the state legislature, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has fought aggressively on workers’ behalf throughout her first year in office. 

In November, Gov. Hobbs spearheaded an effort to ensure workers have access to quality, affordable child care options, especially those in the state’s growing semiconductor industry. 

While the effort is new, Hobbs envisions a plan tailored for workers across all industries that will be adaptive to the state’s diverse and growing economy.

Unprecedented federal funding from President Joe Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have helped spur massive job growth in Arizona’s construction and semiconductor industries. Gov. Hobbs has already committed $4 million to support the Build it Arizona apprenticeship and job training program to ensure a pathway to securing these jobs. 

Hobbs has collaborated with several unions to improve transparency, oversight and enforcement of workplace health and safety rules in the semiconductor industry. 

Additionally, Hobbs’ administration has initiated the state’s first-ever comprehensive program to protect workers from excessive heat. 

Hobbs will not face reelection until 2026. 

Last year, another labor-backed ally who was first elected statewide in 2022, Attorney General Kris Mayes, received the Arizona AFL-CIO’s Elected Leader of the Year Award. 

Upon receiving the award, Mayes announced the creation of a new worker protection unit inside the Arizona Attorney General’s office which will focus on issues including misclassification, wage theft, employer tax and payroll fraud, workplace safety, workers’ rights, and more. 

Arizona Voters Face Consequential Election in 2024 

In addition to Arizona’s contentious state and federal elections, we should also pay attention to an effort that was announced in October to give Arizonans the opportunity to decide whether to remove “Right to Work” language from the state constitution. 

In order to put the decision on voters’ ballots in November, the coalition of lawmakers and worker advocates leading the campaign would need to gather nearly 400,000 signatures. 

Needless to say, Arizona will be a battleground on all fronts in 2024, and Steelworkers are prepared to work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome on Election Day.


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Mapping Labor’s Top Electoral Priorities in 2024- Election Connection https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/mapping-labors-top-electoral-priorities-in-2024 Thu, 08 Feb 2024 08:51:33 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2024/mapping-labors-top-electoral-priorities-in-2024 In December’s Election Connection newsletter, we touched upon the critically important 2024 election cycle, and how our efforts to elect union-friendly lawmakers at all levels of government will be vital to lifting all working families for years to come. 

Union voters will be on the front lines, as we set out to defend those who have stood with us to secure a long list of legislative victories such as protecting worker pensions, investing in American manufacturing, strengthening workers’ rights, and helping forge a path for more workers to win the protection of a union contract. 

In addition to the presidential election, voters will decide who controls Congress with all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives up for election along with 34 in the U.S. Senate. 

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Voters will also weigh in on who they believe is best suited to control 86 legislative chambers spread across 44 states, 11 of which will be choosing their next governor. 

With so many important elections happening this year, we are thinking strategically about where we focus our work in an effort to ensure the biggest impact on behalf of our members and families.

With consideration for a variety of factors including union membership density, past election outcomes, state and federal legislative goals, and more, the USW plans on coordinating a robust electoral campaign in many states across the country, including the following: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In the coming months, we will be dedicating a portion of our monthly newsletter to discuss what is at stake.


For more stories like this, click HERE to subscribe to our monthly Election Connection newsletter!

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