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 Pasadena Workers Fight for a First Contract https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/pasadena-workers-fight-for-a-first-contract Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/pasadena-workers-fight-for-a-first-contract This article originally appeared in Standing Strong at Solvay: April 2018.

Kennieth Nelson, a lab technician, helped organize Solvay’s Pasadena, Texas, plant because he felt a union was needed.

“I think with the right mindset, unions are healthy for management because everything is on paper and you know what is going on,” Nelson said.

“I’d like to see a more genuine and harmonious relationship between management and the employees, with the mindset we all have the same goal. It is not ‘us against them.’ We need a culture change of fairness and accountability between each other,” he added.

Solvay corporate management in Brussels has said similar remarks. Brussels officials signed the Global Forum Agreement (GFA) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Labor Relations in the U.S. last year.

These documents specify the company’s desire to work with its unions, not hinder organizing efforts, and negotiate quickly with unions.

However, U.S.-level corporate management appears to act like these documents do not exist. District 13 Staff Representative Marcos Velez said the company is dragging negotiations for a first contract and offering concessionary proposals.

“The company’s proposals negate the purpose of having collective bargaining,” Velez said. “Management rights are three pages saying management can do anything it wants, however it wants.

“If we propose a start, stop time or the number of hours a person can work, we’re told management has the right to set hours as it sees fit. There really are no rules of engagement,” he said.

Negotiations began January 29, 2018 and both sides have met a few times. Velez said progress has been slow, with only a few language items settled.

Stall Tactics

Here is an example of how bargaining has progressed:  Velez said it took three bargaining sessions to negotiate nondiscrimination language.

“This is the first company I’ve had to argue with over what is the meaning of nondiscrimination,” Velez said. “A company negotiator said that if Solvay overly describes discrimination, it could put them in a bad way. He said the company would follow federal laws.

“We say all discrimination is wrong and you should define it to prevent it from happening. We want protections as to how the company plans to follow federal law and go above and beyond it,” he said.

He said Solvay has rejected all health and safety language, such as the right to a safe workplace, the right to immediate medical attention when injured, and the right to refuse unsafe work without reprisal.

Also rejected were organizing neutrality language and a successorship clause to protect the union and the contract in case the facility is sold.

“We spent four-and-a-half hours fighting over what “just cause” meant, so I had to give examples. Who do you encounter in contract negotiations these days that doesn’t understand ‘just cause’?

“Progressive discipline and the grievance and arbitration process took a while to settle, and are the only substantial pieces of language we were able to resolve. Had it not been for the solidarity action from the Solvay council, I do not believe we would have settled those issues.

“We also resolved jury duty, bulletin board usage and access to employee records. These simple issues took multiple days to negotiate. We haven’t even gotten to wages and benefits yet,” Velez said.

Scheduling bargaining time has been difficult, he said. Both sides met only four times in March and April. One additional day is scheduled in June.

“I think the company is dragging out negotiations to break our group, and is hiring workers in hopes of diluting the bargaining unit,” Velez said. “But the new employees are supportive of the union. We have a solid group here that is prepared for the long haul.”

]]>
Lack of Workplace Structure Motivates Former Union Members to Organize Nonunion Solvay Plant https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/lack-of-workplace-structure-motivates-former-union-members-to-organize-nonunion-solvay-plant Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:59:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/lack-of-workplace-structure-motivates-former-union-members-to-organize-nonunion-solvay-plant Those who have worked in a union manufacturing plant experience another world when they are employed at a nonunion facility.  It was their union experience that motivated three former union members to organize Solvay’s nonunion Pasadena, Texas, plant.

Marisela Payne, an outside operator, spearheaded the campaign. She was a former USW Local 227 member at the Chevron Phillips Petroleum plant, and told her coworkers that their working conditions at Solvay were nonexistent at her former employer.

“When we first started at Solvay, the company hired half of the workforce from Texas and half from Pennsylvania. Here, there is a certain standard; we will do what it takes to get the plant going,” Payne said.

Solvay shut down its plant at Marcos Hook, Pa., and opened up a new facility in Pasadena, Texas in 2015. It offered positions to the Marcos Hook workers.

“In good faith, operators were changing gaskets, doing maintenance work. What management promised and what happened were two different things. They promised a state-of-the-art unit and that the majority of it would be automated. But it wasn’t,” Payne said.

“We moved rail cars. We did our lab work at night during our time off work. We off-loaded chemicals from 18-wheeler trailers. We had all these jobs to do and I didn’t see us getting compensated.

“Plus, we had to keep up computer training. We were two years behind on our training. Some outside operators fell behind and it affected their training bonus,” she said.

Safety Risk

USW District 13 Staff Representative Marcos Velez said that management had workers driving 18-wheelers who were not licensed or certified.

“Workers would come in every day and management would make them perform work they felt they weren’t qualified to do,” Velez said.

If a worker performs a job he or she is not qualified to do, a safety incident could arise, he added.

Managers also did not respect their own policies and procedures. Velez said they would tell workers to take actions that violated company policy and operating procedures, and then discipline the employees for not following company policies  if an incident occurred.

Unsurprisingly, turnover was high.

Outreach Squashed

About a year ago, management announced a change in the work schedule. Unhappy with the new hours and impact on employees’ health and family life, workers signed a petition that Payne created.

“We were breaking production records. Safety was good. We asked management to please consider changing our hours back,” Payne said. “My shift presented the petition to the superintendent, who talked to the plant manager. He said management would not consider this and might revisit it in six months.”

Unhappy with the work environment, Payne started asking friends and family members who were operators and workers at the other Solvay plant in the area about their pay and working conditions. Next, she organized her coworkers. Two of them, Steve Tote and Kennieth Nelson, were former union members as well. Tote, a former Teamster, Machinists and USW member, came to Pasadena from the Marcos Hook plant.

“The CEO signs a contract. Marriage is a contract. This world is based on contracts. Why not in the workforce?” Tote said. “I don’t understand why all companies aren’t unionized. Everyone should have a contract.

“It’s not a matter of ‘us vs. them.’ There is a relationship between the company and the union.

Put a set of rules to it, and it makes it simpler. It’s especially critical to have rules in a new plant. It avoids complications down the road,” he said.

Nelson, a lab technician and former USW member, started at the plant in June 2015 and set up the lab with another person before the official November 2015 opening. He said his previous union experience was positive and thought that organizing the Pasadena plant was a good idea because “a union sets order and accountability for workers and management.”

He also felt a union was needed because of the plant’s culture.

“Many people were wearing many hats. You had a multi-billion dollar company being run like a mom-and-pop operation. Everything was disorganized. No one had accountability,” he said.

“I think with the right mindset, unions are healthy for management because everything is on paper and you know what is going on,” Nelson added.

Act Fast

Payne made an appointment with Velez, and she, along with Tote and Nelson, met with him at the Local 227 hall. Velez brought in District 13 organizer Dionisio Gonzalez, who provided the three workers with union membership cards and worked the organizing campaign.

Gonzalez set up a meeting and the three brought with them nine additional coworkers. They had 15 out of 17 signed cards. One person was out on long-term disability and the other was disinterested.

Gonzalez answered questions, led everyone through the organizing process, explained how management would react, and described the dues structure and how dues dollars are used.

Gonzalez filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union election, and a vote was scheduled one week after the meeting.

“With the help of Marcos, we moved quickly,” Payne said. “Before management knew it, the NLRB was there and they didn’t have much time to react.”

Local 13-227 President Steve Ballesteros, who also worked on the campaign and spoke at the organizing meeting, said that Pasadena management was surprised by the union victory.

“It was a two-day vote. The first day the plant manager was confident. After the vote, management was like, ‘What happened?’” Ballesteros said.

On Nov. 5, 2017 Payne and her coworkers overwhelmingly voted to join the USW in an NLRB election. Now, they face the next hurdle: Getting a first contract.

]]>
USW Evonik Members at Weston Plant Gain Substantial Wage Increases https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-evonik-members-at-weston-plant-gain-substantial-wage-increases Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-evonik-members-at-weston-plant-gain-substantial-wage-increases This article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Chemical Solutions.

Local 7237-05 members at Evonik Industries AG’s (Evonik) Weston, Mich., facility ratified a new three-year contract with substantial wage increases on Feb. 1, 2018. The agreement covers 25 employees.

Maintenance workers will receive wage increases of 5.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the second and third years. Operators and shipping/receiving workers will receive a 4 percent increase the first year and two percent increases in the second and third years. All workers received a $350 lump sum upon ratification.

The agreement contained a guarantee that Evonik would not randomly shift work schedules. Workers will have company health insurance like the other Evonik locations. The new contract expires Feb. 1, 2021.

History of Underpayment

Silbond Corp., the site’s previous owner, froze employee wages for five years, except for quarterly lump sum payments. Local 7237-05 unit chair Mark Navarro said the company did this to continue operations. He said that workers received small wage increases after the wage freeze ended.

When Evonik acquired Silbond in 2014, it inherited the low wage scale.

“Maintenance was severely underpaid for being a trade occupation in this area,” said Local 7237 President Julia Loar.

“The maintenance people the company had didn’t want to stay, and the plant had trouble hiring at the current rate. The union wanted to raise wages so the maintenance workers would stay.”

Union negotiators successfully increased the starting wage by $3 an hour. Loar said this helped three new hires and enabled Evonik to attract qualified applicants.

Difficult Bargaining

Bargaining the wage increases and a new contract was difficult because Evonik corporate management played hardball for 90 days, Navarro and Loar said. This prompted contract extensions after the agreement expired on Oct. 20, 2017.

Members rejected the company’s first offer of 3.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.5 percent wage increases each year. After management offered higher increases, the membership ratified the contract.

“Obtaining an 8 percent wage increase over three years isn’t bad,” Navarro said. “I hope this contract is a stepping stone, and I hope we get along with management better.”

Union solidarity from the Evonik Council helped. Council members wore support stickers. Local 7237-05 members placed car signs on their dashboards and windows to show solidarity to plant management. The local also used text messages to keep members abreast of negotiation developments.

“These actions made an impact during negotiations,” Loar said.

She hopes the plant will expand.

“At least Evonik plans on future investments at the site and this gives us hope for the next round of bargaining,” Loar said.

]]>
Members Approve Two Contracts at Evonik Kentucky Plant https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/members-approve-two-contracts-at-evonik-kentucky-plant Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:27:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/members-approve-two-contracts-at-evonik-kentucky-plant This article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Chemical Solutions.

Local 8-727 members from two different bargaining units at the Evonik facility in Calvert City, Ky., ratified agreements that contained wage increases and other provisions favorable toward workers. These included union-developed health and safety language and protective contract language regarding the company’s Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) business strategy.

Unit 727-00 bargainers met with Evonik for five days over two weeks. The three-year agreement reached on Feb. 20, 2018 contained a $2,000 ratification bonus and an immediate wage increase of 2.5%. Wages increase 2.75 percent in each of the second and third years. The contract expires Feb. 14, 2021.

The new agreement enables newly-hired bargaining unit employees to qualify for vacation time sooner, shortens the time a worker is in a job progression and provides extra pay for workers in case they are laid off or the plant closes. Also, lead operators will be added to the existing weekend duty rotation with nonunion staff on a six-month trial basis.

This unit was the Air Products plant that Evonik purchased in 2016. Evonik acquired the specialty and coating additives business for Air Products. It is also called the Performance Materials Division.

Former Degussa Unit

Unit 727-01 was a spin-off from a joint venture between Air Products and Degussa AG in 1987. In 2007, Degussa AG became Evonik.

Bargaining started Feb. 22, 2018 and ended March 1, 2018 when members in unit 727-01 ratified a three-year agreement that included wage increases of 2.5 percent the first year and 2.75 percent the second and third years.

Evonik agreed to pay overtime outside a person’s regular shift without that person having to work at least 40 hours in a week. The company also agreed to create a role for one worker to address safety and operational issues through January 2019 for operators and maintenance employees.

The agreement removes forced overtime from the attendance policy, and gives employees the right to return to their department in 12 months if they are moved to another department and a new job or the person’s old job becomes open.

Safety at Evonik

Both units have strong contract language on the Safety at Evonik program and the company’s Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) business strategy.

In a Letter of Understanding (LOU) on Safety at Evonik, the company acknowledged that it was not a “blame the worker” type program and that there would be no formal observation of workers. Safety would take precedence over production, and employee participation would not be restricted in health and safety activities.

TPM is about employee involvement in maintaining and improving the integrity of a company’s production (machines, equipment and processes) and quality systems. It involves union participation on a steering committee and non-traditional roles for operators and maintenance. The first TPM coordinator will be from the bargaining unit and help management implement it. Training in the program begins in 2018 for all employees.

The LOU on TPM said that the program will improve the workplace by giving workers a greater say, making their job more rewarding, enhancing their knowledge and capabilities, and creating a collaborative partnership between workers and management. It also said that Evonik does not intend to lay off bargaining unit workers as a result of TPM or discipline them for using their “best judgment.”

Evonik’s USW-represented Deer Park, Texas, plant already operates under the TPM program.

The next Evonik contract expires October 15, 2018 for a six-person laboratory technician unit in Connecticut, Local Union 134L-34.

]]>
USW Proposal Spotlights Excessive 3M CEO Compensation https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-proposal-spotlights-excessive-3m-ceo-compensation Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:11:47 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-proposal-spotlights-excessive-3m-ceo-compensation 3M CEO Inge Thulin’s compensation in 2017 was $20.5 million—324 times the median 3M employee compensation of $63,338.

To address this large discrepancy, the USW 3M Council is sponsoring its first shareholders resolution at the company’s annual stockholder meeting on May 8, 2018 in Indianapolis, Ind.

The resolution is Proposal #5, “Setting Target Amounts for CEO Compensation,” and requests “that the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors take into consideration the pay grades and/or salary ranges of all classifications of company employees when setting target amounts for CEO compensation.”

This would be in addition to the peer group benchmarks (what other CEOs make) that the company uses to determine CEO compensation.

The 3M board of directors is mostly composed of former CEOs. Unsurprisingly, the board disagrees with the USW proposal. It claims that including the USW proposal would involve “significant time, cost and resource burden.”

However, the Security and Exchange Commission requires companies to reveal CEO pay ratios, so the USW proposal is no different from what 3M is required to do.

If you have stock in 3M, please consider voting “FOR” proposal #5. Voting instructions are available at www.investors.3m.com.

]]>
USW Forms Evonik Council https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-forms-evonik-council Tue, 17 Apr 2018 12:05:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-forms-evonik-council This article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Chemical Solutions.

Evonik’s acquisitions of chemical units from companies like Degussa, Air Products and J.M. Huber resulted in eight USW locals, so the International formed the USW Evonik Council last fall.

“I was surprised how many locals are now part of Evonik, so I wanted to ensure the International gives its full support to these locals through the creation of a council,” said USW Vice President Carol Landry, who heads the union’s chemical sector.

“Having a council creates structure, and it increases solidarity and the ability of locals to determine their future together.”

Local unions from seven Evonik locations, representing about 400 employees, comprise the council. They are:

  • Local 7237-05 at Weston, Mich.
  • Locals 727-00 and 727-01 at Calvert City, Ky.
  • Local 134L-34 at Wallingford, Conn.
  • Local 11-508 at Galena, Kan.
  • Local 13-1 at Deer Park, Texas
  • Local 13-477 at Waggaman, La.
  • Local 7-807 at Mapleton, Ill.

Local 7237-5 from the Weston, Mich., plant hosted the first USW Evonik Council meeting on Sept. 20-21, 2017. As the locals shared contract information, it became apparent that Evonik had not standardized probationary periods, holidays, union leave, overtime, and health and safety language across all of their facilities.

The locals exchanged contracts so they could conduct a thorough comparison between facility agreements. They also lent support to those engaged in future bargaining.

Health and safety was a main topic of discussion at the meeting. Many locations have Behavior Safety Technology (BST) or have plant management that wants to introduce BST.

Behavior safety programs focus on observing workers and placing responsibility on workers for incidents that happen. They ignore other factors contributing to incidents, such as inadequate design and engineering of systems, delayed maintenance and inspection, lack of or poor training, and excessive overtime.

The Evonik Council will meet Sept. 5-6, 2018 in Pittsburgh. A call letter will be sent to the locals.

Evonik is one of the world’s largest producers of specialty chemicals. According to the company’s webpage, it has around 3,900 employees in North America, and roughly 3,600 of whom work in the U.S.

]]>
USW Joins Community Groups to Sue Environmental Protection Agency https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-joins-community-groups-to-sue-environmental-protection-agency Thu, 12 Apr 2018 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-joins-community-groups-to-sue-environmental-protection-agency This article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Chemical Solutions.

The administration’s delay implementing a commonsense rule to protect chemical workers and the community from industrial chemical releases and explosions prompted the USW and community allies to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a delay of implementation of the Chemical Disaster Rule until February 2019, supposedly to enable him and his staff to rewrite the rule.

Many groups, including the USW and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), opposed the delay and urged the agency to make the rule effective as soon as possible because the provisions could save the lives of workers and community members.

The Chemical Disaster Rule is an update of EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) to prevent chemical releases and explosions. The Obama Administration finalized the regulation at the end of its term.

The rule has commonsense provisions like involving workers in root cause analysis after incidents and near-misses, increasing coordination with first responders in preparation for an incident, and providing greater information sharing with localities and the public about risks.

EPA officials in the previous administration said they updated the RMP because of incidents like the West, Texas, fertilizer explosion that killed 12 firefighters in 2013 and the catastrophic incidents at USW-represented refineries in Anacortes, Wash., and Richmond, Calif.

Last fall, a chlorosulfonic acid release occurred at the USW-represented Solvay chemical facility near Baltimore, Md.  Fortunately, no one was injured. Although the chemical in question was not regulated under the RMP, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt, urging him to implement the rule immediately. Senator Cardin said that the provisions in the Chemical Disaster Rule would have been beneficial to the people of Baltimore and other places where similar releases have occurred.

Eleven state attorney generals are also using similar arguments in their lawsuits against EPA. The court scheduled oral arguments for March 16, 2018.

(Anna Fendley handles worker health and safety legislative matters at the USW’s legislative office in Washington, D.C.)

]]>
USW member goes to the Dominican - not to vacation, but make difference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-member-goes-to-the-dominican-not-to-vacation-but-make-difference Thu, 05 Apr 2018 12:42:05 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-member-goes-to-the-dominican-not-to-vacation-but-make-difference USW Local 2243 member Shawn Bresnahan, an inspection lines operator at Ohio Star Forge Co. in Warren, Ohio, spent the week from March 17th until the 24th in the Dominican Republic – not for vacation – but a mission trip to build a medical clinic and provide badly needed supplies for families in the area.

Even though the small Caribbean nation is almost 1,700 miles from Warren, the members of Local 2243 generously supported Bresnahan’s efforts with donations, contributions and fundraisers.

The trip was organized by the Giving Hands Foundation, which is dedicated to serving the needs of the residents in the Dominican’s most impoverished communities, which are still rebuilding after suffering tremendous damage by hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

Bresnahan’s group worked on building a large, pavilion-like structure from which to disperse supplies and necessities to those in need and distributed medical kits for the families in the area.

The group worked with medical professionals to hold a one-day clinic where residents could seek free treatment for sicknesses and a wide variety of medical issues.

After their work day finished, Bresnahan and other volunteers organized and played baseball with the boys, volleyball with the girls and softball with the adults.

When the schedule allowed, he spent time at an orphanage visiting and playing games with the children.

Many people were curious about Bresnahan’s USW Local 2243 t-shirt, so he even had an opportunity to talk to them about the important role unions play in the U.S., giving workers a stronger voice on the job and by negotiating with employers for fair pay and benefits.

A Dominican teacher said that he is forbidden from taking time off from his job although some of his coworkers are permitted. With the help of an interpreter, Bresnahan told him that standing together as a union gives workers leverage to bargain for fairer and better working conditions.

After his week of hard work and service during the trip, Bresnahan reflected on how thankful he was for the opportunity to share his three most important values throughout the mission: his faith, his love for helping others and his union.

We are all very proud to call him our brother. Click on the image below to view a photo slideshow from the trip. 

 

 

Local 2243 Mission to Dominican Republic

]]>
He died while fighting for union rights https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/he-died-while-fighting-for-union-rights Wed, 04 Apr 2018 13:30:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/he-died-while-fighting-for-union-rights

By Fred Redmond, International Vice President for Human Affairs

Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968 in Memphis – 50 years ago today.

Many don’t know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was marching with 1,300 striking Memphis sanitation workers – public employees – so they could form a union.   “Let it be known everywhere,” King said, “that along with wages and all the other securities that you are struggling for, you are also struggling for the right to organize and be recognized.”

The sanitation workers were mostly but not exclusively black.  Before municipal workers were unionized, the poorest paid workers lived in poverty – despite working 60 hour weeks.  Forty percent of the full time Memphis sanitation workers in 1968 were so poorly paid, they qualified for welfare.

Dr. King told the strikers, “You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” 

The central issues for the strikers then – collective bargaining and dues collection -- were the same issues that Governor Scott Walker attacked in Wisconsin, while the collection of dues was the target of Rick Snyder’s attack on unions in Michigan’s schools.  Now with the freeloader-dues dodger case (known as Janus versus AFSCME) before the Supreme Court, extreme conservatives are again trying to prevent workers from collective power.

While Dr. King believed that racism is evil, he also believed that poverty and economic injustice -- regardless of race – had to be tackled at the same time.  He believed that poor and working class white and black American’s would only overcome their plight together.

“We can get more organized that we can apart,” he said.  Dr. King looked for opportunities to build bridges and support unions. He summed up why with this thought, “I never intended to adjust myself to the tragic inequalities of an economic system which takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.”

The best way to honor his memory would be to rebuild our movement in his spirit.

]]>
Workplace Safety Experts Address Delegates https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/workplace-safety-experts-address-delegates Thu, 29 Mar 2018 12:59:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/workplace-safety-experts-address-delegates 2018 USW Health & Safety Conference-DAY TWO

After a full day of workshops on Wednesday, participants in the USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference heard from three experts in the field of workplace safety on Thursday morning during the last full day of the event.

Vanessa Sutherland, chairwoman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which has been threatened with closure by the White House, touted the positive changes that her organization has made to improve the lives of workers.

“This year is our 20th anniversary,” Sutherland said of the CSB. “So we are asking ourselves, how do we continue to try to reach people with new topics and lessons after 20 years?”

One way is to do a better job of communicating with workers and unions, she said, especially when highlighting successes and positive outcomes.

“We’ve tried to be more consistent, more efficient. And in every instance, we’ve tried to work with you to drive these changes,” Sutherland told the crowd, which included several hundred management representatives. “These changes have led to significant improvements at all levels.”

Sutherland urged attendees to visit the CSB web site (www.csb.gov), which has been redesigned for easier use, to gain access to the organization’s wealth of information on workplace safety issues.

“Our vision is to continue to drive change to increase protections for workers and the environment,” she said.

John Howard, former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), outlined the challenges of what he called the “fourth industrial revolution” that the world is now experiencing.

This revolution, driven by technology, includes advancements such as three-dimensional printing, robotics and other processes that Howard said present new challenges to worker safety.

“We’re looking at this cyber-physical interface and trying to determine what the issues are going to be,” Howard said. “There is a lot we do not know about advanced manufacturing from a risk profile standpoint. You all are on the front lines of this.”

Todd Conklin, senior advisor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a Department of Energy site in New Mexico, closed out the morning session with a lengthy and lively presentation on the dangers of “blame the worker” safety programs.

Such programs, which often focus on punishment rather than finding and eliminating hazards, don’t actually make workers safer, he said.

“Workers are not the problem. Workers are the solution,” Conklin said. “Instead of constraining workers, we should be asking them what they need to do their jobs safely.”

Conklin cited automakers attempting to design “accident-free” cars as another example of a misguided approach to safety.

“We don’t need accident-free cars,” Conklin said. “We need cars where – when they do have accidents – the occupants of the vehicles live to drive another day.”

What workers and management should do – together – is not to ensure that accidents never happen but to ensure that when they do, that workers have the tools and the processes they need to avoid injury or death.

“Safety is not the absence of accidents,” he said. “Safety is the presence of capacity.”

Participants will close out the conference with a half day of workshops Thursday afternoon and another half day of workshops on Friday morning.

 

 

 

]]>
District 13 - A Small SOAR Chapter with a Big Impact! https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/district-13-a-small-soar-chapter-with-a-big-impact Thu, 29 Mar 2018 07:28:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/district-13-a-small-soar-chapter-with-a-big-impact “We have our best impact when we network with and support others,” says Richard Rock, Vice President of SOAR Chapter 13-1 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

With little resources, the leaders of this small SOAR Chapter: Andy Rosas (President), George Rosas (Secretary) and Richard Rock (Vice President), know how to make a big impact.

Richard recently took time to talk with us about his SOAR Chapter’s efforts to support like-minded groups while asking them to participate in SOAR’s joint postcard campaign with USW Rapid Response to urge members of Congress to not put Social Security, Medicare or pensions in jeopardy.

In return, SOAR 13-1 has provided modest financial support to these groups, and shown them solidarity by tabling events that they’ve organized. The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans has been supporting and helping to provide volunteers to staff these tables.

The first event their chapter took part in was organized by the Coastal Bend Wellness Center, where they were able to get 134 postcards signed.  Another 51 postcards were signed in just two hours by residents at the Sea Gulf Villa (a senior citizen housing facility) when 13-1 got permission to set up a booth on the premises.

Their Chapter also participated in the 22ndAnnual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice on March 24. On April 26, they’re scheduled to table an event, organized by the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

“People are very receptive to our presence and have positive things to say about our efforts,” says Rock. “I feel that this effort is worthwhile and would encourage others to do the same.”

PICTURED: 

  • Top -- SOAR Chapter 13-1 Secretary George Rosas and Vice President Richard Rock at the Sea Gulf Villa, a senior citizen housing facility.
  • Middle -- Left to Right: Linda Chavez-Thompson, past Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; Nancy Vera, AFT President, Corpus Christi; Richard Rock, SOAR Chapter 13-1 Vice President; Becky Moellar, past president of the Texas AFL-CIO, at the 22nd Annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice.
  • Bottom -- Andy Rosas, President of SOAR Chapter 13-1 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
]]>
PhilaPOSH Honors Local 10-234 Health and Safety Activist https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/philaposh-honors-local-10-234-health-and-safety-activist Thu, 29 Mar 2018 07:20:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/philaposh-honors-local-10-234-health-and-safety-activist This article originally appeared in Issue 41 of The Oilworker.

The Philadelphia Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH) honored Local 10-234 USW Triangle of Prevention (TOP) Representative Dawn Andreoli with a Leadership in Health and Safety Award at its 33rd Annual Awards Reception last November.

Local 10-234 nominated Andreoli for her ongoing commitment to health and safety. Besides being a safety representative for the local, she initiated the TOP program at Monroe Refinery after Delta Airlines bought the former Phillips 66 site in Trainer, Pa.

Monroe Energy and the local signed a contract with TMC to do the TOP program in September 2016. The local’s executive board appointed her to be the TOP representative

“Although I am honored to receive this award, it really is due to the support of the union, the workers, the company and the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC),” Andreoli said.

From Zero to 60

“We’ve taken the TOP program from zero to 60 in a very short time,” she said. “We’ve been able to get cooperation from managers who weren’t confident in the program.”

“We went from investigating low-level incidents, such as simple motor vehicle accidents, to doing significant investigations with management, such as a Ferric Chloride spill. Management is telling us, ‘You guys are doing well investigating incidents, so we want to get you more involved,” she added.

Andreoli said that employees actively provide information on near misses, and she collects the data and posts it to a spreadsheet. This enables her to see trends and direct management’s focus to needed fixes.

“Dawn is the only person in the refinery who can do the tracking,” said Local 10-234 Alternate TOP Representative Matt Birney. “She documents every near miss and incident throughout the refinery and breaks it down in a category.”

Although the company conducts a multitude of audits, it is unable to track data like we can, Andreoli added.

A series of incidents last fall exemplified this ability.

“People were reporting things wrong with steps, ladders, platforms and stairs; we categorized them and put them on a spreadsheet. We were able to track a trend with that information and present it in a way that made sense. It was exciting for us to see our hard work come to fruition!” Andreoli said.

“You can say something to someone 100 times, but when you show it on paper, it means something,” she added.

]]>
Oil Workers Rally to Save Philadelphia Refineries https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/oil-workers-rally-to-save-philadelphia-refineries Wed, 28 Mar 2018 10:22:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/oil-workers-rally-to-save-philadelphia-refineries Seven years ago Philadelphia oil refinery workers and the USW fought hard to keep three refineries open. New owners purchased two of the refineries and one turned into a terminal.

Now, the mechanism used to track compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)—is threatening to shut down the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery.

PES does not have the capacity to blend biofuels like ethanol, so it must purchase RIN credits on the open market. RIN prices have fluctuated between one to two pennies a gallon of ethanol and as high as $1.40 a credit.

In 2017 alone, PES said it spent about $218 million on RINs. This was more than twice the company’s payroll, almost one-and-a-half times its average annual capital expenditures and four times its interest expense. Crude oil is PES’s only expense that is larger than its RINs cost.

In late January, PES filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and blamed RINs costs. On March 12, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed the company to pay roughly half of the $350 million in RFS compliance costs it owed. In addition, the agency will hold PES under stricter compliance guidelines moving forward.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue filed with the bankruptcy court on March 16 a request for payment of delinquent fuel taxes. The estimated unaudited amount—$3.8 billion—is quite high compared to the $43 million in cash on hand when the refiner filed for bankruptcy.

With the bankruptcy in mind, PES and USW Local 10-1 invited Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to a Feb. 21 rally so he could press the Trump administration into revising proof of compliance with the RFS. Cruz has been a leader in the effort to reform the RFS He has organized meetings with administration officials.

At the rally, Cruz said that “a RIN is not a commodity…it’s a made-up government license.” Cruz has suggested placing a 10-cent cap on a RIN. This would save refiners millions of dollars, but the biofuels industry rejected it as being unworkable.

USW Local 10-1 President Ryan O’Callaghan said the rally resulted in a meeting with President Trump, where he mediated a discussion between the ethanol industry and the refining sector.  O’Callaghan represented organized labor, and there is hope of a beneficial resolution. 

At the meeting, refiners suggested a fixed two-year price cap for RINs. To overcome opposition from the farm and renewable fuel groups over the refiners’ proposal, there is new discussion around a triggered price cap. This would involve an EPA waiver to expand sales of 15 percent ethanol gasoline blends. Included in the plan is an incentive for those sales by attaching a multiplier to increase the number of RINs to help lower refiners’ RIN costs.

Amidst the political uncertainty over RINs, their cost has fallen nearly 40 percent in recent weeks to the current trading price around 42 cents each.

PICTURED: Philadelphia Energy Solutions Chief Executive Officer Gregory Gatta addresses the rally. Photos by Peter Denesowicz, PPD Associates

]]>
March Update from the NOBP Chair https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/march-update-from-the-nobp-chair Wed, 28 Mar 2018 10:04:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/march-update-from-the-nobp-chair This article originally appeared in Issue 41 of The Oilworker. 

We are less than a year away from National Oil Bargaining (NOB) and several of the councils have met or are planning to convene prior to our September NOBP policy meeting.  Hopefully, all the councils will begin formulating their bargaining proposals beforehand, so we can have a starting point when we meet. 

We are in the process of compiling the call letter and we will send it shortly.  The National Oil Bargaining Program conference will be September 23-26, 2018 in San Diego.

We are busy getting the implementation phase coordinated in California for the new Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. We also are having meetings in Washington State on its proposed new PSM language.  Hopefully, we will have two harmonized standards on the West Coast that will help us and our employers. 

These revised PSM standards will be a model for other state plans and OSHA by vastly improving the PSM standard OSHA created nearly 25 years ago. These revisions are based on the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) “red book”  and incidents in refineries around the world, with the intent to lessen the occurrences and severity of process-related accidents in the industry.

The USW HSE conference is March 26-30. On Wednesday evening (March 28) after the sessions, we will have an informal gathering for the oil sector. If you are attending the conference, plan to make the oil meeting; we look forward to sharing information.

A revised fatigue risk management recommended practice, API 755, should be out shortly. Once it is released, we will send information on the changes and their effect on the locals. Over the last few weeks several serious incidents occurred. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it reminded us of the volatile industry we work in and how we must be vigilant about small changes in our work environments.  If something doesn’t seem quite right, we must raise an alarm and see that it is investigated.  By spending time on the units, we know how things sound and feel, and it gives us a better ability to quickly detect when something changes.  We can never get complacent about our work.

We will continue  our activism around changes to the renewable identification number (RIN) section of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) without pushing for any changes in the blend wall.  Something must be done about the traders who are speculating  on the price of a non-commodity and raking in the profits at the expense of our merchant refiners’ bottom line. The fluctuating price deters those affected refineries from budgeting for RIN costs, and it directs money away from needed expenditures, such as maintenance and equipment improvements.  The RIN price has  decreased because of the recent discussions  on setting a price cap, but until  this is achieved, these merchant refineries operate at the mercy of an uncontrolled market. 

Exciting and challenging times are ahead for our industry.  Companies mostly have enjoyed a profitable year, and the change in tax status should add to their income.  We look forward to sharing  these profits and working with our employers to maintain production at optimum levels in a safe and reliable manner.  Our operators and maintenance personnel are the most dependable and highest trained workforce in the industry, and we take pride in our jobs. 

As summer gets closer and our thoughts turn to vacations and more time with our families and friends, we cannot lose sight of our everyday activities.  We  must  focus at work and  do our jobs like our lives depend on it, because they do. 

I look forward to seeing those of you attending the USW Health, Safety & Environment conference and USW Triangle of Prevention (TOP) meeting in Pittsburgh next week.

In Solidarity,

Kim Nibarger
NOBP Chair
knibarger@usw.org
(Office) 412-562-2403

]]>
Health and Safety Activists Pay Tribute to Fallen Co-Workers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/health-and-safety-activists-pay-tribute-to-fallen-co-workers Tue, 27 Mar 2018 15:04:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/health-and-safety-activists-pay-tribute-to-fallen-co-workers USW activists on Tuesday marked the most solemn moment of the union’s health and safety conference as they paid tribute to the workers who died on the job at USW workplaces since the last conference in September 2016.

“Today, we remember those who were killed on the job,” said Mike Wright, the USW’s director of health, safety and environment as he introduced the tribute that included 52 names. “But what’s just as important is what we do tomorrow and all the days after that” to prevent deaths like those from happening again, he said.

That work included dozens of workshops on Tuesday, which addressed issues such as workplace violence, hazard mapping, on-the-job stress, and increasing the effectiveness of labor-management safety committees, among others.

While most of Tuesday’s agenda focused on workshops, the delegates also heard remarks from International President Leo W. Gerard, Canadian National Director Ken Neumann, District 10 Director Bobby “Mac” McAuliffe, and Emergency Response Team Director Allan McDougall.

Gerard told the delegates that the work that they do on health and safety is perhaps the most important action that the union takes in improving the quality of life for workers across North America.

“What good is collective bargaining, what good is a raise, if you don’t come home at night?” Gerard said. “The people who come after you may never know about the work that you do.”

In his remarks, Neumann made a point of celebrating the activism of USW members in instituting Canada’s Westray Law and in addressing the issue of on-the-job harassment and abuse.

The Westray Law, named for a 1992 tragedy that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia, allows for criminal penalties when workers die as a result of an employer’s negligence. The law was passed after a 10-year campaign led by the USW.

“Since that terrible tragedy,” Neumann said, “we have never, ever wavered in our commitment to ensure that those workers did not die in vain.”

McAuliffe welcomed the delegation of more than 1,700 union members and management representatives to his home town of Pittsburgh and reminded them that the 52 people whose names were memorialized on Tuesday represented only a small fraction of the workers who die all over the world on the job every day.

McAuliffe also encouraged members at all USW workplaces to participate in Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28.

Gerard concluded his address to the conference attendees by encouraging the activists to never give up in the fight for safer workplaces.

“Things don’t change unless you fight,” Gerard said. “You should be very proud of the work that you do.” 

2018 USW Health & Safety Conference-DAY TWO

]]>
USW Activists Kick Off Health and Safety Conference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-activists-kick-off-health-and-safety-conference Mon, 26 Mar 2018 16:53:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-activists-kick-off-health-and-safety-conference More than 1,500 USW members kicked off the union’s 2018 Health, Safety and Environment conference on Monday in Pittsburgh by celebrating the union’s recent victories in the battle for greater protections for working people and renewing their commitment to continue that fight.

“This is the largest gathering of safety and health representatives in the world,” International Vice President Tom Conway told the delegation. “A lot of progress has been made, but let’s be clear-eyed about where we are.”

The current administration in Washington, D.C., beholden to Wall Street and corporate interests, has made no secret of its desire to undo health and safety regulations across a wide range of industries, Conway said.

Recent USW victories include a new OSHA standard for workplace exposure to silica, as well as updated process safety management (PSM) standards for oil refineries in California and Washington state.

Workers must be relentless in their commitment to safer workplaces in order to ensure continued progress, he said.

“That’s your job,” Conway told the delegates at Monday’s union-only session.

This year’s health and safety conference set a record for attendance, with nearly 1,800 attendees expected, including USW members, Communications Workers of America (CWA) members and representatives of management.

The conference, which runs through Friday afternoon, includes more than 220 workshops, along with speeches, panel discussions, district caucuses and other events.

International Vice President Carol Landry addressed the delegates about the pervasiveness of domestic violence and sexual harassment across North America, arguing that the problem is not a private issue, but a workplace and a union issue.

Nearly 8 million work days are lost each year due to domestic violence, Landry said. In addition, many abusive partners may find access to their victims in the abused partner’s workplace.

“That makes it a union issue,” Landry said. “Violence against women remains a powerful barrier against women’s equality.”

Conference participants also heard remarks from USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Mike Wright, CWA Occupational Safety and Health Director David Legrande, USW District 3 Director Steve Hunt, and Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

2018 USW Health & Safety Conference-DAY ONE

]]>
USW Local 8888 Petitions for Community Center to be Named After Hometown Hero https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-local-8888-petitions-for-community-center-to-be-named-after-hometown-hero Mon, 26 Mar 2018 13:56:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/usw-local-8888-petitions-for-community-center-to-be-named-after-hometown-hero USW Local 8888 has accomplished an historic goal that will have a lasting impact on Hampton, Va., residents and will be celebrated across America. On March 14, the Hampton City Council voted unanimously to name a new neighborhood center (yet to be built) for hometown hero and NASA trailblazer Mary Jackson. She was the first African American female engineer at Langley Laboratory and one of the three black women portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie, “Hidden Figures.”

But Ms. Jackson was so much more than a gifted engineer. She was a beloved role model who continuously gave back to her people and her community. And Jackson has a special connection with Local 8888 — her daughter is married to Raymond Lewis, Trustree.

A petition drive launched by Local 8888 a year ago was the catalyst for Hampton honoring Mary Jackson. Steelworkers collected more than 2,500 signatures in the shipyard and in the community and presented the petitions to Hampton officials last June.

Arnold Outlaw, president of USW Local 8888, who witnessed the historic vote with members of Mary Jackson’s family, said, “This is a moment of great pride for Local 8888.” He thanked everyone who signed or circulated the Mary Jackson petition. “Naming a public center for an iconic trailblazer like Mary Jackson is a legacy-defining accomplishment for our union, which is celebrating our 40th anniversary this year,” he said.

Outlaw said, “Once the Mary Jackson Neighborhood Center is built, the young people who enter, especially young girls, can feel a sense of pride and connection to the name of a strong, brilliant black woman. Hopefully, it will inspire them to believe that they, too, can reach their dreams.”

]]>
Local 10-01426 Ratifies Four-Year Deal https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/local-10-01426-ratifies-four-year-deal Mon, 26 Mar 2018 12:29:15 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/local-10-01426-ratifies-four-year-deal Some 100 nurses working for Roosevelt Health Centers last week ratified a new four-year contract that raises wages and maintains benefits.

The members of Local 10-01426 staff two nursing homes in Edison and Old Bridge, N.J. They began negotiating in November.

“Our main goal was not to change anything from the contract we have,” said Liz Rivera, Local 10-01426 president. “We have good benefits, like holidays and vacation, and in the end we didn’t have to give anything up.”

The local also managed to get a 3.5 percent wage increase, as well as a raise to the tuition reimbursement allotment for continuing education from $18,000 to $25,000. The new contract also strengthens language regarding union leave and PAC.

Though the talks went relatively smoothly, management did drag their feet, Rivera said, stretching negotiations over several months, perhaps in an attempt to test the members’ resolve. But the local stayed strong and ultimately ended up with a fair contract.

“We’re a pretty special group,” said Rivera, “and a lot of that’s because we’re in the health care profession.”

]]>
How You Can Support Exxon Workers In Australia https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/support-for-exxon Mon, 26 Mar 2018 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/support-for-exxon This article originally appeared in Issue 41 of The Oilworker.

Oil workers fighting ExxonMobil’s Australian subsidiary, Esso Australia Pty Ltd (Esso) and its maintenance contractor, UGL, for a fair contract are requesting several acts of solidarity from their USW supporters.

They have picketed seven days a week, 24 hours a day for over 236 days at Esso’s Longford gas plant in Australia.

With Esso’s support, UGL wants to slash workers’ pay up to 30 percent, cut benefits for 200 maintenance contractors, and impose a work schedule that would force offshore workers to spend more time away from home.

Besides hurting local businesses, these regressive demands and UGL’s failure to negotiate a fair settlement negatively impact workers’ families.

“They are the unfortunate victims who pay the ultimate price when it comes to a fight like this,” said Troy Carter, shop steward with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU). “However, we are determined to continue ‘Standing Up & Fighting Back’ for as long as it takes.”

How to Help

  • Financial Support: A go fund me page was set up for personal donations at https://www.gofundme.com/essoworkers. Secondly, a group or worksite can collect money and send it via an International Money Transfer (IMT). Get banking account details at https://www.essouglydispute.com/donate.html (Local unions may need to contact Troy Carter, troyoffshore@netspace.net.au, for the account address to be used with IMT.)
  • Send a letter to ExxonMobil’s CEO: The workers drafted a template resolution letter to send a message of dissatisfaction to ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods. Contact Troy Carter, AMWU shop steward, for a copy of the letter to send. Carter’s email address is troyoffshore@netspace.net.au.
  • Share a Solidarity Video or Message of Support: Use your own or your local union’s Facebook page to share such a video and/or message of support. Carter said it would be great if the USW ExxonMobil council shot a solidarity video and/or photo before or after its meeting with management.
  • Share a Photo or Tweet a Photo/Message: Shoot a photo with a selfie sign saying @AusGasWorkers #AusGasWorkers.
  • Hand out a flyer or share this story with someone you know who may want to support the Australian oil workers.

More Information

“By participating in these actions, you will ensure continued support to our families while we continue to ‘Stand Up & Fight Back’ for as long as it takes,” Carter said. “I personally thank you for your support.”

For more information, reach Troy Carter at troyoffshore@netspace.net.au or +61 419-358-196.

]]>
Tips for Local Union Elections https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/tips-for-local-union-elections Wed, 21 Mar 2018 09:10:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/tips-for-local-union-elections Local Union Elections are under way. As members, we must be aware of the law and the rules detailed in the International and Local Union Elections Manuals, which is available upon request by calling the Local Union Service Department at 412-562-2380.

Labor law and the International and Local Union Elections Manuals prevent anyone running for office from being promoted in local, district or International union newsletters, leaflets, websites, social media and other material produced by or for the union. The rules also prohibit the use of union equipment such as computers, copy or fax machines, telephones; the use of union space (including Local Union halls and events); or union staff during official work hours to promote or discredit any candidate. Use of the union’s logo is prohibited on any candidate material, website, or social networks.

Local union communications should not be used to promote or prejudice the candidacy of a member running for a local union or international union office, or to influence in any way a member’s vote.

For example, if a member, seeking elective office, has never written a column for a publication or website, then continue the ban. The best policy to follow is one of "continuity." Do not print unflattering photos of candidates as they can unintentionally demean that person. Do not, give any office-seeker undue publicity in the form of photos, or praise from other existing columnists prior to an election. Do not discuss or feature campaigns or candidates on union websites or social media networks, and do not do so on personal sites or networks during hours you are being paid by the Union or when using union equipment or property. Do not build, host or work on candidate websites or social networks using union resources, including web accounts and equipment. Be especially careful to review all photos, videos, articles and other content for unintentional showcase of candidates and/or their signs, buttons, shirts or other campaign material when using these materials in official union communications.

This is a reminder and not an all-inclusive list of the rules and laws. Please review the International and Local Union Elections Manuals for all guidelines. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Local Union Services at 412-562-2380 before you do anything.

]]>