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 Voter Registration Drives a Massive Success, But Our Work is Far From Done https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/voter-registration-drives-a-massive-success-but-our-work-is-far-from-done Fri, 09 Nov 2018 13:06:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/voter-registration-drives-a-massive-success-but-our-work-is-far-from-done        While the election season has come to a close for 2018, no matter whom you voted for, win or lose, there is one victory that we should all be celebrating: voter registration rates were at all-time highs across the country for the 2018! The United Steelworkers and the Rapid Response program did our part to contribute to this success by holding several worksite registration drives, delivering thousands of voter information pieces, and showing up at rallies and events to verify or register new voters nationwide. RPEven more exciting to note, across the country, young people who data shows historically vote the least, are engaging in our democratic process in levels we haven’t seen in decades. While these are promising trends for our democracy, our engagement in voter registration should not go into hibernation until the next election cycle. If we have any hope of having a government that is truly representative of ALL of us, we must continue to work to make sure that we ALL vote. That starts with voter registration.

      The numbers tell an amazing story. USAFacts, a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative aimed at making government data accessible and understandable, in their 2018 Annual Report reported that in 1964 of the 111 million people who were eligible to vote in the presidential election that year, 74.3% were registered. By 2016, we saw the percentage of registered voters drop to just 64.2% of the 246 million Americans eligible to vote. Those numbers are extremely indicative of the actual voting rate. In 1964, the voting rate of all eligible Americans was 69.3%, but by 2016 that number had dropped to just 56.0%. These numbers are for worse for midterm elections like the one we just had in 2018. According to the USAFacts report voting rates had plummeted in the midterms dropping from 55.4% in 1966 to only 38.5% in 2014, making voter registration that much more crucial.

      Yet, the tides could be turning on this dismal civic engagement trend. A record number of eligible voters registered to vote in 2018 as part of the National Voter Registration Day, a national holiday that falls on the fourth Tuesday of every September, aimed at celebrating our democracy. On Tuesday, September 25 of this year, a record was set with over 800,000 eligible voters updating or registering for the first time! This surpassed the 2016 record of 771,321 during the presidential election cycle. The record number of 800,000+ is especially significant given that in 2014, the first midterm election since the National Voter Registration Day’s inception, that number only reached 154,000. The record number surprised even organizers for bucking the trend of decreased engagement during midterm cycles. And, that record translated into overall registration rates for the 2018 election cycle as report after report touted the victories. In Texas, Maryland, and Georgia, state voter registration records were shattered prior to the 2018 midterm and in Vermont voter registration hit an astounding high of 92.5%!

      One of the most encouraging trends reported in this past election cycle is the rise in engagement of young voters. Young people between the ages of 18 – 24 historically vote in extremely low rates and typically sit out midterm elections. However, according to a report released in early October from the non-partisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 18 – 24 year olds planned to vote in record-breaking numbers in the 2018 election. This would prove wrong the projected drop off in young voters after the 2016 election where for the first time ever millennials and Generation X voters outnumbered baby boomers and older voters at the ballot box. This could mean good things for Unions too! A recent Gallup poll reported that 68% of young people ages 18 – 34 approve of labor unions and 44% believe that labor unions should have more power. Those numbers were the highest of all age demographics. As they should be, given that in 2017 more than 70% of all new union members across the country fell into that age group. With this in mind, we should be hopeful that as young people register and vote in record numbers the labor movement’s interests will be well represented at the ballot box and in our elected officials.

      While these trends and data are fantastic news in a time when our union and our country face so many tough challenges, we must not rest on our laurels. Voter registration is not restricted to campaign cycles, and one day a year on National Voter Registration Day is not nearly enough. Within our locals and our communities, we should be working year-round to make sure every eligible citizen is registered to vote. We can, and should, be holding voter registration drives at every event possible that we participate in, especially those sponsored by our local unions. At every local meeting we should have flyers and registration forms available. We must be on the lookout for legislation that adds additional hurdles to the voter registration process, making it more difficult to access this important right, and stand together against it. And, maybe most importantly, in our own homes we should get back to treating the right to vote like the privilege that it is. One that is sacred and many that came before us in this country fought and even died for. A right that across the globe so many do not enjoy. As our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews become of eligible voting age we should be treating voter registration like the “right of passage” that it truly is. In the same way that we encourage and celebrate a young person’s obtainment of their driver’s license, so too should we be encouraging and celebrating their voter registration card.

       The data and trends are encouraging, but our work in registering others to vote is never done. In our fight for a government of the people and for the people, we must not stop. For more information on how you can get involved, contact a member of your local Rapid Response team, reach out to me, Randie Pearson, District 1 Rapid Response Coordinator at Rpearson@usw.org, or any of the other amazing Rapid Response Disrict Coordinators. This is how we Stand Up, and Fight Back!

 

           

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AFL-CIO Veterans Council's goal: engage, educate, mobilize https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/afl-cio-veterans-councils-goal-engage-educate-mobilize Fri, 09 Nov 2018 12:44:25 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/afl-cio-veterans-councils-goal-engage-educate-mobilize

The Union Veterans Council brings working-class veterans together to speak out on the issues that impact veterans most, especially the need for good jobs and a strong, fully funded and staffed VA.

Click here to check out their website.

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International VP Redmond Calls for Unity in Troubled Times https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/international-vp-redmond-calls-for-unity-in-troubled-times Mon, 05 Nov 2018 14:29:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/international-vp-redmond-calls-for-unity-in-troubled-times International Vice President Fred Redmond and progressive talk show host Leslie Marshall last week discussed the recent mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, which left 11 people dead and six others injured and threw into sharp relief the urgent need for unity and civil discourse across the United States.

“This hatred must end,” said Redmond. “We must come together as a people. We have to respect each other’s differences.  We have to really show we are an advanced society.”

“It’s our difference that make us a strong nation,” Redmond said, “and what we must really do is say ‘no,’ no to the language that’s coming out of our political circles, especially at the executive level.”

Instead, working people need to come together around the issues that matter most like access to living wages, affordable healthcare and a dignified retirement.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters have a chance to reject the language of hate and change the direction in which the United States is heading.

“Election day is a day when we’re all equal in this country, when there’s no discrimination against anyone because all our votes are counted equally,” said Redmond. “This election is about what kind of country we’re going to have going forward.”

Listen to the full interview below.

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The Oilworker: Nov. 2018 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/the-oilworker-nov-2018 Mon, 05 Nov 2018 13:27:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/the-oilworker-nov-2018 FROM THE UNION

Oil Workers Set Bargaining Goals for 2019 Negotiations

At the end of September, more than 375 oil delegates to the National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP) conference developed their national bargaining goals and passed the NOBP oil policy. They represented refineries, petrochemical plants, terminals and pipelines.

Bargaining for a national pattern agreement starts in January 2019.

Click here to read more and to check out photos from the conference.

Fact-Finding Trip to Shell’s Nigerian Operations Proves Eye-Opening to USW Oil Worker

Vassey Lartson, a member of Local 13-1 who has worked at Shell Oil Company’s chemical lab in Deer Park, Texas, originally from Monrovia in Liberia, joined an international delegation on a fact-finding mission to Shell’s oil and gas operations in Nigeria.

They discovered a workforce consisting of contractors who suffer poverty wages, health and safety hazards and miserable living conditions..

Click here to read more from Lartson's trip.


IN THE NEWS

From Hydrocarbon Processing
U.S. Midwest Refiners Expected To Do Well in Third Quarter

Cheaper prices for Canadian crude—production has outpaced pipeline capacity—are expected to lead to strong earnings in the third quarter for Midwest refiners. Refiners on the East and Gulf coasts are expected to have strong earnings as well for the third quarter because of sharp declines in the Midland, Texas, grade.

From RigZone
Oil Sector Anticipates Good Year Ahead in 2019

Oil and gas executives are optimistic in their business outlook for 2019. Refiners anticipate a profitable year with expected margins of $15.39, up from $13.20 in 2017.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Has your local organized a group of workers, won an award, participated in a community event, won an arbitration, helped achieve a legislative victory, settled a safety issue, etc.?

Please contact Lynne Hancock at lhancock@usw.org, (Office) 412-562-2442 or (cell) 615-828-6169.

Get bargaining updates via text! Text OIL to the phone number 47486.  

By opting-in, you agree to receive recurring messages from the USW; message and data rates may apply. To opt out, text STOP. For help, text HELP. Full terms and conditions at usw.org/text. No purchase necessary.

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Fact-Finding Trip to Shell’s Nigerian Operations Proves Eye-Opening to USW Oil Worker https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/fact-finding-trip-to-shells-nigerian-operations-proves-eye-opening-to-usw-oil-worker Mon, 05 Nov 2018 12:32:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/fact-finding-trip-to-shells-nigerian-operations-proves-eye-opening-to-usw-oil-worker A USW oil worker joined an international delegation on a fact-finding mission to Shell’s oil and gas operations in Nigeria. They discovered a workforce consisting of contractors who suffer poverty wages, health and safety hazards and miserable living conditions.

The USW International Union sponsored Vassey Lartson, a member of Local 13-1 who has worked at Shell Oil Company’s chemical lab in Deer Park, Texas, for 20 years. He is originally from Monrovia in Liberia.

Lartson joined a delegation from IndustriALL Global Union and two Nigerian unions, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, on a Sept. 15, 2018 visit to a Shell facility in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He also participated in a workshop.

The group visited the Umuebulu-Etche Flow Station in the outskirts of Port Harcourt. They were unable to enter the facility, but they conducted interviews with about 20 workers.

“The interviews were very eye opening,” Lartson said. “The workers reported poor working conditions, safety challenges and disparity in pay between expatriate workers and local workers.”

A complex system of pay masters and community contractors pay the workers. Even though they work for Shell, they are not company employees.

They work 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week for monthly salaries ranging from US $137 to US $257. Some said their contractors had not paid them for several months.

“We work like an elephant and eat like an ant,” said one worker. “Our salary at (contractor) Plantgeria is about 95,000 naira (US $257). In Nigeria today, you can’t do anything on that. You can’t pay your children’s school fees. You can’t eat well. You can’t do anything better for yourself.”

Workers said that Shell determines what they get paid by contractors, but their appeals for better wages are ignored.

“If you ask for a pay rise, you will be escorted out by police. And then your job is finished. No more access to the yard until you sign something saying you will not join a union and you will not ask for a pay rise,” said one worker.

Shell is the biggest foreign multinational oil company in Nigeria, earning an estimated US $4 billion from Africa’s largest oil producing country in 2017.

In Shell’s code of conduct, the company states: “We seek to work with contractors and suppliers who contribute to sustainable development and are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.”

Yet, when members of the Shell Global Union Network approached Shell CEO Ben van Beurden at the company’s Annual General Meeting last May, he said it is not financially viable to give contract workers permanent jobs because they are not needed all the time.

Workers described a different reality: “They keep on classing us as ad-hoc workers, but we have been working continuously for as long as 20 years, while being paid less than US $150 a month,” one worker said.

Poor Living Conditions

“We got the opportunity to visit the homes of three workers, and I was shocked and saddened to see the workers’ living conditions,” Lartson said. “The average worker lives in a one-room abode with a wife and four to five children. They have to cook outside, and they have to use a toilet and take a shower in the same tiny room (about 3X 5 feet) with no running water.”

Workers reported that they had very poor health insurance coverage by a local HMO. The HMO would arbitrarily cover health care costs depending on whether or not the paymaster had paid the organization.

“We visited the home of a recently deceased worker, and met his four sons who were unsure of how they would be able to support themselves. Their mom had also passed away the previous year. There was no forthcoming support from the company or relief from medical bills,” Lartson said.

The contract workers also said they were exposed to hazards working in the field.

“This was a very eye-opening experience for me,” Lartson said. “As one worker stated, ‘When it comes to safety, Internet technology and human resources, Shell is global. But when it comes to the standard of living, it's local.’”

The delegation also conducted a two-day workshop, and shared experiences on safety, precarious working conditions and organizing efforts. 

“The workshop was very productive and appreciated by the local unions, who implored us to help support them in their efforts to fight for better safety, health coverage, working conditions and living conditions,” Lartson said.

The USW and IndustriALL are part of the Shell Global Union Network, which has a global campaign to stop precarious (temporary, contractor) work at Shell. Contract workers outnumber permanent employees by more than a two-to-one ratio, and do the most dangerous jobs. Unions estimate the ratio is even higher at Shell’s operations in Nigeria, but the company does not disclose figures for individual countries.

Last September, Shell announced it had joined forces with other energy companies to assess the human rights records of suppliers to the energy industry. The participating companies said they recognize the importance of working with suppliers that respect human rights, including the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization.

Shell, however, refused IndustriALL’s offer to work with the company on investigating the same human rights concerns.

Click here to read more about and to viewmore photos on IndustriALL's website.

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Oil Workers Set Bargaining Goals for 2019 Negotiations https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/oil-workers-set-bargaining-goals-for-2019-negotiations Mon, 05 Nov 2018 12:24:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/oil-workers-set-bargaining-goals-for-2019-negotiations At the end of September, more than 375 oil delegates to the National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP) conference developed their national bargaining goals and passed the NOBP oil policy. They represented refineries, petrochemical plants, terminals and pipelines.

Bargaining for a national pattern agreement starts in January 2019.

The NOBP Oil Policy covers wages, benefits and working conditions like health and safety.

Since the Sept. 23-26 conference, held in San Diego, the delegates have been presenting the oil policy (national bargaining proposals) to their oil locals/units for a vote at their membership meetings. They also are voting on giving strike authority to the two lead bargainers— Kim Nibarger, head of USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program, and USW International Vice President Tom Conway.

The locals and units have 45 days from the end of the NOBP conference to complete this process, which ends in mid-November.  The oil policy is considered ratified once 75 percent of the oil locals/units ratify it. 

Bargaining at the national and local levels occurs in January before the national pattern agreement and local contracts expire on Feb. 1 at 12:01 a.m.

Shell Oil Company is once again the lead company in the national talks. It communicates and coordinates with the rest of the oil companies through an industry-wide organization called Organizational Resources Counselors (ORC).

All of the oil companies cannot sit down at the same bargaining table because of federal anti-trust legislation.

Council Coordination During Bargaining

Local issues, such as bidding rights and work rules, are bargained at local union tables. However, Nibarger has been getting locals to coordinate their bargaining with other locals in their company councils.

“We operate through our company councils, and they are united in their contract proposals to the company,” he said. “When a company proposes a change at one location, you need to get on the phone to the rest of the council to let them know a change has been proposed and coordinate your efforts.”

Creating the Policy

The oil policy is derived from the rank-and-file. Prior to the NOBP conference, oil locals and units usually pass out bargaining surveys to gauge what issues are important to the membership.

This information helps conference delegates discuss bargaining issues in their company councils. Delegates met during the NOBP conference for two days in 17 company councils to discuss bargaining issues and give local union reports.

They reconvened in a general session to report the proposals each council wanted addressed. The elected rank-and-file Oil Policy Committee—it consists of five members and five alternates from five NOBP regions across the U.S.—took all of the council proposals and created a proposed oil policy for the delegates to vote on the next day. 

It is an intense process to create one oil policy from bargaining proposals submitted by 17 councils.  Oil Policy Committee members vetted each proposal in a meeting with Kim Nibarger for almost 20 hours.

The next morning the committee presented the oil policy to all the delegates in a general session. Delegates lined up at two microphones to suggest changes and express concerns. The committee returned a little over an hour later with a revised oil policy, which the delegates approved.

NOBP Policy

The NOBP Policy follows up with some of the contract proposals in the last round of bargaining in 2015, Nibarger said.  He told the media that a three-year contract is proposed, and said that worker safety will be an issue.

“These are dangerous jobs.  People understand they are not safe and are managing a risk. We want to participate with the companies in helping them manage those risks,” Nibarger said.

He told the media that worker fatigue continues to be a work in progress, but the union has had success in some locations because the companies hired more employees.

He said there also has been some success in reducing the contracting out of daily maintenance work.

“It is an ongoing process, but I think we’ve gotten more members back in the workforce,” Nibarger said. “It is more productive for companies because they have a workforce that has some stake in what they do. In the places where we are able to increase those numbers, if you talk to those companies, they are quite happy with the results.”

Election for Alternates

During the conference, delegates from NOBP Region E (District 13) elected Bryan Gross, a Local 13-423 member, to be an alternate to the NOBP Oil Policy Committee. He works at the Total Petrochemicals refinery in Port Neches, Texas.

Kevin Herbein was elected to be an alternate for NOBP Region B (Districts 4, 10, 8 and 9). He is the Local 4-898 president and works at the PBF refinery in Delaware City, Del.

Mobilizing for Power

Oil Policy Committee members are beginning the conference calls with oil locals/units in their regions to coordinate mobilization activities. Stickers will be delivered to each local/unit. Closer to negotiations there will be other solidarity actions for all members to participate in.

If they have not already done so, oil locals/units are setting up their Communication and Action Teams (CAT).

At the NOBP conference, many of those attending had not been through a round of National Oil Bargaining or only experienced one round of it.

“Make sure new members understand why the oil bargaining program is important, why it is important to have solidarity, and why we have the NOBP program,” said USW Strategic Campaigns Director Melinda Newhouse.

Members can receive bargaining updates via text messages. Text OIL to 47486. You will be asked what company you work for. Soon, the USW will have the capability to send text messages on issues pertaining to a specific USW company council.

The OilWorker is now available electronically. To receive it, sign up at usw.to/Oilworker.

More Photos from the Conference

2018 USW Oil Bargaining Conference

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Your Voice Matters: Health Care at Heart of 2018 Election https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/your-voice-matters-health-care-at-heart-of-2018-election Mon, 05 Nov 2018 10:30:13 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/your-voice-matters-health-care-at-heart-of-2018-election Tuesday, Nov. 6, is Election Day in the United States, and issues surrounding health care will play a central part in shaping the U.S. Congress and state houses across the country.

Though the Republican majority in Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), key portions are still in jeopardy, thanks to the efforts of Republican attorneys general and governors who have filed a lawsuit to invalidate the ACA, including protections on those with preexisting conditions.

If these efforts are successful, some 52 million people with preexisting conditions, from asthma to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even pregnancy, could see their premiums rise and, in some cases, their access to insurance disappear.

A Republican-led Congress could again take up the issue of repealing the health care law, and while many Republican candidates have begun paying lip service to the idea of protecting people with preexisting conditions to appeal to voters, few have offered any concrete plans.

Republican governors and state legislators have also been blocking the expansion of Medicaid in their states. Four states have Medicaid expansion on their ballots, and in others like Florida and Georgia, Democratic candidates have made expanding Medicaid a key priority.

Republicans have also begun implying that the cost of Medicare is too great.

The federal deficit spiraled to $779 billion in the fiscal year that just ended, thanks in large part to the massive tax cuts Republicans handed out to the wealthy late last year.

The ballooning deficit has given Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others an opening to attack and potentially restructure what they call “entitlement programs,” including Medicare and Social Security.

Voters in many states will consider local issues that will impact health care as well.

If you have not already done so, please make time to vote. Turnout in midterm elections is traditionally low, with only 36.4 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in 2014. Your voice is important.

To research what will be on your ballot and make a plan for voting, click here.

To read more about the impact of the election on the health care sector, click here.

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Our Unity is Stronger than Hate https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/our-unity-is-stronger-than-hate Tue, 30 Oct 2018 09:31:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/our-unity-is-stronger-than-hate We stand with the Jewish community and the victims of the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, our union’s home city.

We stand with their families, friends, first responders and all those suffering and we offer our sincere condolences.

We will be relentless in our call for unity for we know its power. We will continue to raise our voices against and will continue to collectively act to end anti-Semitism and hate of any kind - in our city and around the world.

The power of unity is greater than hate. So as we mourn too many tragedies caused by division we pledge to redouble our efforts to combat the prejudice that motivated this heinous act of violence. We must focus on the massive inequality that is the root of these divisions because as our union’s founding principles point out, it is our duty to serve as a unifying force for all workers. This is a conversation we cannot delay or dilute. We must stand together, in unwavering solidarity, with communities everywhere in the struggle to bring safety, freedom and equality to all.

Click here for our full press release about the Tree of Life shooting and the need to for unity. 


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Help the locked-out Local 9700 members at the Bécancour, Quebec Smelter https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/help-the-locked-out-local-9700-members-at-the-becancour-quebec-smelter Thu, 25 Oct 2018 14:46:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/help-the-locked-out-local-9700-members-at-the-becancour-quebec-smelter Just over 1,000 members of Local 9700 who work at the ABI smelter in Bécancour, Quebec, have been locked out by their employer, since January 11, 2018. 

Management at the ABI smelter, co-owned by Alcoa (74.9%) and Rio Tinto (25.1%), locked out employees without warning, rejecting the union's offer to continue negotiations on a new collective agreement.

There were two outstanding issues: the funding of a new pension plan and workers’ seniority rights in personnel transfers.

Since the lockout began, however, the company has made additional demands. ABI wants to break the union and force workers to come crawling back on their hands and knees.

Click here to send a message to Alcoa’s board of directors to voice your support for the locked-out workers.

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Solvay Global Forum Worker Representatives Ensure that Company Upholds Its Social Responsibility Commitments https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/solvay-global-forum-worker-representatives-ensure-that-company-upholds-its-social-responsibility-commitments Fri, 19 Oct 2018 14:24:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/solvay-global-forum-worker-representatives-ensure-that-company-upholds-its-social-responsibility-commitments Communication flows from the shop floor to the executive suite and vice versa at Solvay, an advanced materials and specialty chemicals multinational company based in Brussels, Belgium.

Ensuring this communication flows continuously is the Solvay Global Forum. Eight union representatives from around the world and three management representatives comprise the forum. Jeff Hill, a longtime leader and member of USW Local 14200 in Marietta, Ohio, represents the U.S.

This group evaluates sites in a different country each year to ensure the multi-national’s Global Forum Agreement (GFA) is followed and communicated to all employees.

The GFA commits Solvay to adhere to global labor standards and workers’ right to organize without company interference. By signing the GFA, the company affirms it will engage in socially-responsible business practices. This means having a safe and healthy workplace, protecting against discrimination, eliminating workplace bullying, and committing to diversity and environmental protection.

Last year, the forum evaluated two U.S. Solvay facilities in Anaheim and Orange, Calif., and two Solvay plants in Pasadena and Deer Park, Texas. Last summer, the group evaluated three German plants—Bad Wimpfen, Bad Honningen and Rhienburg—over a three-day period.

“We saw a different site each day,” Hill said. “The German visit was very different from the evaluation we did in the U.S.

“In the U.S., the global forum questioned employees. In Germany, Solvay works with its unions in a structured manner.

“We met with German union officials, listened to their opinions of the social dialogue process, heard how things were going with their site manager, and asked if they were resolving issues and if they were satisfied with the resolutions,” Hill said. “We also discussed their safety issues, and asked if they had issues the global forum could help them with and discuss with their plant manager.”

Another objective of the global forum’s visits is to ask if the sites are familiar with the Solvay Cares program, company bonus system, GFA and IndustriALL Global Union.

“Compared to the U.S., the average German worker knows Solvay signed the GFA with IndustriALL and who IndustriALL is,” Hill said.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Union and management representatives on the Solvay Global Forum negotiated the Solvay Cares program, and it is now part of the GFA signed by the company chief executive officer and the Global Forum.

Solvay Cares sets minimum social standards worldwide for Solvay sites, even if the country where the site is located does not offer these benefits.

The program includes items like:

  • Full-income protection during parental leave, with 14 weeks for the mother and one week for the co-parent. There is full-income protection of one week during adoption. (This is a major improvement over the U.S. unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act.)
  • A minimum coverage of 75 percent of medical fees in case of hospitalization or severe illness.
  • Disability insurance in case of lasting incapacity.
  • Life insurance, with coverage for the family or partner.

Solvay’s tradition has been to provide its employees with more than just a job, according to the company’s website. Decades before the advent of the social welfare state in Europe, the Belgium company ran its own social security program in the 1880s.

Solvay Cares began in 2017 as a minimum benefit package for the company’s 30,000 employees around the world.

The company’s CEO, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, described the idea behind this initiative: “As a global corporate citizen, Solvay is going beyond local market standards and ensuring the well-being of colleagues no matter where they are located.”

Constructive Criticism

Hill said the forum met with each site’s top plant management, union chair and vice chair for dinner the night before each visit. The next day, the forum met with six to eight people, listened to a company presentation, toured the site and ate lunch with union leaders and management. After lunch, the forum met with union leaders only.  Then, the group took the union’s concerns to management and offered feedback and suggestions.

“We criticize management in a productive way to find issues management and the workers struggle over and to offer suggestions to remedy the situations,” Hill said.

“Overall, we were pleased with what we saw. The plants were clean and had good safety records. Nothing jumped out as a big problem, but the global forum said the sites could communicate more with each other.

“Each plant had lots of safety signs around describing use of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in different areas where it is required, and some were 6-feet tall. I shared this with management at my Marietta, Ohio, plant,” he added.

After each country visit, Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, files a report on the global forum’s site evaluations, and Solvay responds with feedback on the global forum’s recommendations.

Worker Training

In Germany, a person who wants to be a chemical operator or instrument or electrical worker must undergo a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship program, Hill said. 

One-third of the time the worker is in school and two-thirds of his or her time is spent in on-the-job training. Once the worker passes the program, he or she is considered qualified to work at any chemical plant in Germany.

Hill said that at one site, 200 of the 400 workers were contractors. He said that in Germany the contractors are considered specialists who are not involved in production.

Contractors have specialized training in areas like high pressure water blasting and insulation work, Hill said. They insulate process lines, do scaffolding, handle line breaking, cleaning and hazardous work, for example.

“The plants were really clean,” Hill said. “I was told that was the German culture. One plant was 201 years old, and the fire brigade for the site services the surrounding village.”


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Solvay Undergoes Major Changes https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/solvay-undergoes-major-changes Fri, 19 Oct 2018 13:09:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/solvay-undergoes-major-changes Solvay Announces New Chief Executive Officer Oct. 16

Ilham Kadri will replace Jean-Pierre Clamadieu as Solvay chief executive officer, chair of the executive committee and member of the company’s board of directors beginning March 1, 2019.

Kadri will join Solvay on January 1, 2019, and work with Clamadieu for two months during the transition period.

Solvay’s board of directors appointed Kadri, who recently served as CEO and president of U.S. hygiene technology and services firm Diversey. She also worked for multinational corporations such as Huntsman, Dow Chemical and Shell-Basell across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Holding both Moroccan and French nationalities, Kadri has an engineering degree from the European School of Chemistry, Polymers and Materials Science in Strasbourg, France, and a PhD in macromolecular physico-chemistry from Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg.

“I’m looking forward to joining the Group whose passion for science, its values and transformation echo my own personal and professional journey,” she said in a Solvay news release. “Early next year, I will work alongside Solvay’s teams to accelerate value creation based on innovation, collaboration, a customer centric culture and a clear sense of purpose. These fundamentals will guide my actions at Solvay.”

Clamadieu has the support of the French government to become the new chairman of gas and power group ENGIE. He replaces ENGIE founder Gerard Mestrallet, who retired. The ENGIE board of directors unanimously appointed Clamadieu as its new chairman after the general shareholders meeting last May.

Solvay Divestment of Polyamides Business to BASF Moves Ahead

Solvay announced Oct. 16 that divestment of its polyamide business to BASF is moving forward because BASF is offering remedies to address the European Commission’s concern about competition in that market segment.

The remedies involve separating the assets originally included in the acquisition, such as the innovation capabilities and manufacturing assets of Solvay’s polyamide intermediate and engineering plastics business in Europe. In a Solvay press release, the company said the assets proposed as remedies would be able to compete successfully as stand-alone businesses under third-party ownership.

The European Commission is examining the remedies and submitting them to market testing before completing its review procedure of BASF’s proposed acquisition.

The press release said that both companies will continue to operate their businesses separately until the transaction is completed and consultation with employee representatives is finished.

Solvay Takes Steps to Reinvent Itself

Solvay is taking several steps to transform its business from production of vinyls and cellulose acetate, to specialty chemicals.

Last spring, the company announced it was putting its customers at the “core” of its organization to enhance its long-term growth as an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company. It also announced it would “simplify its organization” by cutting about 675 jobs, “mainly in functional activities.”

This transition to specialty chemicals led to a reorganization of research and development work, but the company has not said how many scientific jobs will be cut. Also, Solvay is transferring some 500 employees, over four years, from Paris and Aubervilliers, France, to Lyon, France and Brussels, Belgium.

By the end of June, the company had completed information/consultation procedures with employee representatives regarding the changes.

Besides its agreement to sell its nylon 6,6 business to BASF—which the European Commission is investigating because BASF would have a large market share in engineering polymers—Solvay completed the sale of its Charleston, S.C., facility to German specialty chemicals company Lanxess in February 2018 for $68 million. The Charleston plant produced phosphorus derivatives-based products.

Last March, Solvay announced the sale of its Porto Marghera plant in Italy, which makes hydrofluoric acid, to Alkeemia, part of the Italian Fluorsid Group. This sale is part of Solvay Specialty Polymers’ strategy to focus on specialties to improve the sustainability of its productions.

The company committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tons by 2025. To reach this goal, it will improve its energy efficiency, energy mix and invest in clean technologies.

Solvay CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu said that setting an absolute target ensures “our growth does not come at the expense of the planet, and places us at the forefront of the chemical industry.”

In September, the company said its growth will be led by advanced materials, such as high-performance polymers in cars and planes, and advanced formulations used in mining, oil and gas, and farming. The company forecasted that its profits would grow between 6 percent and 9 percent in underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EPITDA) for the period 2019-2021. This would be at a similar rate to the previous three-year period.


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Health care workers among representatives at International Women's Conference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/health-care-workers-among-representatives-at-international-womens-conference Fri, 19 Oct 2018 08:47:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/health-care-workers-among-representatives-at-international-womens-conference Some 1,200 union activists participated in the 2018 Women of Steel Conference Oct. 15-17, representing a massive, energetic showing that brought together USW members from across North America.

The conference theme was “A Call to Action,” and over the course of three days, the group explored opportunities and resources to make an even bigger impact on their locals and their communities.

“When you leave here this week, are you ready and willing to take action to send a strong message to our politicians that women will no longer be held back?” asked International Vice President Carol Landry, “Because when women get ahead, everyone gets ahead.”

During the conference, delegates heard from a diverse panel of international guests; discussed ways to end the still-present epidemic of gender-based violence; and participated in workshops including those on health and safety, building activism, bargaining to close the gender wage gap, combating workplace harassment and more.

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

DIVERSE PARTICIPANTS

Health care workers were among representatives from across the union’s diverse sectors, from steel to paper, energy, glass, public sector, and more, all proudly united under the title, Women of Steel.

Jackie Anklam, president of Local 9899 in Saginaw, Mich., said that unlike many of her union Sisters in heavy industry, her health care local is primarily made up of women. But even though her challenges are different, the conference had a lot to offer.


Local 9899 President Jackie Anklam participates in the Ontario Day of Action.

“I’m looking forward to getting information to take back into my local, especially so we can start working to get more active,” said Anklam, an environmental tech at St. Mary’s of Michigan. “It’ll be good to re-energize our WOS committee.”

Marketa Anderson, a member of Local 9349 who works at the Range Center, a residential and vocational center for people with mental and physical challenges in Chisholm, Minn., also said that the dynamics are different when the local is largely run by women, but is still important “because it gives women an outlet in their unions to be active.”

But Anderson thinks the union could do more to further the cause of women’s equality. “Since I have been active, I have heard how we have gotten more women in top positions, but I have not seen it,” she said. “I don’t see anyone up there with Carol (Landry).”

On the final day, delegates took to the mics to share the specific ways they’re going to go back to their locals, engage more women and become more active.

“You have a voice,” said Landry. “Don’t ever let someone take that away, and if someone tries to take that voice, speak louder.”

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Final Day of the International Women's Conference https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/final-day-of-the-international-womens-conference Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:44:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2018/final-day-of-the-international-womens-conference I Am With You, Sisters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Women Speak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Action at IKEA and Canadian Tire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising Consciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are Fighting Every Day

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

Answering the call to action means speaking up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embrace Authenticity

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

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

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

Bhasin encouraged delegates to do the work to embrace authenticity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE PHOTOS

2018 Women of Steel Conference

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

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

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

Following the money

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

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

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

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

Stakes high

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local 419M Members Create Classic, Colorful China

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

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

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

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

FIESTAWARE IS BORN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUALITY CONTROL

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT ALL STARTS HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

LONG HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNION PROVIDES STABILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISTRICT 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


District 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most looking forward to?
Learning.

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 12

Name: Josie Garro
Local: 8599
Hometown: Fontana, Calif.
Employer, Job Title: Fontana Unified School District, Special education aide for orthopedic and profoundly disabled students

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
Oh no, I have been in it for 12 years, so I have gone to other international and local Women of Steels conferences.

What are you most looking forward to?
Every time I go to the conference, I learn something that I can take back to my local and share. It is a very good learning experience.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
I am proud. It makes me feel strong. It has really changed me. I am more open with people. I know what I am saying and how important unions are and to spread that message to everyone. When you are in a union, everything you work for, especially your pension, you have when you retire.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
They are the best. They educate us. They keep giving us education that is so important on everything that matters on our health, on our jobs, to have a voice. We have to spread the word, and we have to be taught how to do that properly so we can teach others.

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

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

Name: Aubrey Schenk-Martorana
Local: 652
Hometown: Idaho Falls Idaho
Employer, Job Title: BEA (nuclear plant), Tool crib attendant

Is this your first WOS conference? If not, when was your first?
It’s not my first; it’s my fourth.

What are you most looking forward to?
There is just so much. I think the thing I am most looking forward to is the classes.

What does it mean to you to be a “Woman of Steel?”
To me, having the Women of Steel gives us a voice. I think where we are in a male-dominated work force, it is easier for us to come to Women of Steel. There are so many women who come into the workforce and don’t know what a union is or what Women of Steel does. Having Women of Steel there gives them the confidence they need to be more active, and it leads them to take more leadership roles in the local.

How do you feel like unions/the USW could help in the fight for true women’s equity?
We are already on the right path because the USW gives all members a voice as it is. Continued education and training they give helps us to better understand exactly what women are struggling with. When we were in our district meeting today, I began to understand how many women still have problems in their locals

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

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


DISTRICT 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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