United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed http://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/rss United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed 2020-09-17 13:24:39 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 Two USW Members to Serve on Worker Health Advisory Board https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/two-usw-members-to-serve-on-worker-health-advisory-board Tue, 22 Sep 2020 10:03:43 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/two-usw-members-to-serve-on-worker-health-advisory-board Two USW members will sit on the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health when it meets in November to discuss issues concerning administration of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

Duronda Pope and Jim Key will represent the claimant community for a two-year term. Pope, who is the USW Emergency Response Team director, has been on the board since its first meeting in 2016. Key, who is president of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) and a vice president at large for Local 8-550, will be starting his first term.

“It was a pretty big honor to be on the first advisory board,” Pope said, noting that it is important for labor to have a voice. “We know how operations work and the reality from the shop floor.”

The EEOICPA program, which the Department of Labor (DOL) administers, provides compensation and medical benefits to sick nuclear workers who have diagnosed medical conditions tied to their exposure to toxic substances at nuclear facilities covered under the Act.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 amended EEOICPA to create the advisory board, which has representatives from the scientific, medical and claimant communities, and includes a designated federal officer.

The board advises the Secretary of Labor on technical aspects of the EEOICPA program, such as the agency’s site exposure matrices, medical guidance for claims examiners and evidence requirements for claims related to lung disease.

It also reviews the work of industrial hygienists, staff physicians and consulting physicians and their reports to ensure quality, objectivity and consistency, as well as reviewing claims and changes in the claims procedure manual.

Worker experience

Pope worked as a chemical operator and laboratory technician for 25 years at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant outside Denver. The plant manufactured plutonium detonators, or triggers, used in nuclear bombs from 1952 until 1989. Pope holds the distinction of being the last union member employed at the plant before decommissioning, decontaminating and demolishing was completed in 2005.

Key has worked at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Ky., since 1974. His plant used to enrich uranium initially for nuclear weapons and then provided fuel for nuclear power plants. Now, the site is undergoing decontamination and decommissioning work.

As an AEWC member, Key lobbied numerous times in Washington, D.C., for federal funding of the EEOICPA program and the Worker Health Protection Program that provides low dose CT scans.

“I’ve been working behind the scene for many years and have been an advocate assisting sick workers and helping them get compensation,” Key said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and to be a persuasive voice for those who were wrongly injured or exposed.”

Pictured: Top -- Duronda Pope; Bottom -- Jim Key with Former International Vice President at-large Carol Landry.

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District 13 Council Supports Recovery Efforts After Hurricane Laura https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/district-13-council-supports-recovery-efforts-after-hurricane-laura Fri, 18 Sep 2020 13:03:25 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/district-13-council-supports-recovery-efforts-after-hurricane-laura Over the past couple weeks, USW Staff and Members in the District 13 Council have banded together to support recovery efforts throughout Louisiana after being stricken by hurricane Laura. Support locations have been established in Lake Charles at Local Union 555 and in Deridder at Local Union 725.

Read a message with the latest updates from Staff Rep Marty Poche:

This past Friday, we delivered four more pallets of water as well as cooked jambalaya and pastalaya at our Local 725 maintenance hall in DeRidder LA.

Some local members were on hand to help unload supplies as well as delivered hot food to those members working at the site. Other members were able to come by for pick-ups also.

We were even able to call on some local deputies in the area to swing by to eat and show our appreciation for their services.

Special thanks to LU 620 in Gonzales for donating the pastalaya and LU 750 in Norco for donating the jambalaya as well as making the trip to help out with this event.

   
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Workers at Portsmouth Cleanup Site Ratify First Contract https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/workers-at-portsmouth-cleanup-site-ratify-first-contract Thu, 17 Sep 2020 11:11:08 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/workers-at-portsmouth-cleanup-site-ratify-first-contract Thirteen Local 689 industrial hygiene technicians and industrial hygiene respirator facility technicians ratified their first contract Aug. 27 at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site in Piketon, Ohio.

The two-year agreement will expire August 2022 when the contract ends for the larger professional & technical (P&T) unit that includes the 13 new members.

“Now, they have representation if they have a concern or a grievance,” said Local 689 P&T Unit Vice President Creshanna Williams. “If they have a safety issue, there are health and safety representatives who can help them. They have representation from stewards and from me. Those are some of the most positive things of becoming part of the unit.”

Members received an immediate wage increase ranging from 4% to 7% to bring their pay up to scale, and the member who already earned a higher wage received a lump sum instead, Williams said. Next August, they all will get a 2.25% wage increase.

Everyone received a $1,000 signing bonus, and has a pathway for job progression with the requirements for advancement explained.

While their health care and retirement benefits mirror those of salaried non-union employees, the new group has additional benefits now, such as funeral leave, paid shower time, a grievance process to resolve contractual issues, subcontractor language that helps secure the group numbers at ratification and accretion into the unit in the event of downsizing or loss of personnel through attrition.

Industrial hygiene technicians (IHTs) monitor for biological, physical and chemical hazards like hydrogen fluoride, lead, asbestos and beryllium in the workplace.

Industrial hygiene respirator facility technicians (RFTs) maintain, issue and inspect respiratory protection for the site, which plant employees use to protect against biological, physical and chemical hazards in the workplace.

The P&T unit also includes radiological control technicians, industrial hygiene associates, non-destructive assay technicians, buyers, work control planners and non-destructive assay specialists. The entire unit has 173 workers.

Williams, who is an industrial hygiene associate, said that when some IHT and RFT contractors transferred to the site’s main contractor, Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC (FBP), and became employees, they expressed interest in being part of the P&T unit.

FBP verbally recognized the 13-member group in September 2018, and formal recognition came when the International and FBP signed a letter of agreement in February 2019.

In January 2019, Local 689 and FBP discussed what each side wanted in a contract and how negotiations should proceed. Formal bargaining started October 2019, and both sides reached a tentative agreement Aug. 20.

Williams said the process took a while because both the local and FBP had negotiations occurring with other contractors at the site.

“I was very pleased with the negotiations,” Williams said. “They (the new group) are very good employees, and I think they will be good union members.”

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USW Decries Continued Job Loss to Mexico https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/usw-decries-continued-job-loss-to-mexico Tue, 15 Sep 2020 13:41:53 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/usw-decries-continued-job-loss-to-mexico Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, 412-562-2444, jkamm@usw.org

United Steelworkers International President Tom Conway issued the following statement in response to last week’s announcement that FreightCar America will be abandoning its plant in Cherokee, Ala., and consolidating operations in Castanos, Mexico:

“The recent announcement that FreightCar America will be closing its Alabama facility and shifting its production to Mexico is further proof that we have not effectively reversed the trend of sending American jobs abroad.

“Greedy corporations continually hold the threat of offshoring jobs over their workers’ heads, using it as a cudgel to thwart attempts to improve wages and working conditions, as FreightCar America did when workers there tried to organize.

“But the sad reality is that our country’s tax system and trade policies make it too easy for corporations to abandon their dedicated American work forces in search of ever greater profits, regardless of the concessions they try to force domestic workers to accept.

“Now, because the majority of America’s leaders have all but given up on comprehensive manufacturing policy, 500 more hard-working Americans will be out of work and yet another company calling itself American will be operating out of Mexico.” 

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

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Register for Resiliency Training for USW Next Gen Members https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/register-for-resiliency-training-for-usw-next-gen-members Mon, 14 Sep 2020 10:19:56 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/register-for-resiliency-training-for-usw-next-gen-members Click to sign up for this free Next Gen training opportunity.

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2020
Time: 6 p.m. EST
Location: Virtual

At our recent International Next Gen conference, you told us you wanted more education and training opportunities for our young and new members.

We heard you loud and clear and have been offering a variety of online training opportunities during this pandemic. (We can't wait to get back with you in person!)

Our latest is a program offered in conjunction with the Tony Mazzocchi Center: a virtual, interactive training webinar on resiliency.

This awareness-level training is designed for workers and community members to recognize signs and symptoms of stress related to disasters and pandemics. This course will also help participants to build resilience by understanding stress reduction and coping strategies.

Click here to register for the webinar scheduled for Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 6 p.m. EST.

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Biden meets with USW members in Michigan backyard to talk jobs https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/biden-meets-with-usw-members-in-michigan-backyard-to-talk-jobs Thu, 10 Sep 2020 14:47:36 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/biden-meets-with-usw-members-in-michigan-backyard-to-talk-jobs 090920 Biden meets with USW in Detroit

 
When Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his and Kamala Harris’s plan to end outsourcing and bring jobs back to the United States yesterday, he sat down with members of our union in a Detroit backyard to talk about it. Click here to read the plan.
 
"Vice President Biden is a real friend to us. He talks the talk and walks the walk," said USW District 2 Director Mike Bolton who was among those there. "He's down to Earth. He's sincere. He spent a lot of time just talking about how much he respects us and about the work we've accomplished together for workers over the years, dating back to when he was a rookie lawmaker in Delaware and our union was the first to endorse him."
 
Local union 1299's Andrea Hunter, Timothy Petrowski and Michael E Miller Sr., joined Bolton and Biden, who listened to the group talk about Steelworker issues.
 
“American workers need leaders who understand that our economy cannot survive if we continue to ship manufacturing and other jobs overseas," International President Tom Conway said about the plan, that proposes a 10 percent tax penalty on companies that move operations overseas and a 10 percent tax credit for companies that create jobs in the U.S.  
 
Biden also is promising to reverse Trump administration “loopholes” that allow offshoring to take place. He also promised to take executive action during his first week in office to direct the federal government to buy American goods and support American supply chains in their procurement processes. 
 
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s vision to protect and create jobs through a combination of tax incentives, infrastructure investment with strong Buy American provisions, and attention to domestic supply chains offers common sense solutions and a clear path to success," Conway said. “For far too long, American workers have borne witness to a steady stream of plant shutdowns and closures. And while the pandemic certainly contributed to the devastation of the American economy and cost millions of jobs, the sad reality is that this trend stretches back well beyond this year.
 
“Donald Trump’s policies have been heavy on talk and massive corporate tax cuts, but light on strategic, long-term action when it comes to truly protecting American jobs. America’s workers and industries can’t count on short-term solutions."
 
For more on Trump’s broken promises to steelworkers, check out this video: 
 
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A Message from District 1 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/a-message-from-district-1 Tue, 08 Sep 2020 14:43:48 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/a-message-from-district-1 Click here to download this letter as a PDF.

USW District 1 Director Blatt recently sent the following letter to local union officers

Dear District 1 Sisters and Brothers,

With the November election fast approaching, the stakes for our Union could not be higher. The USW is a diverse Union that represents a cross section of the Nation’s economy in the private and public sectors. Likewise, the members we represent are diverse in their political affiliations and personal opinions with regard to the direction of our Country and who should lead that effort on the Federal, State and Local levels.

The USW realizes that finding 100% common ground on that issue is impossible. It is for that reason that endorsements on personal opinions are not practicable. As an organization, we must consider the issues that affords us the best environment for collective bargaining for our current members, retirees and organizing new members. 

Because the stakes are so high, the USW took the steps necessary to listen to those diverse opinions on the issues that are most important to our members. The Union developed a program called “Your Union Your Voice”. In January, February and March 2020, before the pandemic thwarted our efforts, the USW hosted 170 town hall meetings throughout the Nation, 13 in Ohio, to talk to our members about issues that were most important to them. The town hall meetings locations and times were widely published in the USW@Work, on the USW website and letters were sent to every local union to be read at the monthly meetings. The results of those meetings can be found on the USW website at “Your Union Your Voice”.

It is the policy of the USW International Union that in order for any candidate to get a USW endorsement, they must fill out and return a USW Issue Questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to both President Trump’s and Vice President Biden’s campaigns in November 2019. The questionnaire is important and we wanted to know each of the candidates position on issues that affect us in the workplace, such as trade and labor standards, affordable healthcare and organizing just to name a few. The USW questionnaire can be viewed on the USW website. President Trump did not return a questionnaire. Vice President Biden did submit answers to the USW questionnaire. The completed Biden questionnaire can be viewed on the USW website.

In the July USW Executive Board Zoom meeting, Vice President Biden made some significant commitments to our Union:

  • $1.3 trillion in infrastructure spending that would include a Buy America provision. It would guarantee any materials made to rebuild our Nation’s infrastructure would be made in the U.S.A. This would enhance manufacturing in every economic sector.
  • $400 billion to rebuild our cities that would include the same Buy America provision.
  • A seat at the table for Labor in any future Trade Agreement talks to ensure America’s workforce is protected.
  •  Vice President Biden assured us he would encourage and work for the passage of the Pro-Act that would protect our right to organize and level the playing field with meaningful improvements in collective bargaining rights and laws.
  • He would also close the tax loopholes for corporations and make them pay their fair share of taxes and restrictions on corporations and not be able to send our jobs overseas.
  • Enhance the Affordable Care Act and work to make the cost of healthcare cheaper for all U.S. citizens.

President Trump has not approached the USW for an endorsement or made any commitments in a second term. Some issues the USW has had with the Trump Administration:

  • President Trump has stated publicly he is for Right to Work (RTW); he also had his attorneys write a brief supporting RTW when the Janis case was heard by the Supreme Court. President Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court voted in favor of the Janis case to ensure passage.
  • President Trump appointed John Ring and Peter Robb as the Chairman and General Council of the NLRB. They are both Management-side Labor Attorneys who would allow corporations to unilaterally cut wages and reduce benefits.
  • Under the guidance of Ring and Robb, the NLRB has overturned decades of precedent in labor law, such as taking away the right to engage in mid-term bargaining and slanted worker’s rights to organize and join unions in favor of Corporations.
  • Most recently, the NLRB ruled that companies are not required to bargain over COVID-19 related practices or procedures. The companies also have the right to discipline or terminate workers who complain about unsafe workplaces related to COVID-19.

It is for all of the aforementioned reasons that the USW has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States and encourages your support. Vice President Biden has a long history of voting in favor of labor rights. Look for more information as we get closer to November 3rd.  

Each USW member has a right to vote for who they think will best represent them and their family and we will defend and support that basic premise.  However, this year we ask you to also consider who will support working families on workplace issues.  We should vote in what is our own best interests; and Vice President Biden has committed to stand up for us regarding collective bargaining issues.  The time has come for us to regain leverage at all our bargaining tables, not constantly defend what we have, but improving what we deserve.

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Become a gatekeeper for democracy https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/become-a-gatekeeper-for-democracy Tue, 08 Sep 2020 14:43:08 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/become-a-gatekeeper-for-democracy America is facing a record shortage of poll workers this year due to the coronavirus. Our democracy depends on ordinary people who make sure elections run smoothly and everyone's vote is counted.

We know Steelworkers are always at the front of the line when it comes to lifting up and helping those in our communities – it’s what we do!  That’s why we are reaching out to encourage our members to sign up to work the polls this November.

All poll workers get PPE and training, and most states even pay for this work.

Visit www.powerthepolls.org/USW to learn more and make sure to spread the word.

And click here for a printable informational sheet you can distribute in your workplace and community.

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USW President Conway: America still failing health care workers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/usw-president-conway-america-still-failing-health-care-workers Tue, 08 Sep 2020 14:39:56 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/usw-president-conway-america-still-failing-health-care-workers In his latest weekly blog, USW International President Tom Conway slammed U.S. leaders, including President Donald Trump, over the lack of support given to health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Read an excerpt below, or the full piece here.

American Red Cross workers travel from one community to another conducting the blood drives that save countless lives in emergency departments and operating rooms.

But they struggle to perform that vital work while keeping themselves safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many health care employers, the Red Cross fails to consistently follow social distancing and other coronavirus safety guidelines.

“Safety shouldn’t be only if it’s feasible,” observed United Steelworkers (USW) Local 254 President Darryl Ford, who represents hundreds of Red Cross workers in Georgia and Alabama. “It should be all the time.”

Eight months after COVID-19 hit America, the nation continues to fail the thousands of health care workers who put their lives on the line each day to help others survive the pandemic.

They still face chronic shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) because the U.S. never fixed the broken supply chains that resulted in highly publicized scarcities of face masks, respirators and other crucial equipment last winter. Some employers refuse to take even common-sense measures to keep workers safe.

Read more.

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The Oilworker: September 2020 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/the-oilworker-september-2020 Thu, 03 Sep 2020 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/the-oilworker-september-2020 FROM THE UNION

A message from the NOBP Chair

Brothers and Sisters,

I want to start this Oil Worker by sending our thoughts and prayers to the families in the South dealing with the impact of Hurricane Laura. Many of our members’ homes and workplaces were in the storm’s path and have seen significant damage.

While the price of oil has seemed to stabilize, the industry continues to scramble as it deals with the aftermath of the Russia/Saudi price war and the decrease in demand from the Covid-19 pandemic.  The various companies are dealing with these difficulties differently, which presents a variety of challenges for our members. 

Last month our members at Local 5 in Martinez received notice that Marathon will be indefinitely idling the Martinez refinery and chemical plant.  The company will be transitioning the facility to a terminal, and the number of positions, while still being determined, will be significantly impacted.

We were also notified by HollyFrontier that their Cheyenne Refinery would be transitioning to a renewable diesel plant, leading to a significant layoff.  While this was not necessarily due to Covid, as with Martinez, we are working with the companies, additional locals and others in the industry to lessen the impact to our members.

BP completed the sale of its Alaska production group to Hilcorp on July 1, 2020, and we were able to successfully come to an agreement on benefits with the new owner. We then received notice that BP sold its entire petrochemical business, including the BP Texas City chemical plant, to Ineos.  We started discussions regarding these workers and fully expect that Ineos will honor our successorship LOA.

Exxon announced that they intend to suspend the employer match of 7 percent to employees’ 401(k) plans.  Upon notification, the Council demanded to bargain.  While Exxon refused to bargain with the Council, it is bargaining on a site-by-site basis.  The Council is working together so that it can coordinate across the different tables.

NOBP in 2022 is going to be a little different, as the lead company changed. We came to an agreement with Marathon to be the lead company, taking the place of Shell which has represented the industry over the past 20 years.

With the industry and our lives turned upside-down over the past five months, I wanted to end on a good note and let everyone know that Local 624 at Husky Energy’s refinery in Lima, Ohio, completed their long and difficult round of bargaining and ratified their contract.

Thank you to all of you who have worked so hard to keep our workplaces safe and healthy. It’s been difficult the past months, but our solidarity is still strong and will carry us forward.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith

NOBP Chair
mjsmith@usw.org

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3M Cottage Grove Members Push Back Against Company’s Unsafe Proposals https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/3m-cottage-grove-members-push-back-against-companys-unsafe-proposals Thu, 03 Sep 2020 09:58:25 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/3m-cottage-grove-members-push-back-against-companys-unsafe-proposals More than 350 members of Local 11-418 began mobilizing in August, preparing to fight for a fair agreement and pushing back on management’s contract demands that would undermine health and safety and disrupt work/life balance.

“It is good to see the solidarity of our membership fighting back against these unreasonable company proposals which would negatively affect the health and safety of our members and the communities they live and work in,” said John Shinn, head of the USW’s chemical sector.

Bargaining started June 8 for a new agreement covering some 292 production workers and 70 in the building crafts. They work at the 3M Cottage Grove campus in Minnesota at six plants, each organized as a division with its own departments.

Members make everything from chemicals for other products to abrasives used in sanding pads and grinding wheels. They make glass bubbles for insulation and weight reduction for items like cars and planes, matting for catalytic converters, specialty films and tape.

Local 11-418’s contract expired Aug. 18 and is extended until Oct. 16, 2020. If an agreement is not reached by then, the contract will continue on 72-hour rolling extensions.

Local 11-418 Vice President Justin Recla said management proposes that the departments within a division be combined into one department so managers can move employees into different jobs at will. “This would be extremely unsafe, and 3M has no training in place to even try to accomplish this,” he said.

“All they talk about is flexibility. They said if we would agree to the proposal, they would ‘try’ to have training in place within two to three years. The ‘Run now, Train Later’ initiative is not an acceptable method,” Recla said.

Health and safety at risk

While the local has safety concerns in other divisions, the chemical division is the most dangerous work environment on the 3M campus, Recla said. He explained why the company’s  proposal for the chemical division would potentially harm workers’ health and safety and endanger the community and the environment.  

There are numerous chemical reactors spread out into three departments in the chemical division. Each reactor is different, and on-the-job training can take up to two years on one reactor before the person is confident to work alone. Even then, Recla said, a person may only know 25-30 percent about the other reactors in that one department. Under the current practice, an employee only works on the reactor for which he or she has received training.

These reactors mix highly dangerous at high pressure to create violent reactions. Expecting untrained and inexperienced personnel—without an intense, formal training process—to learn how to operate different reactors when management consolidates the three chemical departments into one is “reckless at best,” Recla said.

District 11 Staff Rep. Brian Ecker said 3M made its proposal the first day of bargaining and it still has not gotten back on the local’s information request on combining departments. “This company proposal is a huge concern for the local,” he said.

Work/Home balance threatened

Recla said another big concern with the company’s proposal is that it  gives management the ability to more freely move employees to other departments with no notice or approval by the union. Work schedules, including start times, would change for those moved, he said, because each department has different crew schedules and start times.

This will have a huge impact on workers’ work-life balance, Recla said, and “an employee’s quality of life outside of work is a top priority of the bargaining committee.”

Another company proposal gives management control over start times without the union’s approval. Management would give five days’ notice before changing start times, and it could implement 12-hour shifts.

“We feel this change would make it difficult to have a work/home life balance,” Recla said. “We have obligations outside of work, and for the company to change our start times and/or schedule with little notice would be unfavorable.”

Management control proposals

Ecker said that current contract language says the company and the union jointly determine job classifications when the company combines jobs or changes them. If there is disagreement, the union can take the issue to arbitration. He said the last time the union had to go to arbitration over a job classification was six years ago.

3M is proposing to delete this contract language and have “sole discretion to establish, discontinue, combine or modify job classifications.”

The company also proposes to change how job postings work, Ecker said. Under the company’s proposal, if a worker signs in to a new operation, they cannot leave to go to another unit for a year. If 3M adds a new piece of equipment, whoever is in the unit also cannot move to another job for a year.

The current agreement prevents 3M from changing benefits during the contract term, Ecker said, and the company wants to end that and have the ability to eliminate benefits unilaterally.

He said the company also wants to overhaul the grievance procedure. The company proposes “listening sessions” for the lower steps of the grievance procedure, with the human resources manager having sole authority to resolve grievances at the fourth and final step.

Mobilization

With help from USW’s Strategic Campaigns department, the local formed a Communications Action Team, which is texting bargaining updates and information about rallies to members, handing out flyers about informational pickets and using social media to drive home the local’s message. A billboard located near the 3M campus, Maplewood, also reinforces the local’s solidarity and need for a fair contract.

All these communication channels resulted in a good turnout for the local’s first informational picket. Ecker said about 150 members turned out at the gate. “It was really exciting and a really good turnout,” he said.

“When the company sees that many people outside their gate, it sends a message that the ‘concession stand is closed,’” Recla said. “They are definitely feeling the heat.”

Ecker said both sides will meet the end of September to bargain.

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District 11 Leadership: Trump Failed Minnesota Workers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/trump-failed-minnesota-workers Tue, 01 Sep 2020 20:05:05 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/trump-failed-minnesota-workers

Click here to download a printable PDF version of the letter.

USW District 11 Director Emil Ramirez released the following letter today:

Recently, Vice President Mike Pence visited Duluth, Minnesota for a Trump campaign rally. Pence claimed that President Trump stood for American jobs, workers and miners and has made America great again.

On August 28th a group of six mayors from the Iron Range wrote an endorsement of Trumps reelection. Our union believes those mayors are misguided and don’t fully understand the nature of the economics of the industry or the iron range. Just drive down the main streets of Virginia and Eveleth and count the shutdown businesses. It hardly seems like the “roaring back to life” that these mayors describe.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our nation is in the deepest crisis since the Great Depression and 74,257 people in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19; 1,814 have died. President Trump refused to acknowledge the threat posed by the coronavirus, mobilize resources or show leadership in the face of the global pandemic.

As a result of the pandemic, almost half of the workers at the Iron Range's mines were laid off. USS Keetac is still idle and its 260 employees on layoff. Yet somehow, the president and Republican- controlled Senate don’t care enough about Keetac workers or the other 16.3 million Americans who are unemployed to extend enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

The Trump administration did impose tariffs on imported steel. But for many workers, it was too little and too late. Since January 2017, 7,900 workers in the steel industry have lost their jobs due to shutdowns or cutbacks, including the shutdown of blast furnaces at USS Great Lakes Works.

So far this year, steel mills in the United States have operated at an average of 66% of capacity during 2020, steel production is down by 20% and steel prices are at their lowest point since President Trump took office.

President Trump has allied himself and his administration with the wealthy and powerful and against workers and the most vulnerable in our society.

He’s championed tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, increasing the federal deficit to record levels, but he’s failed to deliver the infrastructure program to rebuild our nation’s crumbling bridges and roads. He has worked to undermine collective bargaining, workplace safety, environmental safeguards, the Affordable Care Act, government ethics, congressional oversight and voting rights.

Contract negotiations in the steel and iron ore industry were difficult in 2018 and are likely to be difficult again in 2022. The companies will seek to divide us and demand cuts and concessions. Our nation and our union need a leader in the White House that supports working people and labor unions.

Vice President Joe Biden has long been a friend of workers and our union. He will fight to raise the minimum wage, expand access to affordable health care, stabilize multiemployer pension plans, defend Medicare and Social Security and preserve and expand civil and labor rights.

The USW is proud to endorse Joe Biden for president, as he seeks to put our country back on a path toward shared prosperity through responsible leadership.

International President Tom Conway

District 11 Director Emil Ramirez 

Staff Reprentative John Arbogast 

  
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Local 9460 President Deanna Hughes channels veteran experience, union training to lead Minnesota health care union https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/local-9460-president-deanna-hughes-channels-veteran-experience-union-training-to-lead-minnesota-health-care-union Mon, 31 Aug 2020 13:59:19 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/local-9460-president-deanna-hughes-channels-veteran-experience-union-training-to-lead-minnesota-health-care-union Local 9460 President Deanna Hughes, who also sits on the union’s Health Care Workers Council, was interviewed for the latest USW Solidarity Works podcast episode. The installment focused on women stepping up in leadership positions at all levels as well as the importance of women’s voices in the political and legislative conversation.

Deanna speaks in the episode on how her 12 years of military experience helped her develop that would eventually propel her into union activism and local union leadership.

“You learn how to be a follower first, and how to follow different styles of leadership,” Hughes said. “Then when you are responsible for people underneath you, you realize the choices you make affect everybody.”

Hughes also said she owes a lot to the union trainings she has received over the years, particularly the Building Power workshop, for how she has been able to handle challenges at work. Just this past spring, her employer, Essentia Health, laid off 800 workers amidst the pandemic—luckily, Hughes knew what steps to take.

“It was nice to have that education to fall back on. It helped immensely,” Hughes said. “We got a lot of community support and Essentia is finally starting to bring people back.”

To hear more, listen to the episode on your favorite streaming service or at usw.to/podcast.

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Tom Conway discusses Trump’s anti-worker NLRB on The Leslie Marshall Show https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/tom-conway-discusses-trumps-anti-worker-nlrb-on-the-leslie-marshall-show Wed, 26 Aug 2020 13:45:30 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/tom-conway-discusses-trumps-anti-worker-nlrb-on-the-leslie-marshall-show USW President Tom Conway appeared on the Leslie Marshall Show this week to discuss the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under President Trump, which regularly rules in favor of corporations and against workers.

The current NLRB facilitates union-busting, Conway said, by systematically chipping away at long-established rights and practices which allow workers to organize for better lives.

“The NLRB was originally meant to encourage people to join unions and work collectively with each other,” Conway said. “This board is now putting it all on the side of the employer and making it very difficult – if not impossible – for workers to be able to come together and have discussions.”

This includes changes that make it harder for workers to organize, such as allowing employers to withhold workers’ contact information from union organizers and to discipline those who mention organizing while at work.

Trump-appointees on the NLRB include corporate lawyers John Ring and William Emanuel and GOP congressional staffer Marvin Kaplan. The board’s general counsel, Peter Robb, is a longtime anti-union, management-side attorney that has set in motion many of the NLRB’s anti-worker stances.

“This president is no friend to workers, and in particular no friend to unionized workers,” said Conway.

“Frankly, I think our way out of this is to vote and get everyone you know to vote with you. The division in this country will heal up when we don’t have someone who drives that division as a tactic for staying in office.”

To listen to the entire interview about the anti-worker NLRB under the Trump administration, click below:

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Energy Secretary Visits Hanford https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/energy-secretary-visits-hanford Wed, 26 Aug 2020 07:37:29 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/energy-secretary-visits-hanford Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dan Brouillette visited the Hanford site the week of Aug. 10 to observe the progress in cleaning up decades of nuclear weapons production. Personnel at the site are preparing to treat the radioactive waste currently held in underground tanks.

Brouillette, along with Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar and U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, toured various facilities on the nuclear reservation, including key sections of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) under construction. The group addressed completion of the startup testing and cleanup progress at the nuclear reservation.

The Secretary said he was pleased to see the “tremendous work” the site’s 11,000 employees had done. USW Local 12-369 has about 560 members at the site who work for six contractors that report to the DOE.

“We are now getting ready to move into the tank cleanup phrase and address it in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner,” Brouillette said.

Hanford officials updated the Secretary on the Tank-Side Cesium Removal system, which will pretreat tank waste for vitrification, a process that turns waste into glass.

Brouillette cut a ribbon at the WTP Analytical Laboratory, which completed startup testing and has additional laboratory testing equipment and personnel. He also visited the WTP’s Low-Activity Waste Facility, where pretreated tank waste will be turned into glass, and toured the control room, where technicians are monitoring and remotely controlling systems as part of startup and testing activities.

Brouillette complimented the work he had seen at Hanford. “I think the future at Hanford is every bit as bright as its past,” he said.

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Federal Appeals Court Upholds Workers’ Comp Law Helping Hanford Workers https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/federal-appeals-court-upholds-workers-comp-law-helping-hanford-workers Wed, 26 Aug 2020 07:33:28 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/federal-appeals-court-upholds-workers-comp-law-helping-hanford-workers Workers at the Hanford nuclear decontamination site in Washington state, including 560 USW members, will keep their more direct access to workers’ compensation benefits, thanks to a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The three judges on Aug.19 unanimously upheld a 2018 Washington state law that allowed workers at Hanford to make workers’ compensation claims without proving their illness was related to their work at the site.

“Sick workers who were not able to get benefits under the Department of Labor’s federal compensation program have had better success filing under Washington state’s Hanford presumption law,” said Josh Artzer, the Local 12-369 nuclear chemical operator who helps current and former workers and their survivors access the benefit programs.

The U.S. Department of Justice challenged the state law, which presumes that any neurological disease or respiratory illnesses, as well as many types of cancer and some heat conditions, were the result of radiological or chemical exposures at the site.

Some contract workers at Hanford’s tank farm had fallen ill and had trouble proving their illnesses were connected to their work. Their employers—the contractors—did not always require them to use supplied air respirators to protect them from breathing in toxic chemical vapors associated with the chemicals held in the underground tanks.

About 1,500 chemicals are in the underground tanks, with the vapors vented into the air, and under the 2018 law, these workers no longer have to show the exact chemical or toxin they may have been exposed to that could cause illness.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit claiming that the 2018 law discriminated against the federal government and its contractors and that it violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  

In June 2019, U.S. Judge Stanley Bastian ruled against the Department of Justice. This month’s ruling upholds the lower court’s decision.

“There’s a word for President Trump and his Department of Justice’s attempt to rip away our state law helping Hanford workers access health care they earned—cruel,” said Bob Ferguson, Washington state attorney general, in a statement.

“Hanford workers are cleaning up one of the most contaminated sites on the planet, and they deserve these protections,” he said.

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Steelworkers picket with care workers for a contract in Michigan https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/steelworkers-picket-with-care-workers-for-a-contract-in-michigan Mon, 24 Aug 2020 11:01:14 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/steelworkers-picket-with-care-workers-for-a-contract-in-michigan Workers of the Bishop Noa Home in the shoreline city of Escanaba, Mich., gathered in both the sun and rain for an informational picket last Wednesday, August 17. The caregivers’ goal was to raise awareness about their need for a contract after voting to join United Steelworkers Local 2-21 two years ago.

“The Bishop Noa Home and the administration have chosen to take a very aggressive approach against our employees for simply trying to have a seat at the table and we’re here to support them along with our 700 members from the paper mill,” said Local 2-21 President Gerald Kell.

The activists have had to get creative in their efforts to push the Bishop Noa board to the table. Earlier this year, they hosted a dinner and invited all the board members—not a single one showed.

You can stay up to date on the workers’ campaign and support their efforts by visiting and liking the We Support Bishop Noa Workers page on Facebook.

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Retirement home workers in Canada officially join the USW https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/retirement-home-workers-in-canada-officially-join-the-usw Mon, 24 Aug 2020 10:58:19 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/retirement-home-workers-in-canada-officially-join-the-usw Workers at the Seasons Dufferin Centre retirement home in Trenton, Ontario, have officially become USW members after holding a secret-ballot vote supervised by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

Workers said they considered joining a union at various times in the past and their concerns over working conditions came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought staff turnover, increased workloads, and employees’ concerns going unaddressed.

“The expectations and the demands they put on us have been incredible,” said Amanda Grant, one of the workers who joined the USW.

Next steps for the employees include electing a bargaining committee and negotiating their first collective agreement with their employer.

“In the best of times, these workers provide vital care and services to our seniors under challenging conditions and circumstances,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

Click here to read more about the new members in Canada.

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Deliver Some Solidarity: Contact Congress and urge them to save our Postal Service. https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/deliver-some-solidarity-contact-congress-and-urge-them-to-save-our-postal-service Tue, 18 Aug 2020 09:27:28 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/deliver-some-solidarity-contact-congress-and-urge-them-to-save-our-postal-service For two hundred years, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has provided the essential communication services to bind our Nation together through some of its most trying times – including our current pandemic.

However, recent changes in overtime and the removal of sorting equipment are adding unnecessary burdens on our postal system. And, a 2006 law that forces the postal service to pre-fund 70 years of retiree benefits -  a demand that is not made of any other federal agency nor the private sector -- is bankrupting one of the Nation’s oldest and most reliable services.

Postal Workers need urgent support - let's show them the Steelworkers have their backs.

Here are a few things you should know about one of the oldest and very few government agencies specifically mentioned (and authorized) in the Constitution:

  • Veterans: the Postal Service employs more than 97,000 military veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country.
  • Heroes: Postal employees regularly go beyond the call of duty to protect the lives of customers they serve, including older and disabled customers. These workers are part of our communities – we know them by name – they are an integral part of the middle class.
  • Greener than you think: the paper for free Priority Mail boxes comes from well-managed forests and include at least 30-percent recycled content. Another bonus? Those boxes are made in USW facilities by our members.
  • Dependable: the Postal Service is the only organization in the country that has the resources, network infrastructure, and logistical capability to regularly deliver to every residential and business address in the nation.
  • Security: U.S. Mail is protected by more than 200 federal laws enforced by the Postal Inspection Service, one of the nation's oldest law enforcement agencies.
  • Zero tax dollars used: the Postal Service receives NO tax dollars for operating expenses. Because of this, it is mandated to run much like a private business, generating its income from the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.

Click here to send an email to your Member of Congress today to urge them to support the Postal Service!

You can also contact your Representative by dialing 866-202-5409 and your Senators by dialing 877-607-0785.

NOTE: Your zip code will direct you to your Member of Congress. Tell the office who you are and where you are from, and ask them to step in and provide the postal funding that our communities need. Be sure to make a second call to the Senate number so you can speak to both.

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Vice President Brown testifies on behalf of USW members, pushes for American infrastructure https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/vice-president-brown-testifies-on-behalf-of-usw-members-pushes-for-american-infrastructure Thu, 06 Feb 2020 13:25:27 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/vice-president-brown-testifies-on-behalf-of-usw-members-pushes-for-american-infrastructure

Vice President Roxanne Brown today testified on behalf of USW members before the the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means' Trade Subcommittee. The hearing was on 
“Trade Infrastructure for Global Competitiveness.”

VP Brown

"American manufacturing should be the first priority in an effort to improve export infrastructure facilitation. Our union, and U.S. workers everywhere, want to supply and build our trade infrastructure," Brown testified. "Domestic preferences in iron, steel, and manufactured goods, otherwise known as Buy America, have long been established, are consistent with our international obligations, and provide a critical slice of business for American manufacturers. 

"The USW supports the full application of these preferences where they exist, and the expansion of them into all current and potential future infrastructure programs," she said. "Utilizing domestic manufacturers for infrastructure procurement shows a commitment to American workers, and to the planet, and to our environment because U.S. manufacturers are among the cleanest in the world."

Click here for Vice President Brown's complete testimony.
 

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