United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed http://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/rss United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed 2022-09-27 16:21:08 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 Leeann Foster highlights holistic health and safety measures on the Leslie Marshall Show https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/leeann-foster-highlights-holistic-health-and-safety-measures-on-the-leslie-marshall-show Fri, 23 Sep 2022 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/leeann-foster-highlights-holistic-health-and-safety-measures-on-the-leslie-marshall-show USW International Vice President Leeann Foster last week joined the Leslie Marshall Show to highlight some important strides the union has taken to negotiate more holistic and equitable health and safety language into its contracts in the paper sector and beyond.

In addition to more familiar health and safety issues like identifying workplace hazards and tracking injuries, Foster spoke about domestic violence protections and other gender-inclusive policies now included in many contracts at USW-represented workplaces.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated rates of domestic violence across the gender spectrum and the Department of Labor estimates that domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year.

“What we want to do is make sure that if people are facing domestic violence, they're not also worried about losing their job,” said Foster.

The USW recently bargained domestic violence provisions into contracts with two major employers in the paper sector: Domtar and Packaging Corp. of America, covering 29 mills, 44 box plants and thousands of workers.

“Once we bring it to employers’ attention, they really see the value of making sure that there's a policy in place so that anyone who's encountering this issue in their life can bring that forward to management and it's dealt with confidentially,” Foster said.

Foster also mentioned other important measures to increase gender equity in the workplace like ensuring there is PPE to fit all body shapes, creating comprehensive bathroom policies and providing accommodations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

“I’ve been so proud of our brothers and sisters because this language is being brought to the table across the U.S. and Canada, and it makes a woman feel she can be successful and thrive in the workplace.

“Women face special challenges at work, and it’s all about support – we often have a second shift of family responsibilities, and this is helping our sisters balance that load.”

Click below to listen to the full interview with USW Vice President Leeann Foster.

The Oilworker: Special Message from the NOBP Chair https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-oilworker-special-message-from-the-nobp-chair Thu, 22 Sep 2022 08:35:54 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-oilworker-special-message-from-the-nobp-chair Brothers and sisters,

It is with a heavy heart that I write this message about the BP Cenovus refinery fire and explosion in Toledo, Ohio, last night. The two brothers, both at home and in our union, succumbed to the injuries they sustained.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and brothers and sisters at Local 1-346.

I have fielded many calls and inquiries about support. Please see the information below, which is a fund set up by the local to help the families through this tough time.

Ben & Max Morrissey Fund
Croghan Colonial Bank
4157 Navarre Ave.
Oregon, OH 43616


USW Local 1-346
2910 Consaul St.
Toledo, OH 43605

In Solidarity,

Mike Smith
Chair, National Oil Bargaining Program

The Oilworker: September 2022 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-oilworker-sept-2022 Tue, 20 Sep 2022 15:41:10 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-oilworker-sept-2022 A Message From the NOBP Chair

It was good seeing all of you who attended the International Convention last month in Las Vegas. It was a busy and productive week that was even more exciting because we were able to gather to do the work of the union in person. I hope everyone who was there made it home safely and that you’re sharing everything we accomplished with your locals.

As the summer comes to an end and NOBP winds down with many of the off-date groups ratifying their contracts, I want to thank everyone for your hard work throughout the process. This includes everything the policy committee and their alternates did during negotiations and beyond. I hope that you had the opportunity to take some well-deserved time off to spend with family and friends.

Our work never stops, however. While we may have three and a half years until contract expiration, we must not waste any time in preparing. This includes building out our bench of leaders and educating our membership. We need to maintain our communication networks and keep our finger on the pulse of changes within our industry.

Putin’s war on Ukraine continues to disrupt supply chains, forcing the Department of Energy to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – both for domestic use and for export abroad. We’ve also had to push back against new biofuel blending requirements. And, as ever, we must be ready in case our facilities change hands.

Workplace health and safety also remains an ever-present concern. Earlier this month, eight people were hospitalized after an explosion in Come By Chance, Newfoundland, Canada resulted in a fire. The USW is now pursuing a comprehensive investigation, with local leaders saying workers will not return until they know it’s safe.

I look forward to getting out and meeting with locals, discussing issues and building towards 2026. Our industry is clearly evolving, and there are challenges ahead. I have no doubt that we will be able to successfully deal with any obstacle as long as we stand together.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith
NOPB Chair

Reminder: Process Safety Representative Training Week of Oct. 3

We will be offering Process Safety Representative training the week of October 3, 2022, at Local 675 in Carson, Calif.

It is open to PSM Reps and JHSC members per the NOBP agreement. The training will be limited to 35 people.

Registrations will be accepted in the order they are received and must be submitted no later than Sept. 30, 2022.

Click here for more information.

Cenovus to Buy Remaining Stake in BP-Husky Toledo Refinery

The Canadian energy company Cenovus last month reached a deal with BP to buy the final 50 percent stake in the BP-Husky Toledo refinery. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year, at which time Cenovus plans to take over operations from BP. Workers will then become employees of Cenovus.

Click here to read the full article from Global News.

Local 9460 clinic workers see solid wage increases with latest contract win https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-9460-clinic-workers-see-solid-wage-increases-with-latest-contract-win Mon, 19 Sep 2022 14:44:48 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-9460-clinic-workers-see-solid-wage-increases-with-latest-contract-win Members of Local 9460 who work across five Essentia Health regional clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin ratified their latest collective bargaining agreements during the week of Sept. 6, securing solid pay increases and improvements to the overall wage scale. 

The bargaining committee, which consists of the five unit presidents as well as several other members for the bigger units, began meeting at the table with their employer in May. They were able to increase wages for all workers in multiple ways, such as simplifying the wage scale grid so that employees don’t have to wait as long to get a pay increase. 

“Many of these increases were long overdue, but they still add up,” said Local 9460 President Deanna Hughes.

LU 9460 health care workers

The contracts cover 122 health care workers, including registered nurses (RNs), radiology technicians, patient access representatives, and more. 

Although these units are small, they used that to their advantage. Two of the locations previously had evening wage differentials, and the group rallied to make sure members at the remaining three clinics will also receive the same.

Phlebotomists and lab technicians will also now be eligible for wage increases by completing specific training programs. Those who do will receive an extra $1 an hour. The bargaining committee also obtained clear and concise language to file grievances when members feel that they have not received adequate training around new technology, system updates, and policies/procedures. 

The spread-out local stayed connected throughout their summer of bargaining by organizing sticker days, hanging posters on the clinics’ bulletin boards, and posting signs in their car windows reading “Essential Workers Deserve a Fair Contract.”

Good on Paper: USW Members at Arkansas Factory Keep Supply Chain Moving https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/good-on-paper-usw-members-at-arkansas-factory-keep-supply-chain-moving Fri, 09 Sep 2022 13:08:04 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/good-on-paper-usw-members-at-arkansas-factory-keep-supply-chain-moving

Donald Walker retired as a member of Local 1327 at the Domtar paper and pulp mill in Ashdown, Ark., in 2020, taking with him 47 years of experience and a desire to spend more time with his family.

Just two years later, his union siblings and Domtar management needed to call upon that knowledge again as they worked to bring one of the mill’s machines back online. Walker obliged, returning to the mill in a part-time capacity.

“I take pride in my job, and I want to see the Ashdown mill succeed,” Walker said about his interrupted retirement and latest effort to make sure the facility continues to efficiently produce top-quality USW-made paper products. “It’s all about the young people coming up. If we don’t help them, who will?”

One of those young people happens to be Walker’s son, Calep, who followed in his father’s footsteps at Domtar in 2019 after a stint working overseas.

“I’m trying to fill his shoes,” the younger Walker said.

Donald Walker said that without the good-paying union jobs at the mill, his family and hundreds of other families in the area would struggle.

“If that machine goes down,” he said, gesturing toward his work station, “Ashdown goes down.”

Community Pride

The dedication to hard work and community solidarity that Walker demonstrated with his return to work also runs deep for many other members of the three USW units in Ashdown.

Local 1327 Vice President Jennifer Beard works in the Domtar laboratory, testing water samples each day to ensure that the mill remains in compliance with environmental regulations. She said that the USW membership and the company share a desire to make sure that the mill, which opened in 1968, is sustainable so that it thrives for future generations of Ashdown workers.

“Whatever happens, we’re going to be there for them,” she said of her USW siblings and families in Ashdown. “Our mill keeps money flowing in this community.”

The fact that the mill is the largest employer in the county, and that the USW-represented jobs there are the best in the region, keeps that economic ripple effect going strong far beyond the plant gates, Beard said.

“These are some of the best jobs anywhere in the area,” Beard said, crediting the 53-year history of the union at the facility and its productive relationship with Domtar management. The workers at the Ashdown mill organized into the United Papermakers and Paperworkers union in 1969, not long after the mill opened its doors. Through mergers, that union became part of PACE and then, in 2005, the USW.

Across three units – the production workers of Local 1327, the maintenance workers of Local 1329, and the clerical workers of Local 1329C – the USW represents about 600 people at the Domtar mill. Those units also participate, as part of the Domtar Council, in monthly conference calls with other USW locals representing about 2,000 workers at eight other locations.

Putting Safety First

Despite anti-union laws like right-to-work (for less) in Arkansas, less than 20 workers choose to shirk their responsibility to pay dues to the USW. That unity is evident in the close-knit working relationship that union members built in Ashdown and the way they look out for each other on and off the job.

Working in an environment with enormous machines, massive rolls of paper and constantly moving parts poses potential dangers, but electrician Michael Strasner said that the USW and the company collaborate to build a culture that puts safety first.

“That is our number one priority,” Strasner said of the USW commitment to eliminating potential workplace hazards. “It’s emphasized every day.”

That’s been particularly true through the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, pointing out that, because the Domtar plant was deemed an essential workplace, the members never stayed home during the coronavirus shutdowns.

“It was tough at times,” said Local 1329 President Mike Kilgore. Still, he said, the USW worked with the company to make sure that those who were exposed to COVID and had to quarantine were able to do so without risking the loss of a paycheck.

All the while, the workers in Ashdown continued to show up each day to produce the essential goods that kept vital supply chains stocked, particularly the absorbent fluff that goes into items like toilet paper, paper towels, diapers and other personal care products.

Proud Work Force

The members in Ashdown are proud of their contributions to maintaining the nation’s supply chain of vital goods, and of their efforts to keep the mill – and the region’s economy – running even at the most difficult times.

“The Ashdown mill is one of the country’s premier pulp and paper facilities,” said International Vice President Leeann Foster, a second-generation paperworker who oversees USW bargaining in the industry. “The members at Domtar should be very proud of their hard work and solidarity that has allowed them to become leaders in the industry.”

Jennifer Houser, a 38-year employee, and Sheila Wheeler, who has worked at the mill in a variety of roles over 31 years, agreed that key to Ashdown’s success over that time has been that union leaders and members of management are responsive to each other’s concerns.

“You don’t always agree, but you have to have an open mind and listen. If you don’t do that, the company’s going to go in the hole,” Wheeler said. “It really takes both sides coming together and working together.”

A good example of that teamwork came in 2018 when Domtar, in the midst of a companywide restructuring, approached the unions at Ashdown about the need to cut spending at the facility by $2.5 million. Local 1327 President Kevin Kesterson said the company initially proposed cutting 17 jobs in the woodyard.

“That would have been a disaster,” USW member David Hibbs said. “The employees showed a lot of resilience.”

Instead of simply eliminating jobs, a committee of workers, including Hibbs, studied the operation from top to bottom, identifying areas where the company could save significant amounts of money without harming workers.

“We just changed the way we did business,” Hibbs said, explaining that, as a result of a series of small changes, the Ashdown work force was able to achieve the savings the company sought with the elimination of only six jobs, all of which came through attrition and early-retirement incentives.

Not only did they avoid layoffs, but the workers eventually received hourly wage increases as a result of the cost-cutting effort, Kesterson said.

The ‘Timber Basket’

In addition to teamwork, another reason for the mill’s long-term success is geography. Ashdown and its surrounding area, where the southwest corner of Arkansas meets Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, is at the heart of what Local 1329 Vice President Patrick Montgomery calls “the timber basket,” which offers tremendous natural resources for pulp and paper companies.

Arkansas has 19 million acres of forest, where loblolly pine trees are plentiful. That unique timber provides a particularly soft wood, Montgomery said, making it perfect for the absorbent fluff that workers create in Ashdown.

Besides the workers at the Domtar mill, the USW also represents papermakers at the Graphic Packaging mill in nearby Texarkana, as well as at a nearby paper warehouse. In addition, there are at least five other USW-represented paper facilities in Arkansas, and several others not far away in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

The Ashdown mill alone brings in between 400 and 500 log trucks each day, which carry a total of 9,000 to 11,000 tons of wood, from which the workers create Domtar’s extensive lineup of products.

As part of Domtar’s dedication to sustainability, “for each tree they take, they plant new trees,” Beard said. 

The workers grind the wood into a pulp mixture that contains a large amount of water. Using massive machines, they squeeze the water from the pulp and gradually dry it out and form it into sheets. As the process continues, those sheets are adjusted for size, thickness and smoothness, depending on what the final product is destined to become. Rolls of finished paper are then either shipped directly to customers or converted into other products like office and printer paper.

At top capacity, the factory churns out more than 900 reams of paper per minute.

From the wood to the warehouse, workers are at the forefront, making sure machines run smoothly and that the final products meet Domtar’s quality-control standards.

As reams of office paper roll off the converter lines, USW members like Michael Martin conduct periodic audits to inspect the sheets for defects like wrinkles or discoloration, and then make the necessary adjustments.

“The quality of our paper determines the longevity of this mill,” Martin said.

In the end, the longevity of the mill means job security for USW members and economic security for their families and neighbors, Kesterson said.

The Next Generation

Eugene Crenshaw has worked at the mill for 52 years and served for 20 years as a union guard, and he has no plans to retire. As he looks to the future, he said, the most important task facing the members in Ashdown is to keep strengthening the USW’s solidarity so that the good jobs at Domtar are still there for the next generation of workers.

“This mill has made me what I am,” Crenshaw said.

In order for that to continue for decades to come, members must make sure that workers coming behind them understand all of the benefits that the union has fought for and won over the years, he said.

Educating and mentoring the next generation of paperworkers is a mission that Kesterson, Kilgore and other USW leaders in Ashdown are embracing.

“We can’t do anything without our members,” Kilgore said. “They are the future of this mill.”

With that future in mind, Beard is working with the state labor federation to develop outreach programs to educate local school children about the careers they can build in the paper industry and in other manufacturing jobs.

“The USW mills in this area offer workers a chance to support families, to build communities, and to retire with dignity,” said District 13 Director Larry Burchfield. “That is all possible because of the strength and solidarity of the union membership.”

The local USW hall, which the three units share, is decorated with photos, plaques and other memorabilia from the union’s earliest days. Each summer, the union workers and their families gather for a picnic to build solidarity and community spirit. The members also gather at the hall for regular charity drives to raise money for a host of local causes. And, in its most recent agreement with Domtar, Beard said, the USW was able to win contract language that established a labor-management diversity committee.

All of those initiatives are intended to ensure that the mill, and its good USW jobs, are there to support the people of Ashdown for years to come.

“There’s no other place around that offers this kind of quality of life,” Houser said. “That’s the union difference.”

Local 3657 member elected to Pride at Work National Executive Board https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-3657-member-elected-to-pride-at-work-national-executive-board Tue, 30 Aug 2022 10:18:32 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-3657-member-elected-to-pride-at-work-national-executive-board Delegates from unions across the United States convened in Minneapolis on August 18-20 for the Pride at Work Quadrennial Convention and elected a new slate of national board officers, including Brittani Murray, who serves as vice president of USW Local 3657 in Pittsburgh.

Murray will now serve as co-president of Pride at Work, the officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO that organizes mutual support between the labor movement and the LGBTQ+ community.

“I'm so excited to work with these incredible folks to promote our agenda of every worker, regardless of their gender or orientation, being adequately represented, and their rights expanded,” said Murray.

This new slate of officers hopes to boost union organizing efforts as well as Pride at Work chapter membership involvement.

Murray was also recently named as one of Multiplying Good’s inaugural class of Pittsburgh ChangeMakers, who work each fall to raise funds and awareness for Students in Action, a unique youth service, leadership and recognition program that supports, trains and empowers today's youth to be leaders.

Click here to learn more about Pride at Work and how to join!

D10 Motorcycle Run Raises $7,000 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/d10-motorcycle-run-raises-7000 Thu, 25 Aug 2022 13:59:22 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/d10-motorcycle-run-raises-7000 USW members from across Pennsylvania rallied on Saturday, Aug. 20, for the annual District 10 motorcycle run.

The event was the district’s ninth and most successful bike run yet, with members raising more than $7,000 for the March of Dimes March for Babies.

About 60 members and about three dozen motorcycles took part in the trip from Linden Hall in Dawson, Pa., to Deep Creek Lake, Md., and back again to Linden Hall, where they had dinner and participated in raffles and other fundraising events.

The March for Babies funds research, education and advocacy programs to improve the health of new mothers and their babies. Every dollar raised for the motorcycle run goes directly to the charity. Donations for the motorcycle run came through District 10 and from more than a dozen local unions, as well as from individual donors and businesses throughout Pennsylvania. 

One group of members from Local 10-00086 near Philadelphia made the nearly 600-mile round-trip from their hometown to Linden Hall to attend the event.

“USW members are always willing to put their time and energy toward a worthy cause, and it’s great to see,” said event organizer and District 10 staff rep Rick Benson. “This was yet another example of Steelworkers making their community a better place.”

USW Convention Panoramic Photo Available to Order https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/convention-panoramic-photo-available-to-order Tue, 23 Aug 2022 10:05:30 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/convention-panoramic-photo-available-to-order USW Convention 2022 group photo

The panoramic photo for the 2022 USW Constitutional Convention is now available to order for your union hall or office. 

Grab your piece of history with this one-of-a-kind panoramic photo of the thousands of Steelworkers gathered recently for our 2022 Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas. The moment was captured with a unique process that results in a 12” x 36” piece of commemorative art.

Sold unframed, the high-quality photo features the "Everybody's Union" convention logo and text with the convention name, dates and location.

Order your copy today and preserve the memory of a historic week for the USW. 

A thank you letter from Ukraine https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/a-thank-you-letter-from-ukraine Tue, 16 Aug 2022 10:23:55 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/a-thank-you-letter-from-ukraine Ukraine soldier with USW provided sleeping bag

As you always do, Steelworkers answered the call when we asked in March for donations to help our union family in Ukraine, where war is ravaging fellow workers and families. So far, we've been able to donate $75,000 - funds that have helped provide necessities for union members who continue to hunker down, fighting off Russian attacks. 

"We are incredibly grateful to you and United Steelworkers for such significant help," Natalya Marynyuk, Head of The Primary organization of The Trade Union of the Metalworkers and Miners of Ukraine at PJSC 'ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih' sent us in a note this week.
"We have already bought 100 sleeping bags, which are essential for trade union members who sleep in trenches and bomb shelters. Thanks to you, we now have the opportunity to buy first-aid kits, heaters and thermal underwear for our trade union members who are fighting for the independence of Ukraine and protecting Ukrainians from Russian aggression," Marynyuk wrote. "From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your sympathy for the Ukrainian people and for your solidarity support at such a difficult time for us."
The USW International already sent funds to the global union organization IndustriALL to help support our fellow union members in Ukraine, and we know many of you have acted to help our Ukrainian siblings.
As this war drags on, and their need grows ever greater, we know the USW will continue to stand in global solidarity with Ukrainian workers, doing everything we can to help them withstand these atrocities.
In order to make this process more streamlined, we set up a designated account at the headquarters to collect donations to send to workers in Ukraine. The international will provide additional funds, and we encourage you and your locals to give generously to support your fellow union members, just like Steelworkers always do.
If your local would like to either take up a collection or make a contribution from your treasuries, we will continue bundling these donations and transmitting them at once, crediting your contributions by local and location.
Please make your donation checks payable to the “United Steelworkers” and reference “Ukraine Aid” on the memo line of the check. Please forward your donations to the attention of John Shinn, International Secretary-Treasurer, United Steelworkers, 60 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
Or you can give online at usw.org/donate - write "Ukraine Aid" on the designated field before submitting your online form.
Thanks for all you do.
Delegates pass series of resolutions focused on health care at USW International Constitutional Convention https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-pass-series-of-resolutions-focused-on-health-care-at-usw-international-constitutional-convention Mon, 15 Aug 2022 10:16:02 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-pass-series-of-resolutions-focused-on-health-care-at-usw-international-constitutional-convention USW delegates passed a series of resolutions at the International Constitutional Convention last week meant to strengthen the union’s commitment to fostering an organization for all workers, including several resolutions focused on health care and safety.

Health care workers from several locals were in attendance on the convention’s first day to present the Collective Bargaining resolution, including Melissa Barrios out of District 12 and Jessica Montgomery of District 6. The resolution calls for local bargaining committees to negotiate for full reproductive health services and travel coverage for those members living in states which prohibit such coverage.

A friendly amendment was also proposed on the final day by Local 7600 member and health care worker Tammi Requejo, who is a recent graduate of the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center trainer fundamentals program. She proposed to add the language on “Raising the Bar on Women's Health and Safety” to the general Health, Safety and Environment resolution.

This language is based off of the USW Women of Steel’s newly created guidebook, which aims to provide local union leaders and activists a road map to take on the fight for a safe and healthy workplace for everyone. International President Thomas Conway accepted the amendment on the floor and it was rolled into unanimous vote.

Another win for health care included Resolution 23, which will now allow the USW Health Care Workers Council to have a conference every two years instead of every three years, marking a significant improvement for the sector.

Watch International President Tom Conway’s keynote speech on opening day below.

Delegates Vote to Advance Health and Safety Work https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-vote-to-advance-health-and-safety-work Thu, 11 Aug 2022 15:08:28 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-vote-to-advance-health-and-safety-work USW convention delegates unanimously approved resolutions on Thursday to advance the union’s fight for safer and healthier workplaces, while also paying tribute to their fellow Steelworkers who lost their lives in workplace incidents.

The first resolution, “Health, Safety and Environment,” contained a long list of commitments USW members made to step up their efforts to protect each other. That vote was followed by a scroll memorializing all of the workers at USW-represented facilities who were killed on the job in the five years since the union’s last convention.

The memorial scroll of 144 fallen workers’ names, International President Tom Conway said, was a powerful reminder of why the union’s priority must always be making sure that workers come home safely at the end of their shifts.

Later in the morning, another resolution passed unanimously recommitting the USW to supporting its Emergency Response Team (ERT) program, which provides victims, family members and co-workers with immediate assistance in the aftermath of a serious workplace injury or death. The team, which includes member coordinators across the union, responded to 220 incidents since the 2017 convention.

Thursday’s focus on safety and health kicked off with the delegation marking the 30th anniversary of the Westray mine disaster and celebrating the work USW members did in the aftermath to enact change.

On May 9, 1992, an explosion killed 26 underground coal miners in Plymouth, Nova Scotia. Following that tragedy, USW members launched an effort to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to hold company leaders responsible for violations that result in serious injuries or death. The legislation, known as the Westray Bill, became law in 2004.

Even after that victory, USW members continue their activism with the “Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law” campaign to make sure prosecutors actually put the law to use and held companies accountable.

“It’s never over,” Canadian National Director Marty Warren said of the USW’s efforts to protect workers. “It’s a continuous fight, every day.”

To help members with that fight, Thursday’s resolution committed USW locals to expanding and improving enforcement of the health and safety clauses in their collective agreements, including the right to refuse unsafe work, and to better educate members about their rights in the workplace. The resolution also urges members to elect political leaders who support advancements in workplace safety and pledged “unrelenting opposition” to any efforts to weaken any laws protecting workers in the United States and Canada.

More than a dozen members spoke from the floor in strong support of the health and safety resolution, many of them recalling personal experiences with workplace incidents and stories of friends who were injured or killed on the job.

“When you see how these accidents affect families,” said Bill Slater of Local 2724 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. “Safety has to be number one.”

Bill Fredette of Local 2705 in the Minnesota Iron Range said it’s essential that longtime members make sure that newer workers learn about their rights on the job so that all members can fight to protect each other.

“It’s important that we share information and educate members,” said Fredette. “Safety is everybody’s job.”

‘The USW is Charting a New Era,’ VP Harris Says https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-usw-is-charting-a-new-era-vp-harris-says Wed, 10 Aug 2022 17:04:18 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/the-usw-is-charting-a-new-era-vp-harris-says The USW has strengthened the nation and its economy for decades and is in the process of doing it again through the work of its members, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told the union’s convention delegates on Wednesday.

“USW steel built our nation, and USW organizing built our middle class,” Harris said. “You created prosperity and opportunity.”

Thanks to a host of pro-worker initiatives the Biden administration championed in Washington over the past 18 months, the USW is poised to lead the way again in rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing sector and empowering more workers through organizing.

“This is the beginning of a new era in the American labor movement,” she said. “Led by you – the USW is charting that new era.”

Among the administration’s victories, Harris said, were the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law passed last fall, a new law providing $53 billion for the production of semiconductor chips in the United States, measures to cut health care and drug costs, and tax cuts that reduced child poverty by 40 percent in less than two years.

The infrastructure bill alone has already begun to create millions of new jobs, and helped to reduce unemployment to its lowest level in 50 years, she said.

“Other people promised to do it,” Harris said of the administration’s successful effort to secure 10 years of infrastructure funding. “We did it.”

That means more work for USW members who make steel, aluminum, cement, rubber, optical fiber, auto parts and countless other industries. And, with the Inflation Reduction Act under consideration in Congress, the White House is aiming to force huge corporations to finally pay their fair share in taxes and fund new initiatives to help working families.

“These investments will create good union jobs,” Harris said. “It’s clear that our nation is making progress.”

Still, more work needs to be done to help struggling Americans, she said, like passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to make it easier for workers to join unions and crack down on employers who try to silence them.

Doing that will bolster the USW’s new organizing initiatives and provide a path to the middle class for millions of American workers, Harris said.

“We are guided by the spirit of this great labor union,” she said. “Our administration will be with you every step of the way.”

Delegates Direct Major Focus on Organizing https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-direct-major-focus-on-organizing Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:09:55 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/delegates-direct-major-focus-on-organizing Delegates to the 2022 Constitutional Convention redoubled the USW’s commitment to organizing Tuesday, passing resolutions to fuel union drives across broad swaths of the economy and raise the USW’s profile as a “growing, progressive union” that “helps people change their lives by unionizing.”

“People want more power. They want more of a voice. They want more opportunity,” International President Tom Conway said, referring to the surging demand for union representation amid a pandemic that’s shown workers how much they need the protections and benefits of organized labor.

Union election petitions filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board skyrocketed 58 percent in recent months. At the same time, unfair labor practice charges shot up 16 percent, reflecting employers’ efforts to thwart organizing drives at any cost.

In one resolution, “Organizing for Strength,” delegates called on the USW to fight relentlessly against so-called right-to-work laws, union-busting campaigns and other attacks on workers’ rights while also marshaling the union’s resources to build density in core and emerging industries.

The resolution put a stamp of approval on Conway’s plan, announced in April, to recruit and train dozens of members for grassroots, worker-to-worker organizing in both countries. It also directed the USW to support local union organizing committees, build new alliances with community allies and widely promote the advantages of union membership.

“If everybody knew what this union is, it would be ‘Everybody’s Union,’” said Martin L’Abbée, USW staff representative and member of Local 9584 in Quebec, one of 20 delegates who rose to speak in support of the resolution.

In a second resolution, “Honoring Our Past and Present While Building the Next Generation,” delegates laid the groundwork for growing the union through the USW NextGen program, the AFL-CIO’s Next Up initiative and the young workers committee at the Canadian Labour Congress.

And in a third resolution, “Environmental Responsibility: Acting Today to Protect USW Jobs Now and in the Future,” delegates directed the union to support “all current generating options for electric utilities” while also reaching out to workers in wind, solar and other emerging industries.

These efforts will build on the USW’s recent organizing successes, which include welcoming prison chaplains, baristas, university professors, professional football players and tire industry workers, among thousands of others, into the union. Delegates watched a video recounting how workers at Kumho Tire in Macon, Ga., overcame the company’s brutal anti-union campaign to join the USW.

“The good guys always win in the end,” declared Alex Perkins, a leader of the Kumho drive.

Conway: ‘We are Everybody’s Union’ https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/conway-we-are-everybodys-union Mon, 08 Aug 2022 18:15:49 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/conway-we-are-everybodys-union International President Tom Conway opened the USW’s 2022 Constitutional Convention on Monday, Aug. 8, with an address that celebrated the union’s victories and recommitted the USW to leading the fight for better lives for workers in the coming years.

“We make things. We help people. We are the backbone of this economy,” Conway told the approximately 2,000 USW member delegates gathered at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. “And we are never, ever going to let anyone forget how essential we are.”

Conway, in his first convention address since becoming USW president in 2019, said that Steelworkers in all sectors of the economy – from health care to manufacturing – have proved repeatedly that they are an indispensable part of keeping the nation running, through the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.

“The work we’ll be doing here this week,” he said, “is some of the most important we do as a union.”

That work, he said, includes rededicating the USW to its core mission, and laying out a plan for the future to ensure that mission will be successful.

“That’s why we’re here brothers and sisters,” Conway said. “Because every worker deserves a seat at the table and the protections of a union contract.”

Making sure more workers gain those protections, he said, means constantly growing the union by mobilizing member organizers across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, who will talk to their peers about joining the movement.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that workers are hungry for unions,” he said. “We’re going to expand existing efforts in our traditional sectors, and we’re going to look at new industries.”

Conway said the efforts of every USW member – local bargaining and safety committees, Rapid Response and political activists, Women of Steel, Next Generation leaders and SOAR members – will be integral to those fights, as the union is sure to face opposition from greedy employers and anti-union politicians.

 “Corporations try to exploit our differences,” Conway said. “But what they get instead is relentless, unwavering solidarity.”

On Monday, the USW delegation heard from other speakers and passed a series of resolutions meant to strengthen the union’s commitment to those fights, including a resolution reinforcing the 2022 convention theme, “Everybody’s Union.” Conway returned to that theme throughout his address.

“We know what it means to be part of everybody’s union,” he said. “It’s an unyielding dedication to watching out for each other and helping each other through tough times.”

The emergence of new technologies and the growth of clean energy jobs means that the USW membership of the future may not look the same as it did 80 years ago, but its strength and solidarity will only grow.

“We will continue to work together,” he said. “We’ll support each other and ensure our union and our communities can keep growing and thriving for 80 more years, and another 80 years beyond that.” 

Local 652 Members Play Key Role In Overhaul of Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-652-members-play-key-role-in-overhaul-of-advanced-test-reactor-at-idaho-national-laboratory Fri, 05 Aug 2022 13:37:27 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/local-652-members-play-key-role-in-overhaul-of-advanced-test-reactor-at-idaho-national-laboratory About 150 USW-represented workers were involved in the rare 11-month overhaul of Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor. More than 500 employees at the site engaged in the project.

“USW members did the overhaul work and worked with engineering, management and operations,” said Brian Anderson, Local 652 unit president of the nuclear energy side of Idaho National Laboratory (INL). “Our folks were the heart of the operation. It was really a team effort from the INL director to the USW workers, and all the front-line supervisors were former USW-represented employees.”

Refurbishment of the advanced test reactor began in April 2021, and INL called the process a “core internals changeout.” The outage also allowed for the upgrading and replacement of the reactor’s experimental capabilities and other infrastructure around the plant.

This was the sixth core overhaul of the reactor, which occurs about every 10 years.

It has a one-of-a-kind design and is the world’s largest, most powerful, flexible, highest capacity materials test reactor. It can run multiple tests at the same time, and there is high demand for test slots, with some booked years in advance.

Reactor experiments help test new fuels and materials for advanced reactors that produce less waste and help reduce greenhouse gases. These experiments also help the U.S. nuclear navy, aid NASA’s space exploration, advance life-saving medical treatments and keep commercial nuclear plants operating longer.

USW workers remove experiments in and out of the reactor. “It’s challenging,” Anderson said, “but it’s rewarding because no one else does what we do.”

Advance Planning

A small group began planning for this overhaul in 2012, and developed briefing books for the core internals changeout that linked each detailed operating procedure with photos, drawings and other key information about the specific custom tools, parts and supplies needed for each step of the overhaul process.

These briefing books were important because only 12 USW workers had experience with a core internals changeout. A pipefitter for 23 years at ATR, Anderson worked on one overhaul previously and helped mentor and train workers new to the process. He also coordinated work and inserted himself into the workforce to hear concerns and comments.

To work on the reactor, he said that workers have to be certified on its systems and be knowledgeable about the reactor itself and their trade. It takes intense training to get certified and at least quarterly training to keep up.

The first phase of the overhaul ended with the removal of the 31-ton stainless steel reactor lid on July 1, 2021. After USW mechanics and heavy equipment operators lifted the lid with overhead cranes, they then replaced the reactor’s key internal components that experience wear and tear from regular operation.

Many different union members took part in the overhaul: USW Local 652 represents 27 different classifications, all whom significantly contributed to the success of this almost year-long project.

USW machinists modified the parts going into the reactor, built all the tooling and parts, and worked two years prior to the overhaul to get everything ready for the project. The machinists won the INL director’s annual award for their contribution.

“I think we executed this project in a challenging environment,” Anderson said. “Our members were professional and worked safely. We pooled our talents, thought creatively to overcome resource constraints, made repairs that saved time and money to meet the INL mission, engaged in teamwork and had a mindset that demonstrated commitment to excellence.”

After undergoing safety testing and the calibration of new instruments and sensors, the advanced test reactor began operations in mid-July.

Pictured: USW members worked on the overhaul of the advanced test reactor at Idaho National Laboratory. Photos courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.

USW Member Joins Paducah Citizens Advisory Board https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/usw-member-joins-paducah-citizens-advisory-board Thu, 04 Aug 2022 14:22:13 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/usw-member-joins-paducah-citizens-advisory-board William R. “Billy Bob” Clark, an operator with Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership and a Local 550 health and safety representative, is bringing his experience to the Paducah Citizens Advisory Board.

The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management appointed Clark to the board in June for a two-year term along with four other people.

Various stakeholders sit on the advisory board, which provides information and makes recommendations on issues impacting the cleanup of the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site to the Office of Environmental Management. This includes cleanup standards and environmental restoration, stabilization and disposition of non-stockpile nuclear materials, and future land use and long-term stewardship.

Clark worked at the Paducah site when it enriched uranium and Martin Marietta Energy Systems was the operating contractor. Since then, he worked under five contractors, and participated in the deactivation and remediation process.

“With my background in operations, I know the daily, weekly and monthly testing of safety devices, and understand that if something fails, the system is taken off line. Those folks on the advisory board are not familiar with our buildings and what goes on,” Clark said. “I can help them through the history of what was out there at the site.”

“I thought it would be interesting to influence the future of the plant,” he added.

He said the advisory board looks 10 years ahead, thinks about the progress it wants to see at the site,  makes a yearly proposal and gets a budget from the federal government. Helping plan for the future and determining the action steps to take are a large part of the board’s duties.

Recycling of non-radioactive materials like oil in the transformers and copper busbars is one area the board considers, he said. Done right, this will help that the environment and put money back into the community.

“I plan to listen more at first,” Clark said. “I don’t know what will come of my participation, but I will wade into this new experience with open eyes.”

Paducah Local 550 Gains Recognition For Participation in ‘Take Two For Safety’ Team https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/paducah-local-550-gains-recognition-for-participation-in-take-two-for-safety-team Wed, 03 Aug 2022 08:37:43 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/paducah-local-550-gains-recognition-for-participation-in-take-two-for-safety-team The Department of Energy (DOE) this June named the “Take Two for Safety” team at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site as the Outstanding Safety Culture Team.

Deactivation and remediation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership (FRNP) formed the “Take Two for Safety” team in 2021 with Local 550 health and safety representatives and professionals from safety and occupational medicine and communications.

FRNP is the first recipient of the safety culture award.

Pictured: Local 550 health and safety representatives (L-R) William R. “Billy Bob” Clark, Robert Fulton and Gloria Talley.

“Our plant manager, Myrna Redfield, put a team together and appropriated money to get people to think more about what they’re doing instead of rushing out and doing a job,” said William R. “Billy Bob” Clark, a Local 550 health and safety rep. “We had minor vehicle accidents and procedure step violations where people were not thinking and maybe had something on their mind.”

“Take Two for Safety” is about employees taking two minutes to stop, think and check to see they have the tools, equipment and personal protective equipment to do their jobs safely.

“One of the first steps we did to get members familiar with the program was to pick different groups until we reached everybody,” said Gloria Talley, a Local 550 health and safety rep.  “The contractors provided the sack lunches, and we met with different crews and talked to them about the project before it started and answered their questions.”

A major part of “Take Two for Safety” is having workers fill out a card when they see someone doing a job safely. Talley said disciplining workers for doing unsafe work is not part of the program.

Workers also use the cards to express safety concerns. The health and safety reps. meet with the person who submitted a card and help figure a solution to the safety problem. Twice a week they also meet with upper management to discuss the health and safety issues that workers flagged.

Talley said the focus on reporting positive health and safety actions is fun for everybody. Management holds an ice cream social each month for everyone who submits a card, and every month five cards are drawn and each person gets a gift. The industrial hygienist group chooses one card each month that they think has a message that would benefit everyone, and that person gets a good parking spot at work.

Clark, Talley and fellow health and safety rep. Robert Fulton said the DOE award made them feel proud, and it was a bonus for their hard work on the team.

“It makes the plant looked at in a positive way,” Fulton said. “By us being recognized by DOE and getting an award for that, it makes everybody out here a little bit proud.”

District 1 Women of Steel Scholarship Recipients https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/district-1-women-of-steel-scholarship-recipients Wed, 20 Jul 2022 13:31:13 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/district-1-women-of-steel-scholarship-recipients United Steelworkers District 1 Women of Steel Scholarship Committee met Monday, July 18, to select the 2022 scholarship recipients.

Thirty applications were reviewed by the Committee before they randomly selected winners from the eligible applicants.

District 1 Women of Steel Academic Scholarships ($2,000 each):

  • Cayla Holman, daughter of Jackie Holman, Cleveland, OH, Local 979
  • Kylie McKeegan, daughter of Sean McKeegan, Yorkville, OH, Local 1223

The Committee members are Sara Benedict, Karen Halladay, Vickie Stage and Teresa Cassady, Coordinator.

Part 2: Labor and Elections https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/part-2-labor-and-elections Tue, 19 Jul 2022 11:06:48 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/part-2-labor-and-elections Last month we wrapped up our Election Connection newsletter by sharing language from a resolution on Political Action (Resolution No. 14), which was adopted at our union’s first Constitutional Convention in 1942.

Pictured: Delegates to the first-ever United Steelworkers of America Constitutional Convention.

While 80 years have passed, the intent and urgency of Resolution No. 14 is as relevant today as it was during that founding convention. Part 2 of our Labor and Elections series is dedicated to explaining why that is the case.

In 1942, the nation was struggling to piece together a foundation upon which the American Dream could be built following the Great Depression. At the same time, the vast majority of countries around the globe, including the United States, were involved in or affected by World War II.

While our nation has grappled with a different set of challenges in recent years, working families are dealing with many of the same struggles we faced nearly a century ago.

Most Americans were dealing with poverty, poor health, inadequate housing and dangerous workplaces with almost no end in sight. That is, until workers got organized in state and federal elections and helped elect enough allies in government who worked to advance pro-worker legislation, including:

  • the National Labor Relations Act, which established the right of private-sector workers to join unions;
  • the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established child labor laws and assured the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay;
  • the Social Security Act, which helped Americans’ retire in their mid-60s, nearly eradicating poverty among the elderly;
  • and other laws that improved workplace safety standards, guaranteed unemployment insurance and more.

Our union insisted these legislative victories were only the beginning, and thus included in Resolution No. 14 the pledge to help elect “representatives, regardless of political faith or allegiance, who have demonstrated that they may be relied upon to back the full objectives of labor.”

Further, Resolution No. 14 urged all unions affiliated with the CIO and the AFL to “undertake joint action through the nation in conformity with this pledge.”

In other words, at our founding convention, the USW made the case for the establishment of a permanent, concerted effort within the labor movement to organize workers and our families to achieve greater power at all levels of government.

Today, that structure is known as Labor 2022, and next month the USW will officially launch the Labor 2022 campaign to elect lawmakers who will support workers, no matter their party affiliation.

The Labor 2022 campaign mobilizes Steelworkers to talk with other working people across industries – including autoworkers, plumbers, nurses, teachers and more – to build solidarity and encourage political action that advances workers’ rights.

Everybody in. Nobody out.

Solidarity has always been at the heart of our movement, and so has political action.

USW secures domestic violence language in new Domtar, PCA contracts https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/usw-secures-domestic-violence-language-in-new-domtar-pca-contracts Thu, 14 Jul 2022 13:16:41 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2022/usw-secures-domestic-violence-language-in-new-domtar-pca-contracts Domestic and family violence and abuse, if not addressed with support and compassion, can have serious negative impacts on survivors’ health, safety, and economic security. The good news is that sound strategies and policies can alleviate these risks and help survivors get back on track.

This is why USW paper sector activists and leaders prioritized domestic violence language in the latest collective bargaining agreements at Domtar and Packaging Corporation of America (PCA).

Last summer, in 2021, sector leaders began looking at similar language already in place in Canada and recruited the help of District 1 Assistant to the Director Teresa Cassady, who is an advocate for domestic violence survivors, and is a survivor herself.

“This language is life-changing for members going through domestic violence in that they will know their job will be there if and when they need to go to a safe place or while they are going to court,” said Cassady. “It gives them one less thing to worry about.” 

The goal is to provide proactive support and training for everyone within a workplace, leave language, and a process for getting that language that is supportive while maintaining a high level of confidentiality for those involved.

Union leaders developed the majority of the language during the USW paper sector conference later that year, and introduced it that week during a town hall focused on women in the industry, hosted by Vice President Leeann Foster.

“All of our brothers and sisters have shown great support and interest, even company leaders,” said Breahn Quigley Knackert, who serves as Key Staff for the USW paper sector. “We knew we were on the right path.”

The union proposed the language for the first time in October 2021 with Domtar, followed by PCA mills. It also just secured the same language for workers at the PCA converter plants.

Some of the key components of this contract language include, but are not limited to: paid leave (which can be supplemented by additional unpaid leave and which does not use up members’ sick leave or vacation); requirement to prove the member is experiencing domestic violence that accepts proof from a wide range of sources, including local union officials, doctors, and spiritual leaders; protection from discipline; and employer commitment to safety planning and optional paid training for peer advocates.

“Our plan is to propose the same consistent language at the table moving forward,” said Foster. “Expanding this beyond the paper sector is also a top priority, and we encourage locals to work with their staff reps to secure these protections for their workplaces.”

Click here to view Teresa Cassady’s testimony of surviving domestic abuse.