David McCall

David McCall

International President

The USW International Executive Board appointed David McCall the union’s ninth International President on Sept. 26, 2023.

He previously served four years as International Vice President (Administration), leading negotiations that delivered wage increases, stronger job security and other gains for tens of thousands of workers in steel, tire and other key industries.

McCall, a fourth-generation Steelworker, was born and raised in Gary, Ind. His great-grandfather, grandfather, great-uncles, uncles and mother all worked at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works, and he walked his first picket line at age 7 during the USW’s 116-day, industry-wide strike in 1959.

McCall was 18 when he joined USW Local 6787 and went to work as a millwright at Bethlehem Steel’s sprawling Burns Harbor Works in northwestern Indiana. After the company fired him and other union members during a wildcat strike, a USW staff representative got them back their jobs. And when the staff rep mentioned the need for a new shop steward, McCall accepted the challenge.

“He handed me a contract book and a set of grievance forms,” McCall said. “I took the job seriously, and we started addressing a bunch of problems.”

Grateful co-workers put McCall on the grievance committee in 1971, then elected him committee chairman in 1975 and Local 6787 vice president in 1985. 

His rise through the ranks coincided with the flood of low-quality steel imports into U.S. markets, and he organized Local 6787’s food bank and support committees to assist families devastated by the layoffs roiling America’s economy.

Those experiences helped to prepare him for future battles as he joined the USW staff, serving first as a Staff Representative and then as Sub-District Director in Gary, Ind., from 1989 until his appointment as Assistant Director of District 7 in 1997.

In April 1998, McCall and now-District 7 Director Mike Millsap helped lead a days-long sit-in at the Canton, Ohio, headquarters of Republic Engineered Steels to protest the company’s plan to cut hundreds of union jobs in the Midwest and open a $300 million non-union mini-mill in the South.

A judge arrived on the scene and threatened McCall and other union leaders with arrest, saying he’d taken an oath to enforce the law and had no choice but to have them forcibly removed from the building.

“We took an oath, too, Your Honor, an oath to our members,” replied McCall, who was leading negotiations with the company. “We’re not leaving.”

Police ultimately slapped handcuffs on McCall, Millsap and about a dozen other union officials, all of whom spent the night in jail. The judge suspended the rest of their sentences, however, and plans for the non-union mill quickly fizzled amid Republic’s sale to investment groups later that year.

Victories like this cemented McCall’s reputation as an ardent advocate and tough negotiator, and in January 1999, the International Executive Board named him to fill a vacancy as the Director of District 1, the union’s largest district, with about 80,000 members in Ohio.

The choice ensured steady, pragmatic leadership during turbulent times. McCall worked collaboratively with employers to save jobs and protect benefits whenever possible while tirelessly fighting those who dared to exploit workers.

McCall was just several months into the director’s job when Armco locked out about 500 members of Local 169 in a dispute over unlimited mandatory overtime and other issues in Mansfield, Ohio. 

The lockout continued for 39 agonizing months, even after Armco’s acquisition by AK Steel. McCall managed to hold the bargaining unit together while building community support, organizing rallies, advancing negotiations and shining a light on the company’s reprehensible conduct.

AK Steel eventually capitulated in the face of union solidarity, not only ending the lockout in December 2002 but firing two top executives who bungled the dispute. The USW continues to represent workers at the Mansfield plant, now part of Cleveland-Cliffs.

While the battle with AK Steel raged, McCall and other USW leaders confronted a broader crisis as 50 steel companies nationwide filed for bankruptcy between 1998 and 2002 amid continuing foreign steel dumping that drove prices to record lows.

The failing companies included LTV, the nation’s third-largest steelmaker, which laid off thousands of union workers and closed mills in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. McCall worked with the newly formed International Steel Group (ISG) to purchase LTV’s assets, reopen the mills and return USW members to work under an innovative contract.

The agreement provided additional training opportunities, enabling workers to learn multiple roles and boost job security. In addition, it ensured the company’s commitment to capital investments in aging facilities, a lean management structure and worker involvement in problem-solving to navigate the import crisis.

McCall also took unprecedented action to save the health benefits of 70,000 LTV retirees and spouses, persuading ISG to invest in a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) that continues operating to this day.

The contract with ISG had far-reaching ramifications. It served as a blueprint for USW-ISG rescues of other union-represented steel companies—including Georgetown Steel, Acme Steel and Bethlehem Steel—and the extension of VEBA coverage for those companies’ retirees as well.

USW members in Ohio repeatedly reelected McCall the District 1 Director from 2001 to 2017. Among other achievements during that time, he led the union’s negotiations with ArcelorMittal, won the union a first-ever seat on Goodyear’s board of directors, and organized thousands of new members in various industries.

And McCall, remembering how he handed out groceries to laid-off members at Burns Harbor, highlighted the ever-growing dangers of offshoring and unfair trade in testimony before Congress and the International Trade Commission.

“We must ask ourselves at what point does it threaten national security?” McCall warned a congressional trade panel in 2004, presaging the shortfalls of critical goods the nation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, McCall was elected the union’s International Vice President (Administration), enabling him to help steer the union’s future alongside a longtime friend, Tom Conway, the new International President, who also came out of Local 6787 at Burns Harbor.

McCall led nearly 1,300 members at nine ATI locations through a three-month-long unfair labor practice strike during the pandemic in 2021, beating back demands for unnecessary concessions and achieving a contract with wage and benefit improvements. The following year, his negotiations with Cleveland-Cliffs yielded a four-year agreement with record wage increases, millions in capital investments and other enhancements for 12,000 members at 13 locations.

He also continued fighting for fair trade, including the duties needed to save America’s tin mill products industry, and he helped the union push through legislation that preserved failing multiemployer pension funds and allocated $1.2 trillion to rebuild infrastructure with union-made materials, components and products.

When Conway died on Sept. 25, 2023, McCall agreed to serve out his friend’s term, telling union members, “We’ll move forward the only way we can: together.”