2021 USW Cares District 13 Jefferson Award winner, District 13 Council

Directly after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, when people were surviving the initial crisis, the Council showed up to cook and serve hot meals to members. They distributed supplies to about 20 affected locals from Louisiana’s Lake Charles to New Orleans, focusing on locals that had halls to store the supplies. The Council’s reach is far; when there are labor disputes in District 13, the Council will host their meeting in that area and attend rallies and picket lines to support the local involved. For all that this council has done to support every local and spread solidarity in District 13, they are the 2021 USW Cares District 13 Jefferson Award winner.

The District Council was formed 30 years ago and is a product of the PACE and OCAW mergers with the United Steelworkers. Local Union officers of District 13 meet three or four times a year at different locals to share ideas and learn how to manage their locals better.

Guest speakers who specialize in certain areas are invited to speak to the officers: lawyers come to teach about how to file grievances and taxes; financial advisors come to educate the officers on how to save and grow their local union’s money; local politicians come to garner support from the union and prove their stance on worker issues.

Council meetings are like a mini Conventions for the District. The locals pay optional per-capita dues to participate in the Council; the dues money is used for projects and to support causes that the Council works on.

The Council finds labor causes to support at each site they visit for their meetings. If there is a local union, USW or not, that’s on strike, locked-out, or in a labor dispute, they go give their support, will walk the picket line, and rally for the union involved.

The Council solicits monetary and food donations from District 13 locals to support their causes. They’ve recently been collecting donations to supply a food pantry for the locked-out members of Local 13-243 in Beaumont, Texas, and did the same thing for a devastating flood in Louisiana that affected Local Union 13-620.

Not only that, but during meetings, the Council will show support for pro-labor elected officials by going to their events.

“We always bring in local elected officials and we’ve supported local officials by going out and showing support when there are elections and we happen to be in the area of a politician that the local supports, we’ll turn out for him or her,” said Sean Clouatre, President of Local Union 13-620 and Financial Secretary of the District 13 Council. “We’ve had mayors, state reps and state senators come and talk to our local officers, and we show our support for them by doing the same”

Each state in the district has a legislative representative on the Council who lobbies Congress for pro-union legislation, which is very important to the Council, since the states in District 13 are “Right-to-Work.”

Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the local has gone to aid areas in District 13 that are hit by hurricanes and flooding. The Council collects donations and money and makes a matching donation from their own fund for members affected by the many hurricanes that have wreaked havoc in Louisiana, Texas, and Puerto Rico.

After each of the natural disasters, first the Council would evaluate the situation to see what was needed and where. The immediate response is usually to get a hot meal to the members affected. Then they start collecting money and donations to help with recovery.

“Probably the first couple days, we talk amongst each other and see how bad the damage, deciding what to bring. We’ve gone out and cooked for locals and brought water. That’s the immediate response, having some place to have a hot meal, water, and anything they need right away. The second part takes some time to assess damage, to see what impact the hurricane had, and kind of monetary situation we need to address,” said Clouatre

Locals and members donate to the hurricane relief efforts and then the Council matches the donations through their own fund and gives the money to the local (s) affected or directly to the members impacted. They’ve distributed more than $25,000 in relief funds.

 “The USW District 13 Council has and continues to be an effective mechanism to supply not only relief to members in District 13 but needed Solidarity,” said Larry Burchfield former District 13 Council President, nominator and District 13 Staff Representative. “The Council’s ability to collect donations and donate matching funds to our impacted members and then distribute it quickly supplied great support across the District.”

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