United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed http://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/rss United Steelworkers Press Releases Feed 2019-06-24 07:53:32 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 Stat Facts: June 25, 2019 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-june-25-2019 Tue, 25 Jun 2019 13:04:02 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-june-25-2019 New contract at St. Mary’s Hospital in Michigan sees long-overdue wage increases

Members of Local 9899-1’s bargaining committee held strong for seven months and finally settled a new three-year agreement with Touch Point at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Mich., this month. The contract includes wage increases for the approximately 150 environmental and nutritional service workers who haven’t had raises in several years.

“For the last contract, they barely gave us pennies,” said Local 9899 President Jackie Anklam. “So when we pushed this time, we were surprised we were able to push them as far as we did.”

Anklam and the rest of the bargaining committee faced many challenges during negotiations, including having them at all.

“We couldn’t get management to the table,” said Anklam. “They would postpone meetings and purposefully miss them.”

Despite the company’s tactics, the committee held out for the contract they knew they and their fellow members deserved. Along with wage increases that will allow veteran workers more leverage, the local also gained stronger language regarding union leave and orientation, as well as retroactive pay back to November 7, 2018.

USW settlement at long-term care facility improves conditions, wages, and benefits

Workers at the Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes in Cobden, Ontario, settled two collective agreements for USW Local 6936 that recognize the growing issues of staffing and increased levels of care.

“Our members are experiencing more and more stress as they deal with changing workloads, increased patient acuity and government austerity,” said USW District 6 Director Marty Warren. “This is all at a time when long-term care is becoming more important to an aging and ailing population.”

The three-year agreements will see wage increases by a total of 4.5 percent in the nursing home and by 6 percent in the retirement home. The contracts cover service workers, personal support workers (PSWs), registered practical nurses (RPNs), and registered nurses (RNs).

In both contracts, there are increases in uniform allowances, vision care, weekend premiums and benefits covering such services as chiropractors, psychologists and others. Employees will also be able to be paid for 50 percent of unused sick leave.

For the first time, there is also a provision for time off for employees to deal with domestic violence.

“This settlement is a step forward for these 138 members of our union,” said Warren. “At the same time, however, due to government austerity and the consequent restraint practiced by boards of arbitration, wage increases tend to be below the rate of inflation.

“That needs to change as long-term care generally faces a shortage of skilled workers. The future demands secure public services for older Canadians and better working conditions for care providers.”

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USW 3M Shareholder Proposal on Limiting CEO Pay Gains More Support https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/usw-3m-shareholder-proposal-on-limiting-ceo-pay-gains-more-support Tue, 18 Jun 2019 12:18:27 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/usw-3m-shareholder-proposal-on-limiting-ceo-pay-gains-more-support The ratio of CEO compensation to worker pay skyrocketed over the last 40 years, and 3M’s compensation for its CEO accelerated as well, with its top officer making about 302 times median worker pay.

For the second year in a row, the USW, a 3M shareholder, introduced a proposal at 3M’s annual meeting to highlight this increase and suggest that the company consider the pay grades and/or salary ranges of its employees when setting target amounts for CEO compensation.

Shareholders have shown increasing concern that CEO pay is outpacing employee compensation and that CEOs may be more preoccupied with their own compensation than the welfare of the company, with support at the May 14 meeting for the USW’s proposal increasing over last year.

In the supporting statement for its proposal, the USW said the large disparity between CEO compensation and worker pay can impact the morale and productivity of employees who are not senior executives. This is especially true since worker pay has remained stagnant for decades despite productivity increases.

Even high pay disparities between CEOs and other senior executives may undermine collaboration and teamwork, the union said in its supporting statement.

3M’s board of directors’ compensation committee looks at what other companies pay their CEOs to set its own CEO’s compensation. This is known as using “peer group benchmarks.”

In further support of its resolution, the USW said that using peer group benchmarks to set CEO compensation can lead to pay inflation. Even though many companies set compensation at the median of the peer group, some target their CEO’s pay above the median.

The system can also be gamed by including peer groups that have larger or more successful companies where CEO compensation is higher, the USW said.

CEO Pay

In 1998, 3M CEO compensation was less than $3.5 million. Ten years later, it increased to $12.3 million.  In 2017, the 3M CEO earned over $20 million.

In contrast, median employee total compensation in 2017 was $63,338.

Before 1980, boards of directors largely determined CEO compensation by “internal equity” guidelines, meaning CEO pay was compared with the compensation of other employees at the same company.

Then, a new field of executive-compensation consultants arose in the 1980s, and these consultants convinced companies to move to an “external equity” method of determining CEO compensation. “External equity” meant basing CEO pay on what other CEOs are paid, i.e. peer group benchmarks.

Other 3M Announcements

3M’s first quarter 2019 financial results were known before the company’s annual meeting. Media reports said that financial analysts were disappointed at the results because they were expecting $2.50 per share instead of the $2.23 per share the company earned in the first quarter, when adjusted for one-time costs.

The company also said it planned to cut 2,000 jobs globally as part of a restructuring due to a slower-than-expected 2019 and part of a cost-cutting effort. Yet, 3M found the money to pay over $17 million to two CEOs in 2018 when one of them retired.

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Local 727’s Union Sign Shows USW Pride https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/local-727s-union-sign-shows-usw-pride Tue, 18 Jun 2019 10:02:08 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/local-727s-union-sign-shows-usw-pride USW Local 727’s sign in front of the union hall shows everyone driving by the pride the local feels for its union.

“We didn’t want to put up just anything,” said District 8 Staff Representative Brandon Duncan, who was president of Local 727 prior to his staff appointment.

“We wanted to contribute to the community as far as the looks of the sign.”

The local had moved its union hall from an old bank building into a former U.S. Postal Service facility it had bought from Calvert City along the town’s main street, so the sign would be seen by the entire community.

The local represents 230-plus workers at five different companies in Calvert City, Ky., that make high-dollar polymers and additives, PVC, chemical catalyst and specialty chemicals for many industries.

Group Effort

Duncan said the local first looked for a union sign company and couldn’t find one nearby—Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis, Ind., were the closest places—so it decided to build a sign on its own.

“We wanted something that was industrial-looking and reflected who we were and what we do,” Duncan said. “Since we are Steelworkers, we needed I-beams and aluminum plating, and paint and acrylics for the chemical sector.”

He created a design for the sign, which stands nearly 12’ tall and 9’ wide, with input from everyone, most notably, John Sullivan, Dathan Sheldon and Brian Culp. “It truly was a group effort,” Duncan said.

Then, he took the sketch to the maintenance shop, and solicited members who are welders and fabricators. “Steve Johnson was the man. He put a lot of work into the sign. I know he is proud and we are proud of him,” Duncan said.

Johnson, a Local 727-01 member, welded the I-beams together, cut and set the chains, and assembled the structure before taking it to get painted.

Mitch Adams, a former USW member who started his own machine shop called Industrial Sheet Metal, cut the letters, built and powder-coated the sign.

“In the 1980s, Mitch was an operator who went through a newly-developed maintenance apprenticeship program. He later became a company supervisor, then maintenance superintendent, and adventured out on his own and acquired an industrial supply business,” Duncan said.

“Mitch said, ‘This local union helped me get my start and I will never forget that. If it wasn’t for the union, I wouldn’t own the business I do today.’

“He did a lot of work and charged us very little. Mitch was proud to have a part in it,” Duncan added.

Local Pride

Current Local 727 President Glenn Tucker followed up on the progress of the sign after Duncan became a staff representative. He said that Johnson and Chris Sheridan loaded up the sign on a flatbed trailer Johnson owned. Then, Johnson used a front-end loader to off-load the sign, raise it up and lower it into the holes Tucker and Sheridan had dug.

Pictured: (L-R) Wade Kennedy, Glenn Tucker and Steve Johnson seated on the tractor.

Tucker said he worked with Calvert City to ensure the sign met the city’s codes, and he checked with the utility companies to ensure it was safe where he dug the holes, so as not to hit gas or water lines.

“The city is glad we are there and are taking care of the place,” Tucker said. “We are pretty proud of the sign, and the city is too.”

A photographer from the local newspaper, Lake News, shot some photos of the sign and told the local whoever designed it did a good job.

“We’ve never had anything that nice—the building and the sign—and the membership is quite proud of it,” Duncan said.

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Evonik Deer Park, Texas, Workers Negotiate Contract Improvements https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/evonik-deer-park-texas-workers-negotiate-contract-improvements Tue, 18 Jun 2019 09:47:23 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/evonik-deer-park-texas-workers-negotiate-contract-improvements It took only a week for the USW Local 13-1-10 Evonik unit in Deer Park, Texas, to negotiate a four-year agreement that raised wages, increased benefits and returned contracted work to the bargaining unit.      

“We have a good relationship with management,” said Unit President LaDerrell Dangerfield. “There were some tough times, but it worked out.”


Pictured: LaDerrell Dangerfield, Joe Day, Noel Trevino, Gary Harrison, missing Rodrick Frazier.

He said the previous contract expired June 3, 2019, but the company approached the union about settling negotiations early.

About 23 maintenance, production and lab workers are in the bargaining unit, and they ratified a new agreement on April 12. The Deer Park site produces oil additives that help keep the oil atoms apart, Dangerfield said.

Wages increase 2.5 percent the first year, 2.75 percent the second year, and 3 percent the third and fourth years. After the 2.5 percent wage increase in 2019, top hourly pay was $33.49 in the lab; $40.20 for an outside operator and the mechanical section, and $43.53 for a control man and relief operator.

Dangerfield said that under the new contract, a worker can also advance to the top pay rate in his or her classification sooner than was possible under the previous agreement.

Bringing Back Work

Local 13-1-10 negotiated a new position, utility operator, to handle drumming—the process of placing product into drums—that used to be contracted out. Pay starts at $24.30 an hour and increases to $27 an hour when the employee qualifies for the position.

Evonik negotiators wanted employees in the control man and two outside operator positions to qualify for all three jobs to get top pay, but the union succeeded in grandfathering the existing workers. Dangerfield said that new hires will have to qualify for three jobs to get top pay, but that it gives “the young guys opportunities” to advance. He warned other Evonik sites that they may come across this proposal.

The yearly performance bonus program continues, and employees have the opportunity to receive up to an 8 percent bonus if key performance indicators and personal goals are met, Dangerfield said. Evonik’s 2018 performance resulted in a 6 percent bonus, worth thousands of dollars for employees.

Dangerfield said Evonik’s CEO wanted all employees under the company’s retirement plan by 2025, so the local negotiated for the eight older workers who were still under the previous company’s pension plan (Rohm & Haas) to be grandfathered in. They will move to the Evonik 401(k) plan in 2025, and the company will deposit 9 percent of their gross pay into the new plan. Dangerfield said the change will result in more retirement money for the older workers.

Gaining Vacation Time

He said the local gained vacation time in exchange for the loss of two holidays. New hires get 98 hours of vacation; previously, they had to work a year before getting vacation time. Those with seven to nine years of seniority saw their vacation time increase from 120 hours to 192 hours; this was a real improvement for them, Dangerfield said.

Another change involves selling back to the company 80 hours of vacation time at the end of the year if a worker has used a certain amount of hours.

“This is good for those who might want extra money to buy Christmas gifts or need funds for a major repair,” Dangerfield said.

Local 13-1-10 negotiators improved company anniversary benefits by increasing the amount of money to one month’s pay for those with 25 and 40 years of service.       

Mobilizing the Membership

Dangerfield said the local distributed a survey to the membership before negotiations and had a meeting for members to say what they wanted in a new contract.

“We’re all pretty close knit and keep in communication with each other,” he said. “I think, all in all, it is a pretty decent deal. Our staff representative, Ben Lilienfeld, and bargaining committee members Joe Day, Noel Trevino, Gary Harrison and Rodrick Frazier worked hard to get the best contract possible for our members.”

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Stat Facts: June 17, 2019 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-june-17-2019 Mon, 17 Jun 2019 09:20:37 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-june-17-2019 New Contract for Nurses at Local 9620 after Long Campaign

Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Somerset, N.J., ratified a contract in early May after seven months of tough negotiations. The nearly 500 USW members obtained several key improvements in the collective bargaining agreement, their second with the union, including increases to on-call pay and market adjustments for wages as well as to tuition reimbursement.

“Overall, we believe the contract included really substantial gains especially when you consider we’re so new to the union,” said Local 9620 President Kimberly Delbrune-Mitter. “The entire committee worked tirelessly, and the gains made were a result of that hard work and the solidarity of all of our members.”

The contract covers approximately 510 registered nurses in Local 9620. Bargaining began in November 2018, with the contract proposals voted down twice before the ratification last month.

The bargaining committee utilized a vast toolset to keep all of their busy members up to date and involved with the campaign, including social media posts, text messaging, and sticker and button days.

Local 9620 will be back at the bargaining table for their next contract in roughly a year.

Workplace Violence Bill Passes out of Education and Labor Committee

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (HR 1309), sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), was advanced out of the House Committee on Education and Labor on Tuesday by a 26-18 vote.

The bill, if passed by Congress, would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update current legislation to ensure workplaces develop and implement violence prevention plans, which will significant impact health care workers, who experience violence on the job at rates 12 times higher than the overall work force.

“This legislation would do what health care workers have long needed, and that is for their employers to be held accountable,” said USW Vice President Fred Redmond. “An enforceable OSHA standard is the only way to guarantee that, and we look forward to pushing this bill through with the help of our dedicated union activists.”

The United Steelworkers have been organizing a Safe Jobs Now postcard campaign in support of the bill. Please help us make this action a success by urging every one of your fellow members to get involved. For any questions, or to get additional cards, reach out to your District Rapid Response Coordinator or call us at 412-562-2291.

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Solvay Locals Settle Contracts, Begin Resolving Health and Safety Concerns https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/solvay-locals-settle-contracts-begin-resolving-health-and-safety-concerns Thu, 13 Jun 2019 09:32:03 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/solvay-locals-settle-contracts-begin-resolving-health-and-safety-concerns When the Solvay Council met last October in Tinley Park, Ill., delegates discussed their health and safety concerns, local union issues and problems they were having getting contracts settled. Since then, three contracts have been ratified, and the International has met with Solvay management to address the workers’ health and safety concerns.

Three USW contracts have been settled this year (Pasadena, Texas, University Park, Ill., and Baltimore, Maryland) thanks to a change in Solvay’s North American industrial relations team.  

Pasadena, Texas

The 20-member Local 13-227 bargaining unit at Solvay’s Pasadena, Texas, plant ratified their first contract in January after organizing in November 2017. After Solvay’s chief labor relations negotiator left the company in January, the new local was able to negotiate a three-year contract that contained a non-pensionable $1,600 ratification bonus and wage increases of 3 percent the first year and 2.6 percent the second and third years.

Union negotiators beat back the company’s attempt to force concessions on their Solvay short-term disability and 401(k) plans. They also gained protections around job security, contracting out of USW work, work hours that cannot be changed arbitrarily and a discipline procedure.

Before creating their union, the members had difficulty getting time off due to excessive overtime and short staffing. Now, they have a contract that gives them personal, emergency and Family Medical Leave Act time off, unpaid leave of absence, and vacation and holiday time.

The current challenge for the Pasadena unit is dealing with managers who believe that if an issue is not in the contract, it is null and void, instead of looking at company policy. The local is filing grievances to address this problem.                                          

University Park

Local 2011 members at Solvay’s University Park, Ill., plant also ratified a three-year agreement in January. It contained a 3 percent lump sum the first year and 3 percent wage increases in each of the last two years. 

The 75 production and maintenance workers maintained their health insurance, and received an increase in the company’s 401(k) match. They also have additional time for union education and training, which they did not have previously.

Local 2011 President Tom Hecht said the members rejected the first two company offers because the company’s cross-training proposal would knock out overtime. Solvay countered with an improved wage package in its third offer, and the members accepted it.

The contract contains a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that moves two members into different positions they were qualified to handle. A second MOU specifies that material handlers receive cross-training to perform liquid packaging duties. Once qualified, they earn a premium of $1 per hour while performing the extra work.

Baltimore

In March, Local 12517-05 members at Solvay’s Baltimore, Maryland, plant ratified a three-year agreement that contained a $700 signing bonus and wage increases each year of about 3 percent. The 35 workers in production, the warehouse and maintenance will now earn time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays and double-time on Sundays without having to clock in a certain number of hours and days the previous workweek.

Local union negotiators maintained the retirement security gains made two contracts ago, as well as their health insurance. Solvay provides a 9 percent match on the 401(k) and up to 4 percent (depending on a worker’s age) for the cash balance pension.

The local union also improved bereavement leave for employees working 12-hour days, negotiated a USW political action fund checkoff for voluntary donations, and created a new-hire orientation program to introduce new employees to the union.

The local’s negotiators also tightened up job bid language so existing employees can be promoted before someone is hired from the outside, and negotiated a warehouse position where Solvay will reimburse an employee for training and passing the commercial driver’s license test. The company will also pay for the license.

Plus, the local rolled into the contract the provisions of the Maryland Healthy Workers Act that gives employees the ability to earn 40 hours of paid sick leave in a year, which can be used in four-hour increments. The local succeeded in getting the earned hours credited at the beginning of the year.

Three more Solvay sites have contract expirations this year: Alton, Ill., in July 2019; Marietta, Ohio, in October 2019, and Chicago Heights, Ill., in November 2019.

Improving Health & Safety

At the October Solvay Council meeting, delegates brought up numerous health and safety concerns ranging from manual lifting and stitching of 50-lb. bags of product to near misses being covered up and used to discipline workers. This prompted the International to set up a meeting in March with members of Solvay’s industrial relations corporate and North American management team to discuss these concerns and map a path forward.

After hearing how Solvay locals are having difficulty getting local management approval to attend the USW’s health, safety and environment conference, the company committed itself to looking into this issue so that its employees can receive the health and safety training they need to make their workplaces safer.

Solvay Global Forum

Solvay negotiated a Global Framework Agreement (GFA) with IndustriALL that commits the company to follow internationally recognized labor, human rights and environmental standards at all of its sites, regardless of whether or not these measures are required by national law or regulations.

The GFA created the Solvay Global Forum, a group of eight union and three management representatives, who conduct annual country evaluations and visit the sites in that region to see how well the GFA is implemented, propose solutions for improvement, and extend the social dialogue between the company and its employees.

In March, the Solvay Global Forum visited the company’s sites in Mexico and talked with local management and union leaders. The delegation learned that the union at each site did not have a way to communicate with the Forum or with each other, so a new laptop computer was recommended for each local union. In addition, the Forum requested email addresses and work space for the union representatives at each site.

These items are being put in place now, and Jeff Hill, a USW Local 14200 member and U.S. representative on the Forum, said he is starting to receive communication from the Mexican union representatives.

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Middle Georgia BASF Locals Use Building Power Training to Strengthen Communication Ahead of Negotiations https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/middle-georgia-basf-locals-use-building-power-training-to-strengthen-communication-ahead-of-negotiations Wed, 12 Jun 2019 11:52:03 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/middle-georgia-basf-locals-use-building-power-training-to-strengthen-communication-ahead-of-negotiations Locals 9-237, 9-237-1 and 9-2333 in Middle Georgia are using the Building Power training they received April 4-5 to strengthen their communication with their membership ahead of bargaining with BASF Corporation in September.

All three locals bargain economic items together, and their contracts expire Sept. 30, 2019.

“We started talking about Building Power training last year at the District 9 conference,” said Tommy Daniel, president of Locals 9-237 and 9-237-1. “We got with Tommy Wright, our staff representative, and he set it up. Katrina Fitzgerald and Kim Teplitzky from the USW Strategic Campaigns Department came down and did a great job.”

“For the newer guys, it opened their eyes to a lot of what happens in preparation for bargaining. They learned a lot. All we have to do is execute what we came up with,” he added.

The three units work in two locations in close proximity to one another. The McIntyre and Gordon operations mine kaolin, also called chalk. It is used in the paper industry to produce the gloss for magazines and as filler for pulp. It also is used in items like tableware, medicines, makeup and catalytic converters for automobiles.

Locals 9-237, 9-237-01 and 9-233 represent 305 workers together. Daniel said that many workers have over 30 years of service, but the company has been hiring new employees.

“We have several young guys that have become stewards and recording secretary. They’re really showing interest in negotiations and the union,” he said.

Determining Bargaining Priorities

Daniel said the locals sent out a contract survey to the members. The negotiating committee will pick the five or six areas members rated as important, and then send the survey to the membership again to determine the critical issues that must be addressed in a new contract.

The locals formed Communication Action Teams (CATs), and Daniel said he has an enthusiastic young worker who will be the CAT coordinator.  Each department will also have a coordinator and a CAT member for each shift.

“I believe the training helped us get the word out,” he said.

The locals are hosting the BASF Council meeting July 30-31, 2019 so the negotiating committee can hear about other locals’ negotiations, learn what to expect in bargaining and meet the other council members. It’s a relatively new bargaining committee, and this will be his first time at the lead table, Daniel said.

“We have a good relationship with the company, but we see where they want to try new things since they are new to the site,” Daniel said. “The two-tier wage structure for new hires in the packaging positions is causing problems, and now the company is hinting about job combinations.

“This time we have full-blown negotiations. The last one was just economics. With new management, I figure these negotiations may be tough this time,” he added.

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New contract for mail-in pharmacy workers at Express Scripts https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/new-contract-for-mail-in-pharmacy-workers-at-express-scripts Tue, 11 Jun 2019 09:58:58 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/new-contract-for-mail-in-pharmacy-workers-at-express-scripts After going five years with no wage increases, members of Local units 993 and 993-01 in North Huntingdon, Pa., have won major improvements in their latest contract with mail-in pharmaceutical giant Express Scripts.

The 88 pharmacists and approximately 250 pharmaceutical support workers and technicians obtained wage increases across the board—7.5 percent over three years—and fought to lift the wage cap by $2. Bargaining began in May and came during a time of corporate leadership transitions due to the company’s 2018 sale to Cigna.

“It was a difficult round of negotiations, but after no raises and previous wage freezes, it was good work by the committee to get a fair contract,” said Local Union President Harry Harris. “We all take great pride in the work we do here and it feels good knowing we have an agreement that is reflective of that.”

Express Scripts will also now pay for the pharmacists’ licenses, something the bargaining committee has been working toward for years.

The workers at the North Huntingdon site process over one million medical prescriptions a week for patients across the country. Only four of the company’s original 11 facilities remain open in the United States.

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Portsmouth Site Undergoes Changes https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/portsmouth-site-undergoes-changes Mon, 10 Jun 2019 12:32:50 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/portsmouth-site-undergoes-changes The former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site in Piketon, Ohio, has over the last year weathered a wave of changes, including a possible new contractor, employee buyouts, an on-site waste disposal facility and the election of a former local union president.

The Department of Energy (DOE) had until April 24 to decide whether to exercise a 22-month option to keep Portsmouth Mission Alliance, LLC (PMA) as the infrastructure support contractor for the Piketon site.

PMA is a joint venture between North Wind and Swift and Staley. The company has a $140 million contract with DOE that began in March 2016 and will continue through mid-January 2021 if DOE approves the extension.

PMA’s scope of work includes surveillance, maintenance, and repair of facilities; telecommunications and computing; safeguards and security; records and property management, and grounds and road maintenance.

The USW represents 72 PMA employees and is in negotiations over economic issues in the contract.

Employee Buyouts

The site’s cleanup contractor, Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC (FBP), extended an employee buyout plan originally offered last December. The Self-Select Voluntary Separation Program allowed up to 75 workers to voluntarily leave their jobs in exchange for a separation payment.

Now, another 29 employees can take advantage of the program. Those who decide to leave will work their last day for Fluor on May 30.

A Fluor spokesman told the media that significant clean-up progress had been made in deactivation work, prompting the focus to include demolition of buildings and remediation of the site. He said the separation program allows FBP to realign the existing labor work force skill sets to upcoming demolition activities.

USW-represented workers perform the deactivation work, but the spokesman said FBP has no plans for involuntary layoffs. The building trades handle the demolition work.

John Knauff, Local 1-689 President, said the buyouts are a way for DOE and Fluor to reduce the USW work force without a layoff being declared, and to have contractors do the USW work. He said the union’s subcontracting contract language is much stronger if the contractor calls for a layoff.

“In addition, we don’t have a sufficient number of employees to do all of the Decontamination and Decommission (D&D) work necessary to prevent radioactive and hazardous waste from going into the on-site waste disposal cell,” he said. “We need that D&D activity so the site can be reindustrialized.”

On-Site Waste Disposal Cell

Local 1-689 has joined the village of Piketon and other communities in opposing the DOE’s waste disposal cell under construction at the site’s Area D. The cell would handle “low-level” radioactive waste from the demolition of the buildings at the site, and be ready to accept this waste around fiscal year 2021. “Higher-level” waste would still be transported out west for disposal.      

The village of Piketon hired a third party to independently review the environmental studies completed and to verify the data that DOE used in its decision to construct the disposal cell in Area D.  The assessment indicated that fractures in the bedrock could pose a threat to groundwater if the waste cell should leak.

Local 1-689 pointed to the third-party assessment in its resolution of opposition to the onsite disposal cell. The local is also concerned about the lack of criteria for what kind of transuranic waste (waste with man-made radioactive elements heavier than uranium) is put in the cell.

Knauff expressed this reservation in an Aug. 28, 2018, letter to DOE Secretary Rick Perry. He was concerned about the waste from the demolition of the X-326 process building being dumped in the disposal cell.

“There is a large amount of process equipment still in the building containing enriched uranium and other transuranic (normal for that building),” Knauff wrote to Perry. “There are also large quantities of other very hazardous materials such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) remaining in the building, all of which will go uncontrollably into the waste cell if not removed before the building is isolated.”

The local said in its resolution opposing the construction of the waste cell that it expects DOE to ship all waste generated by D&D activities to approved offsite disposal facilities.

Local President’s Goals

Knauff was elected local president last year, and since then he’s set an ambitious plan to move the local forward.

Local Union 1-689 officials (L-R): Vice President Larry E. Thomas, President John Knauff, Safety Representative Jeanne Webster, Division III Operations Grievance Committeeperson Brian Howell, and Safety Representative and Local Treasurer Lou Thompson. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, Local Union 9-562 retiree.

“I’m trying to find a structure for us that allows people to work together and recognize that we have different contracts with different contractors,” he said. “I’m trying to find a way to protect the community going forward so they do not get stuck with a contaminated site. This community has performed a huge service to our national defense. It would be a shame to give them a 100-acre radiologically toxic waste site.”

The former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plan has been a part of Knauff’s life since he was a child. His dad worked at the former gaseous diffusion plant when it started up in 1954.

In 1969, he was approved for the site’s apprenticeship program, but put it on hold while he served in the military during the Vietnam War.  He began his apprenticeship in December 1972 when he returned from the war.

His union activism started during a 1974 strike at the plant, and in 1976 he became a strike captain. After the dispute ended, he became a steward and then a Division 1 maintenance committeeman. He filled in for local union leaders when they needed assistance while he was raising a young son.

The membership elected Knauff local union president in 1989, and he held that position until he was appointed a staff representative in October 1995. He serviced locals in the South and the Midwest.

In 2011, Knauff retired from the International and returned to the Piketon plant. He said that when members requested he run for local union president last year, he decided to put his name in and won.

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The Oilworker: June 2019 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/the-oilworker-june-2019 Thu, 06 Jun 2019 13:52:59 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/the-oilworker-june-2019 FROM THE UNION

ESSO/UGL Dispute in Australia Continues Past 700 Days

Australian trade unionists marked 700 days on the picket line on May 20, 2019, in their dispute with ExxonMobil, its Australian subsidiary Esso Australia Pty Ltd (Esso), and Esso contractor UGL/CIMIC.

The trade unionists are members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU). They worked as contractors at Esso’s Longford gas plant and its offshore oil and gas platform.

“By use of a sham collective agreement signed by just five people 2,200 miles (3,500 km) away, Exxon Mobil & UGL/CIMIC successfully slashed wages by 40 percent, cut 40 years of hard-fought conditions, stripped a number of employee allowances and imposed a stand down clause that will see workers at work, but without pay,” wrote AMWU lead delegate Troy Carter in a May 20 email to international allies.

“We cannot let them get away with this and set precedence to do the same thing anywhere else in the world.”

Carter thanked the union’s supporters, noting that manning a picket line 24 hours a day, seven days a week has taken hard work and dedication. The AMWU included a five-minute video as a special thank-you to international allies who have had these members’ backs during this difficult time.

“We appreciate each and every single one of you, and hope to send you some good news soon.

“But, for the time being, it’s ‘Stand Up, Fight Back’ and ‘for as long as it takes,’” Carter said.

Click here to watch the video.

IndustriALL Again Demands Shell Address Violations in Supply Chain

IndustriALL Global Union, together with trade union affiliates from Nigeria and the Netherlands, called on Royal Dutch Shell Oil Plc (Shell) to address workers’ rights violations in its supply chain at the company’s annual general meeting in The Hague on May 21, 2019.

An IndustriALL mission to Nigeria last September witnessed Shell contract workers living in poverty, with no job security and inadequate medical care, while being denied the right to join a union.

This is the second year in a row that IndustriALL has raised the company’s refusal to recognize serious breaches of its own code of conduct by its suppliers.

To read more, click here.


IN THE NEWS

Click to read more from Reuters.
U.S. Lawmaker Seeks Investigation into EPA Use of Biofuel Waivers

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth (D) asked the EPA Office of Inspector General to investigate why the agency increased its number of biofuel waivers to small refineries to exempt them from the renewable fuel standard.

Duckworth’s inquiry followed a May 16 Reuters report that the EPA decided to expand the waiver program months before a 2017 court decision. The agency often cited the 2017 court decision to justify its actions to the corn lobby. The corn industry claims the waivers threatened the demand for ethanol. Refiners, including some USW-represented facilities, that could prove compliance would cause financial hardship, successfully sought waivers, which are important for small refineries that do not have the capacity to handle the ethanol blending process. Without the waivers, they must buy costly Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits, representing gallons of ethanol produced, which in an unregulated market can become even more expensive.

Click here to read more from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
Chemical Safety Board Calls for Updated Hydrofluoric Acid Study in Wake of 2017 Husky Refinery Fire

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter dated April 23 to review and update its existing 1993 hydrofluoric acid (HF) study.

The goal is to determine the effectiveness of refiners’ risk management plans in preventing a catastrophic HF release and to see if there are commercially viable and inherently safer alkylation technologies for use.

The CSB cited its investigations of two refinery explosions –one at ExxonMobil’s Torrance, Calif., refinery and one at Husky Energy’s Superior, Wis., refinery –that could have led to an HF release.

Community members attending the agency’s public hearings at each explosion site expressed concerns over the adequacy of the refiners’ risk management standards and the effectiveness of community notification systems during an HF release.

Residents in Torrance have consistently urged that the refinery use safer alternatives for the alkylation process.  


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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

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

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

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

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SOAR Story: Roger Holmstrom, President SOAR Chapter 33-5, Grand Rapids, Minnesota https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/soar-story-roger-holmstrom-president-soar-chapter-33-5-grand-rapids-minnesota Thu, 06 Jun 2019 10:21:52 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/soar-story-roger-holmstrom-president-soar-chapter-33-5-grand-rapids-minnesota After graduating from high school in 1961, I joined the Navy and became a “Seabee” (Construction Battalion). I was sent to Alaska and later to Okinawa with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9 (MCB-9) and was there when President Kennedy was assassinated; discharged in 1966.

In 1967, I hired in at Butler Taconite as a truck driver, where I worked for 36 years. Retiring in 2003 from Keewatin Taconite, I find that I am an active and proud USW retiree. For nearly a year now I have been the President of the West Range SOAR Retirees Chapter 33-5, having chapter meetings in Marble, Minnesota.

SOAR has made a positive difference in my life; allowing me to keep in touch with some of my Brothers and Sisters from the mines and to help our retirees and our union whenever and however I can.

We try to have interesting, informative speakers at our chapter meetings and we stand ready to help our union, when needed, on the picket line. However, we all agreed that picketing, when it is 65 degrees below zero, is where we draw the line!

Like any group of retirees, the number of members attending the monthly meetings has decreased. Many have passed away, dwindling our meeting participation from about twenty to eight members. I have set as one of my goals to increase meeting attendance and will be looking for ways to do just that.

Tell Us Your SOAR Story

Are you an active USW retiree or member of an active SOAR chapter? Has SOAR made a difference in your life? Your community? How are you or your chapter promoting SOAR?

Click here to tell us your SOAR story!

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International President Gerard Talks Union Leadership Changes and the Fights Ahead with Leslie Marshall https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/international-president-gerard-talks-union-leadership-changes-and-the-fights-ahead-with-leslie-marshall Wed, 05 Jun 2019 15:43:43 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/international-president-gerard-talks-union-leadership-changes-and-the-fights-ahead-with-leslie-marshall USW International President Leo Gerard spoke with The Leslie Marshall Show this week about the leadership transitions that will be taking place within the union this summer as well as about the many issues he has tackled throughout his tenure.

“This is a good time because we’ve got people in place who have got skills and knowledge and experience, so it can be a really smooth transition,” Gerard said. “We’re going to increase the number of women on our board by 100 percent and diversify our board some more.”

Gerard spoke about the need to continue strengthening the union by strengthening its international alliances, especially at a time when corporations have gone global.

“The global financial industry is actually unified in their cause and their cause is to enrich the already rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us,” he said. “If we try to take that on one union at a time, they’ll just walk right over us, but if we do it through collective bargaining and through solidarity and we build strong alliances, then they won’t just walk right over us.”

Gerard also spoke on another issue currently dominating the global conversation—trade. The Steelworker president believes both parties need to take up the issue on countries like China not playing by the rules.

“You can’t expect us to participate in trade on an unlevel playing field.  You can’t expect us to go head to head with China when China subsidizes [industry].” Gerard said. “We need trade—we’re all for trade—but we’re for trade with a level playing field. We’re for trade that’s balanced.”

The outgoing president said the union will continue filing trade cases on behalf of U.S. industry in order to push Washington to finally take the action American workers need.

“Part of it is that the trade laws in the U.S. are out of date,” he said. “They don’t meet the needs.”

At the end of the day, this fight, and every other fight, is one the union must take up alongside its alliances.

“There’s no one organization that’s going to change the inequities of this world,” Gerard said. “We have to do it in a way that brings all working people and progressives together.”

To hear the whole conversation, click below.

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Stat Facts: Members overcome tough negotiations in contract win at ARH https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-members-overcome-tough-negotiations-in-contract-win-at-arh Mon, 03 Jun 2019 14:08:10 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-members-overcome-tough-negotiations-in-contract-win-at-arh USW members ratified a new three-year contract that covers about 2,200 workers at nine Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) locations in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. It covers USW members who work in a variety of occupations, including clerical, housekeeping, maintenance and dietary, as well as licensed practical nurses, certified nurse aides and some technical employees.

Bargaining began in early February and immediately proved to be the toughest the team had ever seen. But thanks to the solidarity of the members through social media campaigns, text alerts, car window signs, and flyers, the committee held strong even as the expiration deadline quickly approached.

“It was definitely a tough negotiation,” said District 8 Director Billy Thompson, “but the membership stuck together and we were able to maintain the hard-earned health care and security benefits they deserve.”

The agreement also maintained check-off language despite Kentucky and West Virginia being “right-to-work” states.

ARH is a non-profit health system that operates 12 hospitals, multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies and retail pharmacies employing more than 5,000 people. Unrepresented hospitals are located in Hyden, Barbourville, Paintsville and Martin Ky.

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Districts 12 and 13 rally for a FAIR CONTRACT NOW at Mexico Gas Summit https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/districts-12-and-13-rally-for-a-fair-contract-now-at-mexico-gas-summit Fri, 31 May 2019 07:23:09 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/districts-12-and-13-rally-for-a-fair-contract-now-at-mexico-gas-summit On May 29, USW members rallied outside the 5th Mexico Gas Summit in San Antonio to call on Grupo Mexico and its subsidiary ASARCO to stop attacks on workers and negotiate in good faith for a fair contract.


Leaders from USW Locals 886, 915, 5252 and 937 in Arizona and 5613 in Amarillo, Texas were joined by USW members and staff from District 13, including locked out members from Local 13-1 at Dow Deer Park, and leaders from the AZ and TX AFL-CIO to call out Grupo Mexico in front of their customers, competitors and partners at the summit.

Eight international unions, including the five USW locals, represent about 2,000 employees at five ASARCO copper mining and processing facilities in Arizona and Texas. They are in tough contract negotiations with the company and have been working under the terms of an expired agreement since late last year. Management has dragged out the process by failing to negotiate in good faith and demanding unfair and unnecessary concessions from workers.

Grupo Mexico has a long history of workers’ rights abuses and environmental issues in both Mexico and the U.S., through its subsidiary ASARCO. Our actions at the Gas Summit sent a clear message to the company that we are united for a fair contract and fair treatment of workers!

¡Ya basta! Enough is enough!

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May Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/may-update-from-soar-president-bill-pienta Thu, 30 May 2019 09:19:59 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/may-update-from-soar-president-bill-pienta SOARing Reports?

This year, during the Rapid Response Conference, SOAR will hold their annual Executive Board meeting. This meeting will extend over 2 to 2-1/2 days, covering many topics of interest. At this meeting, we will plan our activities for the upcoming year and give reports on the activities and involvement of SOAR Chapters in each District. While we continue to talk about the “good-ole-days,” SOAR has long since transformed into an organization tackling many crucial issues concerning the need to maintain a well-earned, comfortable standard of living in retirement today and into the future.

SOAR Chapters also work hand-in-hand with their district or local offices, to aide in the fights that many of our locals face with greedy employers and branches of government that try to weaken Unions and/or suppress workers’ rights and benefits.  In our Districts, SOAR is working with other organizations that share our concerns and values, which makes SOAR an even more dynamic and respected organization within our community.

At the upcoming SOAR Executive Board meeting, when it is time for reports, what will your Executive Board member have to report regarding your SOAR Chapter? If your SOAR Chapter has not been as active as you would like, please raise the issue at your next meeting, in an attempt to stimulate discussion of ideas about how your Chapter can become more involved.

Please provide pictures and a short write-up of any activities that your group participated in to assist your EBoard member in their report.

On Memorial Day, please take the time to remember those that have made great sacrifices so we can continue to be who we are and do what we do.

Bill Pienta
SOAR President


En español:

Informes de SOARing

Este año, durante la Conferencia de Respuestas Rápidas, SOAR tendrá su reunión anual de la Junta Ejecutiva. Esta reunión durará de 2 a 2 días y medio y abarcará muchos temas de interés, además de planificar nuestras actividades para el próximo año e informar sobre las actividades y la participación de los Capítulos de SOAR en cada Distrito. Nuestra Organización (SOAR) se ha transformado durante mucho tiempo de ser una Organización donde los jubilados se reúnen para hablar de los años pasados. Si bien aún hablamos de los "buenos tiempos", tenemos muchos problemas que afrontar en relación con el mantenimiento de un nivel de vida cómodo en la jubilación hoy y en el futuro.

Muchos capítulos de SOAR también trabajan de la mano con sus ayudantes distritales o locales en las luchas en que se encuentran muchos de nuestros residentes locales con empleadores codiciosos o ramas de gobierno que intentan debilitar a los sindicatos y / o suprimir los derechos y beneficios de los trabajadores.

En la próxima reunión de la Junta Ejecutiva, cuando sea el momento de los informes, ¿qué tendrá que informar su miembro de la Junta Ejecutiva con respecto a su capítulo SOAR? Si su capítulo de SOAR no ha sido tan activo como le gustaría, plantee el tema en su próxima reunión de SOAR en un intento por estimular la discusión sobre ideas sobre cómo su Capítulo puede involucrarse más.

Proporcione fotografías y un breve resumen de las actividades en las que participó su grupo para ayudar a los miembros de la Junta en su informe.

Por favor, tómese un tiempo en este Día de los Caídos para recordar a los que se han sacrificado para que podamos ser quienes somos y hacer lo que hacemos.

Bill Pienta
Presidente de SOAR

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Retiree Helps Fellow Nuclear Workers Apply for Cancer Assistance in Oregon https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/retiree-helps-fellow-nuclear-workers-apply-for-cancer-assistance-in-oregon Thu, 30 May 2019 09:11:38 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/retiree-helps-fellow-nuclear-workers-apply-for-cancer-assistance-in-oregon Garry Steffy typically starts his day with a cup of coffee and a quick look through the newspaper for obituaries of people who once worked for ATI Specialty Alloys and Components in the small town of Millersburg near Albany, Ore.

This daily routine is more than a retiree’s curiosity. Steffy has made a mission of searching for USW members and former co-workers who qualify for a special government compensation program for those exposed to radiation while working on the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

“We have a rare opportunity here to assist our brothers and sisters,” Steffy, a District 12 coordinator for the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), said during an interview also attended by Albany Chapter 12-7 Trustee  Eugene Jack. “Me and Jack, we’re old Steelworkers. We’ll go to the end to help.”

Over several years, Steffy and his fellow SOAR members led the charge in spreading the word about the compensation program. They have helped hundreds of ATI retirees, employees and their families receive more than $42 million in federal compensation and medical benefits. And that number will most likely continue to grow.

“I love when people get the money,” said Steffy, who started Oregon’s first SOAR chapter after he retired from ATI in 2010 with 36 years of service. “But I hate that they had to suffer to get it.”

Congress passed the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA) in 2000 to provide benefits to nuclear weapons project employees who were sickened by exposure to radiation and/or other toxic substances. Survivors of deceased workers were also eligible to file claims.

The metals refinery in Millersburg can trace its ownership to a company that began operations in the 1900s as the Wah Chang Trading Co. In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission, now the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), contracted with Wah Chang to develop and produce a high-purity zirconium for the U.S. Navy.   Zirconium is used to contain radioactive uranium used in nuclear reactors and on the Navy’s nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

The facility, now owned by Pittsburgh-based ATI, a global manufacturer of technically advanced specialty materials, remains a major refiner of zirconium as well as other exotic metals such as hafnium, niobium, tantalum, and vanadium. It is one of the largest producers of rare earth metals and alloys in the United States.

Melting uranium

In the 1970s, Wah Chang was contracted by Union Carbide Corp. to melt uranium-bearing material from the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Union Carbide operated Y-12 from 1947 to 1984 for the Atomic Energy Commission and the DOE.

A special furnace called S-6 was used to melt the material, which was pressed into billets or ingots and shipped back to Oak Ridge. It later became clear that not all of the radioactive material was removed.

The facility in Millersburg, which claimed a population of 1,329 in the 2010 census, was designated an atomic weapons facility in 2011 under the EEOICA and awarded special cohort status. Under that status, workers who contracted one of 22 listed cancers were eligible to file a claim and receive compensation of $150,000 and medical benefits for life.

If you did not qualify in that part of the program, employees could be compensated under a more complicated “dose reconstruction” formula that considers age, gender and areas worked. Claims would be approved if the numbers added up to a 50 percent probability that an employee may have contracted a cancer from radiation while employed there.

Steffy learned in 2011 from a newspaper notice that he and co-workers at ATI Specialty Alloys, widely known to locals by its previous name Wah Chang, had been exposed to radioactive materials.

Unbeknownst to Steffy, the family of former Wah Chang employee Roy Backer in 2010 petitioned the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to declare workers at the plant eligible for benefits under EEOICPA.

Most workers at the Millersburg plant were never told about the uranium that was processed there or warned to take extra precautions, according to Steffy and a series of reports in the Corvallis Gazette-Times by Bennett Hall.

“We always heard rumors about radiation,” said Steffy, who for 25 years operated the S-6 electron beam melting furnace that processed the uranium from Y-12.

Notification letters

After Steffy heard about the program, he started to campaign to let ATI employees know. In the early stages, the company would not publicize the compensation program, but would confirm employment when requested by the program administrators.

Steffy also contacted local attorneys and funeral homes all around Oregon to look for ATI retirees who may have contracted cancer. SOAR several times sent hundreds of notification letters to retirees.

“I’ve gone to nursing homes to visit people who were literally on their last dime in their checking and savings accounts and they get this check,” he said. “It takes the pressure off them and their family.”

In March 2016, as ATI was ending a six-month lockout of 2,200 USW members nationwide, the Millersburg facility stopped responding to requests by the Department of Labor for employment records of former employees seeking the radiation compensation.

In refusing to verify employment, the company caused claims for compensation to be denied. That prompted Steffy to contact U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, all of Oregon.

After political pressure from the Oregon delegation, ATI Millersburg resumed employment verification in October 2016, and, for the first time, sent out letters to all current and retired employees informing them of the federal compensation program.

“In most cases, this was the only proof of a worker actually being employed at the plant,” Steffy said. “If these men had not stepped up to the plate and helped out, frankly I do not know where we would be now.”

The three politicians were publicly thanked for their intervention in late 2018 in a letter signed by International President Leo W. Gerard and District 12 Director Robert LaVenture.

“Garry should be given credit for his hard work and desire to bring justice to this issue,” LaVenture said. “Garry, like many of our SOAR members, never quit wanting to help others after he retired.”

Task not over

Steffy credits SOAR, the late International President Lynn Williams, who created the retiree program, and his local union President Jim Kilborn, for asking him to get involved with the organization.

The ordeal is not yet over. Steffy is asking the government to expand the program to include additional areas of the refinery, a request that could help others who worked around the S-6 furnace. Some areas, he said, were never decontaminated.

“We had a ventilation system that would suck the dust out, and in the winter it would blow hot air on you. They never cleaned that out and through the years people would breathe in this radioactive dust,” he said.

Steffy is seeking records from NIOSH and the Center for Disease Control that he believes might make the case. But unable to pay an estimated $5,000 records fee, he has sought help from Sen. Merkley to get the documents.

If he prevails, Steffy thinks another group of employees and retirees may receive enough additional credits or points to qualify for an additional $25 million in assistance.

In the meantime, Steffy continues looking out for other retirees and, occasionally, himself. He undergoes a physical twice a year with the knowledge that he could be diagnosed with cancer.

“I know I’ll get it because I worked around the stuff,” he said. “I’m just waiting until the doctor tells me I have it.”

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Gerard retirement among leadership changes https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/gerard-retirement-among-leadership-changes Wed, 29 May 2019 15:24:03 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/gerard-retirement-among-leadership-changes Our union today announced changes in its leadership as a result of a series of retirements, including USW International President Leo W. Gerard, Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson and Vice Presidents Carol Landry and Jon Geenen. 

The union’s International Executive Board (IEB) passed a resolution approving the plan and the transition, which will take place between now and mid-July when the changes become effective.   

“The decision to announce these changes together will ensure that a capable and experienced group of trade union leaders will hit the ground running as a team,” said Gerard. “It will also pave the way so that the union continues to be on solid footing and that the transition is seamless and serves the best interest of our membership.” 

Gerard will be replaced by USW International Vice President Tom Conway.

Gerard served the USW for more than 50 years. He began his career at age 18 in the mining industry in northern Ontario, and has since held a series of positions in the union, guiding it to what it is today. He spent his whole life fighting for working families and labor rights across the globe, and his impact as a labor leader in North America is immeasurable.

Gerard worked as union staff and ultimately became a District Director, the National Director of Canada, Secretary-Treasurer and finally in 2001 the USW’s International President. 

During his time with the union, Gerard has been a constant, strong and credible voice for the USW in both Washington, D.C., and Ottawa. He has testified on innumerable occasions on behalf of the union’s membership and their jobs, families and communities.

Gerard served on variety of advisory councils and task forces, setting policy and relentlessly defending workers during his presidency.

Under Gerard’s leadership, the USW formed the first global union, Workers Uniting, and he has built global labor alliances around the world.

He intends to remain active in the labor community but has largely decided to enjoy his well-earned retirement and looks forward to spending more time with his wife and family.

Conway, who will take over for Gerard as USW International President, has been USW Vice President since 2005. He began his career as a millwright at Bethlehem Steel in 1978. He has served as a staff representative and as the secretary of the USW’s Basic Steel Conference. He has also chaired many of the union’s major sector negotiations in steel, mining, aluminum, tire and rubber, oil, and other metals and manufacturing operations.

Conway has led the charge on trade issues affecting these sectors, including the union’s efforts in trade enforcement. He also spearheaded the USW’s efforts in fighting to bring change to the nation’s trade and manufacturing policies. 

In addition to serving on the governing board of the Institute for Career Development and the board of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), Conway has been instrumental in building and guiding the USW staff training program and in helping to develop the union’s leadership development program.

Conway’s position as Vice President will be filled by District 1 Director David McCall.

McCall first joined the union’s international executive board in 1998. Beginning his career as a millwright, he has held many union positions, including serving as a staff representative, assistant director and director with more than 40 years of union experience.

McCall, whose district encompasses the state of Ohio, has many years of bargaining experience across the union and chairs major negotiations in steel, paper and other sectors. He also serves as secretary of the USW Constitution Committee.

USW Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson will be replaced by District 4 Director John Shinn.

Johnson has served the USW as Secretary-Treasurer since 2009. He began his union career at a URW tire plant in 1975 as a tire builder. He has held many union positions throughout his career at the District and International levels.

As the union’s CFO, Johnson has brought stability, strength and confidence to the union’s finances. He oversees the union’s crucial Rapid Response program and chairs the union’s Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference, leading negotiations with some of the nation’s largest tire makers. He also chairs bargaining within the paper industry.

John Shinn, who will become the union’s next Secretary-Treasurer, currently serves as the director of USW District 4, which encompasses the Northeast corridor states and New England, as well as Puerto Rico. 

He joined the USW executive board in 2012 and has aggressively promoted job creation within his district. Shinn chairs the Inter-Union Gas Conference and various committees within the union’s paper conference.

Shinn joined the labor movement in 1974 as a member of the United Glass and Ceramic Workers International Union (UGCWIU), which later merged to become the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers (ABG). He served as a staff representative in the ABG and as a sub-director in the USW before becoming director.

Roxanne Brown will take over for International Vice President at Large Carol Landry.

Landry joined the USW executive board in 2008 as the first woman to ever serve on the board, bringing with her years of experience as an activist and negotiator.

Landry began her career in 1986 and held many union positions. She has been responsible for the union’s nuclear and chemical sectors and served as co-chair of the USW’s Next Generation program. She also served as Vice President of the IndustriALL Global Union and spearheaded programs encouraging women to take leadership roles in the union.

Filling Landry’s seat will be Roxanne Brown, who currently serves as USW Legislative Director in the union’s Washington, D.C., office. She will continue to oversee legislative, public policy and political matters while remaining based in the capital.  

Brown has a broad base of experience working for legislation that supports USW members and all working people. She also works with the various companies and associations that are impacted by regulations and laws under consideration in the nation’s agencies and Congress. She began working for the USW legislative department in 1999.

International Vice President Jon Geenen will be replaced by Leeann Foster.

Geenen joined the USW Board in 2008 and has overseen bargaining, trade issues and public policy related to the domestic paper industry.

He began his career in 1977 as a journeyman maintenance tech in the pulp and paper industry. Since then, Geenen has worked tirelessly to guide USW paper workers through a maze of mergers and acquisitions, to develop a coordinated pattern of labor agreements within the industry and to improve contract language and strengthen the voice for members.

Leeann Foster, who currently serves as Assistant to the International President and has served as Associate General Counsel since the 2005 USW/PACE merger, will replace Geenen.

Foster works as the lead bargainer with many companies within the paper sector, as well as leading the union’s Women of Steel leadership program. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the IndustriALL Global Union working group for the pulp and paper sector.

Together with Geenen, Foster has led the USW paper industry through difficult bargaining and has worked to develop a safety strategy within the sector.

Throughout these changes, the USW remains a progressive and powerful voice for workers in the United States and Canada and around the world.

“Our union is changing and becoming more diverse,” said Gerard. “We represent more different kinds of workers in more and more sectors, and our board is changing to reflect that growth. The USW is committed to bringing forward the next generation of labor leaders and to provide the tools, training, and opportunity they will need to succeed.

“These changes in leadership do not mean we are shrinking from any of our longstanding commitments. Rather, these new leaders are redoubling our promises to them and to our mission to always fight for the working class. The new team brings vast experience and knowledge of our industries and issues and will continue the proud traditions the union has always stood for.”

“While we will miss our colleagues,” said Conway, “we recognize their desire to move into new phases of their lives, and we wish all the best for them. They have left behind a solid and stable union, and for that, we thank them.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.

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May Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/may-update-from-soar-director-julie-stein Fri, 24 May 2019 12:26:29 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/may-update-from-soar-director-julie-stein Just do the Right Thing, Already!!!

In this Connection newsletter, I wanted to share my thoughts about the Alliance for Retired Americans’ (ARA) annual congressional voting record that was released in May, which is recognized as Older Americans Month. 

The ARA has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the labor movement to assure all Americans the right to a secure and dignified retirement.  

Their report assesses votes taken between January 2018 and December 2018 that could impact the well-being of current and future retirees.  (Any actions that have been taken by the newly-elected Congress in November 2018 will appear on the report that will be released by the ARA next year.)   

The ARA report shows what many Americans knew already:  that a vast majority of Congress was not looking out for the best interests of retirees.  This explains why Americans voted to oust the largest number of incumbents since the Watergate scandal in 1974.  In fact: 

  • Only 42% of Senators voted right on 100% of ARA-scored bills, compared to just 28% of U.S. House members; and,
  • Only 49% of Senators and 41% of U.S. House members voted right on 2/3 of the ARA-scored bills in 2018.

All 41 of the U.S. House seats that flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the 2017 election were represented by a legislator who voted wrong on at least 50% of the bills scored by the ARA.  In fact, 12 of the 17 members who voted wrong 100% of the time were either defeated or retired in 2018.  Meanwhile, 99% of the members who voted right on all of the ARA-scored bills won reelection.      

So, if there are any members of Congress reading this who are concerned about reelection in 2020, I have one bit of advice that could go a long way!  Doing right by retirees will help your chances more than you can imagine!  Cheers!

To see the full report, click here: 2018 Congressional Voting Record.

Click here to read a statement from the ARA on the release of their report.

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USW Local 7898 Supports Smalls for Georgetown City Council https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/usw-local-7898-supports-smalls-for-georgetown-city-council Wed, 22 May 2019 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/usw-local-7898-supports-smalls-for-georgetown-city-council D9 Councilman Smalls Presentation

 Ed Green, Vice President of USW Local 7898 presenting check to Clarence Smalls.


USW District 9 and Local 7898, Georgetown Steel located in Georgetown, SC is proud to support City Councilman Clarence Smalls.

Smalls, a retired Longshoreman, sincerely understands the vital role of the Port of Georgetown which supports the steel mill. The economic impact these facilities provide shapes the city of Georgetown.

“He has always been and continues to be a strong voice for Labor” states James Sanderson, President of USW Local 7898.

“Local 7898 Leadership and members understand the importance of staying engaged in the political process, especially locally” District 9 Director Daniel Flippo indicated, “Our jobs depend on local political decisions and we must stay engaged and be an active participant in that process, Local 7898 gets that.”

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Stat Facts: District 6 Health Care Activists Mobilize in Canada and Prepare for More Action https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-district-6-health-care-activists-mobilize-in-canada-and-prepare-for-more-action Mon, 20 May 2019 10:31:45 -0500 https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/stat-facts-district-6-health-care-activists-mobilize-in-canada-and-prepare-for-more-action The District 6 Health Care Council convened in Ottawa last week for their bi-annual meeting and to rally in the streets in support of improving conditions for the nation’s thousands of health care workers.

Approximately 30 USW health care members met to talk about the importance of bargaining and learn how the union approaches negotiating strategies to win the best possible contracts for its members. With health care workers having no right to strike in Canada, activists must use union organizing and other grassroots efforts to obtain the language and standards they need and deserve in an industry plagued with short staffing and workplace violence.   

“Right now, there’s not enough funding or resources to suffice the growing needs in the long-term care industry,” said District 6 Area Coordinator Richard Leblanc. “And the legislated process to resolve impasse during bargaining is broken, so we need to go back to the good old days of activating our membership.”

One major outcome of the council’s meeting was the creation of a subcommittee, which will focus on those mobilization efforts and begin forming an action plan to tackle the many issues health care workers need addressed, including burnout, standards of care, and the right to refuse unsafe work.

The activists in Ottawa last Thursday also rallied at an intersection near the office of Lisa MacLeod, a politician serving in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, to call for real fixes to these challenges. They handed out leaflets to drivers waiting at red lights as well as directly to MacLeod’s office.

“The private sector is not the answer,” said Audra Nixon, president of the District 6 Health Care Council. “Good public policy is, and that’s why we need to make our voices heard.”

For more photos from the event, click here.

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