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Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

Energy Department Announces 2022 Environmental Cleanup Priorities

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 05:53

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Management Office released on Jan. 18 its 2022 calendar year cleanup priorities, setting an agenda that will impact members at least five USW-represented sites who work on cleanup of radioactive and chemical waste.

This year’s priorities focus on achieving significant construction milestones, executing key cleanup projects, reducing the environmental management footprint, awarding new contracts, and improving the agency’s cleanup performance, with a focus on sustainability and innovation.

Jim Key, president of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC), cautioned that these priorities are largely aspirational and remain subject to the availability of federal funding.

He also raised concern that the push to complete these goals could negatively impact nuclear workers’ health and safety.

“We have seen contractors rush cleanup work by allowing unsafe actions and short-cuts in order to complete a project before DOE’s proposed deadline so they receive performance-based incentives,” Key said. “We report these unsafe actions to the DOE when members tell us about them.”

DOE’s goals for its USW-represented sites include:

  • Completing the cold commissioning of the first melter at Hanford for the waste treatment and immobilization plant. The melter heats the low-activity waste from the tanks and glass-forming materials.
  • Beginning the pre-treatment of tank waste through the tank-side cesium removal system at Hanford. The system removes radioactive cesium and solids from the tank waste.
  • Finishing the processing of 100 sodium-bearing waste containers at the integrated waste treatment unit at Idaho National Laboratory, and completing the retrieval of buried waste within the subsurface disposal area, a 97-acre landfill.
  • Finishing up construction of the new filter building for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s (WIPP) safety significant confinement ventilation system.
  • Completing 30 shipments of transuranic waste from Los Alamos to WIPP.
  • Completing 50 percent of the west access drift mining. Drifts are passages used for moving people, machines, waste and air through the underground WIPP mine.
  • Awarding two new contracts at WIPP that contractors can bid on for management and operations and transportation.
  • Finishing up the demolition of the X-326 process building at Portsmouth.
  • Disposing 1 million pounds of hazardous refrigerant at Paducah.

Pictured: Workers are emplacing barrels of transuranic waste at the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N. M. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Hundreds of county health care workers vote to join the USW

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 12:27

A group of roughly 500 workers at four Kane Community Living Centers across the Pittsburgh region voted unanimously last Friday to join the USW.

Debbie Blakeley, a recreation aide at the Kane Centers’ Ross Township facility, said that she and her colleagues voted to join the union in order to pursue workplace rights and a voice on the job as well as stronger wages and benefits.

“Respect is a big thing for all of us,” said Blakeley, who has worked at the Kane Centers for 37 years. “I’m looking forward to working with the union to get what we deserve, because we all work really hard.”

The bargaining unit will consist of Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), dietary and recreation aides, housekeeping workers, and material handlers at the four Allegheny County-run assisted living and senior facilities.

The new bargaining committee will enter negotiations for a first contract as USW members in the coming weeks, and 17-year Kane employee Desirae Beatty said she is more than ready for a positive change.

“We’ve been striving all year to make this election happen, and I am so glad we can now move on to the work of bargaining a fair contract,” said Beatty. “We have shown the county and Kane that we can organize and move as one.”

These essential workers join the nearly 150 other Allegheny County workers represented by the USW and the more than 50,000 other USW-represented health care workers across North America.

Supreme Court Agrees to Review Washington State Workers’ Compensation Law

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 08:52

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 10 agreed to review a 2018 Washington state law that makes it easier for sick nuclear contractor employees at the Hanford nuclear reservation to obtain state workers’ compensation benefits.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requested the review in September 2021, citing both the wording and the scope of the law as concerns.

Under the 2018 state law, sick nuclear workers no longer have to prove that their illness resulted from workplace exposure at Hanford. Rather, the state Department of Labor and Industries must presume that workers’ exposure to radiological or chemical substances at the reservation caused their neurological diseases or respiratory illnesses.

Pictured: A cold winter afternoon as Hanford nuclear reservation workers prepare to remove the core from tank C-107. Photo is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. 

The state law also presumes that many types of cancer and some limited heart problems are from workplace exposure at Hanford. A minimum of one eight-hour shift at Hanford is required to file a claim, and a worker’s survivors can file after the worker dies.

Among other concerns, the DOJ’s view is that the law’s description of applicable illnesses is too vague.

The DOJ lost its case opposing the 2018 state law before the U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington in June 2019. It also lost its appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the following year.

Testimony from sick Hanford contractor employees and union supporters convinced the state legislature that Hanford workers need separate rules. They discussed hazardous exposures at the nuclear reservation and the uncertainty surrounding which chemicals a worker may have encountered.

Washington state continues to defend the law, arguing that Hanford contractors have not consistently monitored chemicals, which makes it difficult for a worker to identify a specific incident that caused their illness.

For more information about the Washington state and federal compensation programs and how to apply for them, Hanford workers can go to the Hanford Engagement Center at 309 Bradley Blvd., Suite 120, in Richland, Wash., or call 509-376-4932.

Trade Victory for USW Uncoated Paper Markets in Sunset Review of Current Protections

Fri, 01/14/2022 - 05:57

On January 11th, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) voted in favor of keeping in place the antidumping duty orders on uncoated paper imported from Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, and Portugal.

Antidumping and countervailing duties are typically reviewed by the ITC five years after implementation to determine whether revocation of the orders would likely lead to material injury to the industry.

To support efforts to maintain the orders and effectively fight for USW Paper Sector jobs, International Vice President Leeann Foster testified to the USITC in November and detailed the critical impact that the existing orders have had on USW-represented paper employers.

In her testimony, Vice President Foster stated, “When a paper machine goes down, local tax revenues are deeply affected; not only due to jobs lost at the mill, but also due to the six to seven jobs in the community that rely on that paperworker. When an entire paper mill goes down, it is like an economic bomb going off in the community – deeply impacting not only the workers and the jobs those workers support, but also schools and local governments in the area as revenue is lost, as well as the service industry such as hotels and restaurants in the area, many of which exist to support the mill, the paperworkers, and their families”.

Closures like that of Georgia-Pacific’s uncoated capacity at its Port Hudson, LA, or Domtar’s Port Huron, MI mill, resulted in the loss of hundreds of good-paying union jobs and has had devastating effects on those local communities. Undoubtedly, if the orders had been revoked by the USITC, unfairly traded imports would have quickly accelerated additional losses in the domestic uncoated paper industry, just as they did in the original investigation.

The USW continually works with legal counsel and international trade advocacy groups to spearhead investigations into unfair trade practices that impact our members.

USW's letter to Congress re: steel tariffs

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 15:47

Click here to download a printable version of this letter. 

USW International President Tom Conway sent the following letter via e-mail to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives: 

Dear Senator/Representative:

The United Steelworkers union (USW) is the largest industrial union in North America. Our members work in virtually every sector and subsector in manufacturing, and as a result, they have experienced firsthand the impact of foreign unfair trade practices and non-market policies. We fought for decades to level the playing field, all too often resorting to filing trade cases because we were unable to rely on our own government to enforce the rules it negotiated or the agreements it reached, or to effectively implement the necessary remedies.

Against this backdrop it is especially galling to hear calls to lift retaliatory tariffs like those that were imposed under Section 301 of our trade laws to protect against Chinese intellectual property theft or under Section 232 that safeguard our national security and critical infrastructure. Efforts to undermine enforcement actions under the guise of addressing inflationary pressures or to give importers increased access to foreign supplies, which are all-too-often unfairly traded, are an insult to workers and their employers in the impacted sectors who work hard, play by the rules, and simply expect their elected leaders to stand by their sides.

As outsourcing and offshoring have become ever more commonplace over the past two decades, our members witnessed the hollowing out of their communities as wages were depressed and jobs disappeared. For example, at a Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth field hearing in October 2021, USW member Rick Cain testified that Chinese import competition alone may explain one- quarter of the aggregate drop in the U.S. manufacturing workforce between 1990 and 2007.1 The negative impact of these trends on our economic and national security are undeniable. We must reverse course and ensure that more of our own needs can be met by producers here at home. This requires sensible industrial policy, strong domestic investment, and federal trade policy, which reduces incentives to arbitrage global labor and environment standards.

In recent weeks, public comments and communications by a few elected representatives and importers have shown a disregard for the common-sense policies that were implemented to address unfair trade practices, massive global industrial overcapacity, and other forces that have undermined our own interests. Some have called for lifting Section 301 tariffs against China claiming they contribute to inflation.

Yet many of these tariffs have been in place for years, which means they are clearly not contributing to current inflation spikes. In fact, federal revenue collected from the steel and aluminum 232’s has declined since implementation in 2018.2

Calls by special interests like the retail community to reduce tariffs to relieve short-term price pressures belie the fact that the total value of U.S. tariffs collected since 2018, including the 232, 301, and other duties, was about half of the gross profits of one domestic-based company (Amazon) during the same period.3,4 If prices are the problem, corporate profits should be the first target for action, not undermining the job prospects for hard-working Americans. To put an even finer point on why tariffs collected are an insignificant factor on inflation, the increased wealth of eight individuals – Jeff Bezos and the Walton family – in 2020 was one-third higher than total duties collected by the U.S. government.5

USW takes very seriously efforts to dismantle, destroy, or denigrate existing trade remedy measures that protect American manufacturers, workers, and communities. We will fight for our members’ jobs. Just as we will happily work with those among our political leaders who consistently fight on the side of working Americans, we will hold those on the other side accountable for their efforts to harm our manufacturing sector and the communities that rely on it.


Thomas Conway International President

1 Prosperity-in-the-Industrial-Heartland.pdf

2 (page 20)





AFL-CIO, nurses’ unions take OSHA to court to protect health care workers from COVID-19

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 15:01

As coronavirus infections and hospitalizations rise across the country, the AFL-CIO, National Nurses United, and other unions representing health care workers petitioned the United States Court of Appeals last Wed., Jan. 5, ordering the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a permanent standard that requires employers to protect health care workers against COVID-19.

OSHA announced on Dec. 27 that all of the non-recordkeeping provisions of the health care emergency temporary standard (ETS) issued by the labor secretary in June 2021 would be expiring, despite the massive surge of infections sweeping the nation. The labor groups’ petition asks the District of Columbia Circuit to order OSHA to retain and enforce the ETS until it is superseded by a permanent one.

“In the face of the Omicron variant, it is not the time to roll back protections, but to fully enforce and make them permanent,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler in a statement. “We have no choice but to turn to the courts to ensure that our healthcare workers are protected as they provide such critical care throughout this pandemic.”

The coalition of unions is requesting an expedited briefing from the court, with 10 days for a response and five days for a reply.

This petition came after multiple unions, including the USW, released a statement on Dec. 28 denouncing the Biden administration’s decision to discontinue the ETS.

Click here to read the full petition.

Evonik Workers Rally Behind USW Family Displaced by Kentucky Tornado

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 09:35

USW members Jackie and Trent Campbell lost their home Dec. 10, 2021, when a devastating series of tornadoes ripped through Kentucky. While their family was fortunately able to weather the storm without injury, their losses were enormous.

Now, as they move forward from this harrowing experience, their entire union family is rallying behind them and giving them the emotional support, financial assistance and help they need to start over.

“Everybody has pitched in and helped, and it makes you think ‘we’re not as bad off as we thought we were,’” said Jackie.

Trent looked out the door that night and heard the loud rumbling of the 190 m.p.h. tornado barreling toward his house. He ran downstairs to the basement, shut the bedroom door and laid over his wife, Jackie, as she held their two grandchildren, aged six months and four years old, on the floor.

“The air pressure was unreal, and it was really loud,” Jackie remembered. “I didn’t know if we were gonna make it or not.”

Minutes later, the tornado moved on and the Campbells found most of their house and belongings gone or strewn across their property.

Pictures of the Campbell family's home after the tornado hit.

“All of my union members have called me, even those who have retired, call and check on me,” Jackie said. “It makes you feel so good that you work with good, union people. They don’t think of themselves, they think of what do you need, what can we do for you?”

Trent is a Local 727-04 member at Wacker chemical company in Calvert City, Ky., and Jackie is a Local 727-00 member at Evonik chemical company in the same complex.

On Monday morning, two days after the storm, Evonik managers told employees they could be part of a crew to help Jackie and Trent, said Local 727-00 trustee Wade Kennedy.

Local 727-01 member Scott Phillips drove home to pick up his enclosed trailer. He, along with Kennedy and USW members Kurt Kester, Matt Lowery, Wes Lowery, Kevin Baker, Kyle Yates and Becky Canter, as well as a number of representatives from Evonik management, helped the Campbells clean up and salvage what was left.

“Evonik was great,” Jackie said. “The company sent about 10 people. When they showed up, I started crying. If I hadn’t had the help, I wouldn’t have gotten stuff out safely. Some of my grandkids’ toys I wouldn’t have thought to get. My fellow union members helping me meant a lot. I’m blessed to be able to work with so many good people.”

USW’s staff union, Local 3657, donated $2,000 to help the Campbells and the Calvert City locals gave them gift cards to replace what they lost.

Relief supplies that members from USW Local 9447 bought for the Mayfield, Ky., community the day after a massive tornado tore through the downtown area.

“As union brothers and sisters, we always need to help out and help each other whenever and however we can,” Kennedy said. “We may not be blood family, but we’re a family because we work together.”

If you would like to help, go to

You can also write a check to the USW Charitable and Educational Organization, writing “Disaster Relief” in the check memo line and mailing it to:

United Steelworkers
Attn: Steelworkers Charitable Fund
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

New Years Message for Chemical Workers from USW Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn

Fri, 01/07/2022 - 11:08

Dear Union Sisters and Brothers,

Working through the pandemic has been tough, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the outstanding work you and your locals have done over the last two years in keeping our members safe, getting through negotiations for new collective bargaining agreements, and continuing the union’s work representing our members.

If there is a silver lining to this ongoing crisis, it is how clearly it demonstrated the essential nature of our members’ jobs. Our work is important and, without you, your chemical plants could not run.

Our members’ health and safety continue to be our union’s number one concern. Not long after the pandemic started, District 9 Director Daniel Flippo approached BASF to successfully negotiate a Covid-19 protocol, which we ultimately used as a template in negotiating Covid-19 health and safety protections for the rest of the chemical sector.

Negotiating contracts in a time of social distancing was a challenge as well. Nevertheless, locals adapted and successfully negotiated fair contracts.

Local 11-418 at 3M’s Cottage Grove, Minn., complex found it was better to negotiate online than rent a hotel meeting room. The local faced tough negotiations with 3M but was able to succeed by engaging in Building Power training from the USW’s Strategic Campaigns department, holding outdoor rallies and pickets, and keeping members informed via text message.

Virtual bargaining also marked Local 13833’s negotiations with 3M at its Tonawanda, N.Y., sponge plant. Members pressured management on the shop floor by placing signs on their machines that said they needed a contract.

The Evonik Calvert City, Ky., units communicated with Local 7237-05 at the company’s Weston, Mich., facility, which negotiated several weeks prior to Calvert City bargaining. This enabled the Kentucky workers to better anticipate and respond to Evonik’s demands.

A positive change in management personnel at some locations led to cordial negotiations that wrapped up in three days. This happened with Local 220’s unit at Solvay’s Kalamazoo, Mich., plant and Local 4-574 at 3M’s Tilton, N.H., facility.

When Dow Chemical announced its pension changes, the Dow DuPont North American Labor Council (DNALC) met virtually to discuss the impact on their locals. We also used Zoom and email to keep communication and solidarity flowing for the Evonik, Solvay and BASF virtual council meetings. For the first time, we held a virtual meeting for the entire chemical sector, which introduced members to the resources available within the International.

At the end of October, the DNALC conducted a hybrid meeting that was both virtual and in-person with adherence to mask wearing.

These past two years, our union’s chemical workers showed they are resilient, and despite the nationwide surge of the omicron variant, I am confident we can continue strengthening the solidarity within our sector. Stay safe and, together, we can face the challenges of this new year!

In Solidarity,

John Shinn
Head of the USW chemical sector and International Secretary-Treasurer

Register for the AFL-CIO MLK Conference!

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 07:48

For more than 25 years, the AFL-CIO has brought together more than 500 trade unionists annually during the Dr. King holiday to honor the civil rights leader’s life and legacy, perform community service, and examine current civil and human rights issues.

This year’s 2022 AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference will be held virtually on January 16-17.

Click here for details and to register.

The theme of this year's conference is Honoring Our Past and Protecting Our Future.

History tells us where we’ve been. And it shows us the path for moving forward.

We will build on our victories and strategize about the continued fight for economic and racial justice with—and also within—the labor movement.

This conference will challenge us to look to the future. To ask and answer how we can build a multiracial, progressive labor movement reflective of America’s changing workforce.

Sessions and trainings will be held online so everyone can attend safely.

Click here to learn more about how you can get involved in this year’s conference!

Nuclear Workers Help Fellow Kentuckians Recover After Massive Tornado

Tue, 01/04/2022 - 09:53

Local 550 members at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant are helping those who lost everything after a huge tornado and other storms churned through western Kentucky the night of Dec. 10.

The tornado killed at least 77 people in Kentucky and left a trail of debris across a large swath of the region. While it did not claim the lives of any Local 550 members or retirees, at least one person lost a relative in the storm.

In the wake of the tornado, Local 550’s membership voted to donate up to $5,000 for disaster relief, and members are using vacation time and paid time off to help with clean-up efforts and to aid those who were displaced.

What’s left after a monster tornado tore through Kentucky.  Photo by USW Local 727-00 member Wade Kennedy.

Greg Enlow, a Local 550 member, took off work for the rest of the year. His Mayfield, Ky., house missed the mile-wide, 190 m.p.h. twister by two blocks, but he understands that the entire community will have to rally behind those who were less fortunate.

“I’m trying to help people out where I can and get things back to normal as quickly as possible,” Enlow said. “It was pretty chaotic all of Friday night and half-a-day on Saturday.”

Early in the morning of Dec. 11, he called his family and the union members he works with to check on them and see what they needed. He also wired up generators for people and checked on others to see if they needed water and food.

Enlow said that several union members were on the ground early Saturday morning to bring water and other aid.

“I was overwhelmed how the membership took care of people, me especially,” he said. “The volunteers that first day were essential because no one else was here.”

The tornado destroyed Enlow’s daughter-in-law’s business in Mayfield, and he lost a vehicle because the storm destroyed the auto shop where it was being repaired. “I was very fortunate, and thank God every day,” he said.

Twenty-five-year Local 550 member Ike Murphy, who is also a full-time preacher, took in people to his church’s community center in Mayfield, fed them and took care of them for five days until he and his volunteers relocated people to the state park lodges.

“We had a lot of homeless folk without power, water…it was total devastation,” Murphy said.

The Red Cross brought cots and Mayfield stores donated mattresses for people to sleep on. Murphy and his volunteers fed over 120 people three times a day with donated supplies from food companies, and ran buses in the morning and evening to the church for people to get showers. Now, Murphy’s focus is on expanding his church’s food pantry to twice a week.

“I’m thankful I work in a facility that had people who donated vacation time to me so I could help others,” Murphy said. “We haven’t done anything heroic. We did what the Lord wanted us to do.”

Jeff Wiggins, secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky AFL-CIO and a member of USW 9447-4, is working full time helping tornado victims, including coordinating with the national AFL-CIO to get needed personnel on the ground. He and Gerald Adkins, who works with the state AFL-CIO, helped Local 550 retiree Ray Coffee salvage what little remained of his home. Coffee, his wife and grandchildren huddled in the basement as the tornado ripped apart the house.

“It’s Christmas time and you can’t give enough to help out,” Wiggins said.

Those who would like to help fellow union members impacted by the storms can go to You can also help by writing a check to the USW Charitable and Educational Organization, writing “Disaster Relief” in the check memo line and mailing it to: United Steelworkers, Attn: Steelworkers Charitable Fund, 60 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

New Years Greetings for Atomic Workers from International Vice President Roxanne Brown

Mon, 01/03/2022 - 10:57

Dear Siblings,

We appreciate the progress you made at your sites this past year, especially in maintaining a safe workplace despite working through the second year of the pandemic.

USW members at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) marked 30 years of successfully cleaning up waste sites containing unlined wastewater disposal ponds, debris piles, radioactive groundwater plumes, buried barrels and boxes of radioactive and hazardous wastes, among other items.

They are also on the cusp of removing more than 49,000 drums of radioactive and hazardous waste from the Subsurface Disposal Area, an unlined landfill, 18 months ahead of schedule. This and other work they’ve executed is safeguarding the Snake River Plain Aquifer and protecting Idaho’s residents, wildlife and environment—no small achievement!

Our members at the Hanford, Wash., Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky., cleanup sites also continue to mark noticeable progress in eliminating the nation’s hazardous and radioactive waste imprint from decades of nuclear weapons research and production.

At the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., our members rebounded from the underground truck fire and the 2014 radioactive release from an emplaced waste drum that exploded due to the wrong material placed in the container. WIPP just accepted its 13,000th shipment and is getting ready to move transuranic waste into a newly-mined area.

Throughout the pandemic, USW atomic locals and members continued to press for safe working conditions. For example, workers on the depleted uranium hexafluoride project at the Portsmouth and Paducah sites pushed for and obtained major plant modifications to make their work safer.

Our members at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tenn., understand how to safely conduct nuclear fuel fabrication and uranium recovery operations to produce nuclear fuel. When supervisors started prioritizing production over safety earlier this year, the local’s union leaders immediately talked to the NFS CEO and moved the focus back to operating safely.

USW atomic sector locals continue to push their contractors to use the union’s effective health and safety training that the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center provides to improve working conditions at these hazardous sites. The TMC’s classes for lead trainers and members who conduct train-the-trainer classes ensures that as many workers as possible will receive the information they need to keep safe and maintain their health.

Finally, our union is helping bring in a new generation of workers to the nuclear sector by conducting training for radioactive control technicians.

Our atomic workers have done tremendous work this past year, and despite the pandemic continuing to prevent us from meeting in person, we conducted virtually our Atomic Energy Workers Council meetings to handle issues that arose because of the virus and other problems.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends and please stay safe! I look forward to this new year when we can continue to make progress together.

In Solidarity,

Roxanne Brown
USW International Vice President at Large
Head of the USW atomic sector

Bernie Sanders writes Warren Buffett in support of Local 40 strikers

Wed, 12/29/2021 - 19:12

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Warren Buffett in support of our 450 siblings at USW Local 40 who have been on strike against Special Metals in Huntington, West Virginia, a subsidiary of Precision Castparts which Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns.

Click here to download a printable version of the letter. The text reads:

Dear Mr. Buffett,

As I'm sure you know, 450 steelworkers at Special Metals in Huntington, West Virginia, a subsidiary of Precision Castparts which Berkshire Hathaway owns, have been engaged in a bitter strike for almost 100 days. These skilled employees produce critically important materials for space crafts, airplanes, and submarines. They do their work with great pride and diligence, and many of them have been employed at the company for years.

Despite their hard work and loyalty, the company has offered them a 5-year contract that is outrageous and insulting. At a time when inflation is over 6% and when Precision Castports made $1.5 billion in profits last year, the latest offer from your management team is for a zero pay increase this year. Instead, the company would simply provide a $2,000 signing bonus. Further, the workers would get a totally inadequate 1 percent wage increase next year, and a tiny 2 percent increase for the following three years. This amounts to a very significant cut in real pay when accounting for current inflation.

To add insult to injury, the company also wants to make major cuts in employee health care. It would almost quadruple the cost of health care for these workers, taking a current monthly premium from $275 up to approximately $1,000. The contract offer would force these workers into high-deductible plans that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

The company also wants to cut back on the vacation time that employees have accrued.

Mr. Buffett: You have spoken out eloquently on the crisis our country now faces in terms of growing income and wealth inequality. You have correctly pointed out that, while working families struggle, the top one percent is doing extremely well.

Over the years, under your leadership, Berkshire Hathaway has been phenomenally successful. Berkshire reported a record $6.5 billion in operating income last quarter, an 18 percent increase from the same quarter one year ago. It now sits on nearly $150 billion in cash. Further, it is no secret that you are one of the richest people in the world, with wealth of over $108 billion.

Today, I am personally requesting that you intervene in the negotiations between Steelworkers Local 40 and Precision Castparts to make sure that the workers are treated with dignity and respect and receive a fair contract that rewards the hard work and sacrifices they have made. At a time when this company and Berkshire Hathaway are both doing very well, there is no reason why workers employed by you should be

worrying about whether they will be able to feed their children or have health care. There is no reason why the standard of living of these hard working Americans should decline. I know that you and Berkshire Hathaway can do better than that.

I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about this matter as soon as possible.



We need the Build Back Better Act

Mon, 12/20/2021 - 12:14

Our Senators need to hear from us.

For decades, the USW and our Rapid Response has been educating and activating our members about issues that impact us in the workplace.

When we see policies that will impact our core issues - collective bargaining, safety and health, job security, retirement security, domestic economic issues, and health care – we engage.

The Build Back Better Act is one of those policies.

Collective Bargaining

Build Back Better increases penalties for unfair labor practices up to $100k to provide an actual disincentive to law-breaking companies. The bill also includes up to $250 in a tax deduction for all union workers, even if they don’t itemize deductions.

Safety and Health

Build Back Better provides more meaningful penalties for employers who put our safety at risk by raising penalties for willful violations from $70k to $700k and penalties for serious violations from $5k to $50k.

Job Security

The bill provides $20 billion for workforce development. It also contains over $80 billion in grants, loans, and tax credits to invest in updating, modernizing, retooling, and building manufacturing facilities in the United States. That means capital investment in our employers that won’t cut into our wages and benefits.

Domestic Economic Issues

In addition to Buy America provisions, the Build Back Better Act contains Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) improvements that extend and expand TAA, which helps workers who have lost their jobs due to bad trade policies. The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) is increased to 80% and made permanent. These are both issues we have had to fight to keep or improve every single budget year.

Health Care

This bill would provide for changes to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to give guaranteed paid weeks to care for yourself or a loved one, something we’ve always had to bargain for. Medicare would be expanded to incorporate hearing benefits, creating dramatic savings for those who spent years in factories supplying America and suffered hearing loss. It also includes caps on insulin prices, which has a direct impact on our insurance prices.

We can’t let this opportunity slip by.

Legislators from both parties need to hear why this bill is important to our union and our families.


Tell them who you are, where you are from, and that they need to continue to work to pass the Build Back Better Act. Tell them it’s time to put politics aside and put the middle class first.

Senate Toll-Free Number: 1-877-607-0785

Remember to make two calls to be connected to both your Senators.

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

Mon, 12/20/2021 - 09:44

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.”

Local 550 Brings Holiday Cheer to Paducah Community

Mon, 12/20/2021 - 06:46

Over a hundred underprivileged Paducah, Ky., children will have bikes to ride and toys under the Christmas tree because of the generosity of Local 550 members, employees and contractors at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site.

Local 550 Women of Steel Coordinator Kayla Neely organized the local’s Toys for Tots event this year. Toys for Tots is a nationwide program that the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve conducts each fall. The organization collects new, unwrapped toys for needy children in the community where the campaign is conducted.

Local 550 President Gary Wilson said the Paducah cleanup site donated $3,000 to $4,000 of toys and over 30 bicycles for less fortunate children. The charity also received financial donations from the local and its Women of Steel program.

“We usually start in October and get boxes put up,” Wilson said of the toy drive. “A lot of the members feel this is their Christmas. They look forward to doing this, and we have a few members save toys throughout the year to get prepared for this event.”

In addition to Toys for Tots, the local supports three other charities: Cassidy’s Cause, Starfish Orphan Ministries and Sunrise Children’s Services. This year they raffled a $500 hunting store gift card and were able to donate $1,200 to each charity. The charities also received donations from the site contractors: Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, Mid-America Conversion Services and Swift & Staley.

Working with the site contractors on the toy drive and financial support for local charities helps improve labor relations, Wilson said. “It’s one time we don’t have to sit down and argue about things. It’s one thing we can do together.”

Local 550 also collects canned food for a yearly Christmas event in a local park. Christmas lights line the park and people drive through to the Santa house where the local brings canned food and donations.

This year, the local donated $3,100 and two large crates of canned goods for local food banks. “This is another event that everybody loves to do,” Wilson said.

“It’s good for us to get together and work as a union to help people who need it,” he added. “It’s a good feeling to do anything charitable.”

2021 USW Cares District 12 Jefferson Award Winner, Local Union 8599 Women of Steel Committee and Child Welfare Liaison Staff

Fri, 12/17/2021 - 09:52

USW Local Union 8599 represents the classified staff of Fontana Unified School District in Fontana, California. Three members work in the Child Welfare and Attendance Liaison department providing aid, resources, and support to students in need, and the local has small but active Women of Steel Committee that fundraises for Relay for Life and Ronald McDonald House, and volunteers to chaperone the Special Education Prom.

The Liaisons and Women of Steel Committee each carry their own weight of community service for the Local, and because of their incredible combined impact on students in need and people battling cancer, these two groups are the 2021 USW Cares District 12 Jefferson Award winner.

Child Welfare and Attendance Liaison

The Child Welfare and Attendance liaisons of Fontana Unified School District are members Connie Arambro, Lydia Wibert, and David Matuguina. They have worked throughout the pandemic to make sure students and families are safe by providing resources, shopping and making home deliveries, delivering supplies for kids to participate in distant learning, and finding resources to get utility assistance and hotel vouchers for families in distress.

“Our position is not just going to families and getting their kids get to school. We’ve been like social workers this last year. When schools were closed, our boots were on the ground, doing services for families, getting kids enrolled in school, delivering groceries, assisting with unemployment applications, being tech support for distant learning, and finding temporary housing for low-income families losing their residence,” said Matuguina.

“We are the first responders at the student level, caring for their welfare and making sure they have access to education,” said Wibert. “My first week back, three different boys lost their mothers: one from an over-dose, one from cancer, and one from an aneurism, and nobody knew; all the school knew was that they were not logging-on. So that’s when we investigate.”

The liaisons transported students and families to doctor appointments, did food deliveries every day, supported kids whose family members died, and supplied children with shoes, books, and supplies.

“While everybody was at home working remotely, we were providing to families during a pandemic. During a time of unknown, we were out on the streets helping people. Our position is much more than what the job description entails. We were providing a service beyond our normal duties at the risk of our own health and our families’,” said Matuguina.

“It all depends on the need of the family. Every day is something; we could be helping a family at 8 o’clock in the morning and it will not end until the evening. I think we go above and beyond to make sure our families and children are safe, and whatever resources they need, whatever help they need, we are there to guide them,” said Arambro.

Women of Steel Committee

The Local 8599 Women of Steel Committee has raised hundreds of dollars for cancer research through the Relay for Life and thousands of dollars through union member bus trips to the local casinos for the Ronald McDonald house. They dedicated the month of October as "Sock-tober” for the past five years for their annual sock-drive which has provided thousands of pairs of socks to the Child Welfare and Attendance Liaison which distributes them to families in the school district.

Before COVID-19, the Committee participated in and raised money for Relay For Life every year, all monies raised went to cancer research. Committee members made gift baskets and craft items for raffles, staff a tent, and collected donations.

They also fundraise for the Ronald McDonald house in Loma Linda California. The Ronald McDonald house allows families whose children are attending Loma Linda Children's hospital to stay for free to be with their child. The cost to sponsor a room is $5,000. The committee organized several bus trips to the casino over the years and is very close to being able to sponsor a room for a year. Anyone is welcome to buy a ticket; during the drive to the casino they a 50/50 raffles and play bingo to raise funds.

Most recently, the Committee collected and delivered personal care items, socks and holiday greeting cards to the Loma Linda Veterans Hospital to spread good cheer. They received donations from Aava Dental and the Fontana Foundation of Hope.

The women have dedicated the month of October as "Socktober for the past five years for their annual sock drive. They have provided Child Welfare and Attendance Liaison with thousands of pairs of socks over the years that have been distributed to school district families.

The Committee participates and sponsors the Special Education Prom every year for the Special Education Seniors. They set up, clean up, dance with students and give the kids glow sticks, glow bracelets, and light-up items to make their night special.

Josie Garo and Bertha Velazquez have served as Co-Chairs of the Committee for over ten years and have been active WOS members for over 20 years. They are both Special Education Aides who will be retiring soon, Josie this year and Bertha next year.

“We are a small group of ladies that will do anything that Josie or Bertha suggest our committee do. They have great ideas that help us get further involved in our Union and community. They push us to be better women and better members in general. They speak to us about the importance of participating in Rapid Response and Civil Rights and Human Rights. They have the passion and drive that is contagious; we all feel empowered with their drive,” said nominator, Local 8599 President, and fellow woman of steel, Dawn Dooley.

(Bertha Velasquez, Juana Sotelo, Valerie Beauregard, and Josie Garro and making masks for the 2021 Veterans Spring Project)

2021 USW Cares District 11 Jefferson Award winner, Dan Jackson

Fri, 12/17/2021 - 09:47

‘Bandana Dan’ Jackson of Local Union 560 is known for building activism in the union and in his community, whether it’s through Toys for Tots, sitting on multiple labor councils across the state, or keeping teenagers safe after prom by hosting games and safe entertainment. For all he has done to lift his community, educate and engage fellow union members, and advocate for pro-worker legislation, Bandana Dan is the 2021 USW Cares District 11 Jefferson Award winner.

Jackson has worked for Doosan Bobcat as a sheer operator for 18 years. Being in a “Right-to-Work” state, when Jackson was first hired he had to make the decision as to whether or not he wanted to be in the union.

“When my steward asked me after I got off probation if I wanted to join our union, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what a union was or if I should join. Instantly when I got off work I called my mom and she said ‘definitely join the union, unions are good,” and I’m a momma’s boy. I listen to my mom, so the next day I was in the union.”

Before working for Bobcat at non-union job, Jackson’s arm was broken at work. After being given an ultimatum to go to doctor’s appointments or go to work the next day, Jackson quit and never looked back

“I’ve worked since I was 12 years old. I’ve had my arm broken by my employer at my previous job and was introduced to MSHA, so I learned about safety before I got to this union job, and our union is huge on safety. That was an instant draw-in; we’re here to protect one another.”

After having a discrepancy with his employer, Jackson ran to become the new steward for his local and won the position: “I always liked getting into trouble. I’m a trouble maker, and I’m an anti-authority kind of person. This union has given me a super-positive outlet for that energy. I focus my energy into doing good for my union brothers and sisters. It gives you the opportunity to buck the system and not be a trouble-maker for it,” said Jackson.

Jackson has been the Recording Secretary for the Fargo Labor Council for the last ten years; he is very passionate about getting members of USW Local 560 involved in the Labor Council, exposing them to other unions that work differently and engaging them in local politics.

“I want to show our members what we (the Labor Council) are doing on city council races, on school board races, and with local representatives in our districts; I want to show them how the politicians that they like are hurting the working class and voting against us. I have to show them how these politicians are voting against us, what they’re voting on, and how it hurts us,” said Jackson.

Jackson wanted to do work in the community through his union and get other members volunteering in the community, so he started a Solidarity Committee which he chairs. The committee of 5 or 6 members initially did parades in town, but when Jackson’s daughter entered high school he found out about the Post-Prom hosted by Junior parents. Post-Prom is an all-night lock-in with games and prizes for students to go to when they leave prom, instead of going out partying.

The Solidarity Committee decided to be apart of that effort to keep children safe after Prom, so they provide their own game, committee member volunteers run it, and they award cash prizes to get money to Seniors for gas and college books. They do a collection at the factory to pay for prizes and take their game to the high schools in 6 different towns around the factory.

“We run it however the parents or volunteers want us to run it. We get a list from the parents to make sure that every kid gets to win a prize. We want to tell then that everybody’s a winner with the union!” said Jackson.

The committee is moving towards doing union trivia game to make it educational for the kids and to teach them about how unions are beneficial to the community.

Jackson visits those same six same surrounding high schools with his union brother, Anthony Dagget, to meet with the superintendents, principals, teachers, and counselors and inform them about union scholarship opportunities for students related to union members through the AFL-CIO and the USW Free College program.

The Solidarity Committee also does door prizes for local union meetings to encourage attendance and solidarity, and now they started giving prizes for acts of kindness witnessed in the factory.

“Members can email our committee about an ‘activist act’ or ‘kindness act’ within our factory and we do drawings from the nominations each month,” says Jackson.

Jackson also leads the Committee’s can project where they collect aluminum cans at the factory and sell them to a recycling company; the money they get from it is donated to the local’s Women of Steel committee for when they adopt families in need during the Holidays. Usually, they donate about $700 a year to the Women of Steel program.

“It is hard to put a price or value in the amount of spirit and passion he has helped to lift,” says his nominator and friend, Tas Starks. “It is because of Bandana Dan's actions, passion, and drive to inspire that I wish to pursue goals and live to inspire others. He is a man of honor who knows how to build people up.”

“My goal is to show my brothers and sisters that it’s US that is the union. We’re the power.” said Jackson

2021 USWCares Jefferson Award Winner Bios

Thu, 12/16/2021 - 18:19

District 1 - Robert Ford of Local Union 2L is the founder of Forever R Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing basic needs and support to children without in Akron, Ohio. Forever R Children is Robert Ford and it goes where he goes. “It doesn’t have a home,” Ford says, “I go wherever the need is. Wherever the need is, I’m coming!” Kenmore School District loves Forever R Children so much that they gave Ford an office in the middle school to be a mentor and resource for the kids, and now there is an in-school food pantry. Ford is now trying to help veterans and is finding ways to help even more people in his community.

District 2 - Peter R. Heikkila of Local Union 4950 in Ishpeming, Michigan, has led and participated in community service for more than 20 years, starting with his military service with the US Navy, where he volunteered for Liberty Ship maintenance with students and was an Adopt-a-Sailor volunteer.  He has been an HCMC Toys-For-Toddlers coordinator for the last 18 years and has distributed over $100,000 worth of toys to hospitalized children. He has been the “Can-a-Thon” coordinator for Locals 4950 and 4974 for the last 12 years and thanks to him the food banks in Marquette County, Michigan are kept stocked.

District 3 - Laura Drennan is a member of USW Local 7619 and works at the Highland Valley Copper Mine in British Columbia, Canada. She’s made many significant contributions for workers at the mine that have improved their working lives. Her activism continues in the community through preparing and sharing healthy meals for people who are struggling with health issues as well as volunteering at community events, barbecues and fundraisers. Over the years, Drennan has helped raise millions of dollars through the annual United Way Campaign, encouraging Steelworkers to donate with funds matched by the company. These essential funds help many not-for-profit community organizations and charities in Kamloops and the surrounding communities.

District 4 - Mayra Rivera has been the President and Women of Steel Coordinator for Local Union 8198, which represents municipal employees in Ponce, Puerto Rico, since 2014. In 2013, when a working day reduction of the public sector affected more than 1,500 family-supporting employees, she organized protests, got the attention of media, and stood up for working people and their families, eventually taking legal action and seeking justice in court. When Hurricane Maria devasted all of Puerto Rico in 2017, including Rivera’s own family farm, she started an alliance with community leaders to bring supplies, support and hazard education to Southern Puerto Rico. In 2018, Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC) coaches arrived in Puerto Rico to conduct health and safety training for USW members and the community and Rivera volunteered. Rivera has continued the work of TMC ever since, traveling all over Southern Puerto Rico as part of a specialized Rapid Response group of TMC for hazard relief and education. 

District 5 - Denis Grenier of Local 9996 is the founder and president of Cancer Fermont which has given more than $800,000 directly to people with cancer or remission. Cancer Fermont does not raise money for research but to help people with cancer during and after their treatments by paying for plane tickets (travel for treatments and doctor appointments are not covered by the government), paying for expenses during these trips (taxi, meals, parking), and paying for wigs, massage therapy, and snow removal at patients’ homes (Fermont’s winters are harsh, and people with cancer have no energy). Cancer Fermont fundraises with community events like country music nights; they also host a crab dinner and half marathon annually, but donations for Cancer Fermont are collected year-round, not just on special occasions.

District 6 - Local Union 9329 is a healthcare local in Ontario, Canada. These members not only went to work as healthcare professionals in a long-term care home during the pandemic, but made time to sit with lonely patients isolated from their loved ones and supported each other and residents through illness and death. The members covered shifts and gave up breaks and lunches to help senior patients connect with their families through video chat on their personal devices. With the pandemic hitting nursing homes hard in March of 2020 and again in 2021, these members endured two very serious COVID-19 out breaks in their long-term care home. They went above and beyond to show how much they cared for the residents (and each other – in true acts of solidarity). Members came to work early and stayed passed their shifts to make sure no patient passed away alone. The members stood together and supported each other through tears and struggles, through their own illness and family members passing.

District 7 - Arvella Greenlaw of Local Union 6787 uses her personal time to organize and lead multiple, on-going community services projects. She collects donations and fundraises for hygiene products to gift to her local women’s shelter and school supplies for kids in need.  She collected supplies to build Easter baskets that included school items and delivered them to children who were shut-in due to Covid-19. She brings the community and her local’s WOS committee together each year to collect and donate Christmas presents for an “Angel Tree” program that gets Christmas gifts to children who wouldn’t otherwise get Christmas presents. She is a member of several community organizations where she assists with domestic violence and sexual awareness seminars. She also volunteers for USW Rapid Response and voter registration drives.

District 8 - Erion Dalton of Local Union 1449 fundraises, collects donations, and volunteers to help feed children in need and the elderly. She made it possible for the local food pantry to buy a new fridge and has organized four fundraisers during the Covid-19 pandemic. She organized volunteers to hand out lunches at a local school for children who receive free lunch but were out of school because of the Pandemic; she organized a canned food drive for the elderly in her community and helped gather new toys and clothes for kids at a home for abused or neglected children.  Peggy Bryant, who nominated Dalton for the USW Jefferson Awards says, “We are proud to have Erion as a coworker. She is very civic minded and has a very beautiful soul.”

District 9 - William "Bryen" Ballard of Local Union 1561 built the non-profit organization Sportsmen Givin' Back, which does incredible work providing outdoors opportunities to wounded warriors and very sick children. Sportsmen Givin' Back also mentors young adults from all walks of life and has raised over $300,000 for local charities in the Pace, Florida community. The organization has conducted over fifty hunting and fishing trips and their annual fundraising banquets have supported over thirty charities in the local communties. “Bryen has devoted his life to this effort and it shows. His smile becomes larger when he describes the joy it brings to these individuals and charitable organizations,” said Bryen’s nominator and union brother, Karl Krisman.

District 10 - LuAnn Murry of Local Union 247 is always volunteering her personal time to help others. She spends countless hours helping neighbors, as well as people she doesn't know from a wide variety of backgrounds. Murry does volunteer work with the Pine Creek Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and continues her services to the public with bridge-naming dedications in honor of fallen soldiers and law enforcement officers. She is the committee Chairperson of Brookville’s Hometown Hero Banner program that honors a veteran who was born, lived, or currently lives, in the Brookville Area School District. She leads hours of service to the Laurel Festival every year to promote her causes and bring the community together for strength and unity. She has been an avid union advocate for her twenty plus years of service with Berry Plastics in Brookville, PA.

District 11 - Dan Jackson of Local Union 560 is known for building activism in the union and in his community, whether it’s through Toys for Tots, sitting on multiple labor councils across the state, or keeping teenagers safe after prom by hosting games and safe entertainment. He lifts up fellow union members, encourages union engagement, and teaches others how to use their voice. He raises funds to get gifts to children over the Holidays and awards cash prizes for post-prom games to get money to Seniors for gas and college books. “It is hard to put a price or value in the amount of spirit and passion he has helped to lift,” says his nominator and friend, Tas Starks.

District 12 - Local Union 8599’s Child Welfare and Attendance liaisons and Women of Steel Committee each carry their own weight of community service for the local. The Child Welfare and Attendance liaisons are members Connie Arambro, Lydia Wibert and David Matuguina who are District Liaisons of Fontana Unified School District. They have worked throughout the pandemic to make sure students and families are safe by providing resources, shopping and making home deliveries, picking up supplies for kids to participate in distant learning, and finding families legal resources to get utility assistance and vouchers through United Way and Children Network to stay in area motels for those who needs that kind of help. The Local 8599 Women of Steel Committee has raised hundreds of dollars for cancer research through the Relay for Life and thousands of dollars through union member bus trips to the local casinos for the Ronald McDonald house. They dedicated the month of October as "Sock-tober” for the past five years for their annual sock-drive which has provided thousands of pairs of socks to Child Welfare and Attendance which distributes them to families in the school district.

District 13 – The District 13 Council is a product of the merger OCAW and PACE with the USW. It is made up of rank and file members from every local in District 13. The Council organized hurricane relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and distributed funds from its own charitable fund, matching the funds raised for hurricane relief from the USW International Charitable Fund. Directly after the hurricanes, when people were surviving the initial crisis, members of the Council showed up to cook and serve hot meals to members. Then, they distributed supplies like water, paper towels, cleaning products, and toilet paper 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 go to rallies and picket lines to support the local involved.

SOAR - Joel Buchanan has been a dues-paying member of the United Steelworkers for 51 years. He retired in 2013, after 43 years at the mill and in the union, and was immediately appointed to the International SOAR Executive Board where he still serves today. He is also Vice-President of SOAR Chapter 38-3, serves on the Colorado AFL-CIO Executive Board, and was appointed by the Governor to the Colorado Workforce Development Council and the Skilled Worker Outreach and Key Training Grant Review Committee. He has organized SOAR’s annual Christmas Sock Drive for the last three years, raised hundreds of dollars for miners on strike in Idaho, and led multiple fights to save jobs or support members on the picket line.

Staff - Sabrina Liu is a USW staffer who founded the Pittsburgh chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) in early 2019 after years of advocacy. Since founding the APALA Pittsburgh Chapter, she has built a small but mighty volunteer group and strong relationships with other community organizations. In 2020, she helped increase census responses, turned out votes in crucial states across the country for the presidential election, educated workers in precarious situations about their rights, and organized efforts to distribute financial assistance during the pandemic. Her work has led to empowerment within the community to collectively work towards a just world with equal opportunity for all. This is a true manifestation of United Steelworkers values of unity and strength for workers. She is the 2021 USWCares Jefferson Awards top-scorer of and our Champion of Community Service.

Iron Range Proud: Minnesota’s Miners are the Backbone of the Region’s Economy

Thu, 12/16/2021 - 04:11

When he was a child, Ryan Elkington would play and swim in the woods and waterways between the towns of Eveleth and Virginia, Minn. Now, as a member of Local 6860, he’s a part of the USW work force that mines that same location for the iron ore that fuels the American steel industry.

“This used to be my playground,” Elkington said, gesturing toward the area along U.S. Highway 53 that is home to the Cleveland-Cliffs United Taconite mine. “Thirty years later, I was a part of digging it up.”

Someday, that same piece of earth – which today is filled with the valuable minerals that give northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range its name – may again become a playground for Elkington’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

Decades from now, when the open-pit mine is no longer of use, it is expected to naturally fill with fresh water and become another of the many reservoirs in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“There is a very good balance here,” Elkington said, “between the environment and getting the job done.”

Infrastructure Push

The job of mining ore has been the driving force for an economy that has supported tens of thousands of workers and families on the Iron Range for generations. And it’s one that the members of Local 6860 and thousands of other miners in the area hope can continue for generations to come.

“It’s a way of life here,” Elkington said.

One way to ensure that way of life – iron ore mining, and its end product, steel – both have a bright future is to invest heavily in rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, said Local 6860 President Jamie Winger.

“Everything starts with steel,” Winger said. “I don’t think we could afford not to do it.”

Winger’s stand on federal infrastructure spending is in lock-step with that of the USW, which earlier this year launched a nationwide campaign, called “We Supply America,” to ensure a robust, comprehensive infrastructure plan that would rejuvenate American manufacturing and support tens of thousands of union jobs for decades into the future.

That effort paid off when President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 15.

Investments like those in the new law are particularly important for the residents of the Iron Range, where the strength of the mining industry is synonymous with the region’s economic well-being. 

When asked what people on the range do if they don’t work in mining, one visitor to a local coffee shop summed it up very simply - “We sell stuff to miners.”

Local 6860 Vice President Ryan Denzel echoed that sentiment.

“Everybody in this range has something to do with mining,” he said, noting that he and his neighbors make a point of eating at local diners and coffee shops and shopping at locally owned stores whenever possible.

“This infrastructure plan will keep us going. That will mean a lot to us on the range,” Denzel said. “Everything that moves America is based on iron.”

History of Mining

For surveyor Greg O’Malley, who has worked at the Cleveland-Cliffs mine for 14 years, the solidarity of the USW membership has helped both to strengthen the industry and to provide a higher quality of life for families throughout the region by ensuring good wages and benefits.

“The more people stick together, the stronger we are here,” O’Malley said.

The residents of northeastern Minnesota have understood for a long time that mining is the lifeblood of their communities. Many of the small towns in the area were developed by companies that owned mines nearby. The mines funded schools, hospitals, parks, libraries and other public assets that in turn attracted workers to the facilities and communities. 

While most of the mining in the state takes place in the northeastern region, the industry still provides benefits to the entire population through the Minnesota Permanent School Fund. 

The system, created in 1858, directs royalties paid by mining companies and other companies that utilize state-controlled natural resources into a fund to provide a long-term source of financing for Minnesota’s school system. During the 2020-21 school year, the fund provided $37 million to educational facilities throughout the state.

Mining is such a part of the fabric of Minnesota, in fact, that the residents of Hibbing, founded in 1893, once moved their entire town two miles south, brick by brick, in the early 1920s after ore was discovered under their feet. The move affected more than 20 businesses and 180 homes.

“Minnesota has always been a global leader in responsible mining,” said District 11 Director Emil Ramirez. “Mining supports our communities, and the people here are committed to doing it in such a way that it is sustainable, so that we can protect our natural resources as we continue to grow our economy for the next generation.” 

Economic Jump-Start

The kind of economic ripple effect that mining has in northeastern Minnesota can be replicated in industrial communities across the country as a result of the new infrastructure plan, Winger said.

“It’s important that we start supplying ourselves,” he said. “There is no reason that our money should go anywhere else.”

This August, the USW held a nationwide week of action in support of the “We Supply America” program, which included a bus tour of six USW locals and resulted in thousands of phone calls, emails and postcards from USW members urging lawmakers to act quickly to put Americans to work rebuilding the nation.

The first stop on the bus tour, in northwest Indiana, included an appearance by Lourenco Goncalves, Cleveland-Cliffs’ chairman, president and CEO, who credited the strong unions at his facilities for ensuring the kind of hard work and continuity that results in quality products.

Goncalves said he was proud of the hard-working union members at his company and proud to be an advocate, alongside them, for robust infrastructure investment.

“We are the United States of America,” he said. “United, as in union.”

Goncalves has won praise from the USW leaders at his mines, steel plants and other facilities for his efforts to strategically grow and strengthen Cleveland-Cliffs as a company while showing respect for workers and their communities. 

Last year, Cleveland-Cliffs, founded in 1847, acquired AK Steel and most of the assets of ArcelorMittal USA to become the largest USW employer in the industry, and the largest flat-rolled steel and iron ore pellet producer in North America.

“They are the real deal,” said Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis, who represents workers at the Cleveland-Cliffs tin plate facility in Weirton, W.Va. “The opportunities we have ahead are the best we’ve had in decades.”

Focus on Safety

In addition to expanding those opportunities, Cleveland-Cliffs and the USW work closely together on the vital issue of health and safety. For the members of Local 6860 in Minnesota, that is one of the most important issues the union faces day in and day out.

“Safety is just everywhere here. It affects me all the time in my job,” said Elkington, a co-chair of the local’s grievance committee, who spends his work days preparing blast sites at the Cleveland-Cliffs mine. That is among the first steps workers must take toward removing iron ore from the earth, and it’s a process that requires precise attention to detail.

The hierarchy of controls is essential, especially so in an industry involving huge rock formations, massive machines and constantly moving parts. 

The iron ore mining process at United Taconite begins in an enormous pit where workers extract chunks of rock with huge excavators and load them onto hauling trucks the size of small houses.

The workers then transport those rocks to be crushed into smaller pieces which are fed to a nearby processing plant, where the ore is milled into a powder-like consistency. Machines use recycled water and large magnets to separate the ore from unwanted material and form marble-sized pieces known as pellets. Those pieces are then transported to mills where they are melted in blast furnaces as part of the steelmaking process. 

Cleveland-Cliffs’ eight operating blast furnaces are among the lower greenhouse gas-intensive integrated steel operations in the world, due in large part to the use of environmentally-friendly iron ore pellets produced in the United States.  

“It’s sophisticated,” Winger said of the mining and pellet-making process, “and yet simple.”

Elkington, whose father also was a miner and whose grandfather died many years ago in an accident at another mine, said he is proud of his family’s legacy as producers of the building blocks of the steel industry.

His father worked in the mines for 33 years, and his grandfather’s tragedy, Elkington said, resulted in “policies that are still in use today” to keep workers in the mining industry safe from the hazards that cause harm.

Environmental Legacy 

Another legacy that the workers at United Taconite are committed to maintaining is the natural beauty of their surroundings. They understand that they must strike a balance between economic and environmental interests to ensure that their industry has a bright future.

“If you are truly an environmentalist, then mining has to be done in the United States,” said Winger, noting that U.S. environmental and safety regulations are the strongest in the world, and that importing materials from other countries would be more expensive and potentially dangerous. “I don’t think we can afford not to do it here.”

Electrician Joe Mason agreed.

“The U.S. is a leader in being a steward for the environment,” he said. 

Community Partners

The pride that the residents of the Iron Range feel about the region’s mining legacy, as well as their desire to protect their environment, stretches far beyond the edges of the mine and the walls of the plant.

For Elkington, there is a feeling of satisfaction in being a “building block” for the steel industry. When he sees a bridge or a building under construction, he said, he often wonders if the steel was produced using iron ore from the United Taconite mine.

“I’m constantly thinking, ‘Was that our pellets? Did I have a hand in that?’” he said, noting the number of additional projects that will require steel as a result of the Biden administration’s rebuilding plan. “The infrastructure plan is vital for us.”

The workers at United Taconite have seen over the decades what a strong steel industry does for their workplace, while also experiencing the struggles that come with industry downturns.

About five years ago, the company was forced to lay workers off during one of those periods. Elkington was one of the members who found himself temporarily out of a job.

“It was tough,” said Elkington, who went to welding school while he was on layoff. “We didn’t know if we would be coming back.”

The USW’s mine workers weren’t the only ones facing uncertainty at that time. Towns throughout the Iron Range feel the sting when the industry struggles.

“It’s a big part of our economy,” agreed Wendy Erickson, who is married to Elkington and who also works at the United Taconite mine. “There are a lot of spinoff jobs.”

Even residents who don’t work in the industry are proud of the role mining plays in their lives, said Local 6860 member Brian Zarn.

“It is a source of pride,” said Zarn. “What we produce here is important, to national security, to infrastructure, to the entire country. This is the beginning of it all.”

Next Generation

Through that ripple effect, the USW has provided residents of the Iron Range with a good life for generations, Erickson said, and the new infrastructure plan will help to ensure that life can continue for generations into the future.

“It’s awesome to be the first step in steel, to be a little piece of the puzzle,” she said. “We absolutely are living the American Dream.”

2021 USW Cares District 8 Jefferson Award winner Erion Dalton

Wed, 12/15/2021 - 13:00

Erion Dalton has been a member of Local Union 1499 for the last eight years since she was hired at the UTC Aerospace Plant in Union, West Virginia. Having always been a ‘helper’, Erion immediately got involved with her local’s Women of Steel Committee after a coworker informed her that union encourages volunteer work and community service.

For fundraising, collecting donations, and volunteering time to help feed, clothe, and support children in need and the elderly, Erion Dalton is District 8’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner.

 “I love helping people, I love doing stuff for people. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I did not realize, being in the union, that there was a Women of Steel and they were big on community outreach. When I found that out, I knew I absolutely needed to be a part of this,” said Dalton.

Dalton had been Chair of the WOS committee for the last two years, until she recently decided to take a step back after becoming pregnant with her second child.

“Absolutely, I still volunteer. I can’t get away from it,” joked Dalton when asked if she still works with the committee after stepping down as Chair.

Dalton started her WOS activism with small efforts like “Trunk-or-Treat,” where she and the Women of Steel of Local 1499 would raise money for candy, get the local involved and host trick-or-treating out of car trunks for school children.

While she chaired the Committee, Dalton worked heavily with the Monroe County Coalition for Women and Children for multiple projects to get food, clothing, and supplies to women and children in need after inquiring with Michelle McFall, Director of the Coalition about how to help the community.

Dalton knew McFall as the person you talk to in her community if you want to help people or know of someone in need. “She’s a wonderful lady. I like letting her boss me around. I say ‘what do you need?’ and she tells me, and I go out and do it.”

After asking McFall what her organization needed to support their women and children over the Holidays, Dalton brought the Coalition’s Angel Tree project to her local union members, requesting donations and sponsorships of “angels.”

“The outpouring from our union was just great. A lot of our people are addicted to their overtime, but they have big hearts and they want to help. They have no problem saying, ‘here’s the money, can you please get it to where it needs to go,’” said Dalton.

McFall will buy anything left that the kids need with the monetary donations that Dalton collects. Then McFall informed Dalton about Monroe County Food Pantry’s holiday meal drive, so Dalton did the same thing as with the “Angel Tree”: she collected monetary and food staple donations from her union brothers and sisters. Last year, they turned the donation collection in a competition between the Local 1499 union workers and the non-union office workers.

“We ended up raising so much money last Christmas that no only did we get the dry goods, your non-perishables, but for the Union Community Food Pantry, we were able to buy 20 turkeys and 10 hams to put in the freezer that we purchased for them.” Dalton made it possible for the pantry to buy a new fridge after hearing that they couldn’t keep any fresh food without a freezer; she went to her coworkers and garnered donations for this specific need.

Dalton also organized volunteers to hand out lunches at the school for children who receive free lunch but were out of school because of the Pandemic, led a canned food drive for the elderly in her community, and collected coats for children at another shelter for kids. All the while, during the Pandemic, she was often collecting donations to support local union members who were out sick or required to quarantine and losing income.


She also fundraises with bake sales and raffles for specific needs as they come up. She’ll collect for a member if they’re out from work because of a car wreck or sick spouse.

“We try to take care of membership, we try to take care of our brothers and sisters,” said Dalton. “We rise by lifting others. We have to take care of eachother.”

“We are proud to have Erion as a coworker. She is very civic-minded and has a very beautiful soul,” said Dalton’s nominator, Peggy Bryant.

Because of her tireless service to her community, done by involving her very generous union brothers and sisters and spearheading efforts to give back, Erion Dalton is the 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner for District 8.


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