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Updated: 28 min 44 sec ago

Part 1: Labor and Elections

9 hours 41 min ago

The most important work we do as a union involves bargaining and enforcing good contracts to secure fair wages, dependable benefits and safe working conditions.

However, whether we like it or not, workplace health and safety, wage and overtime regulations, retirement security and even our right to organize and bargain collectively are all tied to local, state and federal laws and the people making them.

In August, the USW will officially launch our 2022 efforts to elect lawmakers who will support workers, no matter their party affiliation.

If you’re new to our union or even a veteran USW member who has just now gotten involved in our union’s political work, you might not be aware of the fact that much of our union’s efforts around elections are carried out collaboratively with dozens of other unions under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO. 

This campaign, which will be more commonly referred to as Labor 2022, will be active in states across the country. However, most of our resources and “people power” will go to those legislative districts that have competitive campaigns and enough union voters to carry labor-friendly candidates to victory on Election Day, which is Tues., Nov. 8.

Labor 2022 will tap into the hard work of USW members, retirees, our families and community allies who will volunteer their time registering voters, talking to fellow members at their homes, attending rallies in support of pro-worker candidates and much, much more.

Additionally, the USW will enlist dozens of members who will take union leave so they can dedicate their time and efforts to recruiting and training union volunteers, and helping plan and execute the day-to-day strategies of our campaign.

In order to achieve the best possible outcome for our members and all working families, our union is working tirelessly to prepare for the midterm elections in November.

But, this work isn’t just happening right now. It dates back to the days of our union’s founding.

Did You Know

At the United Steelworkers’ first Constitutional Convention in 1942, delegates passed a resolution on Political Action (Resolution No. 14), which stated:

  1. “The United Steelworkers of America pledges its full efforts in all elections to secure election to Congress of representatives, regardless of political faith or allegiance, who have demonstrated that they may be relied upon to back the full objectives of labor,” and,
  2. “that the United Steelworkers of America urges that the CIO and its affiliates and the AFL and the Railroad Brotherhoods undertake joint action through the nation in conformity with this pledge.” 

And so, Resolution 14 began our union’s longstanding commitment to political organizing.

Dave McCall discusses the link between inflation and corporate greed on the Leslie Marshall Show

Thu, 06/23/2022 - 09:34

USW International Vice President Dave McCall appeared on the Leslie Marshall Show this week to discuss the ways in which corporate greed is fueling inflation.

Price gouging impacted nearly every sector of the economy, McCall said, leading to huge profits for many corporations, while working people suffer.

“It's an issue that we really need to come to terms with as citizens in this country, to stop this kind of gouging that the corporations get away with,” said McCall.

While corporations rake in the profits, they’re lining stockholders’ pockets with billions in dividends and buybacks.

“It's always about stockholder value,” said McCall. “How about what's good for our economy and good for working people and working families in this country?”

Oil and gas companies are intentionally limiting gasoline production to keep prices high, McCall said. Grocery chains like Kroger and Albertsons and food companies like General Mills are also reaping huge profits while consumers pay the price.

Broken supply chains are partly to blame. Yet these, too, are caused by years of corporations outsourcing production overseas in order to cut costs, McCall said.

Producing the goods and services we need domestically with union labor is one major way to make sure working people receive a fair cut of the profits companies pull in.

“The real way to have a growing economy is having people go into work making a decent living,” said McCall.

“Instead of being angry with each other all the time, we got to think about working together and think about who the real enemy is -- some of these corporations that are unbelievably raking in the profits.” 

Click below to listen to the full interview with Dave McCall about inflation and corporate greed.

USW New Media · What Greedy Corporations Don't Want Working Families To Know About Inflation

Minnesota health care local scores multiple wins, bonuses in latest contract

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 08:42

Roughly 70 members at the Range Center in Hibbing, Minn., who provide top-level care to people with mental and physical disabilities, won multiple gains in their latest contract that was negotiated in a single day.

One of the top priorities at the bargaining table for Marketa Anderson, president of amalgamated Local 9349 and unit chair for the Range Center, was recognition pay for workers who’ve been at the center for many years.

“It’s the veterans who keep this place going,” Anderson said. “It was important for their work and commitment to be recognized.”

The bargaining committee was able to do just that and secured longevity bonuses for employees with a minimum of two years of service. They also won significant increases to starting wages for all job classifications, from dietary instructors and office assistants to licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and custodial workers. Maintenance technician starting wages saw the biggest increase by $4.25 per hour.

The team also negotiated an increase to the company’s monthly contribution to the workers’ HSA from $50 to $100, helping to offset rising costs.

The local has seven more contracts up for negotiations this year with large health care employers, including Essentia Health. Anderson said they are hoping to continue building community support as these campaigns launch.

Sharing our Fred Redmond with the World

Sat, 06/18/2022 - 10:59

In a moving moment earlier this week, our International President Tom Conway formally nominated our former Vice President Fred Redmond as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, making Fred the highest-ranking black American labor leader ever. Fred will lead America's 12.5 million union members along with Liz Shuler, who was elected the first-ever female President of the AFL-CIO at the same convention.

Conway, a member of the nation's top labor organization's executive council, was flanked by USW leadership and members who attended the convention when he said, "I'm surrounded by our family today and we're all so proud to make this nomination of our brother, Fred Redmond.

"This is an amazing story of a man who can trace his ancestry on both sides - maternal and paternal - to slavery," Conway said as he recounted the personal story of Redmond's family's rise from cotton fields to a middle-class life in Chicago, in part, thanks to good, union jobs at Steelworkers facilities. 

"Fred remembers getting dental coverage and good healthcare through his union," Conway recalled. "Eventually Fred followed in the footsteps of his uncle and Dad and worked his way up through our union's ranks."

"Our union could not be prouder of Fred. There is no one better prepared," Conway said.

Redmond gave the USW a special shoutout in his acceptance speech.

"I want to give special thanks to my union, the United Steelworkers, and to president Tom Conway for putting my name forward and for your unyielding trust in me. The Steelworkers union has nurtured me and allowed me the opportunity to be a leader in our great union. And I will always be indebted to you and to former president Leo Gerard, who brought me on board," Redmond said in his speech in Philadelphia.

Watch the whole segment here, followed by Fred's full acceptance speech:

 Watch Fred's acceptance speech here:

Solvay Execs Outline Company Split at Global Forum Meeting, Emphasize Continuity

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 13:43

Solvay’s planned split into two, independent public companies will not immediately impact USW members, corporate officials told the Solvay Global Forum at its March 28-April 1 meeting in Brussels.

The Solvay Global Forum meets in person annually in Brussels, site of the company’s corporate headquarters, to discuss with management the state of the company’s businesses, plans for future investments, challenges, and policies and procedures.

Pictured: Solvay Global Forum and Solvay management team.

Eight worker representatives from the company’s facilities around the globe and three management representatives are members of the forum. Jeff Hill, a member of Local 14200 at the Solvay Marietta, Ohio, plant, is the forum’s North American labor representative.

At this year’s meeting, Solvay CEO Illham Kadri explained the split, which the company calls the “Power of Two.” The separation is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2023.

One company will include commodity chemicals and have nine U.S. plants. Local 7-765-01 at Chicago Heights and Local 4294-03 at Alorton, Ill., are two Solvay sites likely to fit into this business, Hill said.

The second company will have nine U.S. sites and focus on chemical materials and items like specialty polymers that are more complex to manufacture, Hill said. He said the Marietta, Ohio, plant will likely fit into this business.

“The split won’t impact union contracts initially,” Hill said, “Solvay will keep everything in place to keep anxiety down.”

To that end, the same labor relations model will govern both companies: Each one will have a global forum, a European Works Council and a board of directors.

During its meeting, the Solvay Global Forum also addressed the yearly bonus, the proposed stock purchase plan and changes to the family leave policies, which now allows employees to break up their 16 weeks of leave into multiple chunks within one year as long as the scheduling is reasonable.

During the forum meeting, IndustriALL and Solvay signed the Global Framework Agreement for an additional four-year term.  Both parties also signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Labor Relations in the United States that establishes a task force of union leaders and management that works toward ensuring the Global Framework Agreement is properly implemented.  

Both documents also promote “social dialogue” between workers and management, a commitment to labor rights, health and safety protections, environmentally sustainable operations and a pledge to remain neutral in organizing.

This fall, Local 14200 President Greg May will take over as the forum’s North American labor representative, upon Hill’s retirement. Hill has been a member of the Solvay Global Forum since its first meeting in March 2015.

“The Solvay Global Forum has been invaluable for resolving conflicts some USW locals had with plant managers and U.S. Solvay management,” Hill said. “It has enabled us to improve U.S. labor relations, and has been an incredible experience for me to make our workplaces better.”

First-Time Negotiating Team Bargains Wage Hikes, Job Improvements

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 10:16

Local 12075-26 Unit President Duane Switala and his negotiating committee bargained increased wages, a higher shift differential, more opportunities for job progression and other items to improve working conditions at International Flavors & Fragrances’ Midland, Mich., site.

It was the committee’s first time to bargain a contract since DuPont last year merged its nutrition and biosciences business with International Flavors & Fragrances.

The four-year contract, which is retroactive to Feb. 11, 2022, covers more than 100 members in logistics, operations and the lab. Members ratified the contract May 11 after rejecting it a month earlier.

The new agreement contains wage increases of 5.5 percent in 2022, 4 percent in 2023, 3 percent in 2024 and 2.5 percent in 2025. The contract expires Feb. 11, 2026.

Switala said he was “very proud of” the shift differential increase from 50 cents to a dollar per hour for everyone on a rotating shift.

Hourly technical advisors who are on call will also receive a 25-cent-per-hour raise.

Switala said the negotiating committee gained improvements in the logistics section of the contract. Now, the company has to consider seniority along with a worker’s skill and knowledge when promoting workers within logistics.

After one year of probation, level one logistics technicians will automatically be moved up to level two with more responsibility and pay. Previously, a worker could be in level 1 for several years.

Union negotiators added a new lead logistics technician position that involves greater responsibility and pay, as well as improving language around seniority and promotions.

Other contract gains included distribution of overtime more evenly and an extra day for funeral leave.

“I am extremely proud of the union committee,” Switala said. “I think they did a lot of hard work and put in a lot of research time looking at the Consumer Price Index, the inflation rate and coming up with wage increases.

“I was nervous about being on the negotiations committee,” he added, “but we had a great leader, Kent Holsing, Local 12075-0 president, who taught us a lot about bargaining. The USW’s negotiations training was a huge help, too.”

International Flavors & Fragrances makes chemical binders for coatings and pharmaceuticals that require a time release, like 8-hour Tylenol.

Pictured: USW Local 12075-26 members make the chemical binders for Tylenol’s extended release formula. 

USW submits comments to CMS on urgent need for safe staffing levels

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 09:26

For the past several weeks, the USW Health Care Workers Council has been collecting testimonies from union members across the sector about how staff turnover and other staffing issues impact your working conditions and continuity of care.

Thanks to this vital feedback and stories regarding safe staffing, the USW was able to submit commentary, including direct quotes from members, to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as they request input from workers to help establish mandatory minimum staffing requirements.

In our submission, the union outlined how employers continue to pocket profits while refusing to address turnover and retention issues.

“I remember residents having to wait [half] an hour to be able to receive assistance to get to the bathroom. It was terrible,” noted USW member Judith Ackerman. “Then, when we won a new contract, one of the first parts to it was a lowering the number of residents per aide. Things improved immensely.”

The USW urged CMS to establish mandatory minimum staffing levels in the long-term care sector for all direct care job classifications.

The full text of the commentary is below or you can click here to read a printable version of the full commentary.

June 9, 2022 

Filed Electronically: 
RIN 0938-AU76 / Docket ID: CMS-1765-P 

RE: United Steelworkers comments on CMS’s Request for Information on “Revising the Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities to Establish Mandatory Minimum Staffing Levels” (CMS-1765-P) 

To Whom It May Concern: 

These comments are submitted on behalf of the 850,000 members of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (United Steelworkers or USW). We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on April 15, 2022 relating to the request for information on revising the requirements for long-term care facilities to establish mandatory minimum staffing levels. 

As a union representing more than 50,000 health care workers, including workers in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and those who provide in-home care, we know the tremendous challenges and chronic staffing shortages that these workers have faced since long before the pandemic began. These essential workers, who provide critical care to some of our country’s most vulnerable populations, are grossly underpaid, have limited support, and face round the clock shifts for a job that has, and continues to be, undervalued by their employers, and by the nation as a whole. For far too long the industry has put profits over people, underpaying and overworking staff at the expense of vulnerable residents. 

USW firmly believes that any safe staffing policies put into place must allow for adjustments upward based on the acuity of care needed, but also ensure that any changes to the policy are the result of a joint decision between labor and management. It is imperative that workers and their representatives have a seat at the table, and that these policies encompass all job classes of direct care from certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses to registered nurses and recreational therapists. These safe staffing policies should also include a minimum time for administrative nursing in addition to direct care. 

For over two decades, private equity has rapidly increased investments in the long-term care sector, consolidating ownership and shifting funds away from nursing staff and resident care in order to ensure maximum profit. That is why we applaud the CMS for finally proposing much needed action in this sector, ensuring that these employers, who routinely have poor records of care, put the needs of their residents first by adopting mandatory minimum staffing levels that guarantee adequate levels of care.

According to one USW member, incentive pay for employees led nurses to sign up for extra shifts, keeping their long-term care facility from being short staffed. But the program ended when the company needed to stay under budget, and management began receiving bonuses for doing so. “It’s so hard on us when we are short staffed - families get upset because their loved ones don't get properly cared for and we have to answer to them,” shared the USW member, “We are not allowed to tell patients or family we are short staffed. Therefore, it makes us look like we are lazy or can't keep up with our workload. We also have more falls.” 

Adequate staffing has a direct impact on the quality of care that residents and patients receive at these facilities. According to the Joint Commission on Healthcare, in the state of Virginia alone, “more than 60 percent of facilities with low staffing receive poor health inspection ratings, which include criteria such as medication management and resident quality of life.” And according to a study published in the Gerontological Society of America, when nurse aides are not able to report for work and adequate staffing is not available, nursing homes perform poorly on each quality measure studied.

According to one USW member in long-term care, “Safe staffing would mean residents get the care they deserve and pay for. Short staffed units lead to delayed cares, extended wait times for basic needs and daily cares and inexperienced staff cutting corners to finish tasks. Being dependent on others for all of your needs and having very little say in how and when those needs are met, day in and day out, can contribute to depression and failure to thrive [for residents].” 

According to another USW member, “Short staffing has affected myself, the fellow staff, and most importantly our residents. A 1 staff to 30 residents [ratio] has become a common practice at our work place. Residents are not getting showered as they should be. They are missing out on essential restorative services because, yet again, the employee in that position has to work the floor. I have cried with residents and families. Complained to my state officials but my voice is not heard or validated. I am speaking on behalf of the people with no voice.” 

As workers continue to leave the sector for less strenuous, safer, and higher-paying jobs, the quality of care at these facilities continues to be compromised, putting the lives of some of our most vulnerable seniors at risk. Those workers that remain in long-term care are met with not only increased workloads, but with greater physical and emotional stress, all of which results in inadequate resident care. 

As one USW member and Certified Nursing Assistant shared, “We are tired, over worked, and resident care is being affected, especially on our behavioral unit where I work. More incident reports are happening (at the discretion of the nurse and supervisor). [Assistant Directors of Nursing] and office staff get overtime to meet nursing hours but are not giving nursing care. Posted staff schedule has nursing staff assigned to units that don’t work the units. It’s only for show. We are operating below bare minimum when it comes to direct nursing care. Employees have decided to leave and pursue employment elsewhere due to the stress administration is putting upon us.” 

And all the while, employers continue to pocket profits, refusing to address turnover and retention issues by offering competitive wages, creating consistent shifts, and providing opportunities for professional growth. Instead of turning these positions into family-sustaining careers, employers are exacerbating this longstanding industry problem. 

“[Workers] are not staying because inadequate staffing leads to being forced over extra hours and it's hard to find a baby sitter to watch your children 16 hours,” according to one USW member in long-term care. “The [workers] who show up every day are almost punished by the short comings of staff who call off regularly. The turnover rate is insanely high…” 

It is also important to note that women account for over 80 percent of the long-term care workforce, and over half of these women are women of color. For far too long these workers have faced systemic racism and gender injustice that has prevented them from attaining family-sustaining wages and working conditions. 

As USW member Judith Ackerman shared, “When I was a recreational therapist at Florence Nightingale, which no longer exists, we constantly fought with the administration. One of our union reps said ‘look, you can't wipe two behinds at the same time’ in describing the problem of too few aides. I remember residents having to wait [half] an hour to be able to receive assistance to get to the bathroom. It was terrible. Then, when we won a new contract, one of the first parts to it was a lowering the number of residents per aide. Things improved immensely.” 

In solidarity with long-term care workers everywhere, USW urges CMS to establish mandatory minimum staffing levels in the long-term care sector for all direct care job classifications. We look forward to engaging with CMS as they work toward such vital regulations, and ensuring that workers and their representatives have a voice at their workplaces. 


Anna Fendley 
Director of Regulatory and State Policy 

USW's Conway leads labor in asking for job-protecting tariffs to remain

Tue, 06/07/2022 - 09:31

Click here for a printable version of the letter.

Our International President Tom Conway recently sent the Biden Administration comments urging job-protecting tarrifs remain in place on behalf of the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy. The comments state that American workers would clearly be affected if the tariffs were to be lifted.

"Too many U.S. companies have failed to take needed actions to address the threat from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)," Conway wrote. "Many continue to outsource production, and research and development, undermining U.S. competitiveness and national security interests. They have failed to respond to the signals clearly and continuously sent by the CCP that it is not interested in competing, but in winning and dominating key industries. Our government must act in the national interest to strengthen our economy for the future."

President Conway leads the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy.

The advisory committee was established to provide information and advice with respect to negotiating objectives and bargaining positions before the United States enters into a trade agreement with a foreign country or countries. The committee advises, consults with, and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor and the United States Trade Representative, on issues and general policy matters concerning labor and trade negotiations, operation of any trade agreement once entered into, and other matters arising in connection with the administration of the trade policy of the United States. The LAC is responsible for providing reports on trade agreements to the President, the Congress, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative at the conclusion of negotiations for each trade agreement.

The full text of the letter is below:

June 6, 2022

Ms. Greta Peisch
General Counsel
Office of the United States Trade Representative 600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508

RE: Request for Comments on the statutory four-year review of actions taken under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, in the investigation of China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related toTechnology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation.

Dear Ms. Peisch:

On behalf of the members of the Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (LAC), we are requesting that all of the tariffs currently imposed as part of the “List 1” pursuant to the Section 301 investigation of China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation be extended. This request is being made as part of the statutorily required four-year review process.

The members of the LAC represent workers across domestic industry and impacted sectors in the United States. China’s theft of intellectual property (IP), their coercive actions to force the transfer of IP, and their policies to advance innovation in order to serve the goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has had a corrosive, continuing, and substantial impact on domestic industry and its workforce. The direct effects have been significant alone, but compounded with indirect effects, the impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. economy has been devastating. Workers are clearly an “interested party” under any reasonable interpretation of law, policy, and Congressional intent.

There are broad estimates of the impact of the CCP’s directed predatory actions regarding the acts, policies, and practices identified during the investigation. The direct theft of U.S. IP is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. But this estimate fails to take account of the lost opportunities, the closed factories, the unemployed workers, and the loss of future opportunities to compete. The CCP’s practices have also advanced their military-civilian fusion, which directly and indirectly threatens our economic and national security interests.

Many of the LAC members represent workers directly employed in making products that compete with, or are impacted by, Chinese products subjected to tariffs imposed pursuant to List 1 (the specific question raised by the USTR that is generating this filing). A substantial portion of the production that occurs in China benefits from CCP policies that include industrial subsidies, two-tiered energy pricing, preferential financing, increased intervention in private markets, performance and joint venture requirements, and a vast array of other policies. China’s non-market and state-led approach has undermined U.S.-based producers and employment. No reasonable economist or policy expert can argue that the proponents’ view of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization has succeeded in abating that country’s predatory and protectionist policies.

The goal of the Section 301 investigation was to carefully enumerate the CCP’s policies and practices, and identify whether it violates the law and U.S. rights and interests. China’s violations were clearly shown, and consultations and negotiations ensued seeking to redress those violations. The bulk of the CCP’s policies identified as part of the 301 investigation, and in other areas, were not addressed as part of the Phase One trade deal. The result has been the continuing imposition of the tariffs. Nothing has changed that would merit unilaterally lifting the tariffs; If anything, President Xi and the CCP have only doubled down on their strategy and approach.

The overall tariffs that have been imposed, and the breadth of the sectors and products involved, were designed to address both the CCP’s policies and practices, and the impact on our economy, producers, and workforce. The tariffs on Lists 1, 2, 3 and 4a all play a part in leveling the playing field, and are an important component of the overall posture with China. The USTR engaged in a targeted approach in both its initial identification of tariffs and subsequent actions to advance U.S. interests. In part, the USTR’s actions were also designed to promote shifts in supply chains in order to limit the economic and strategic benefits inuring to the CCP, and to incentivize U.S. companies to reduce their reliance and dependence on Chinese producers. Coupled with the supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the reorientation of our sourcing is a critical and unaddressed issue.

Too many U.S. companies have failed to take needed actions to address the threat posed by CCP policies. Many continue to outsource production, and research and development, undermining U.S. competitiveness and national security interests. They have failed to respond to the signals clearly and continuously sent by the CCP that it is not interested in competing, but in winning and dominating key industries. Our government must act in the national interest to strengthen our economy for the future.

The members of the LAC are united in the view that the overall level and the individually identified tariffs imposed on China pursuant to the 301 actions should be extended. Many tariffs imposed represent interests directly impacting individual union members. Other tariffs support the overall level of retaliation that is appropriate to respond to China’s unfair, predatory, and protectionist trade policies. Workers in public and service sector jobs, as well as in manufacturing, have seen their jobs put at risk as a result of the impact of the CCP’s policies on producers in their communities who, when injury occurs, often reduce or shutter operations, resulting in untold damage to the tax base and provision of community services.

The request for comments identified two separate filing periods. The above comments are intended to address the totality of the tariffs. If necessary, these comments will subsequently be filed during the second submission period.


Thomas Conway
Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy

Local 12075-24 Members Resolve Long-Standing Grievances, Increase Pay in New DuPont Contract

Tue, 06/07/2022 - 08:51

Local 12075-24 at DuPont’s Midland, Mich., plant successfully decoupled training and wages, gained wage increases, resolved pay issues and simplified the career progression system in the new contract members ratified in April after three votes.

By mid-June, the last items negotiated in the contract will be put into place, said Local 12075-24 unit president Nathan LaFollette.

“The company was aware of the tight labor market up here, and they were willing to compromise on some historical grievances that frustrated the members, such as how training and pay were coupled together,” LaFollette said. “If a worker’s training was not finished, they would not get the higher wage rate. People were doing those jobs, but not getting the extra compensation.”

“By decoupling training and wages, we opened the field for folks to get the higher paying operations jobs,” he said.

The local negotiated a four-year agreement for some 200 operators and logistics workers.

Wage increases for the first year ranged from 2.5 percent to 7 percent, depending upon the person’s production or logistics classification and pay level. Rate increases for the remaining three years are 2.3 percent, 2.3 percent and 2.7 percent.

Workers will get a $1,500 retention bonus on Jan. 1, 2023.

DuPont will simplify its pay practice regarding how overtime and shift differential are calculated that will increase annual compensation by up to 3.8 percent for members, depending on their shift schedule.

Local union negotiators removed the roadblocks from the career progression system that prevented logistics workers from obtaining operator jobs. Previously, they underwent third-party administered testing, and the path for advancement had the potential for favoritism, LaFollette said. The union replaced this process by counting a worker’s merit and experience for the higher-paying operator position.

The union also expanded the grievance process for probationary members by allowing them to grieve a termination.

“It was a long negotiating process, but we are happy with the pay raises, and the wage increases are moving in the right direction,” LaFollette said.

June Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

Tue, 06/07/2022 - 08:15
Your Union, Your Voice 

In our last SOAR Chapter Connection newsletter, we announced the relaunch of the USW’s Your Union, Your Voice campaign. 

With town halls being held through late June and survey responses still being submitted by USW members and retirees, I cannot yet comment on what issues Steelworkers are saying are most significant to them right now. 

However, what I can say is that your contributions to this important conversation within our union are more important now than ever. 

People all around the globe are trying to adjust to life post-COVID.  For many workers, this adjustment includes the fight for family-sustaining wages, improvements to workplace safety and access to health care.

We’ve also seen a drastic increase in the number of workers who are demanding the right to negotiate with their employer over the aforementioned and much, much more. 

In fact, according to the National Labor Relations Board, worker petitions for union representation are up 57% over the first half of 2022. 

It is safe to say that most Americans are aware of the new wave of union organizing at Starbucks.  But, did you know that an unprecedented 85% of union elections at Starbucks stores have been successful? 

In early May, Starbucks Workers United successfully organized their 50th store.  Hundreds of more stores are already scheduled to hold their election in the coming months.  Starbucks worker organizing has even spilled over into Canada with our union, the USW, recently filing an application with the Alberta Labor Relations Board (ALRB) for a union-certification vote on behalf of workers at five stores in Lethbridge, Alberta. 

Back in April, workers at Amazon celebrated a watershed victory when 8,300 workers won union representation at an Amazon fulfilment center in Staten Island, N.Y.   

Acknowledging these historic efforts, President Biden invited representatives from both organizing campaigns to join him in the White House for an afternoon of solidarity.

Beyond our workplaces, the labor movement is also gearing up for a potential fight to protect Social Security and Medicare from a proposal by Senator Rick Scott to “sunset” the programs and require Congressional reauthorization every five years. 

As we prepare for the 2022 midterm elections, it is vital that your voice be heard! Find a Your Union, Your Voice town hall near you, and submit your responses to our membership survey.  Both can be done by visiting

Your voice is an essential part of this effort!

June Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Tue, 06/07/2022 - 08:00
Honoring Lewis H. Webber, 1941-2022

Unfortunately, I recently attended a funeral honoring the life of SOAR Chapter 4-6 President Lewis Webber. Lew had held an officer’s position in the chapter since 1997 and had served as President of the Chapter since 2008. Before retirement, Lew worked in the maintenance department for Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, N.Y.

My first encounter with Lew was at a meeting held by then-Senator Hillary Clinton regarding former employees who had been exposed to radioactive material while working at the plant.

Lew spent many years and countless hours fighting for and assisting workers from Bethlehem Steel and other companies in processing claims with the Government to ensure that former employees and their families received whatever settlement they were entitled to. Lew became involved with this many years ago, and he learned how to navigate through the Government red tape and provide employment documentation after a plant that was shut down. Lew did this even though he was not entitled to any settlement.

Lew, along with members of his chapter, could always be seen at protests, demonstrations, meetings or picket lines in support of USW members and their issues.

I had asked him to show support to the ATI workers who were on strike by showing up at the picket line, and without hesitation, he replied that he would be there and bring his members with him. He then added that although he could not walk the line because of his health and limited ability to walk, he would show up and bring refreshments for those who could walk the line.

Lew Webber never asked the Union for anything. He would only ask what he could do to help the Union or what help he could offer to the active and retired members. Lew is now resting, and I am incredibly saddened that he is gone but very honored to have known him and been able to call him a friend.

Rest in peace, my friend.  You will be deeply missed by your SOAR family, alongside the many other workers and families whose lives you’ve touched.

USW Atomic Workers Look to the Future at Biannual AEWC Meeting

Mon, 06/06/2022 - 14:29

Meeting in person for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, representatives from across the USW’s atomic sector devoted a portion of their biannual meeting to reindustrialization of the former Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons production sites – a first for the group.

Pictured: USW Atomic Energy Workers Council

The May 22-23 Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) meeting in Washington, D.C., broached many familiar topics, including health and safety, benefits, relations with contractors, as well as possibilities for redevelopment and jobs once the cleanup work is done.

The $62 billion the bipartisan infrastructure bill allotted to the DOE presents a number of opportunities for charting a future path for USW-represented sites if the council continues pushing to ensure the resources are used judiciously, said USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown.

“Think about how we can be more strategic about how we can tap sources of money that we never tapped previously,” she said. “What is clear is that energy is the moment we are in right now, and this council, sector and sites can be part of that future.”

Kate Gordon, senior advisor to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, discussed the agency’s new Office of Clean Energy Deployment for place-based initiatives, that the bipartisan infrastructure law created in December 2021. She said these clean energy technology demonstration projects, like small modular reactors, clean hydrogen and carbon capture, could be sited at DOE’s cleanup locations to provide continuing work.

AEWC President Jim Key and Local 689 President Herman Potter also raised the possibility for recycling precious metals like copper and nickel that are available at some of the sites. These metals are needed for electric vehicle batteries. Key added that the sites have lots of land for energy or defense-related businesses.

“I appreciate the USW’s vision,” said William (Ike) White, DOE’s acting assistant secretary for environmental management, in response to the reindustrialization ideas. “This is the creative thinking we need.”

Pictured: William (Ike) White, acting assistant secretary for environmental management, Department of Energy

Reindustrialization opportunities

The AEWC’s agenda also reflected the emphasis on reindustrialization. Brown arranged for three other DOE officials to speak on the nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain and advanced nuclear projects.

“With the weaponization of oil and gas and our 20 percent dependence on Russian low-enriched uranium, people understand why we need a reliable source of fuel,” said Andy Griffith, DOE deputy assistant secretary for nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain.

Low-enriched uranium is the basic material used to fabricate nuclear fuel for reactors. Griffith said the DOE is on the cusp of starting up a demonstration project to produce nuclear fuel at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant site.

He also discussed various advanced nuclear reactors being developed, and reassured Local 652 President Matt Chavez that his members would be needed at Idaho National Laboratory to operate the small modular reactor plant being built at the site because skilled operators are hard to find.

Brown urged the AEWC delegates to think about how they can utilize her role on DOE’s advisory council to the secretary to get the long-term projects needed at their sites. She said others on the advisory council are not always familiar with organized labor and its push for family sustaining jobs and robust supply chains.

Pictured: (L-R) Kate Gordon, senior advisor to the DOE secretary, and Roxanne Brown, USW International Vice President

“Let’s use our ability to educate others in DOE to our benefit,” she said. “We can list the DOE programs that are vital to this sector, and help you apply for grants to help reindustrialize your sites.”

The AEWC meeting included a report from each site and a discussion on harmonizing health care benefits through the Steelworker Health & Welfare plan. Delegates voted in the existing AEWC officers: Jim Key, president, and Matt Chavez and Ryan Christensen as vice presidents. Carey Montgomery accepted the recording secretary position. At the end of the meeting, council members agreed to keep the AEWC meetings in Washington, D.C., so they can talk to DOE and elected officials about their issues.

Daughter continues father’s union tradition at Michigan medical facility

Tue, 05/31/2022 - 08:48

Rob Todd began working in health care after becoming a machinist right out of high school, deciding on the career change for a greater sense of stability. Today, he is still a member of amalgamated Local 12075 and a maintenance worker at MyMichigan Medical Center.

He’s also been a labor representative for 18 years, and just this past week the veteran union member was able to be the official witness to his daughter, Taylor, signing her union dues authorization card.

Taylor began working at the same facility as her father only a few weeks ago as a unit secretary. She is currently studying to become an ultrasound technician. For her, this job is ideal for multiple reasons.

“I really wanted to get the health care experience before I graduate,” she said. “Plus, I’m already so familiar with the facility.”

But for Taylor, this isn’t just a job.  She grew up going to her father’s local union meetings, helping with raffles, and volunteering with USW members at events. She knows the importance of unions and why this opportunity is such a good one.

“It’s a good place to work,” Rob said, “but I say that based on the fact that it’s a bargained-for environment.”

Though Taylor has always been an honorary member of the local union, she is ready to step into this world in her own shoes and looks forward to charting a new path.

“It will be nice to actually be part of it instead of just tagging along,” Taylor said.

Local 12-652 Members Overwhelmingly Approve Strong Contract at Idaho National Laboratory

Wed, 05/25/2022 - 07:35

Local 12-652 members who work for Idaho National Laboratory’s cleanup contractor, Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC), overwhelmingly ratified on May 19 a new five-year agreement with enhanced wage increases, additional pay for various work activities and beneficial contract language.

“I think this is probably the best economic offer I’ve seen in the 33 years I have been employed at the DOE Idaho site,” said Local 12-652 Vice President and unit chair Henry Littlefield.

The contract covers roughly 580 USW-represented workers who are in 22 job classifications ranging from carpenters, mechanics, and electricians to operators, custodians, tool crib attendants and radiation control technicians.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Pay raises range from 15.75 to 19.35 percent over the contract term, depending on job classification.

Littleford said that electricians, Integrated Waste Treatment Unit control room operators and senior radiation control technicians will also receive an 80-cent-per-hour raise before getting the first-year general wage increase.

The contract also stipulates an increase in pay for shift differential, lead upgrade, and respirator use. Employees will receive qualification pay if they obtain certification for mobile crane operation and pass a national accreditation test for radiological control technicians.

The negotiating committee also made advances on contract language. In addition to recreating classifications and improving vacancy bid rights, the local obtained additional subcontracting language and facility closure language for when there is a fire, weather event, or other uncontrollable situation.

Union negotiators also added language requiring the contractor to provide work clothing and cold weather gear and how often they are replaced. Other safety precautions required the company to maintain shower facilities for employees who work in areas where radioactive or other hazards may exist.

“Negotiating with a new company is always a challenge, but if these negotiations are an indication of how IEC will be to work with, we look forward to the next few years,” Littleford said.   

Coalition Proposes Hydrogen Power Plant to Reindustrialize Portsmouth Site

Tue, 05/24/2022 - 11:55

A coalition of community, labor, education and business organizations is proposing a hydrogen power plant for the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.

The Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), an economic development group, which counts Local 1-689 President Herman Potter as one of its board members, has been working with Ohio University and the Texas company Newpoint Gas to get the project off the ground.

Pictured: The property DOE transferred to the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) that is in the southeast portion of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site. SODI supports reindustrialization of the site. Photo credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy

The hydrogen power operation would be part of the reindustrialization of the former uranium enrichment plant site, which is undergoing decontamination and decommission work to clean up the legacy nuclear and chemical waste. It is the linchpin for SODI’s Ohio Valley “Green Energy and Manufacturing” initiative.

Potter said the USW played a major role in bringing in Newpoint Gas, which signed a letter of intent to buy the property that SODI owns.

“We’ve been talking to them quite a bit,” he said. “We believe our efforts will be reciprocated with at least 100 to 200 USW jobs, and the construction jobs going to the building trades.

“We are doing things to reindustrialize our site through our lobbying efforts,” he added.

The power plant would generate hydrogen from natural gas to produce clean energy for the manufacture of products like cement and ammonia, which have a carbon-heavy production process. Newpoint Gas anticipates getting the power plant online by the beginning of 2027.

The project also has the support of the Ohio AFL-CIO. “As this venture moves forward, we will call for government support to ensure this project is transformative in a part of our state that has all too often been left behind,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.

Watershed Victory at Amazon Highlights Workers’ Renewed Power

Tue, 05/24/2022 - 08:21

In April, after more than a year of tireless organizing by the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU), 8,300 workers won union representation at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, N.Y.

As the first successful effort to organize an Amazon worksite, the campaign captured the hearts and minds of workers everywhere. Further, it has helped shed light on the impact of a settlement agreement between Amazon and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The deal stemmed from an investigation the NLRB conducted after a separate attempt to organize Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala. last year.

In the wake of the Bessemer campaign, the NLRB investigation confirmed allegations that Amazon had used a number of nefarious and illegal tactics to intimidate workers and coerce them to vote against unionizing.

To address Amazon’s hostility toward their own workers, the NLRB-issued settlement stipulated that, moving forward:

  1. Amazon would allow union organizers access to its facilities, and would be required to notify employees of this change via email and worksite notices, and through communications on an employee app called A to Z.
  2. The NLRB, which investigates claims of unfair labor practices, would be empowered to sue Amazon if it believes the company violated federal labor laws; and
  3. Amazon would be required to “email past and current warehouse workers — likely more than one million people — with notifications of their rights and give them greater flexibility to organize in its buildings."

When announcing the settlement, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo declared these changes would “provide a crucial commitment from Amazon to millions of its workers across the United States that it will not interfere with their right to act collectively to improve their workplace by forming a union or taking other collective action.”

As a result, ALU organizers like Chris Smalls, who Amazon fired early in the pandemic after he led a worksite protest over working conditions, had nearly three months leading up to the April 1, 2022 vote count where they could more freely discuss unionization with workers throughout the facility without the threat of retaliation from their employer.

Many within the labor movement believe the changes outlined in the NLRB’s settlement, as well as the creative, grassroots approach by ALU organizers, are a recipe for workers’ renewed optimism post-COVID.

Local 550 Begins First Radiological Control Technician Class

Thu, 05/19/2022 - 12:45

Local 550, along with other partners, celebrated the kick-off of its radiological control technician (RCT) training program on May 5 at the West Kentucky Community & Technical College Emerging Technology Center.

Pictured: Representatives from the USW and partner organizations join students at the kick-off of the RCT training program at Paducah, Ky. Photo credit: Ashlee Fitch, USWTMC

Twenty students are receiving RCT training so they can work at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site or at other Department of Energy (DOE) facilities across the nation.

Local 550 President Gary Wilson thanked all the organizations and individuals involved who arranged the class and processed the applications and chose the students.

“Some volunteers worked many hours working out the details to begin our first RCT class at Paducah, but I’ve been amazed by the willingness of everyone who has donated time and resources,” Wilson said.

Other partners in the RCT training program are the USW Tony Mazzocchi Training Center, the West Kentucky Community & Technical College, the Paducah Chamber of Commerce, DOE, Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, LLC, Mid-America Conversion Services and local community leaders.

Pictured: Rusty Reynolds, Local 550 training manager.

We Keep America Rolling; Tennessee’s Bridgestone Workers Turn Out Some of the Best Tires in the World

Tue, 05/17/2022 - 11:55

David Eldridge reported for his first day of work at the Bridgestone tire factory in Morrison, Tenn., on July 5, 1994. Before he went home that day, he also became a member of Local 1155. “I signed on day one,” said Eldridge, whose father was a union sheet metal worker. “I remembered the benefits of the union from my early days.”

Eldridge is not alone. Despite living in a state where they could choose to shirk their responsibility to pay dues because of so-called “right-to-work” policies, more than 90 percent of the 800 hourly workers at the Bridgestone plant are dues-paying members of the local, and many of them are union activists.

Solidarity Works

One of those activists, Jamie Martinez, who serves on the local union’s Civil and Human Rights and Next Gen committees, got involved in the union early on, with the help of some grandfatherly advice. “My grandpa said, ‘Sign that card,’” noted Martinez, a six-year member who also drew inspiration from the international union’s inaugural Next Gen conference three years ago in Pittsburgh. “It wasn’t until I set foot in that conference that I understood the magnitude of what I was involved in,” Martinez said. “It takes hard work, dedication and solidarity. Solidarity more than anything else.”

That solidarity is clearly visible among the Local 1155L membership in rural Warren County, Tennessee, where members’ families, schools and businesses all depend on the good wages that the USW negotiates in its contracts with Bridgestone.

“We help keep local businesses afloat,” said Local 1155L President Drew Rodriguez. “It all trickles down to every business that we support.” In addition, those wages and benefits allow workers to raise families and enjoy a quality of life that wouldn’t be possible without the union. “All the things I wanted out of life,” Rodriguez said, “I never could have done without the union.”

Pride in Their Work

The pride that members feel in being USW members is also evident in their approach to the day-to-day work of producing tires that bear the iconic Bridgestone label.

“Every employee takes pride in the tires that come out of our facility,” Rodriguez said. “We know it’s an excellent product because we take our time to make sure we get it right.”

The workers in Morrison produce more than 9,000 large truck and bus tires each day, making the factory No. 1 in productivity among Bridgestone’s 24 plants. The workers at the facility also lead the company in cost-efficiency. 

One reason for the factory’s longterm success is the collaborative relationship the plant’s managers enjoy with the union work force. That stems in part from the fact that each member of the Morrison management team started out working on the shop floor, said plant manager Tim Painter. “That’s what makes our culture different,” Painter said. “This plant has a lot to be proud of.”

Among those points of pride is the work force’s dedication to health, safety and environmental stewardship. Those principles are at the core of what the USW stands for, and local leaders in Morrison share that dedication.

Local 1155L (the “L” was added following the United Rubber Workers’ merger into the USW in 1995) has an active and engaged safety committee whose members work closely with Bridgestone managers to identify and eliminate hazards. “It’s the foundation of working,” Heath Young said of his efforts as part of the USW safety committee. “The union itself, I believe, is born out of safety.”

The Warren County factory has been recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a Voluntary Protection Program STAR site for its work to keep employees safe, and the building was the first tire plant in the world to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification for sustainability and environmental responsibility.

“This plant is always at the forefront,” Painter said. The 906-acre site includes the 2-million-square-foot Bridgestone facility as well as a 680-acre wildlife preserve, both of which regularly host visits from schoolchildren in the area.

High-Tech Work

Inside the factory, Bridgestone employs a mix of time-honored, hands-on techniques and state-of-the-art technology to produce some of the most advanced products on the market. Each step of the way, USW members are there to make sure the job is done right.

Banbury mixers oversee the beginning of the process, where rubber, pigments and other raw materials are blended to create the primary building blocks for Bridgestone tires.

Members in the extrusion department then feed that material into mills to create various shapes and thicknesses.

Builders assemble pieces of rubber, along with steel, nylon, wire and other components, on machines before the products move on to the curing process, where each individual piece is molded, under intense heat and pressure, to create a finished tire.

A New Generation

The work of building quality tires – and of being an effective union activist – takes time and dedication, and local union leaders, including Financial Secretary Van Tenpenny, recognize the importance of mentoring the next generation to ensure that the USW’s tradition of activism continues.

About 35 percent of the work force in Morrison has less than six years of experience, and the company expects more than 150 workers to retire in the next five years. “It’s our job to educate those coming behind us,” said Tenpenny, a Tennessee native who came to work at the factory not long after it opened in 1990.

In addition to handling the union’s finances for the past 22 years, Tenpenny oversees the local’s award-winning member-to-member communications program, in which he informs Bridgestone workers about the many benefits the USW delivers for them. “We have a collective voice that puts us on the same playing field with the company,” he said. “We’re all in this thing together.”

Upcoming Bargaining

That sense of togetherness will be particularly important for the workers as they approach the expiration of their contract this summer.

In addition to the members in Morrison, the USW represents Bridgestone workers in nearby La Vergne, Tenn., as well as in Akron, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Russellville, Ark., and Bloomington, Ill. Their contract runs through July 29.

Rodriguez, who is in his first year as Local 1155L president, said he has been working hard over the past several months to build relationships with leaders at other tire locals as the contract expiration nears in the hope that, working together, they can achieve a fair agreement.

The Union Difference

First-time union members Jamie Craven, a three-year member, and DeeJay Roland, who has worked at the factory for seven years, recognized the difference their union contract made very soon after starting their jobs at the Bridgestone plant.

Roland, a Local 1155L executive board member who also serves on the union’s Next Gen committee, said he has worked at non-union jobs in the past and that the upcoming contract should build on the strong wages, benefits and safe working conditions the USW has established over the past 32 years in its negotiations with Bridgestone. “Safety is the key for everyone,” he said. “This plant – and this union – it’s our responsibility to keep them going.”

Fight for Fair Trade

One way the USW fights to keep the U.S. tire industry going, Roland and other members say, is through the union’s relentless fight for fair trade and Made in America rules.

Local 1155L Recording Secretary Carlos Amado said that the USW’s campaign to ensure robust domestic supply chains for essential goods is part of the reason he has been proud to call himself a USW member for 27 years. “If we learned anything from this pandemic,” Amado said, “we should have learned that.”

Trucks with Bridgestone-made tires kept U.S. businesses and households supplied with much-needed goods throughout the COVID-19 crisis. “We keep America rolling,” Rodriguez said. USW members should be proud of their role in keeping vital supply chains stocked, and they should be compensated fairly for it, Amado said. “Without the trucking industry, we couldn’t honor that demand,” he said. “We know our product is the best in the world, and that’s just a good feeling.”

Essential Workers

Members like Amado are certain that they produce top-of-the-line tires, because they are involved in every step of the production process.

The tires that come out of the Morrison factory get heavy day-to-day use, in some cases for more than one million miles, so quality control is essential. Prior to shipping them to customers, Bridgestone puts its products through a rigorous testing and inspection process.

Workers, like 19-year USW member Annette Veals, visually and manually check each individual tire to ensure that there are no abnormalities before they are sent out the factory door. “It’s important,” said USW policy committee member Tommy Winkles. “We want people to know that we build some of the best tires in the world.”

Industry Challenges

Winkles knows something about that – he’s been involved in making tires for 44 years. Before coming to Bridgestone 32 years ago, he worked at the Goodyear factory in Gadsden, Ala., about 150 miles south of Morrison. That plant, once the largest tire factory in the world, closed in 2020 after 90 years in operation, when the company moved production to Mexico.

That loss was particularly devastating for then-Local 12L President Mickey Ray Williams, who fought for years to preserve quality union jobs at Goodyear and who now serves the members of Local 1155L and others in the region as a USW staff representative.

“When we compete fairly, American tire makers are the best in the world,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, the playing field we’re on when it comes to trade isn’t always fair.” The Gadsden closure is a reminder of why the USW plays such an important role in manufacturing towns like Morrison, why the union continues to organize tire plants throughout the South, and why union members have fought so hard for decades for worker-friendly trade practices and strong “Made in America” policies.

“Bringing more tire workers into the union, like those at Bridgestone in Tennessee, Kumho in Georgia, Giti in South Carolina, and elsewhere, will only make the U.S. industry stronger,” said Daniel Flippo, director of District 9, which includes Tennessee as well as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “All USW members who produce the tires we drive on know the union difference, and all workers deserve to feel that same pride shown at Local 1155L.”

Strict domestic procurement rules, which the Biden administration pushed for as part of its $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last year, will help ensure that the good jobs that USW members have at Bridgestone and other tire makers can continue for the next generation and beyond.

“We have fought for years for our jobs here,” Tenpenny said. “And we will continue to fight, because of our union."

Solvay Invests in Unit Expansion at Marietta, Ohio, Plant

Thu, 05/12/2022 - 11:15

Solvay began planned expansion of its Marietta, Ohio, plant in March, growth that has already led to new hiring and may help ensure the facility’s future.

“It is good to see that Solvay recognizes the outstanding, quality work our members perform every day at the Marietta site by investing in the facility,” said International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn, who oversees the union’s chemical sector. “This investment by the company goes a long way to securing the current jobs and increasing employment of good-paying union work.”

Solvay is expanding its sulfone polymers chemical business in the U.S. Sulfone polymers are high-heat transparent plastics that can withstand prolonged exposure to water, chemicals and temperatures.

The Marietta expansion will increase capacity by over 25 percent in 2024 of one of its sulfone polymers products, polysulfone, which is a rigid, high-strength plastic pellet.

Local 14200 President Gregory May said the company has not said how many workers it will hire as a result of the expansion, but unionized contractors and USW workers will be installing the new equipment.

Pictured: Local 14200 President Greg May.

“We’ve already increased manpower by four operators in the polysulfone unit so they can train as the new equipment arrives,” he said.

Local 14200 represents more than 200 hourly workers in operations, maintenance, materials handling and the lab.

Marietta’s polysulfone polymers product goes into medical equipment, such as filters for hemodialysis and dental instruments.

“What I’m most proud of is the use for hemodialysis because it saves lives and gives quality of life to people with severe kidney disease,” May said.

The other main industries that use Marietta’s product are in aerospace, such as in the trim work inside planes and in flight instrumentation; food service, such as in food trays, and the automobile market, such as in electronics and interiors.

May said he is excited about the expansion and what it means for the site’s future. 

“I believe it solidifies the Marietta site for the next 20 years,” he said. “The union and management, in my definition, have an excellent working relationship where we strive together to do what is best for the Solvay site and the employees there.”

Engaging New Hires Helps Local 9-675 Improve Workplace Safety

Wed, 05/11/2022 - 10:16

A renewed focus on engaging new hires is helping Local 9-675 eliminate hazards, resolve longstanding health and safety concerns and make the 3M’s Guin, Ala., plant a safer workplace.

When Angie Mayo took over as the local’s Triangle of Prevention (TOP) rep last year, she began consciously reaching out to new members and working with the company to bring more health and safety training to the new hire orientation.

She observed that new hires were getting finger injuries working with the equipment, which prompted her to evaluate their training.

Now, the new hires have one week of class work, TOP training the second week and one extra week for on-the-job training. New hires team up with a fellow worker who shows them how to do the job safely.

Pictured: 3M’s Guin, Ala., plant.

Mayo started working with the first new hire group this year. “They’ve been really engaged, and I have good worker-trainers. I tell them they have a voice on what happens in the plant to keep themselves safe,” she said.

The USW’s TOP program is a union-run and controlled health and safety program that involves workers, salaried employees and management in keeping the workplace free of hazards, providing solutions to potential health and safety problems, and investigating near miss incidents and accidents to prevent future reoccurrences.

Mayo’s efforts in bringing new hires into the TOP program resulted in new ideas for improving existing processes, procedures and equipment.

“Having fresh eyes for a job everyone is used to doing is always a plus. We encourage workers when they change departments to give a new eye to what is happening,” she said.

Mayo walks through the plant every day and talks to each employee by the end of the week. Workers approach her and tell her about potential hazards.

One of those hazards was in the bubbles department. The workers wanted an exhaust fan with louvers because when it was cold, their only option was to place cardboard over the fan. The previous manager was content with that solution, but Mayo consulted with plant engineering, which ordered louvers and modified them to the exhaust fan.

Another hazard concerned dock safety.

“We have had several near misses with outsourced or non-3M truck drivers driving off from our docks with our employees still inside the trailer,” Mayo said. “We are now trialing the air brake locks we ordered, hoping to get rid of this hazard. The air lock locks the breaks on the trailer, so even if a trucker is there, he can’t move the truck with the breaks locked.”

Hourly employees aren’t the only ones who approach her with safety issues. Supervisors and other salaried employees turn in hazardous items as well.

“Most people now say, ‘If you want something done, turn a TOP in on it,’” Mayo said.


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