David McCall

President’s Perspective

David McCall USW International President

Protecting America’s Freedoms

Protecting America’s Freedoms

Sean Clouatre promised accountability, stability and transparency when he ran for alderman in his hometown of French Settlement, La., in 2022.

That was the commitment that his colleagues demanded of him years earlier when they elected him president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 620, the union representing hundreds of workers at BASF and Oxy plants in the state’s chemical manufacturing corridor.

And Clouatre knew that voters in the village of 1,000 desired the same kind of leadership as the community approached crucial decisions about finances, infrastructure and the future.

“The union gave me the knowledge and confidence to do this,” said Clouatre, who won his race for alderman, noting that the USW not only showed him how to stand up for others but instilled in him the true meaning of leadership.

Unions protect Americans’ freedoms. They model democracy, empowering members to elect leaders, vote on contracts and use their voice to advocate for safer working conditions along with other needs.

They also embody the nation’s highest ideals, bringing workers together to fight for fairness, inclusiveness and the level playing field that gives everyone an equal say and a shot at getting ahead.

“I have one vote, just like everybody else,” said Clouatre, an operator at the Oxy plant in Geismar, noting union members collectively set the union’s agenda and expect him to carry it out.

“We stand up for workers’ rights, and that’s what this country was founded on,” he said of unions. “We fight for those principles, still, to this day.”

The democracy fostered in the union spills over into the community. Union members vote at higher rates than other workers in congressional and presidential elections, for example, and their family members also turn out to vote more often than non-union households.

“To be clear: this is not just the result of any particular GOTV (get-out-the-vote) activity, but rather a function of being in a union, the transformative effect that it has,” wrote Tova Wang, visiting democracy fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, in a 2020 study.

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To the Rescue

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

To the Rescue

Wayne Creasy turned the corner in his municipal work truck, saw emergency vehicles idling at the railroad crossing, and instinctively pulled over to help.

About 12 feet in the air, a railroad worker writhed in agony, pinned against his seat by a 39-foot-long, 1,500-pound slab of rail that fell from the claws of the crane he’d been operating.

Creasy—crew chief for the Bloomsburg, Pa., Public Works Department and president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1928—knew exactly what to do.

He summoned a town backhoe, moved a police car out of the way, and secured the backhoe’s chains to the piece of rail. Then he guided the backhoe operator, a fellow union member, as he hoisted the rail high enough for emergency workers to slide the man over the back of his seat to safety.

Decades of union empowerment prepared Creasy to act decisively and heroically on that summer day four years ago. Now, swift passage of federal legislation, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, would help build the same kind of leadership, skill and teamwork in communities nationwide.

“We try to rise above and beyond,” Creasy, a town worker for nearly three decades, said of his 10-person crew, responsible for snow-clearing, street paving, flood control, tree maintenance, the town park, an airport, traffic signals and many other community essentials. “If you know what to do, you do it.”

Some states unfairly deny public servants—not only road crews but sanitation, maintenance and office workers, among others—the same right to union membership that counterparts in the private sector enjoy.

A right-wing governor in Wisconsin signed legislation in 2011, for example, that essentially eliminated bargaining rights for public workers there. Florida’s anti-worker governor last year signed a law aimed at bankrupting and decimating public-sector unions, costing tens of thousands of workers their labor rights so far.

And Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature recently introduced several bills intended to strip public workers of their unions.

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More Jobs, Higher Wages

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

More Jobs, Higher Wages

John Ralston went into bargaining with Transco last fall intending to negotiate one of the strongest union contracts in his three decades with the company.

Carmakers urgently wanted to get new vehicles to market. The railroads needed to get more autoracks—enclosed rail cars used to transport vehicles—into service.

And Ralston said he and his co-workers, who maintain autoracks and other rail cars at a sprawling yard in Logansport, Ind., had “more work than we could handle.”

He and other members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-00007 ended up exceeding their expectations, winning wage increases of 24 percent over three and a half years along with important benefit enhancements.

It’s one more example of the significant gains that workers across the country are making as the nation continues to add jobs, invest in manufacturing and meet growing demand for products ranging from aluminum and steel to automobiles, appliances and many other kinds of goods.

“They knew they were going to have to offer a pretty substantial wage increase in order to hire more people and keep them there,” Ralston, the local’s recording secretary and a bargaining committee member, said of Transco management.

“I think they knew they were going to have to do something. They really want to add a second shift. They really want to expand our operations,” added Ralston, who repairs the air brake systems on rail cars.

The hiring buzz at Transco reflects a nationwide trend.

Employers created 15 million jobs, hundreds of thousands of them in manufacturing, over the past three and a half years. The nation added another 272,000 jobs in May alone, beating economists’ projections, and workers are benefiting with strong wage gains that outpace the cost of living.

“The American middle class is seeing their economic standing improved. The strong wages and improving living standards are the main takeaway from this very strong jobs report,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at the accounting firm RSM US, explained to The Washington Post.

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We’re Here. And We’re Strong.

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

We’re Here. And We’re Strong.

Donneta Williams, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1025 and a longtime optical fiber maker at the Corning plant in Wilmington, N.C., knows how important it is for workers intent on forming a union to speak directly with peers who walk in the same shoes.

So Williams agreed to send three of her colleagues to Corning’s Tarboro facility, about 145 miles away, when workers at that site approached the union with questions about organizing.

Local 1025 members shared firsthand accounts of how the union boosted their wages, gave them a voice and kept them safe on the job. And about two weeks ago, the workers at Tarboro filed for an election to join the USW.

They’re among a growing number of workers across the South eager to leverage the power of solidarity and build brighter futures, even as CEOs and Republicans in this part of the country still conspire to hold them down.

“It’s all about making life better,” said Williams, who also serves as a vice president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, noting that workers are organizing across numerous industries in a string of Southern states with traditionally low numbers of union members.

“The narrative on unions in the South needs to change,” she added, pointing out that growing numbers of workers are grasping the benefits of collective action and demanding their fair share in the booming post-pandemic economy.

“We’re here,” she said. “We’re strong. We’re standing up, and we’re fighting with all that we have.”

About 1,400 workers at the Blue Bird electric bus factory in Fort Valley, Ga., last year voted overwhelmingly to organize through the USW.

The vote was a breakthrough for workers on the front lines of a vital, growing industry. It also sent a pointed, defiant message to a Republican governor who lies about unions and tries to prevent Georgians from joining them.

On the heels of that monumental victory, autoworkers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., overcame Republican opposition and voted by a huge majority last month to unionize.

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Solidarity Sends the Bullies Packing

David McCall

David McCall USW International President

Solidarity Sends the Bullies Packing

Management at Amfuel tried to bully Jo Tucker and her 200 co-workers—most of them Black women, a number of them single moms—into accepting dozens of unnecessary concessions in a new contract.

For four years, however, the manufacturing workers in Magnolia, Ark., remained strong and resolute as the company tried to break the union and wear them down.

And then, just as the workers prepared to launch an unfair labor practice strike a couple of weeks ago, Amfuel surrendered. Because of their unflinching solidarity, the workers beat back the concessions and won a contract with life-changing raises, additional holidays and other benefit enhancements.

“We didn’t lose anything,” noted Tucker, a negotiating committee member and the financial secretary for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 607L. “That was good.”

Employers frequently try to kill morale, punish workers, or force them into concessionary contracts by dragging their feet at the bargaining table. But as union members at Amfuel and other companies prove time and again, a united front sends the bullies packing.

“We all hung in there together,” Tucker said of the workers, who make fuel cells for military helicopters and fighter jets. “It wasn’t easy. But we prevailed, and I thank God that we did.”

“It was teamwork,” she added. “Everybody was working together.”

As the workers geared up for bargaining in 2020, Amfuel received an infusion of money from new investors and additional support from the Defense Department and local community leaders. The company embarked on a growth plan, intending to rely ever more heavily on the skilled work force. It even bragged publicly about giving workers a bigger voice on the job.

Yet Amfuel stunned workers with a contract proposal demanding nearly 70 concessions.

Among other untenable proposals, Amfuel wanted to abolish seniority, reduce vacation pay and eliminate the grievance process, which would have made it easier for management to try to eliminate workers for any reason or none at all.

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