From the Skies to Solidarity: Cary Eldridge's Journey with the USW's Vets of Steel Program

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

Cary Eldridge's shift from the U.S. Air Force to an influential role in the United Steelworkers Union is a story steeped in a rich family tradition of military service. 

Following in the footsteps of his grandfathers, World War II veterans, and his father and uncles, Vietnam veterans, Cary's journey from the disciplined ranks of the USAF to the collaborative and supportive environment of the Union is a testament to his enduring commitment to service. His involvement as the USW District 4 Vets of Steel (VOS) Coordinator not only continues his family's legacy of service but also highlights the crucial role of such programs in guiding veterans toward meaningful post-service careers. Cary's story is more than a personal achievement; it's a narrative that intertwines family military heritage with the spirit of solidarity and advocacy in the union movement.

As an Air Force sergeant, Cary was stationed in various locations, including Texas, Honduras, Guatemala, and New York. He was part of a Mobility Civil Engineering Unit, working closely with Army Combat Engineers. This experience honed his leadership, teamwork, and mission-oriented focus skills – qualities that seamlessly translated into his role in the USW. 

"Simply, we had had a mission while we were serving. You can take that mission-driven concept and use it in the Union. We are still our sisters’ and brothers’ keeper and protector. We bond over that, same as our duty while we served,” he said. 

Cary plays a pivotal role in transforming the lives of fellow veterans. This program stands out for its unique approach in empowering veterans, going beyond mere advocacy to become a catalyst for change. It provides an essential bridge for veterans to transfer and adapt their military skills to the Union. Cary's hands-on involvement, particularly in legislative initiatives for veteran benefits, underscores the program's dedication to making a real difference. Through his efforts, Vets of Steel voices veteran concerns and actively contributes to their successful integration and recognition in the workforce.

He led the Union’s efforts to get a first-of-its-kind law passed in New York that requires employers to post veteran-related information at work. The union, through Rapid Response, is now fighting to get similar laws passed in every state.

For more information on that and other Veterans of Steel efforts, click here.

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