Meet District 8 Civil and Human Rights Coordinator Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is not only proud to be a union member of 45 years; he’s proud to be a social justice activist and Civil and Human Rights Coordinator.

Labor runs in the District 8 Sub-District Director’s blood. His great-uncle worked at Bethlehem Steel in Maryland when it was first organized with the USW in 1941, while his grandfather finished his career as a longshoreman.

Before Lewis joined the USW as staff in 2014, he, like his great-uncle, worked at the Sparrow’s Point (formerly Bethlehem Steel) mill right out of high school until it shut down in 2012.

“I’ve been a Steelworker all my working life,” said Lewis.

During his time at his local, he served in a variety of roles, including grievance rep, safety rep, and financial secretary. As the years went on, however, he realized his biggest passion was civil rights.

Although Lewis recognizes that not every worker understands why labor unions get involved in fights surrounding racism and LGBTQ+ rights, he believes it’s vital to keep the conversations going.

He refers to a quote by President John F. Kennedy to explain it: “Our labor unions…have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders.

“I always start my presentations with this quote,” said Lewis, “because the struggle is not over. If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.”

Lewis knows that discussions regarding race and justice can be difficult, but that leaders in this space merely need to meet people where they are. At a recent training with over 90 USW members at Wheeling-Nippon Steel in West Virginia, he prompted a conversation about Colin Kaepernick’s fight for freedom of speech in the NFL.

“I spoke about how Colin used his labor rights and his union representation to file a grievance on his behalf like other unions do for their members,” Lewis said. “When you apply these issues to workers’ lives, they understand it.”

Lewis said District 8 Director Larry Ray has been a big proponent of the civil and human rights trainings and the value they bring to the movement.

Lewis is currently preparing to attend the USW Civil and Human Rights Conference in Detroit this June, the first since 2019. “It’s been too long,” Lewis. “I’m really looking forward to the fellowship.”

Click here to learn more and register for the Civil and Human Rights Conference.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-6961

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222