The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (United Steelworkers or USW) is the largest industrial labor union in North America, with 705,000 members.[1] Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the United Steelworkers represents workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The United Steelworkers represent workers in a diverse range of industries, including primary and fabricated metals, chemicals, glass, rubber, heavy-duty conveyor belting, tires, transportation, utilities, container industries, pharmaceuticals, call centers and health care.

The United Steelworkers is currently affiliated with the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) as well as several international union federations. On July 2, 2008, the United Steelworkers signed an agreement to merge with the United Kingdom and Ireland based union, Unite, to form a new global union entity called Workers Uniting.

The current International President of the United Steelworkers is Leo Gerard, who has served as president since 2001.

Early attempts to organize steelworkers encountered resistance, even violence. An example is the Homestead Strike. In 1889, after a strike at a mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania, the Carnegie Steel Company signed a contract with the workers. Three years later, however, the mill cut wages, triggering another strike. Management sent in 300 Pinkerton detectives to break the strike, resulting in a pitched battle on July 6, 1892, that left 10 dead and many wounded. Eventually, strikebreakers, backed by state militia, broke the strike, eliminating the early union from its mills.

The USWA was established May 22, 1942, by a convention of representatives from the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, after almost six years of divisive struggles to create a new union of steelworkers. The drive to create this union included such violent incidents as the infamous Memorial Day, 1937, when Chicago policemen supporting the rival American Federation of Labor (AFL) fired on workers outside a Republic Steel mill and killed 10 men.

The founder and first president of the USWA, Philip Murray, led the union through its first organizing drives and dangerous first decade, when the workers of USWA went on strike several times to win concessions such as the right to bargain collectively with steel companies, higher wages, and paid vacations.

The 46,000 members of the Aluminum Workers of America voted to merge with the budding steelworker union that was the USW in June 1944. Eventually, eight more unions joined the USW as well: the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (1967); the United Stone and Allied Product Workers of America (1971); District 50, the Allied and Technical Workers of America (1972); the Upholsterers International Union of North America (1985); the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastic Workers of America (URW) (1995); the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers Union (ABG) (1996); the Canadian Division of the Transportation Communications International Union (1999); and the American Flint Glass Workers Union (AFGWU) (2003).

In June 2004, the USWA announced a merger with the 57,000 member Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA Canada), a major Canadian forestry workers union. Then in 2005, it announced an even larger merger with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE). The resulting new union adopted its current name after the PACE merger.

In September 2006, the Independent Oil Workers Union of Aruba, which represents refinery workers on the Caribbean island of Aruba, affiliated with the United Steelworkers, becoming the first USW union local outside of the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and Canada.[2]

In April 2007, the USW also merged with the Independent Steelworkers Union, adding 1,150 members at Arcelor-Mittal's Weirton, West Virginia steel mill.[3]

In addition to mergers, the USW has also formed strategic alliances with several other unions as well as other groups. In April 2005, the USW and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) announced that they had formed a strategic alliance to take on the globalization of the culture industry and to address a range of common issues.[4] In July 2006, the USW announced a similar arrangement with the United Transportation Union (UTU), to address common issues in the transportation industry, including the globalization of the industry.[5] In July 2007, the USW inked yet another strategic alliance with the Canadian Region of the Communications Workers of America .[6]

Beyond its affiliations with other unions, in June 2006, the USW announced the formation of a 'Blue-Green Alliance' with the Sierra Club, which is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. The goal of this new partnership is to pursue a joint public policy agenda reconciling workers' need for good jobs with all people's need for a cleaner environment and safer world.[7]

In October 2009, the USW announced a framework for collaboration between US and Canadian Steelworkers with Mondragon Internacional, S.A., the world's largest federation of worker cooperatives.[8]

In early April 2007, the BBC announced that Amicus, then the United Kingdom's second-largest trade union, was to begin discussions with the USW about a possible merger.[9] Amicus subsequently merged with the British Transport and General Workers Union to form the new union Unite. Unite and the USW continued the merger talks initiated by Amicus.

In May 2008, the unions announced that they were putting the "finishing touches" on the merger, that the merger had been endorsed by Unite officials, and that the USW would discuss the plan at its forthcoming convention in July. Once completed, the new merged entity would represent more than 3 million workers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean. The unions have further announced that the new entity would target further mergers with labor groups in Australia and in the emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.[10] On July 2, 2008, USW and Unite leadership formally signed the merger agreement to create the new entity, to be called Workers Uniting.[11]

The merger creates the first transoceanic trade union since the 1930s (when the IWW was the largest international trade union), and also creates one of the world's largest trade unions. The purpose of the merger is to globalize the labor movement in the era of multinational corporations.

In April 2005, USW President Leo Gerard announced that the newly-merged USW's top political objective for the 2006 United States House of Representatives elections would be the ouster of Representative Tom DeLay. DeLay later announced in April 2006, that he would not run for reelection.

In the subsequent 2006 election, the USW led a massive political mobilization program that eventually grew to include 350 full-time political organizers in 26 states, a majority of whom were rank and file USW members who took time from work to organize their communities and educate fellow union members. The USW turned out some 5,000 USW volunteers on Election Day, including over 1,000 each in the key states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Exit polls suggested union families made up 23 percent of the total vote and supported Democratic candidates by a substantial 32 percent margin, 65 percent to 33 percent. Based on these numbers, the United Steelworkers, in conjunction with the rest of the labor movement, took substantial credit for the eventual Democratic victory.[12]

 

In May 2008, the USW announced its endorsement of Barack Obama's presidential campaign for president by way of Sen. John Edwards' endorsement.[13]

The USW has contributed to various charitable and philanthropic causes since its creation. The USW has enthusiastically supported The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP), a nonprofit organization that works with brain-injured children. The USW has hosted the IAHP's founder, Glenn Doman, at their annual convention.[14] The USW has also held fundraising events for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The USW has consistently stated that such charitable causes are important to its mission.

NOTES:

^ a b [1] Office of Labor-Management Standards. Employment Standards Administration. U.S. Department of Labor. Form LM-2 labor Organization Annual Report. United Steelworkers of America. File Number: 000-094. Dated March 31, 2009.
^ USW@Work, Volume 1/5, p. 27 (Fall 2006).
^ One Strong Voice: USW, Weirton Independent Union Sign Merger Agreement, USW, April 2007[dead link].
^ ACTRA and USW Renew Vows
^ United Transportation Union Signs Strategic Alliance with United Steelworkers (July 2006)
^ Steelworkers and Communications Workers Sign Strategic Alliance, USW, July 17, 2007.
^ Sierra Club, United Steelworkers Announce ‘Blue-Green Alliance’ (June 2006)
^ USW Site announcement of USW-Mondragon Collaboration October 2009
^ BBC announces start of discussions with UK trade union Amicus (April 2007)
^ Bill Toland, "USW, Brits near creation of 'super' union," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 28, 2008.
^ Steven Greenhouse, "Steelworkers Merge With British Union," New York Times, July 3, 2008.
^ Press Release: "Unprecedented USW Voter Turnout Effort Highlighted Trade and Economy," November 8, 2006.
^ Press Release: "United Steelworkers Endorse Senator Barack Obama for President," May 15, 2008.
^ Guzda, Henry P. (1992). "United Steelworkers of America: 26th convention". Monthly Labor Review. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1153/is_n12_v115/ai_13353405/pg_3.