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Steelworkers: Do You Really Know Who They Are?

By Ed Wytkind

The United Steelworkers (USW) union is celebrating a milestone today in Cleveland — it is turning 70 years old.

I’m willing to bet that many in America pass by a steelworker every week without knowing they do more than smelt, mine for ore and hammer metals; they are in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and nursing.

This group of 1.2 million active and retired members is among the largest industrial unions in the U.S., born in Pennsylvania in 1942. But its origin really goes back to the late 1800s when mill workers who saw their wages cut at Carnegie Steel engaged in strikes that were eventually broken up by Pinkerton detectives.  Steelworkers fought back, and some died, in those early clashes with management.  They understood then what we know today:  there is nothing more empowering on the job than a strong union.

USW members today benefit from those early union pioneers.  And the rest of the economy benefits from their current tireless efforts that help all of us, such as fighting unfair trade policies and practices, knocking down hurdles to increase our exports and strengthening our Buy America laws.  USW also thinks outside of the box on forging partnerships with eco-friendly groups to create new green union jobs in America.

When it comes to job creation, USW International President Leo Gerard has been vocal about investing in small businesses, passing a surface transportation funding bill, and putting more resources into manufacturing to put more Americans back to work.  Leo is challenging our nation to start building things again and to think big about how we boost an industrial base that has been on a steady decline as our global competitors build and expand theirs.

It is fitting that USW members today are at the Music Hall in the Cleveland Public Auditorium to celebrate this milestone because it was seven decades ago that the union was founded in that very location.  Enjoy and be proud today USW member! Transportation labor salutes you for all you do to MOVEAmerica.

-@Ed Wytkind

 

USW

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