The United Steelworkers of America (USWA)-the labor union that represents most of the unionized tire workers in the U.S.-has merged with one of the nation's larger industrial workers unions to form a labor organization that represents 850,000 active members.
About 1,600 members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) overwhelmingly approved the merger with the USWA during a recent convention in Las Vegas.
The USWA was holding its annual meetings concurrently with PACE the week of April 11. The organizations announced their intent to merge in January.
The new organization officially will be the United Steel, Paper, Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union-the United Steelworkers, or USW, for short.
The USW will have 850,000 active members within 8,000 bargaining units in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean region. Including retirees, the union will represent 1.25 million members in manufacturing and service sectors.
About 575,000 members will come from the Pittsburgh-based USWA and 275,000 from Nashville, Tenn.-based PACE. The headquarters facilities for both unions will remain open, but the Nashville site will close in 10 years, with the USW base of operations remaining in Pittsburgh.
Leo Gerard, president of the USWA, is the new USW president, while PACE President Boyd Young is the executive vice president. The newly formed union also has a new executive board for the transition.
When the USWA and PACE announced in January their intention to merge-after approval by their respective executive boards-the unions said they were seeking to combine resources for unprecedented political and bargaining power.
The USW expects to be the dominant union in a variety of industries, including tires and rubber, paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, mining, glass, chemicals and petroleum.
``This merger rings in a new day for the labor movement in the U.S. and Canada,'' Mr. Gerard said. ``Our members' hands will be greatly strengthened in bargaining with multinational employers, and politically we'll have considerably more clout in combating the assault on workers' rights that is threatening to undermine decades of social and economic progress in both countries-especially among the thousands of unrepresented workers we're determined to organize.''
The Steelworkers' many assets-to which PACE now has access-include a $150 million defense fund and a $30 million organizing budget.
``By joining with the Steelworkers, we will have greater resources to organize in our key sectors, influence bargaining and create cooperative partnerships with companies that recognize the benefits of a productive labor-management relationship,'' Mr. Young said. ``This merger gives our members much more power in the workplace.''
The two unions had been working on a merger for about a year and formed a strategic alliance in March 2004 to help work on elections and legislative activity, as well as share resources for rank-and-file centered activities and programs.
The USWA was formed in 1936 by the merger of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. The USWA has been a participant in nine additional mergers, including joining with the Akron-based United Rubber Workers (URW) in 1995.
About 90,000 URW members, primarily rubber industry production employees, became Steelworkers via that merger.
The USWA's Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference, mainly made up of former URW locals, now has about 70,000 members, the union said.
PACE was created when the United Paperworkers International Union and the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers International Union joined forces in 1999.