Leslie is joined by the incoming President of the United Steelworkers (USW), David McCall.
During this interview, they remember the late Tom Conway, former President of the USW, who sadly passed away on September 25th of this year.
While the labor movement and the union both lost a great leader, thanks to Tom’s vision and hard work, both are on firm footing and primed to continue the fight for economic justice and fairness for working families.
Tom’s legacy involves innovations and breakthroughs on a number of fronts:
He bargained cutting-edge contracts across USW sectors.
- He understood that companies needed to be successful so they could pay workers good wages and benefits, so where he could, he worked with them. - When he couldn’t, he was relentless in his work to find ways to make sure workers’ needs remained at the forefront. - This included the 2015 oil strike, which helped secure a number of important health and safety provisions for workers. - And a number of rounds of steel bargaining that helped stave off calls for concessions and ensure fair pay and high-quality benefits.
But Tom understood that fighting for working families wasn’t just about pay; it was about securing the future. - Early in his time as an international leader, Tom was instrumental in developing the Institute for Career Development (ICD), a joint labor-management training program, enshrined in a number of USW collective bargaining agreements, that offers members opportunities to learn new skills. - Under his leadership union workers and activists were able to achieve a major victory with the passage of the Butch Lewis Act, which saved the pensions of more than one million workers and retirees, including more than 100,000 USW members.
Tom was also committed to building a diverse movement and many of his efforts contributed to building a strong future for workers.
- He spearheaded an innovative organizing initiative connecting rank-and-file members with their fellow workers to talk about joining the labor movement. This quickly paid dividends, resulting in organizing victories in the United States and Canada, including some of the union’s biggest wins in years.
- These include 3,500 faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh who joined the USW, as well as baristas at Starbucks coffee shops across Canada, and 1,500 workers at Georgia’s Blue Bird Corp. bus factory. - They join others, including waste disposal workers, professional football players, museum and library workers, high-tech workers, airport workers, prison chaplains and others, who all joined the Steelworkers’ ranks as a result of Conway’s initiative.
Tom also invested heavily in building out the bench, and under his leadership, the union held its first international Next Gen conference in November 2019. - Under Tom’s direction, the USW built out our Veterans of Steel committees to make sure – to the fullest extent possible – that the union was helping those in need, and making sure veterans’ voices are heard.
Finally, Tom fought relentlessly for both for fair trade and job creation.
- This included working with government leaders in Washington to ensure that they enforced trade laws to prevent illegally subsidized and dumped products that damage American industries and destroy good paying jobs. - He did this work in steel, rubber and tire, and many other industries. - It also meant finding creative solutions, as well as working with companies and lawmakers to create jobs. - He formed partnerships and allied groups like the Alliance for American Manufacturing. - And more recently, his was one of the loudest voices calling for infrastructure investment.
Tom will be missed a great deal, but his strength as a leader, and vision for the future, have helped countless working people and will continue to help countless more moving forward.
The new USW President, David McCall, has a career of fighting for fairness and justice for workers that began as a member of Local 6787 in...