A look back at our Local Union’s accomplishments in 2012 and a look forward of the exciting work to come in 2013.
A Great Year
2012 was, without a doubt a groundbreaking year for United Steelworkers Local 3657. We came together to win a new collective bargaining agreement; we dramatically opened up our communications structures to include members in the field in ways we have never done before; we built stronger and more functional committees to do the work of our union and involve more Local 3657 members in our union; and through our new project, Fight Back Pittsburgh, we have started the ball rolling in building more political power for our local union. At the same time we have watched our treasury grow significantly and we have fought and won grievances on contractual issues that matter deeply to our members.
As we look forward into 2013 we wanted to take a little time to reflect back on the amazing work that we all have accomplished together over the past year. We also want to look forward at unlocking the amazing potential of our local union in the months and years to come.
Certainly the successes of the past year would not have been possible without the leadership of some key committee leaders, local union activists, and officers. But what really made the difference in 2012 wasn’t the handful of leaders of our local union, it was our whole local union stepping up to engage in new and exciting ways—from newer members stepping up to take leadership in committees, to veteran members volunteering to help out with special projects and events, to members in the field participating remotely in meetings and weighing in on the business of our local in ways that were never possible before.
We certainly have accomplished a lot in 2012 but there is so much more work to be done in 2013 and there is space for everyone who wants to step up, get involved, and help to drive the work of our local union.
Success at the Bargaining Table
Perhaps the most significant undertaking of our local union over the past year was bargaining a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the agreement that expired at the end of 2012. As we approached negotiations, the International had already successfully ratified an agreement with the Staff Representatives Union (SRU) and was well on their way to bargaining agreements with many of the other bargaining units in the International. In early communications the International indicated a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to contract negotiations and asserted that their plan was to approach negotiations as a simple wage re-opener.
The members of Local 3657 spoke firmly and overwhelmingly through a bargaining survey early on in the process, saying that we needed to make significant changes to the way our contract works to make our workplace fairer for all members, regardless of where we are assigned to work.
Our local union put together an impressive mobilization campaign, lead by our Communication and Action Team (CAT) in the building and our field stewards in field offices across the country. The CAT Team and Stewards distributed 7 bargaining updates, circulated and collected a comprehensive bargaining survey with strong participation from our entire membership, organized a ‘Solidarity Dinner’ at headquarters to bring the membership before bargaining, and a live in person and live streamed Contract Update Coffee Break during negotiations.
And all of the work of the CAT Team and the Stewards paid off at the bargaining table. On September 13, 2012 we overwhelmingly ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that includes some of the most dramatic changes and improvements our bargaining unit has seen in years. While there has been some significant controversy about provisions in the new contract that bring all clerical employees up to Level 7, we believe that the new structure creates a system that is fairer for all of our members and gives us a stronger platform to work from going forward. The agreement also includes an improved Pay for Knowledge Program that allows for as much as 9% in pay increases for attaining Microsoft Office Certifications.
The new agreement also included key improvements for Resource Technicians, Senior Resource Technicians, Technicians and Auditors, and Senior Technicians in creating paths for promotional and professional development.
While the new agreement certainly did not address all of our local union’s concerns, we believed that it constituted a huge step forward in making our workplace fairer and improving our lives at work. Without a doubt, those improvements would not have been possible without the unprecedented level of support and solidarity from the members of USW Local 3657.
Creating a New Horizon
While the new collective bargaining agreement allowed for significant pay increases for Local 3657 members who choose to participate in the Pay For Knowledge program, the actual agreement left Local 3657 members on our own to find training opportunities that fit their schedules.
After the ratification of the contract, in order to make the Pay for Knowledge program as accessible as possible for Local 3657 members, Local 3657 reached out to New Horizons, one of the only providers of training in Microsoft Office in Allegheny County, to set up a program that would be accessible to members of our local union.
Working with the International Union we scheduled a series of trainings available at the headquarters for headquarters staff and remotely for field staff geared towards preparing Local 3657 members to earn Microsoft Office Certifications and earn pay increases. The first round of classes is scheduled to roll out January through March and so far 56 Local 3657 members are enrolled in classes.
Building Unity Across All Worksites
USW Local 3657 is certainly a unique local union. While our headquarters office looks a lot like a traditional office local union, nearly half of our members are scattered across the country in field offices in 30 states and territories in 4 different time zones across the US. One of the key priorities for our Local Union over the past year has been to build unity between the headquarters and the field and make the work of the Local Union more relevant and accessible to all of our members across the country.
In July we started ‘live streaming’ our local union meetings and other special events on our website www.USWLocal3657.org. In September invested in new technology to make the live streaming process more valuable, upgrading our subscription to remove ads and purchasing an external camera to improve video and audio quality. For the first time in the history of our local union, members in the field have had an opportunity to participate in our regular monthly meetings from their worksites. To date, our live streaming channel has had more than 248 unique views.
In November we also took the step to make a long-awaited upgrade to the USW Local 3657 website. On November 20 we launched a brand-new, state-of-the-art website. In the month since our website’s launch we have already had more than 2,000 views.
We have also started circulating regular membership updates via e-mail to keep everyone up-to-date on what’s going on in our local union. Over the past three months we have sent out 10 detailed updates to members of our local union. If you have not been receiving the updates you can add your e-mail address to our list online at here. If you prefer to receive e-mails at a personal account (like a gmail or yahoo account) you can also add that address to our list at that link. And of course, if you’ve missed any of the messages, you can find an archive of all of our messages on our website.
Having Trouble Signing In to the Website?
When we build the new website we eliminated the old single user login system and created a new system where everyone uses the same password to access protected portions of our website. The vast majority of the website is public and you won’t need a password, but if you attempt to access material that is for Local 3657 members only you will be prompted for a password. The passwords were e-mailed out in November, but if you don’t have the recent password e-mail our webmaster Mollie Relihan at email@example.com.
Doing the Work of Our Union Through Strong Committees
The real activism work of any local union happens through strong and dynamic committees. Over the past several months members of USW Local 3657—both new and veteran—have stepped up to mobilize and revitalize some of our committees, initiating some interesting and powerful projects.
Allegheny County Labor Council—For the first time in years we have a full delegation assigned to represent our local union at the Allegheny County Labor Council. Christine Patberg has done a wonderful job in taking the lead in representing us at our local labor council and she played a key role in organizing the 2012 Labor Day Parade. If you’re interested in getting involved in the activism of the Allegheny County Labor Council e-mail Christine Patberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bylaws Committee—A newly re-constituted bylaws committee is taking a look at our current bylaws to ensure that they’re up-to-date and meet the needs of our local union. Some of the changes that they are considering recommending to the Local Union include eliminating arcane provisions prohibiting Communists from participating in our local union and including new guidelines on rules of order for our meetings. To get involved in the work of that committee, contact John Leply at email@example.com.
Civil Rights Committee—Our Civil Rights Committee has dramatically re-vitalized and is building up its capacity to take the lead in fighting for civil rights in our workplace and in our communities. Over the next several months we can look to the Civil Rights Committee to become a resource for addressing ongoing civil rights issues at work and providing education to all of our members about civil rights, privilege, and oppression. If you have concerns about a civil rights issue at work, you can contact Civil Rights Committee Co-Chairs Guillermo Perez (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Doug Ward (email@example.com).
Fundraising and Recreation—Under the leadership of Barb Pugliese the fundraising and recreation committee has done amazing work in raising money to support our sisters and brothers in need and bringing our Local Union together for fellowship. They raised a record breaking $4,000 to contribute to Hurricane Sandy Relief and they have been able to snap into action to raise much needed funds for other causes. To get involved in that committee, contact committee chair Barb Pugliese firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizing Committee—In our history, USW Local 3657 has never had a functioning organizing committee. Over the past several months an energetic group of members have gotten together to form a brand new Organizing Committee. Using the existing structure of the Steelworkers Associate Member Program the Organizing Committee has formed a new Pittsburgh-based chapter of the Steelworkers Associate Member Program called Fight Back Pittsburgh. To get involved in the Organizing Committee email@example.com.
New Member Committee—Earlier this year a handful of new members raised concerns that when they came to work at the USW no one from Local 3657 greeted them and welcomed them into the union. Before long that concern turned into a committee assignment! Other Local 3657 members stepped up to help and now we have a streamlined process for meeting, greeting, and welcoming new members of all sorts into our Local Union. To get involved with the New Member Committee (or if you know of a new member that may have fallen through the cracks!) contact Carolyn Kazdin firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rapid Response/PAC—Our Local Union has always had some real standout Rapid Response Activists taking action here at work and around our communities, but now those Rapid Response activists are taking steps to not only continue that work but formalize their committee structure to engage more and more members of our Local Union. To get involved in our Local Union Rapid Response/PAC committee e-mail Andy Zanaglio (email@example.com) or Josh Keirsey (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Women of Steel—At the beginning of 2012 Local 3657 had one of the best Women of Steel committees in the entire International Union. The committee was big and strong and the accomplishments of the committee were widely recognized. Over the past year the Women of Steel Committee has continued to grow stronger and stronger under the strong leadership of the new chairs Paulette Battisti and Janene Hogan. Over the year other committees have come together to take on new and exciting projects. To get involved in the Women of Steel committee email Paulette Battisti (email@example.com) or Janene Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fight Back Pittsburgh–Building Power in Our Community
On November 7th, the day after the general election, Local 3657 announced the launch of Fight Back Pittsburgh (www.fightbackpittsburgh.org) a new Pittsburgh-based chapter of the Steelworkers Associate Member program. Fight Back Pittsburgh is a community-based organization bringing together working people, students, and the unemployed to mobilize around issues that impact work class people in the Pittsburgh area. Additionally, Fight Back Pittsburgh will provide support to working people who aren’t part of the traditional labor movement in understanding and enforcing their rights at work.
The first official meeting of Fight Back Pittsburgh isn’t until January 7th but already we have recruited amassed a mailing list of more than 500 names, a social media presence with more than 600 connections and 90 members have signed on as full members to the new organization.Fight Back Pittsburgh is certainly a Pittsburgh based project but all members of USW local 3657 stand to gain from the project as we build this new and exciting project in Pittsburgh, the back yard of the International Union, and build capacity to mobilize and engage working class people in this community.
Remembering Our Key Priorities
While we have engaged in new and innovative projects over the past year, we have not ignored our key responsibility—serving the members of Local 3657. Over the past year we have filed, fought and won several grievances directly impacting our members’ compensation, work assignments, and job security. We’ve also identified and addressed issues well before they needed to end up in the grievance process.
As we think about contract enforcement, we know that winning grievances is a matter of power. When we as a local union are disengaged and demobilized we can expect the International to violate our contract and drag their feet through the grievance process. But when we are engaged, and mobilized as a local union we know and the International knows that we have more capacity to mobilize and fight back to ensure that our contract is enforced. So over the next several months, the work of enforcing our contract does not only fall on the shoulders of the grievance committee, the work of enforcing our contract falls on all of us in showing the International that we’re together and committed to supporting each other to ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
While we are seeing more activity in our local union than we have in recent months, all of that new activity isn’t breaking our bank account. Throughout the first 11 months of 2012 our treasury has grown by over 16% leaving us in a strong financial position to weather any storms we may face in the future.
It’s astonishing that we accomplished as much as we did in 2012, but our work is certainly not over. In 2013 we need to continue to work together to build stronger committees, expand the work of our local union, and engage more Local 3657 members in our work.
Starting in January we will be holding regular brown-bag lunches hosted by various committees of our Local giving them an opportunity to give presentations on their work, solicit help in important projects, or facilitate discussions on topics that are important to us.
We also need to make sure to improve the consistency and reliability of the tools we use to communicate with our members—particularly improving live streaming and posting of updates on our website. The technology is new and we are certainly doing something that no other USW locals are doing, but we need to do a better job to make sure that everyone can count on being able to participate in our meetings every single month.
There are also provisions of our new contract that we haven’t moved forward yet: We will be approaching the International about opening discussions about creating Flexible Spending Accounts for childcare during our January Human Relations Meeting. To date, no members have utilized the expanded Tuition Assistance and Professional Development program that was established in new contract. Also, no members in Job Classes 13 and above have requested annual assessments to determine whether or not they should be promoted as provided in the new contract.
To be sure, we have accomplished a lot over the past year, but we can’t afford to stand still. We look forward to working with all of you to build a stronger and more effective Local Union in 2013.
The USW is a great union and we have great members. Let’s continue to work together to make this a great place to work.