PITTSBURGH—Two of the nation´s largest industrial unions are merging, banking that their combined resources will give the new organization unprecedented political and bargaining clout.
The executive boards of the United Steelworkers of America and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union voted unanimously for the merger, the unions announced Jan. 11. The new union will be called the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Service Workers International Union.
USWA and PACE members will vote on the merger at concurrent Las Vegas conventions in April.
The combined union will oversee 850,000 active members—about 575,000 from the Pittsburgh-based Steelworkers and 275,000 from Nashville, Tenn.-based PACE—in more than 8,000 bargaining units in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean region. Active and retiree membership will total more than 1.25 million.
The new union will be the dominant labor organization in North America within the tire and rubber, metals, paper and forestry products, mining, glass, chemicals, energy and other basic resource industries, according to PACE and the USWA. It also will have a strong presence in equipment and machinery, stone, clay and concrete, transportation, utilities and the service sector.
"By joining forces with the USWA, PACE members will have greater bargaining power, because this merger creates a larger union presence in our core industries and gives us more leverage at the bargaining table," said PACE President Boyd Young.
"Once merged, our union will immediately be a major presence in North America´s core industrial sectors and that strength of diversity will both protect and promote our bargaining agendas."
The Steelworkers have a $150 million defense fund and a $30 million organizing budget, resources to which PACE will have access, Young said.
USWA President Leo W. Gerard will be the merged union´s president, while Young will be executive vice president, a USWA spokesman said. Gerard said the two unions "share a commitment to innovative bargaining strategies that protect our members in many ways, while maintaining and building the productive capacities of the companies they work in."
Headquarters in both Pittsburgh and Nashville will remain open, but the Nashville site tentatively is scheduled to close in 10 years, a PACE spokeswoman said.
Each union´s executive board also will be combined into a larger board, the USWA spokesman said. The new organization probably will keep the USWA´s 12-district arrangement, but add a 13th district encompassing Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, where many PACE locals are based, he said.
The two organizations have been working on a merger for about a year. They formed a strategic alliance in March 2004 to help work on elections and legislative activity, and also share resources for rank-and-file-centered activities and programs, the PACE spokeswoman said.
As a result, PACE adopted the Steelworkers´ Rapid Response political and educational action program and the USWA implemented PACE´s Emergency Response safety program.
Both unions´ histories are based on mergers similar to this one. The USWA was formed in 1936 by the joining of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. The Steelworkers union has been a participant in nine additional mergers, including the 1995 partnering with the Akron-based United Rubber Workers.
About 90,000 new members, primarily rubber-industry production workers, joined the USWA via that merger. The USWA´s Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference, mainly made up of the 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.