I'm suffering a major identity crisis. Not mine, but the people who once called themselves Rubber Workers.
What are they to be known as if the latest union merger is approved? And not only that, what will we call the union itself?
The parties involved are the United Steelworkers of America-into which the United Rubber Workers union merged in 1995-and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union, better known as PACE. The two unions have agreed to become one, pending a vote of the membership at concurrent meetings in Las Vegas in April.
The new name of the union? Here it is: the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Services Workers International Union.
So combining the USWA and PACE will yield a new labor organization sporting the acronym USPFRMEAISWI. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue nor, more importantly, fit neatly into a one-column headline.
The union brothers and sisters really must come up with an identity that is, well, press-friendly. Something like Supersized Labor, or the Union to End All Unions or, simply put, One Big Freakin' Union.
The USPFRMEAISWI promises to be one of the world's largest, but only in its name. The labor group will have 850,000 active members. The Steelworkers union itself had 1.2 million members back in 1975. Times are tough for labor, have been for decades.
The Rubber Workers-who totaled 90,000-strong when they joined the USWA and today have 20,000 fewer members-actually might be able to regain some of their lost identity. They became Steelworkers when the URW merged into the USWA. But now, in this new blend of unions, perhaps they can return to calling themselves Rubber Workers.
I do think the unions will work out a decent identity, though. The Steelworkers formed their organization in 1936 via a combination of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. They ended up with the USWA, rather than AAISTWSWOC.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. His e-mail address is [email protected]