LAS VEGAS—Two U.S.-based labor organizations made their planned merger official April 12, thus creating the largest industrial union in North America.
About 1,600 members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union overwhelmingly approved the merger with the United Steelworkers of America during a convention in Las Vegas. The USWA was holding its annual meetings concurrently the week of April 11.
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 is slated to close in 10 years, with the USW base of operations remaining in Pittsburgh.
Leo Gerard, president of the USWA, will be the new USW president, while PACE President Boyd Young will be the executive vice president. The newly formed union also will have 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—they 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," 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 will now have 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," 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 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.