PITTSBURGH (Feb. 5) — George Becker, who served seven years as international president of the United Steelworkers and orchestrated the merger of the United Rubber Workers into the USW in 1995, died Feb. 3 at his home in Gibsonia, Pa., following a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 78.
Becker was a respected union organizer and strategist and an internationally-known spokesman for industrial safety, workers´ rights on the job and fair global trade, the union said. He was elected USW president in 1993 and again in 1997.
"George did as much as any president in our history to strengthen our union," said USW President Leo W. Gerard, who served as international secretary-treasurer under Becker and succeeded him as president in 2001. "He was a powerful voice for the interests of our members. He had a unique ability to give voice to the frustrations and concerns of workers, their right to be treated with dignity and decency — values he believed in deeply."
Becker led the mergers with the URW and the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers Union, bringing 140,000 new members to the USW. After the URW merger, Becker led a 28-month worldwide corporate campaign against Bridgestone/Firestone, which had fired 6,000 workers at U.S. plants. The campaign resulted in a new contract and the return to work of the thousands of union´s members, the USW said.
Becker is survived by his wife Jane; three sons, George, Greg, and Matthew; 10 grandchildren; five great grandchildren; and a sister.
Visitation will be at the Slater Funeral Home, 1650 Greentree Road, Pittsburgh, from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. Feb. 5. A memorial service will be held at the funeral home Feb. 6 at 10 a.m., and Becker will later be interred at St. John's Cemetery in his hometown of Granite, Ill.