PITTSBURGH—The executive leadership of the United Steelworkers union will look very different going forward.
The union's International Executive Board passed a resolution approving a transition plan as a result of a series of retirements, including that of USW International President Leo Gerard, who is set to conclude his more than 50-year career with the union.
Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson also is set to retire, along with Vice Presidents Carol Landry and Jon Geenen.
International Vice President Tom Conway will succeed Gerard as president and District 4 Director John Shinn will take over for Johnson. Meanwhile, District 1 Director David McCall will assume Conway's position, and Legislative Director Roxanne Brown will take over for Landry. Leeann Foster—assistant to the international president—will take over for Geenen.
These roles will transition throughout the coming weeks, concluding sometime in mid-July, the union said in a May 29 news release.
"The decision to announce these changes together will ensure that a capable and experienced group of trade union leaders will hit the ground running as a team," Gerard said in a statement. "It will also pave the way so that the union continues to be on solid footing and that the transition is seamless and serves the best interest of our membership."
Johnson traces his union roots back to the United Rubber Workers and joined the USW staff in April 1996 to run the union's rapid response political operation. From there, he held a variety of USW posts inside and outside of Pittsburgh before being appointed secretary-treasurer in 2009.
"Johnson has brought stability, strength and confidence to the union's finances," USW said in a statement.
Additionally, Johnson serves as chair of the Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference where he works closely with the nation's leading tire makers on issues such as labor negotiations. He also oversees the USW's rapid response program and serves as the bargaining chair for the paper industry.
In 1995, Johnson played a prominent role at the URW's special convention to vote on its eventual merger with the Steelworkers. At the time, Johnson was president of the URW local representing the Pirelli Armstrong Tire Co. factory in Nashville, Tenn. He vocally opposed uniting the unions at the convention.
When the proposal passed by just three votes, Johnson motioned to make the vote unanimous so the combined union could move forward without any in-fighting.
"The merger with the Steelworkers made a big difference," Johnson said in a previous interview. "Steelworkers had a better vision as to the need to be politically involved and an activist organization and how to engage better at those levels and through the International Trade Commission. You learn from experience, and they learned. That has played extremely well for us in the tire industry."
Johnson's replacement, Shinn, joined the USW executive board in 2012 and chairs the Inter-Union Gas Conference and various committees within the union's paper conference. In a statement, the union lauded Shinn's aggressive promotion of job creation within his district.
USW did not disclose who would take over as chair of the Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference after Johnson retires.
Gerard's career with USW began at age 18 in Canada's mining industry. He since has held a series of positions, helping to guide the union it to what it is today.
"He spent his whole life fighting for working families and labor rights across the globe," USW said in a statement, "and his impact as a labor leader in North America is immeasurable."
Conway, who has been USW vice president since 2005, is set to take over for Gerard. He began his career as a millwright at Bethlehem Steel in 1978, and has served as a staff representative and as the secretary of the USW's Basic Steel Conference. He also has chaired many of the union's major sector negotiations in steel, mining, aluminum, tire and rubber, oil, and other metals and manufacturing operations.
"Conway has led the charge on trade issues affecting these sectors, including the union's efforts in trade enforcement," USW said. "He also spearheaded the USW's efforts in fighting to bring change to the nation's trade and manufacturing policies. "
In his own statement, Conway thanked those set to retire for their years of service, noting that their efforts have set the union on path toward continued success.
"While we will miss our colleagues, we recognize their desire to move into new phases of their lives, and we wish all the best for them," Conway said. "They have left behind a solid and stable union, and for that, we thank them."