The United Steelworkers of America and PACE, the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union, announced a merger yesterday that would create the nation's...
PITTSBURGH — The United Steelworkers of America and PACE, the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union, announced a merger yesterday that would create the nation’s largest industrial labor union, with more than 750,000 workers.
The combined force will have more political clout and broader coverage of workers in the industrial sector, union officials said. It will also focus on boosting membership levels, which have declined in recent years.
The name of the new union, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, would have a membership as wide-ranging as its name.
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“Our union will have the largest membership in its sector in paper, metals, in glass, forestry products, tire, rubber, chemical, energy and a number of important parts of energy and nuclear. So we’re going to have a very, very powerful union,” said Leo Gerard, president of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers who will head the new union if members approve the merger.
While the most recent filings with the Department of Labor show the combined union would have about 776,000 members, union officials say those 2003 figures are outdated and put the actual figure closer to 850,000.
Even using the conservative estimates, the new union would exceed membership of other large industrial unions such as the United Autoworkers and the International Association of Machinists.
The current size of both unions, however, illustrates the plight of workers in the manufacturing sector, where globalization has taken a heavy toll. The unions had a combined membership in 2000 of more than 923,000, according to government statistics.
Union officials say the new organization will make closer alliances with labor organizations in other countries a top priority, reflecting hopes that a global presence may prove a buffer against jobs shipped to places where labor is cheap.
Additionally, the new union will have a substantially larger pool of cash to draw on, said Boyd Young, president of PACE.
“PACE members will have access to a $150 million defense fund so that we can take on employers who make unreasonable demands at the bargaining table,” he said. “Furthermore, with an organizing budget of over $30 million per year, we will have the ability to strategically organize workers in our core industries.”
The two unions’ members will vote on the merger in April.