- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The United Steelworkers of America and PACE — the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union — announced a merger yesterday that will create the nation’s largest industrial labor union comprising more than three-quarters of a million workers.

The combined force will have more political clout and broader coverage of workers in the industrial sector, union officials said. The new organization 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.

“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,” said Leo Gerard, president of the Pittsburgh-based USWA, who will head the new union if members approve the merger. “So we’re going to have a very, very powerful union.”

While the most recent filings with the U.S. 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of Labor show the combined union would have about 776,000 members, union officials say those 2003 figures are outdated and put the actual figure closer to 850,000.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 of America 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 Labor statistics, meaning they have seen a 16 percent drop in membership in three years.

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 that are 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 unions formed an alliance last year and it was anticipated that a formal merger would be forthcoming.

The announcement yesterday follows earlier mergers by both organizations.

PACE, based in Nashville, Tenn., was created in 1999 through the merger of the United Paperworkers International Union and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers. The Steelworkers, based in Pittsburgh, merged with the United Rubber Workers in 1995.

Mergers in recent years have done little to reinvigorate the labor movement or increase membership, only “reallocated portions of the pie,” said Marick Masters, professor of business administration with the Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh.

“There has been a continual effort to globalize the union movement as leaders realize that it’s necessary to confront companies on a multinational front,” Mr. Masters said. “Whether this particular strategy promotes the growth in union membership, I think that remains to be seen.”

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