Pat Gallagher, North Coast Area Labor Federation President, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the Cleveland mayoral race, why goods used to invest in the nation’s infrastructure under the bipartisan infrastructure bill need to be made in America and how a USW initiated incentive program is encouraging worker vaccinations at a Cleveland iron ore mining company.
USW considers an endorsement in Cleveland mayoral race
Gallagher said the Cleveland mayoral Primary Election was interesting. Two Democratic candidates advanced to the November General Election: Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley. Though many unions endorsed candidates, the USW declined to make an endorsement because it had too many friends in the race.
It was a highly contested race with an interesting outcome, Gallagher said. Hopefully the new mayor can lead Cleveland and steward the city into the future.
American made goods are essential to boost the nation’s manufacturing
Gallagher discussed U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) recent tour of Cleveland-Cliffs’ new hot briquetted iron (HBI) plant, which produces high-quality HBI, an environmentally friendly alternative to scrap and imported pig iron. Brown attended the tour to promote the Buy American provision of the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which would mandate the use of American manufactured goods in the effort to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
Infrastructure is vital to rebuilding America, particularly when it comes to manufacturing, Gallagher said. It is vital that American goods be used in the rebuilding efforts in order to encourage American manufacturing. Many cities in Ohio, Lorain in particular, have been devastated by the loss of manufacturing. Using American made goods in the rebuilding efforts will bring good paying union jobs to Ohio.
USW leads vaccination incentive program
The USW has also spurred an incentive program to encourage workers to get vaccinated at Cleveland-Cliffs. While the USW steadfastly believes vaccination is a personal decision and should not be mandated, it also believes vaccinations are key to worker health and safety, as well as getting this pandemic under control.
Working with the Cleveland-based company, the USW has led a vaccination incentive program. Any union member who is vaccinated receives a $1,500 payment. If at least 75 percent of the USW membership at a facility receives a vaccination, an additional $1,500 payment will be issued to those vaccinated members, for a total of $3,000.
So far, the voluntary program has been highly successful, Gallagher said. The Toledo plant has achieved an 81 percent vaccination rate, while the Warren plant reached a 78 percent rate. All vaccinated workers at both plants will receive the $3,000 payments. The Cleveland plant is not far behind at 70 percent. Union leaders at the plant hope to cross the 75 percent threshold soon.
The USW is hoping to develop herd immunity at the plants in order to get past the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a surge of COVID-19 infections in Ohio and vaccinations are essential to controlling the spread, Gallagher said.