Michael Bolton, Director of United Steelworkers (USW) District 2 will not run for re-election. The International decided not to replace his position and will instead absorb his district into other districts. District 2 covers steelworkers in Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan steelworkers will be absorbed into District 1 in Ohio; Wisconsin steelworkers will be absorbed into District 7 in Indiana and Illinois.
USW District 1 Director Donnie Blatt, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the Union’s redistricting efforts — and why the move will strengthen and solidify both districts through larger numbers and a stronger voice.
He also discussed COVID-19 vaccinations and what the USW is doing to encourage worker vaccinations in order to protect its members and their families.
Redistricting creates a leaner, stronger membership
In addition to being regionally located, the new USW districts were chosen based on similar products manufactured and similar industries within each district, Blatt said.
Redistricting will help to solidify numbers and should not be taken as a sign of declining or weakening membership, said Blatt. The USW is stronger than ever. By merging District 2 into Districts 1 and 7, the USW can better solidify its numbers and leverage greater solidarity. The move makes the districts leaner and stronger.
USW encourages worker COVID-19 vaccinations
Blatt said the USW is seeing an uptick of COVID-19 cases among members, even though many are vaccinated. While the vaccinated members are not suffering terrible symptoms, other members who are unvaccinated are seeing worse effects, sometimes ending up in the hospital.
He acknowledged that he has members on both sides of the issue — some are wary of the vaccine and others strongly support it. The position of the USW has always been to encourage members to get vaccinated. In order to get ahead of the vaccine curve, to get the economy on track, and to protect workers and their families, the best thing to do is get vaccinated as quickly as possible, he said.
Blatt acknowledged vaccine mandates from some contractors are certain to become a reality, so it is best to get ahead of the issue by getting vaccinated as soon as possible.
He discussed a vaccination incentive program at Cleveland Cliffs: Workers who are vaccinated receive a $1,500 check. When at least 75 percent of a plant’s workforce is vaccinated, those who have been vaccinated receive another $1,500 check, for a total of $3,000.
The USW may support similar vaccination incentive programs with other contractors in the future, Blatt added.
Infrastructure bill good for USW members
Blatt also briefly discussed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and hopes it will go to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives next week for a vote. He urged listeners to call their representatives and ask them to pass the bill. If passed, the bill would provide millions of jobs, many of which would directly benefit the members of the USW.