We learned that the founding union, the Steel Workers Organising Committee, set out to unionise thousands of exploited steel and metal workers across the USA and Canada. They faced tremendous battles as the corporations opposed unionisation, using hired thugs, goons and agents to break strikes. The employers stockpiled guns, tear gas and ammunition and on May 30th, 1937, U.S. Memorial Day, the Chicago police opened fire on a peaceful steelworkers strike rally. Strikers fled as they faced an attack by the cops. Ten workers were killed – all shot in the back or side.
A few weeks later in Youngstown the cops killed another striker after tear gassing the crowd including women and children.
In May 1942, the SWOC and the Iron, Steel and Tin Workers Union met in Cleveland and created the United Steelworkers of America. They represented 700,000 workers and elected Philip Murray their President.
Today the USW is the the largest manufacturing union in the USA and Canada and Unite’s partner union in Workers Uniting.
Unite covers many similar sectors to the USW including manufacturing, metals, paper and packaging, chemicals, oil workers, glass, auto parts, energy, healthcare, civil aviation and transport. We also have many members in IT, electronics, construction, the public services and the voluntary sector.
During the week of the 70 anniversary celebrations, I was very proud to represent my union Unite at the USW Glass Workers Conference; to address the USW Executive Board and to speak at the 70th Anniversary rally of 1400 delegates bringing a message of support and solidarity from Unite – highlighting the disputes and campaigns Workers Uniting, Unite and the USW had supported each other in various ways: Vale Inco, Honeywell, Cooper Tire, Rio Tinto, Mayr Melnhof, the UK health service and Southampton City Council.
During the week, Unite delegates took part in political schools, visited Wisconsin to help in the campaign to get right wing and anti-union Governor Scott Walker out of office and our young members did a great job in representing Unite and Workers Uniting in the USWs Next Generation project – they will be the leaders of our union in the future – of that i am sure.
Stand Up! Fight Back! Congratulations to the USW on your 70th Anniversary! A proud union with a proud history and tradition.