As Unionized Workers’ Jobs Disappear Nationwide, Steelworkers Union Bosses Concentrate on Virginia Politics

According to the latest edition of Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson’s Union Membership and Earnings Databook, published by the Bureau of National Affairs, from 2007 to 2012, the number of American unionized workers employed in “iron and steel mills and steel product manufacturing” fell from 68,700 to 57,900, or 15.7%, even as the number of union-free U.S. jobs in the same sector rose from 191,700 to 223,000, or 16.3%.

In view of such data, one might suppose top bosses of the United Steel Workers of America (USWA/AFL-CIO) union would now be totally focused on helping the workers they purport to represent and their employers make their businesses more competitive, so that unionized employment in the steel sector will cease declining even as total U.S. employment in the sector grows.

However, judging by a series of recent filings made by the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based USWA union hierarchy with the Virginia State Board of Elections, USWA czar Leo Gerard and his lieutenants over the past few months been largely preoccupied with this fall’s gubernatorial campaign in the Old Dominion.

Filings easily accessible at — the web site of the Virginia Public Access Project — show that since the end of August USWA kingpins have funneled nearly $300,000 in forced union dues-funded “in-kind” support to the McAuliffe campaign, plus $50,000 in cash.   Of the “in-kind” support, $256,000 was donated in the form of “staff time” and “personnel costs.”

What that means is that forced-dues money forked over by USWA-controlled employees in states where the Right to Work is unprotected is being used to pay travel expenses, salaries, and benefits for union officials as they electioneer in Virginia.  Of course, thanks to the Old Dominion’s popular Right to Work law, employees in Virginia itself have been free for the last six-and-a-half decades to get and keep a job without being forced to join or bankroll a union.

On Sunday, USWA union officials transported scores of rank-and-file members to the Y.H. Thomas Community Center in Hampton, Va., in order to ensure a McAuliffe event there was well-attended.  (See the link below for more information.) Can the Big Labor-beholden McAuliffe do anything to help USWA-controlled workers whose jobs are now at risk as a consequence of counterproductive union work rules and “hate-the-boss” class warfare that undermine productivity?  It’s doubtful he could, even if he wanted to.

On the other, Gerard and other USWA officials could help such workers by agreeing to common-sense revisions in union contracts.  Instead, they’d evidently rather play politics with workers’ forced-dues money.

Hundreds rally in Hampton to see Clinton, back McAuliffe