The United Steelworkers union announced yesterday the consummation of a merger that gave it 250,000 new members and makes it the largest industrial union in North America.
The merger with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union -- PACE -- pushed active membership of the Pittsburgh-based USW to 850,000, making it larger than both the United Auto Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The merger, first announced in January, became final Tuesday night when 80 percent of 1,600 delegates to a PACE convention in Las Vegas voted in favor of it. A USW convention with 2,500 delegates is being held simultaneously at the hotel, and representatives from both unions will meet together there for the first time today.
The merged union, renamed the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, will maintain its headquarters in Pittsburgh and will continue to be known by the initials USW.
Under the agreement, PACE will continue to have an office in Nashville, Tenn., its current home, for the next 10 years. Functions of the two unions gradually will be merged.
Leo Gerard, 56, a Canadian who has been president of the Steelworkers since 2001, will remain president of the union. PACE President Boyd Young, 65, will be an executive vice president.
Both men said the merger should strengthen the combined union's strength in bargaining with multinational employers and give it more clout in political issues in both the United States and Canada.
They said it would be the dominant union in paper and forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, mining, glass, chemicals, petroleum and other basic resource industries. The two largest sectors will be steel, with 28 percent of the membership, and paper, with 27 percent.
"This is not a merger about membership accumulation," Gerard said. "It is a merger about transforming the industrial labor movement, a merger about bringing power back to our members."
The merger is the 12th for the United Steelworkers, which was created in 1936 with the merger of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, founded in 1876, and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Most recently, the USW merged in 2003 with the American Flint Glass Workers Union, after combining with the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers Union in 1996 and with the United Rubber Workers in 1995.
PACE was formed in 1999 by the merger of the United Paperworkers International Union with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union. The Paperworkers union dates to 1884.
Jim McKay can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1322.