Steelworkers’ Blue Print for Union Engagement / Expansion

If more unions would act like the Steelworkers Local 675, more workers would want to join unions. Local 675 represents oil refinery workers (among others) in the right to work state of Nevada where union employees get a window of opportunity every few years to withdraw from the union and stop paying union dues while still enjoying the benefits of the collective bargaining agreement. But Local 675 employees gladly stay in the union and keep paying union dues.

There appears to be comradery between union members. They engage in a lot of concerted action on behalf of each other. For example, a supervisor issued a rule forbidding workers from wearing baseball caps, sunglasses, and Hawaiian shirts on the shop flop. (Sorry, I don’t know the impetus of this rule, though I am sure it is entertaining). The workers signed a petition to undo this rule, presented it to their supervisor, but the supervisor threw it away.

In response, all workers reported to work wearing Hawaiian shirts, baseball caps, and sunglasses. The union bought a roasted pig. The workers had a luau on company property during their lunch break. The rule was rescinded and the supervisor was reassigned.

In an example with less levity, an explosion occurred at a refinery that blanketed nearby homes with potentially toxic dust. The union organized a caravan of vehicles that drove to the oil company’s headquarters where members in hazmat suits emptied a dump truck of horse manure on the company’s front door and held a sit-in.

Whether fun or serious, the union is active. The union members are engaged. The union stands for something. In most of the union shops I represent, the union has grown apathetic. The union does nothing for the workers, and the workers do nothing to support their cause. This lack of engagement, in my mind, is why unionization keeps dwindling year after year after year.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

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