Photo Courtesy Apollo Alliance
Don't call him a moderate
“The Steelworkers Union is not middle-of-the-road, move-to-the-center, so-called moderate, ‘me, too,' hard-hat Republicans,” says Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).
That's a welcome message to angry steelworkers convinced that the Democratic party has sold its liberal soul to the so-called “center.” It explains, in part, why Gerard sailed into the USW presidency unopposed, the first man in the union's 63-year history to do so. And it's the reason workers have flocked to join the USW. Including members gained from negotiated mergers with other unions, the USW has gained 350,000 members under Gerard's leadership—a 60 percent increase.
Gerard, the son of a union organizer, promotes a simple agenda: economic justice for everyone. During his two years in office, he has negotiated tariffs to help save the U.S. steel industry (eventually dropped by President Bush under pressure from the World Trade Organization) and a Workers First law that moves workers' claims to the head of the line in corporate bankruptcy proceedings.
Gerard is also the driving force behind the creation of Heartland Network. These enormous pools of multi-employer pension funds invest labor's capital in “high-road” work?places, using investment strategies that are jobs-oriented, support small, worker-friendly manufacturing, and build sustainable regional economies.
With his outspoken commitment to small-d democracy, Gerard, a 60-year-old French Canadian who's been called “a heavy-weight teddy bear,” is breathing new life into the trade union movement.