Survey and Town Hall Recap

This initiative, as you may recall, began late last year and involved multiple parts, all of which were designed to provide more transparency about the union’s processes and hear from you about your priorities.

We hope that you now have a better understanding of how and why the union engages in legislative and policy work and how that work connects to our vital mission of negotiating and enforcing good contracts, as well as how we approach candidates and their endorsements.

We certainly learned a great deal from you. Your feedback from the Your Union. Your Voice. is proving essential in shaping the union’s strategy as we look to the rest of 2020 and beyond. 

Survey Responders

SURVEY

Who took the survey?

Thousands of you.

Nearly 77 percent were active members and another 19 percent were retired. The remainder selecting “other” mostly identified themselves as former/laid off members, people who noted they were officers, and associate members.

The states with the most participants loosely mirrored our union’s overall density, with Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio being the top three states. However, Steelworkers in 49 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands all participated.

The top three industries participants identified themselves as being from were steel, manufacturing, and pulp and paper. Like with the geographic diversity in the survey, there was also sector diversity, with participants’ workplaces ranging from health care to oil to retail to public services. 

Of those who answered the optional questions, about 21 percent reported being female and 78 percent male. The most commonly reported age range was 50-64 followed by 35-49. Twenty percent of respondents reported being people of color. Twenty-one percent reported being veterans. 

170 Town Halls in 10 USW Districts

TOWN HALLS

While the COVID-19 crisis unfortunately necessitated canceling later events, we were able to successfully hold approximately 170 of the more than 220 scheduled meetings across all ten U.S. Districts, receiving valuable feedback from each and every one.

These meetings varied in size, and they all included information about our core issues and how we engage candidates.

Those who attended had a chance to share stories of what is happening in their workplaces and communities and which issues matter most to them. This provided a valuable opportunity for our District Directors, other elected union leaders and staff to hear what was on our members’ minds.

There were plenty of times someone came to a meeting expecting to disagree with a union position, but because the primary goals of these meetings were to listen and learn, the conversations were productive and helped everyone come to a better understanding of the values we share.

Top Priorities

TOP PRIORITIES

Health Care 

Affordable health care and prescription drugs got the highest rating in our survey with 87 percent of respondents rating it as “very important.”

When asked to rank the top three issues out of a list of 13 USW priorities, two out of every three people chose it, making it the most selected issue.

During nearly all of the town hall meetings, attendees raised health care as a key concern. Frequently, town hall attendees commented on the need to control rising costs and employers’ attempts to push more costs our way.

Regular comments included those like, “costs go up while benefits go down” or “we’re paying more, but getting less.” Others expressed worry for un- or under-insured family members and friends who are shouldering devastating costs incurred from illness or injury. And, some attendees shared personal stories of how having benefits helped them through the worst moments of their lives without financial ruin. 

Retirement Security 

Retirement security that includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid was the second highest rated issue in the survey, with 86 percent of respondents giving it a “very important” rating.

Over half of those taking the survey selected it in their top three issues, making it the second highest issue.

At town hall meetings, both active and retired members shared thoughts on retirement security. Many discussed protecting what we’ve got, whether that’s Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, retiree health care benefits or pensions. Others noted how 401ks have shifted risk to individuals. Some noted concern over the future solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation if the multiemployer pension system is allowed to collapse. And, still others raised the need for all workers – no matter their age – to think ahead to their own retirement and what it might look like. 

Workers Rights 

The issue of labor laws that support our ability to form unions and negotiate strong contracts was rated third highest in terms of importance, with 81 percent of respondents saying it’s “very important.”

This was the third most frequently chosen issue when ranking the top three priorities, with just under half of respondents selecting it.

Repeatedly during the town halls, participants expressed frustration with the direction of the current, pro-business National Labor Relations Board and their rapid and systematic unraveling of the protections we’ve won. These not-in-the-headlines actions were a surprise to some and provided an explanation for the increased difficulty in many of our relationships with our employers.

Many town hall attendees noted concern for the generally weakened state of labor laws in recent decades, including the increasing number of states that have adopted right to work laws. Some pointed to examples in their own workplaces where their gains are being rolled back because employers have increasing power. 

What else did people have to say? 

While we’ve reported out in detail on the top three issues, the next highest-ranked tier of issues included trade agreements and laws that protect U.S. workers, increased worker wages, and strong workplace safety and health protections. Survey respondents left thousands of individual comments that spanned a wide range of concerns.

Some of those comments reinforced or expanded on the provided responses, while others brought new issues to the table. Likewise, the full range of comments reported from the town hall meetings attests to the broad diversity and interests of our union. 

THANK YOU

In many ways our work is just beginning. Almost overnight, COVID-19 radically transformed the landscape, not just here but across the globe.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer as this crisis unfolds that it is not the billionaires but working people – in health care, manufacturing, public service and the USW’s other core industries – that are the lifeblood of our country. The values we fight for are needed now more than ever.

It’s essential that those representing us share our priorities.

Thanks to all of you who contributed to Your Union, Your Voice. Please share this with your members, watch for more information as we enter the next phase of this initiative, and, of course, stay safe.

Click here to download the results as a PDF that you can share with members of your local.