PITTSBURGH - The Steelworkers formally endorsed President Obama for re-election at their board's meeting on Mar. 6, becoming the latest large and politically active union to officially back the nation's chief executive.
The USW board's unanimous agreement means yet another heavyweight AFL-CIO union backs Obama prior to the labor federation's Executive Council meeting in Orlando, Fla., Mar. 13-15. Others endorsing Obama so far include the Communications Workers, AFSCME, the Machinists, UAW, and the Teachers.
The executive council, formally, cannot endorse a candidate for the U.S. presidency. Only a larger body, the General Board, can. But the endorsements by the Steelworkers and the other unions are expected to set the stage for that board's endorsement, which is considered a formality.
The USW's endorsement of Obama was particularly enthusiastic.
"This is the right time to do the right thing for a man who proved he is right for the job," said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. "The president has turned around an economy he inherited, which was nose-diving towards a depression, by focusing on jobs, manufacturing, and enforcement of U.S. trade laws.
"All of his accomplishments come despite obstructionist right-wingers in Congress beholden to the one percent at the expense of everybody else," Gerard added.
Steelworkers, Gerard said, have a debt of gratitude to the president for his policies supporting workers and American manufacturing. So they'll return the favor by helping him secure another four years. "He worked for us," Gerard said. "Now we will work to re-elect him."
"We plan to talk directly to our membership about the president's policies that benefit working families," said Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson. "USW activists will also work hard in the fight against right-wing voter suppression campaigns as well as continue to advocate that all workers have a voice in their workplace and the right to bargain collectively."
The union's support is particularly important for Obama in the industrial states around the Great Lakes, where Obama won the election overwhelmingly four years ago. But he is trailing badly in one, Indiana, and another, Ohio, is viewed as a constant battleground.
USW is also credible with blue-collar voters that Obama needs to attract.
The union particularly cited Obama's commitment to restoring U.S. manufacturing through creation of environmentally friendly green products, like hybrid cars and electricity-generating wind turbines. Restoring U.S. manufacturing strength by building such plants, and employing high-paid union workers in them, has been a key Steelworker cause for years.
The USW also praised Obama for regulating Wall Street, for rescuing the Detroit 3 car companies - who are big customers for USW steel -- and for his health insurance/ health care reform law.
"Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies no longer can deny care to those with pre-existing conditions, no longer can drop people when they get sick, and no longer can place lifetime limits on care," said Gerard.
The health care law, however, did not go as far as the Steelworkers and 20 other unions advocated. They campaigned for government-run, single-payer health care, abolishing the insurers, their high co-pays, denial of coverage and 88,000 yearly deaths due to denial of care, according to a Harvard medical journal study. Obama did not go for single-payer, however. And Congress dumped its weaker alternative, the public option.
Obama's "achievements in his first term benefited USW members who work in a wide range of industries including steel, aluminum, glass, and paper making, auto parts and wind turbine manufacturing, copper mining, tire building, and oil refining," the union stated. It quotes USW local leaders nationwide as also strongly supporting Obama's re-election.
Rod Nelson, president of USW Local 207L at Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio - which just won a new contract after a five-month company lockout - said his local will be eager to re-elect Obama because the president's enforcement of laws against unfair trade has helped save and create U.S. jobs.
"The president halted the illegal flood of tire imports from China that was decimating American jobs and production. Our members work hard and play by the rules and with the president leading the way, we have a government willing to stand up to unfair trade practices by foreign countries."
Photo: Bernard Pollack // CC 2.0