Tom Conway, the worldwide president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, passed away on September 25, 2023, on Monday. Read on to learn more about his death.
What happened to Thomas Conway?
The United Steelworkers announced the death of International President Tom Conway. He was 71.
Conway was chosen to lead the union in 2019. According to the USW, he was well-known for his “quick wit, formidable bargaining skills, and unwavering devotion to workers and their families.”
— United Steelworkers #EverybodysUnion (@steelworkers) September 25, 2023
David R. McCall, international vice president of administration of the USW recalled him saying,
“From his earliest time making steel to his steady hand leading us through the darkest days of the pandemic, Tom followed two simple guiding principles: the dignity of work and the power of working people”
“Tom was never afraid of a fight, and thanks to his ingenuity and determination, generations of workers can enjoy better jobs and brighter futures.”
Conway, according to the USW, developed into one of the union’s “most accomplished contract negotiators”.
“Solidarity wasn’t just a word to Tom; it was a way of life. “He understood that by working together, we will balance the scales against greedy corporations and the billionaire class”, USW International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn stated about him.
Who was Thomas Conway?
Tom Conway joined the union in 1978 at a Bethlehem Steel facility in northwestern Indiana and rose through the ranks to become its top negotiator and, eventually, president in 2019.
Conway, the son of a union member and a veteran of the United States Air Force, immersed himself in operational details, finances, and economics when he entered negotiations, according to Michael Wright, a retired USW official who was involved in contract negotiations with Conway.
He tirelessly promoted fair trade while in office, calling for the enforcement of trade regulations to stop the importation of goods that are illegally subsidized and dumped, harming domestic industries and eliminating good-paying jobs.
Conway also pushed to generate employment rather than merely conserve existing ones, coming up with fresh strategies to persuade businesses and elected authorities to increase manufacturing, safeguard local supply chains, and support thriving, healthy communities.
When Conway started working at the Burns Harbour Works of Bethlehem Steel in 1978, he first started being an activist in USW Local 6787.
Conway acted as a griever for plant-wide maintenance while employed as a millwright in the coke plant. He was also a member of the safety and contracting-out committees.
Joe Biden’s statement:
President Joe Biden released the following statement on the passing of Tom Conway that reads,
With Tom Conway’s passing, American workers have lost an extraordinary champion, and I’ve lost a great friend.
When I was running for President in 2020, Tom rode the train with me from Ohio to Pittsburgh, a city built by American steelworkers like those he spent his life fighting for. We talked on that train ride, as we did more times than I can count over the years, about what we could do together to make a real difference in the lives of steelworkers and union workers all over the country.
Tom was someone I confided in. He had my absolute trust. I knew that if I was doing a good job, he’d tell me – and if I needed to do better, he’d tell me that, too. And no one knew more about the challenges that workers face. He knew the politics. He knew the ins and outs of policy. And he never lost sight of his values – dignity, respect, fairness, equality.
As president of the United Steelworkers, Tom got up every day and fought to protect workers’ wages, pensions, and safety, and to make sure working people got a fair shot at a middle-class life. Because he grew up in a union household, he knew exactly what unions mean to workers and everyone who depends on them. And he put every ounce of his energy and intellect toward making sure American workers got the best possible deal, every time.
No one out-worked him. No one out-bargained him. And while he was deeply kind and generous, he also never backed down from a fight.
Tom heard me say a thousand times – the middle class built America, and unions built the middle class. Well, Tom Conway helped build unions all across the country. He made our nation fairer. He made our nation stronger. And I will miss him dearly.
Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the Conway family, including his longtime partner Carol, three sons, and six grandchildren, as well as all the Steelworkers whose hearts are heavy today. May God bless you, Tommy.
Many leaders and US people have expressed their heartfelt condolences and tributes to him on social media statements.
Condolences to Tom Conway:
Jaime Harrison tweeted,
President Tom Conway was a champion of labor in the truest sense of the term — always giving a voice to workers, fighting back against corporate greed, and protecting the dignity of work. We honor his tremendous legacy by continuing the fight for workers’ rights.
Chris Deluzio released the following statement on the passing of Tom Conway,
“Tom Conway was not only the International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) Union, he was also a lifelong fighter for working people.
“He lived and breathed the union way of life. He believed deeply in the dignity of hard work and the power of solidarity in the face of corporate greed.
“I am honored to have crossed paths with Tom and to have fought for a USW union at the University of Pittsburgh during his tenure.
“While his time with us was too short, his impact was enormous. I extend my deep condolences to Tom’s family and friends, along with the 850,000 Steelworkers he fearlessly led.”
Our condolences to members of the @steelworkers
on the passing of International President Tom Conway, whom we respected for his leadership and advocacy.
Josh Buckman tweeted,
Thinking of Tom Conway and his family. The @steelworkers
were one of the most important organizations that gave me and my family a better life. #USW
Secretary Gina Raimondo posted,
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Tom Conway, International President of the United @Steelworkers
. Tom was a stalwart champion of American industry and a relentless advocate for American workers. I’m keeping his loved ones in my prayers at this difficult time.
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