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Shop Talk: Becker's exit creates game of musical chairs

Sunday, January 07, 2001

By Jom McKay, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

George Becker's decision to soon retire as president of the United Steelworkers of America is not the only change on the horizon for the union's top leadership team.

Richard Davis, international vice president for administration, has also announced plans to leave when his current term expires February 2002.

Davis' departure will result in a game of musical chairs of sorts. Andrew "Lefty" Palm, the union's Pennsylvania director, is seeking to take Davis' place on the USW's executive board. If that happens, the front-runner to succeed Palm is John DeFazio, a union staff representative and, better known to most people, the chairman of the Allegheny County Council.

Becker, 72, will retire this Feb. 28 and be succeeded as president of the union by secretary-treasurer Leo Gerard. General counsel James English was chosen by the executive board to succeed Gerard as secretary-treasurer.

Davis, 60, a Kentucky native, started his union career in 1962 with District 50, Allied and Technical Workers Union, which merged with the Steelworkers in 1972. He was interim director of Alabama-based District 36 before his election as international vice president in 1993. He has led bargaining in the aluminum and tire industries and worked in labor education.

Gerard has asked Palm, director of Pennsylvania's North Versailles-based District 10, to run on his slate for Davis' post along with English and Leon Lynch, international vice president for human affairs. No opposition has been announced so far for the November election.

DeFazio has the staff's endorsement to replace Palm as director of District 10, one of the union's biggest, Palm said. DeFazio could not be reached for comment.

Ike Henry Gittlen, president of USW Local 1688 in Steelton, Pa., and president of the Harrisburg labor council, said he is exploring the possibility of running but has not announced his candidacy.

Palm, 61, expects to continue handling major contract negotiations while on the executive board including talks with USX's U.S. Steel unit and Alcoa. He started his career at a small fabricating plant in McKeesport, joined the union's staff in 1972 and was elected director of former District 15 in 1982. Three Pennsylvania districts were later consolidated and renamed District 10.

Pirates, Teamsters talk

The Pittsburgh Pirates expect to soon conclude contract talks with two unions that represent grounds crew workers, ushers, ticket takers, sellers and porters who hope to move to PNC Park.

"We really hope to reach agreements in the very near future with both of them, in the next couple weeks," Dennis DaPra, vice president of operations said last week.

The talks involve Teamsters Local 250, which represents ground crew workers at Three Rivers, and Service Employees International Union Local 508, which represents ushers and other stadium workers.

Aramark, the company that will run the stadium's food and novelty sales, recently reached a three-year agreement with Local 250 that will cover 500 or more vendors and other concession workers.

Mine deaths up

The crushing death of a truck driver just before Christmas in Somerset County pushed the number of coal mining deaths last year to 38, up from 35 in 1999.

Kentucky led the nation with 13 coal miners killed on the job last year, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Nine were killed in West Virginia and two in Pennsylvania.

Coal hauler Gary Kerley, 24, was crushed to death last month at the Shade Creek plant of PBS Coals Inc. A tractor-trailer trying to drop a load tipped over and landed on the cab of his truck.

Jeffrey J. Cunko, 50, a maintenance foreman at Consol's Bailey Mine in Greene County, was killed Nov. 29 when he was hit by a piece of a chain conveyor system.

Chicora charges

The Chicora Medical Center, a 114-bed nursing home in Butler County, will face a hearing Feb. 20 before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge on unfair labor practice allegations. Local 585 of the Service Employees International Union alleges the center has refused to bargain in good faith about wages, health and pension benefits. The union is seeking a first contract for 100 licensed practical nurses, aides, dietary, housekeeping and laundry workers.

Rood awakening

A trucking company that delivers for the U.S. Postal Service is accused of firing four employees who supported an organizing drive by the Pittsburgh unit of the American Postal Workers Union.

The National Labor Relations board has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 20 for Rood Trucking, an Ohio-based company that operates a terminal in suburban Cranberry.

The NLRB alleges that the company's president, George Rood, threatened employees with job loss and increased disciplinary actions if they voted for the union.

Rood's drivers approved the union in a 50-to-44 vote Dec. 21.

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