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Leo Gerard

United Steelworkers
International President

Whether standing up for good jobs for USW members and their families, supporting fair trade, or building global solidarity through strategic alliances, nobody has fought harder for USW members in North America and workers around the world than International President Leo W. Gerard.


Mr. Gerard has fought to restore the focus on manufacturing in the United States, leading the USW’s drive to revive the economy by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and paving the way for a cleaner, more prosperous future for American and Canadian workers.


The son of a union miner and activist, Mr. Gerard went to work at age 18 at a nickel smelter in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. He studied economics and political science at Laurentian University, where he later received an honorary doctorate of laws degree.


The USW’s International Executive Board appointed Mr. Gerard as International President on Feb. 28, 2001. He succeeded the late George Becker, who had retired. That November, Mr. Gerard was elected by acclamation in union-wide elections. He was re-elected without opposition in 2005, 2009 and 2013. Previously, he served as International Secretary-Treasurer (1994-2001), the National Director for Canada (1991-1994) and Director of District 6 in Ontario (1986-1991).


Mr. Gerard has led the USW on a course of unprecedented activism, demanding — and winning — government action to halt a flood of illegal imports and negotiating precedent-setting labor agreements.


Mr. Gerard has reached out to allies around the globe to create a worldwide network of unions at multinational companies that employ USW members. He has forged mergers and alliances with international industrial unions and helped to combat the exploitation of workers in the developing world. That network of global solidarity helped put an end to Rio Tinto’s six-month lockout of aluminum smelter workers in Alma, Quebec, in 2012, among other victories.


Mr. Gerard led the USW to build an alliance with Unite the Union, the largest labor union in Great Britain and Ireland. That partnership resulted in the creation of the first trans-Atlantic union, Workers Uniting, which counts 3.4 million active and retired workers as members. In 2012, he took part in the historic founding convention of IndustriALL Global Union, a worldwide federation that includes more than 50 million workers in 140 countries in all sectors of the economy.


Through it all, Mr. Gerard has helped the USW to continue to grow at home. Merging with existing unions and organizing new workers has made the USW — officially the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union — the largest industrial union in North America and the dominant union in paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, mining, glass, chemicals, petroleum and other basic resource industries, in addition to a growing membership in the health care and service sectors.


Under Mr. Gerard’s direction, the USW has led the way in the global fight against economic injustice and corporate greed. It has also been an unwavering advocate for fair trade that supports workers over multi-billion-dollar corporations.


In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Mr. Gerard to serve on the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee, charged with helping the president find ways to create good jobs and enhance the nation’s competitiveness.


Mr. Gerard has championed strategic alliances and global union networks, including partnerships with Unite, IG Metall, the German metalworkers’ union; AWU, the Australian Workers’ Union; CFMEU, Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union; CNM-CUT, the largest metalworkers’ union in Brazil; and SNTMMSRM or Los Mineros, the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Republic of Mexico.


A co-founder of the labor-environmental partnership the BlueGreen Alliance, Mr. Gerard also serves on the boards of the Campaign for America’s Future, the Economic Policy Institute and the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corp., as well as serving as a member of the labor advisory board at Wayne State University.


Mr. Gerard has been married to his high school sweetheart for 42 years and has two daughters and two grandchildren.