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New, more diverse leadership takes over at USW International

New USW International leadership is sworn in.

New leadership has taken over at the United Steelworkers International union that represents thousands of workers in Northwest Indiana.

Longtime USW President Leo Gerard retired Monday after 18 years at the helm and his administration stepped down along with him. 

Thomas Conway, who has served as the USW's vice president for administration since 2005, has taken over as international president along with a new slate of leaders that's billed as more diverse to represent a changing membership.

Gerard wrote in a letter to steelworkers that he has known Conway for 25 years.

"In this time, he’s earned my admiration, demonstrating a special toughness and a willingness to take on the most difficult jobs and negotiations. He has a strong vision and unique perspective about the future direction of the union," he wrote. "Tom has my complete support as our new president."

Conway started as a millwright at Bethlehem Steel in 1978 before starting with the union as a staff representative at the USW's Basic Steel Conference. He's since helped guide the USW staff training program, helped develop the union's leadership and development program and served on the board of the Institute for Career Development and the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

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"He has also chaired many of the union’s major sector negotiations in steel, mining, aluminum, tire and rubber, oil, and other metals and manufacturing operations," Gerard wrote in a missive to steelworkers. "He led the charge on trade issues affecting these sectors, including the union’s efforts in trade enforcement. He stood shoulder to shoulder with me and hundreds of our members during the Battle in Seattle. Tom’s also spearheaded the USW’s efforts in fighting to bring change to the nation’s trade and manufacturing policies."

The new international secretary-treasurer is District 4 Director John Shinn, who has been on the union's executive board since 2012, chaired the Inter-Union Gas Conference and served as a staff representative for the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers union that was merged into the USW.

The new international vice president of administration is District 1 Director David McCall, who started his career as a millwright, has amassed more than 40 years of bargaining experience, and who first joined the international executive board in 1998.

New International Vice President at-large Roxanne Brown, the legislative director in the USW's Washington, D.C., office, will "continue to oversee legislative, public policy and political matters while remaining based in the capital."

Leeann Foster was named international vice president after serving as assistant to the international president, associate general counsel, lead bargainer in the paper sector, leader of the Women of Steel leadership program and co-chair of the IndustriALL Global Union working group for the pulp and paper sectors.

"Our union is changing and becoming more diverse, and our board is changing to reflect that growth," Gerard wrote in a letter to steelworkers. "The USW is committed to bringing forward the next generation of labor leaders and to providing the tools, training, and opportunity they will need to succeed. These changes in leadership do not mean we are shrinking from any of our longstanding commitments, and there are still fights we must take on. The new team brings vast experience and knowledge of our industries and issues and will continue the proud traditions the union has always stood for."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.