PITTSBURGH – Corporate mergers, bankruptcies and layoffs dominate the headlines. Below the radar, mining, energy and manufacturing workers are uniting to support their families, sustain their communities and protect retirees.

The 550,000-member United Steel Workers of America (USWA) and the 270,000-member Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) announced the merger of the two basic industrial unions Jan. 11.

The new union will be the dominant one in the North American industries of metals, paper and forestry products, tire and rubber, mining, glass, chemicals and energy. It will represent more than 1.25 million active and retired workers.

“Our unions share a commitment to innovative bargaining strategies that protect our members in many ways, while maintaining and building the productive capacity of the companies they work in,” USWA President Leo Gerard said in announcing the merger.

“We’re also pledged to using our successes with our joint “Rapid Response” and political programs to challenge anti-worker forces bent on undermining the futures of our active and retired members.”

From the PACE office in Nashville, union president Boyd Young hailed the unified strength the merger presents to ExxonMobil, DuPont and other multinational corporations.

“PACE members will have access to a $150-million defense fund so that we can take on employers who make unreasonable demands at the bargaining table. Furthermore, with an organizing budget of over $30 million per year, we will have the ability to strategically organize workers in our core industries.”

Both manufacturing unions know the brutal impact of plant closings, corporate bankruptcies, globalization and anti-worker government policies and have led successful campaigns to protect working families. The USWA has just restored a prescription drug benefit to their members who had suffered the cruel ax of steel corporations’ restructuring. PACE recently beat back the eighth attempt by DuPont to decertify the union.

The membership of both unions will vote on the merger at their conventions in April.