- International president of the United Steelworkers of America
- Has close ties to the Democratic Socialists of America
- Participated in the
chaotic 1999 anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle
of the AFL-CIO's public policy committee
- Supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement
Leo Gerard was born
in Creighton Mine, Ontario in 1947. His father was a
Canadian miner and union activist. After
graduating from high school, Leo took a job at the Inco
nickel smelter in Sudbury, Canada. He thereafter studied economics at
Laurentian University but quit
school in 1977 when he was just 12 credits short of graduating, and took a job
as a United Steelworkers of America (USW) staff representative.
Gerard proceeded to rise
through USW's ranks, first as a director
of its Sixth District in Ontario (1986-1991); then as a national
director for the union's Canadian operations (1991-1994); then as its international
secretary-treasurer (1994-2001); and finally, on February 28, 2001, he
became the union's
president, succeeding the recently retired George Becker.
Nine months later, Gerard was formally elected
USW president by acclamation in a union-wide vote. Lauding Gerard for his ties to the Canadian New Democratic Party (Canada's counterpart to the Democratic Socialists of America), Bob Roman of the Chicago DSA said: “The [USW] has a long tradition of militant, good mostly
leadership. Now they have someone both militant and radical.”
1997 Gerard and three fellow USW leaders signed an ad in Democratic Left, a DSA publication, emphasizing the bond that existed between DSA and USW: "Together
stronger than steel."
Gerard was one of approximately 1,400 USW members who participated in the
chaotic 1999 anti-globalization demonstrations which devolved into
violent riots and caused the shutdown of the
World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings
in Seattle. At one point, Gerard and
USW vice president Tom Conway illegally dragged two large concrete planters
into an intersection near the Washington State Convention and Trade
Center, where the meetings were being held, in an effort to block
access to the facility.
After assuming the presidency of USW, Gerard was instrumental in the formation
of the AFL-CIO's industrial union council. In February 2003 he earned a spot
on the AFL-CIO's executive committee as well as its executive council. Twenty-five months later, he became chairman
of the AFL-CIO's public policy committee, a position he holds to this day.
In 2005 and again in 2009, Gerard was reelected, without opposition, to four-year terms as president of USW. During his first two terms, he oversaw a significant
number of USW mergers with other unions, including the
12,000-member American Flint Glass Workers Union in 2003;
the 50,000-member Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada in
some 3,000 former members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way
Employees in Canada in 2004;
and the 1,150-member Independent Steelworkers Union in 2007.
But the most significant merger -- with the
250,000-member Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers
International Union -- took place in 2005 and made USW the
largest industrial union in North America.
as a co-chair on the board of directors of Healthcare-Now! – along
with such notables as Quentin Young, Medea Benjamin, and Lucius
Walker. The following year, he was
a board of directors member with the Progressive States Network. In September 2011, Barack Obama appointed Gerard to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.
In June 2011, Gerard was a guest speaker at Netroots
Nation's (NN) annual conference. To view a list of other notables
who have spoken at NN conferences, click
the fall of 2011 Gerard, asserting that "it’s Wall Street and the banks [that are] blocking [America's economic] recovery and shipping our manufacturing abroad," openly supported the newly formed Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In late October he urged OWS to demonstrate “more
militancy,” emphasizing that: "We ought to be doing more than occupying parks. We ought to start occupying bridges. We ought to start occupying the banks, places themselves." Two days later,
(much of it directed against local banks) erupted at an OWS protest in Oakland, California.
Gerard serves on the board
of directors of the Economic Policy Institute along with such
notables as Bob King, Julianne Malveaux, Robert Reich, and Richard
Trumka. He is also a national
advisory board member with the Apollo Alliance, along with Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Carl Pope. And he is a board member of the Campaign for America's Future, alongside Eli Pariser and several others.
Further, Gerard sits on the advisory
committee of Wellstone Action, a self-described
“national center for training and leadership development for the
progressive movement.” Fellow committee members include
Robert Borosage, Julian Bond, Heather Booth, Peter Edelman, Keith
Ellison, Russ Feingold, Al Franken, Tom Harkin, John Lewis, Frances
Fox Piven, Robert Reich, Mark Ritchie, Andrew Stern, and Antonio
An advocate of protectionist tariffs on imported steel, Gerard takes pride in the fact that the New York Times has called him the "No. 1 scourge of free traders." Arguing that economic "inequality ... leads to instability and violence," Gerard views labor unions as "instruments of social and economic justice" to combat the inequities of the free market.
For additional information on Leo Gerard, click here.
EPI's more prominent former