USW International President (then International Vice President), Tom Conway, keynoting the December 2017, Coop Cincy/1worker1vote third biennial Union Coop Symposium, Christ Church Cathedral undercroft, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tom Conway, like his USW International President predecessor, Leo Gerard, will always be bigger than life, center ring, and irreplaceable. Both have served on the 1worker1vote advisory board since its inception (May 2015). We first “met” when Tom called my cell (April 2006) because organizing at the Fairless Hill plant north of Philly was going slower than he wanted. The thunder in his voice fried my phone until it gave up and died. At subsequent public events in front of Tom and Leo, I used to say we became blood brothers except it was my blood. Maybe so, but it was always about Tom’s big USW heart, cool head, and indomitable worker’s soul.
Over time my relationship with Tom progressed. Inspired by calming influence vibes emanating from the big fish tank in Tom’s then International VP office that helped during contentious contract negotiations, I Christmas gifted him a plushie toy fish tank he displayed on his office bookshelf.
Tom and Leo took me in, under instruction, and changed my life.
They showed up to innovate and lead the big defining events birthing the 2009 USW – Mondragon collaboration (together with USW organizer, Rob Witherell) that evolved into the 1worker1vote movement and helped inspire domestic and global union coop ecosystems such as USW-affiliated Coop Cincy, and Union-Coops UK (documented in Humanity@Work&Life ). Tom became a formidable expert on Mondragon just as he did with every company and industry sector the steelworkers represent.
Many others will easily do a much better job describing Tom’s utter steelworker authenticity, his unwavering devotion to his sons, unswerving labor leadership by solidarity example, and take-down humor that belied the friendship he offered as an exchange of trust. Here’s Tom in his own words inaugurating the “USW-Mondragon International (North America)-OEOC” Union Co-op Model Template launch (March 2012), USW international headquarters atrium, Pittsburgh/PA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_TSwRKZ6KU.
May he rest in the eternal power of peace earned every living day in service to a rising, fairer “Humanity@Work&Life”, the picket line we will never cross to keep the faith we will not break.
-Michael A. Peck-
Monday, September 25, 2023