Steelworker adds a skill during pandemic layoff

Nick Zimmerman migrated from Wisconsin to Northwest Indiana looking to provide for his family.

He wanted to be a Steelworker.

“My wife (Andrea) had her father and brother working at the steel mills, so she knew the lifestyle and how the job could provide for a family,” Zimmerman said.

Then the COVID-10 pandemic hit, and it hit Zimmerman hard. With only two years in at USW Local 1010 in East Chicago, Ind., the crane operator was laid off.

That’s when he took advantage of his ICD benefit.

“I had taken some wood-working classes and other stuff, but I heard how you could get a CDL through the (Career Development) program,” Zimmerman said.

The 38-year-old Steelworker has a family to provide for, including a 10-month-old son. He heard through a co-worker that he might be able to get called back quicker if he had his CDL and get into the transportation department at the mill.

Zimmerman earned his CDL in late June and had two offers from local trucking companies. The good news is he got called back to his job at the mill on July 6. The silver lining? He’s got the CDL license in his back pocket, thanks to his ICD benefit, and now has the skills in hand to hopefully land a spot in transportation at the mill eventually.

 “It’s a great program,” Zimmerman said of Career Development. “I’m glad it’s there for you, especially when you need it.

“Times are tough for a lot of people right now and this (program) gives you some hope.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 8 July / 2 Comments
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Tino Scholarship extended

Is ICD part of your benefit? Then the Tino Fulimeni scholarship is, too!

In 2019, the Institute for Career Development awarded eight scholarships for $1,000 each to the children or grandchildren of Steelworkers.

Tino Fulimeni was a lifelong Steelworker who rose to Special Assistant to former USW President George Becker. Tino was a huge advocate of the Career Development Program. He strongly believed in the education of Steelworkers. The Institute for Career Development scholarship is a tribute to Tino and all he stood and fought for.

To date, the Tino Fulmeni Memorial Scholarship Fund has awarded 120 scholarships in the amount of $108,800.

All you have to do is apply at . The deadline has been extended to October 31, 2020.

Remember, learning is your – and your children or grandchildren’s – benefit for life!

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 2 July / 0 Comments
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ICD benefit helping members after Goodyear-Gadsden closing

Joel Ingram was seven weeks away from full retirement at Goodyear in Gadsden, Alabama. Close friend and fellow electrician, Brian Smith, had 25 years in at the tire plant when it closed its doors.

The USW Local 12L members needed a safety net, so they utilized their ICD benefit.

Ingram recruited six other members and spearheaded an HVAC course for Local 12L. The students are driving over an hour two nights a week to Birmingham to learn about heating and cooling with instructor Brian Byrom. It’s a condensed class, which Ingram calls a “crash course” in HVAC.

“I saw an ad about our ICD benefit and took advantage of it,” said Ingram, who had 27 years in at the Gadsden plant. “The course has been challenging and tough, but I knew I had to do something. You have members coming out of here with no trade or skills. You have to have a backup plan.”

Ingram just found a job at the Honda Lincoln Assembly Plant – an hour drive away – and says putting “HVAC experience on my resume” might have helped get him in the door.

“I saw (this plant closing) coming the last couple of years,” Ingram said. “I didn’t want to be left with nothing. You never can be smart enough.

“If I could tell anybody something about ICD – use your benefit. Take advantage of it.”

Smith, meanwhile, has been on the ICD’s Local Joint Committee for 16 years in Gadsden. The committee is comprised of both union and company staff to make local decisions on how the program is used. Smith, pictured above with his wife Janet, admits he never took a class through ICD until he had to.

“I didn’t get on the ICD board for myself, but for everybody else,” Smith said. “I’m so glad I did this HVAC class. It’s really a fulfillment thing and something else to put on that resume.

“ICD has been a huge benefit,” Smith continued. “It has given a ton of our Gadsden members a chance to go to school, get degrees, and go on to do other things.”

The 16-week HVAC course runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 p.m. It’s almost an hour-and-a-half drive one way for Smith and the other seven Gadsden members.

“I told the guys once we finish this they can’t take it away from us, like the closing of the plant," Smith said. "That’s why ICD was started to help the members in times of need.

“It’s given us something to turn to in desperate times.”


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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 10 June / 0 Comments
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Let's hear about your ICD benefit

Meet Dennis Chandler, an ICD music instructor, who has a passion for teaching. His enthusiasm is contagious to the USW Local 979 members in Cleveland. Just watch “and listen” for yourself.

Dennis truly believes in what the ICD benefit can do not only for professional growth, but also personal gains.

Learning is truly music to the ears!

Please enjoy our latest video from one of the USW’s greatest benefits.

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 10 June / 0 Comments
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ICD Benefit Boosts Laid-Off Steelworker

Rashon Davis knows the day well. November 8, 2019. After 18 years at U.S. Steel-East Chicago Tin he was laid off. The USW Local 5133 member is still waiting for a call back to be transferred to Gary Works or Midwest Steel.

Some people would feel sorry for themselves. But not Davis. He got busy trying to put food on the table for his family in other ways – and thanks to utilizing the ICD benefit he created his own pen business.

“Let’s just say it was a good Christmas for us -- because I took my talent and craft using the woodworking classes (at USW Local 6787 in Burns Harbor, Indiana) and started my own business,” Davis explained. “When you’re selling pens for $50-$60 each the money comes in pretty handy.”

The business – From the Heart Woodworking – is keeping Davis and his family afloat while he waits on a call back to the steel mill.

The name “From the Heart Woodworking” comes from his son, Graham, who was born with a heart defect and died at 2 years old.

“We were in Chicago every day dealing with heart doctors, so the name just made sense to me,” Davis explained. “We gave out a lot of pens as gifts and it just seemed right because all the work is coming from the heart. Making pens was great therapy for me during a really hard time.”

Davis, a Gary, Indiana native, credits ICD instructor John Malyj for motivating him to take his craft to another level and start up his own business. He started by buying a “cheap” lathe for his garage and then began to accumulate more tools for the job.

“Sell a pen, buy a tool, sell a pen buy another tool,” Davis explained. “We sort of got into business by accident. I had to justify spending the money for tools and equipment with my wife (Quiana) because she was very supportive, but it was getting to be an expensive hobby.”

Davis has become so busy with his Etsy business he’s recruited Quiana to help. She’s just as involved with the pen making as he is. They now have their own Facebook page and have a vast customer and client base.

Davis is definitely an advocate of the ICD program. He used the tuition assistance program to earn his bachelor’s degree in human resources from Purdue University and also picked up a Real Estate license with the help of the ICD benefit.

“I can’t tell you enough about what a wonderful program ICD is,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for the knowledge I acquired through the benefit.

“I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact they can make money outside of their jobs and be productive. This was supposed to be a hobby and something fun for me to do, but I’ve made this work for me and my family.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 28 January / 2 Comments
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ICD Means Success for this Steelworker

USW Local 979 member Angie Lee talks about her success with ICD. The Cleveland Steelworker has used the ICD benefit to better herself at work and at home. She’s taken advantage of classes to pass the Ramsey test, get into the MTE program, and learn HVAC skills. Lee is living proof that anything is possible by utilizing the ICD benefit.

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 21 January / 0 Comments
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Duct (Work) Dynasty

Mike McLure thought he knew plenty about installing duct work. Then he took an ICD sheet metal class with Fran Arabia, the USW/ATI Safety, Health & Environmental Coordinator, and really learned something.

“I told Fran I wish I had taken the class years ago,” said McLure, an electric tech at ATI Local 1196 in Brackenridge, Pa. “I had to go back in my basement and fix all kinds of stuff. Maybe it wasn’t stuff the normal eye could see, but I knew it wasn’t right.

“It just made me so much more confident in what I was doing.”

McLure, who has worked at ATI for 13 years, said after gaining knowledge in the seven-session ICD customized class, he went back into his basement and couldn’t believe the things that needed fixed.

“I fixed corners after Fran showed me how,” McLure said. “Duct work is different – it’s definitely a different beast – and I struggled. After the classes I was like, ‘Wow, this job could have went so much smoother.’”

The funny thing is, McLure never really took advantage of the ICD benefit and fell into the class by accident.

“I happened to run into Fran and we got to talking about his sheet metal class and I said, ‘You’re doing what? Put me down for it,’” McLure explained. “It was just great timing and a little luck.

“I still can’t believe how valuable the class was.”

Arabia is passionate about HVAC training and believes strongly in the ICD program.

“I take the students through my 35 years of knowledge in residential, commercial and steel mill industrial experiences,” he said. “By the end of the class they are marketable in the trades, if ever needed.

“And most importantly, they are able to work in their home for themselves, or to give a hand to family and friends.”

McLure’s success story didn’t just start at the mill, either. He actually was a former NBC union cameraman who specialized in aerial footage. He also did work for the Golf Channel in helicopters and blimps, but his claim to fame is the work he did for NBC Sports at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece where his crew won an Emmy for the opening ceremonies.

“We spent 31 days there,” McLure said. “Definitely great memories.”

McLure said the wear and tear of travel – and the influx of drones – really made him start thinking about changing careers. He said he saw the writing on the wall around 2006 and ended up landing a job at ATI. He’s also turned his basement – with the duct work he’s now proud of – into a recording studio where he plays guitar and enjoys time with his wife of 10 years, Laura.

“I’m new to ICD, but I’ll tell you when you look at the cost of education and the benefit, it’s so valuable,” he said. “I just told Fran I wish I took advantage of it 10 years ago. Now I see what you can get out of it.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 12 December / 0 Comments
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All Hands on Deck for this Steelworker

Retired Steelworker William “Chip” Ostenberg was docked on his boat in sunny San Diego, drinking coffee with his wife of 47 years when he saw the “Bill of Rights” schooner at a nearby dock.

He saw people working on the ship, so the former USW Local 1010 member went over and asked how he could get involved in the restoration project for the enormous sailing vessel originally built in 1971.

The rest is history. Literally.

“When we first started there had to be 1,000 things to fix after the Insurance inspection. There were tasks the crew had to complete before the Coast Guard would approve it as a commercial vessel,” Ostenberg said. “Since then, we've passed all the inspections and are operating."

Ostenberg, an Army veteran who spent 33 years in the steel mills of Northwest Indiana, grew up on a ranch in Colorado. He says his dad had a woodshop where he “played around with the tools.”

However, it wasn’t until he became a Steelworker that his craftsmanship took off.

“I honed my (woodworking) skills at (ICD’s) JobLink (Learning Center) in East Chicago, Indiana,” Ostenberg said. “(Instructor) Dale Meiners was a huge part of it and what I’m doing now.”

Ostenberg, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife, Rae Ann, reside in Kenosha, Wis., and spend part of their winters in San Diego to help with the renovation of the mighty “Bill of Rights”, which is going on seven-plus years. The entire project is based on volunteers and donations. Ostenberg said it takes between $5,000-$6,000 a month just to keep the project going.

When he was still a Steelworker he utilized the ICD benefit not only for woodworking skills, but small engine repair, motorcycle repair, computer repair, and even took a machinist course at Ivy Tech before retirement.

All acquired skills, he gained using his ICD benefit, helped him on the renovation project.

Right now, thanks to knowledge obtained from JobLink instructor Bill Needles, Ostenberg was able to laser engrave an image on wood so he could recarve it on the Bill of Rights. The image is of painted leaves, vines and acorns – all in gold paint (see images below).

The Bill of Rights, which was originally built in Maine in 1971, has traveled the Atlantic, Pacific and Panama Canal, among other waterways.

Today, it’s used by the South Bayfront Sailing Association for cruises, whale watching tours, weddings, funerals, corporate outings, and even fireworks on the 4th of July. It is the Tall Sailing ship for the Navy's Sea Cadet Training program. 

“When you have your fingerprints on a boat – it just feels awesome,” Ostenberg said.

“When you see the fruition of labor ending up being so important, especially when you get to the later years in life like me, you know you’ve made a difference.”


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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 21 November / 0 Comments
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Learning Summit Highlights

Wow! 2019 is just flying by. ICD had two Learning Summits this year. One was in Pittsburgh, the other in Des Moines.

Maybe you missed one? No sweat. Just click the link below and check out the highlights.

And always remember ... learning, it's your benefit for life.



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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 13 November / 0 Comments
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Steel's in his heart and his art

You can call Tom Furey a steelworking artist, or an Artistic Steelworker.

Either way, he’s a Steelworker turned Fine Art Painter these days.

“I started in the mill (at U.S. Steel Fairless Works) for college money and thought I’d quit for good after I graduated,” the former Local 4889 member said. “But two weeks after graduation my mom said the mill called. ‘They want you back.’ I couldn’t refuse. It was such good money.”

After 42 years as a third-generation Steelworker, Furey has hung up his steel-toe boots for a painting brush.

“It’s not a hobby, I’m a Professional Fine Art Oil Painter,” Furey said. “I waited 42 years to paint full-time.”

Furey’s not kidding, either. He has an impressive gallery on his own personal website () and his painting “Safety Huddle,” an oil painting on canvas, depicts Steelworkers on the job. It was accepted into the Art of the State exhibit in Harrisburg, Pa., this year. Only 104 works from nearly 1,800 entries were picked.

Furey paints images that reflect moments of time in his life and cover a wide variety of subject matter.

“Safety Huddle” Oil Painting on Canvas is actually from his days at U.S. Steel Gary Works where he traveled back and forth for two years when he was helping with training for the No. 14 Blast Furnace build. Furey also has a painting titled “Cold Train,” which depicts a setting outside the U.S. Steel Fairless plant as well as "Team Work", which shows a group of Steelworkers slinging a Gantry Crane part that has been unloaded from the large green ship in the background.

“It is a typical scene in the steel industry and part of everyday work for these men to work together to get the job accomplished,” Furey said. “Just the physical size and weight of everything they are handling makes this job dangerous. Together they get it done.”

Furey is a father of four and grandfather to five and both his father and grandfather, also named Tom, were Steelworkers.  He has a son-in-law working at the U.S. Steel Fairless plant.

Furey, who is also a fully crafted goldsmith, started as a laborer and worked everywhere from the blast furnace to the open hearth before getting an electrical apprenticeship in Fairless. He said he taught himself computers on the job at the mill and got into the graphic illustration side as well. He helped set up the computer network for the ICD program in Fairless Hills before leaving the steel industry in 2013.

“I could pick a Steelworker out of a crowd,” Furey said. “We’re all old-school kind of people.

“We’re tough as nails, but I’ve always found that we’re good people.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 5 November / 0 Comments
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