George Becker, a second-generation Steelworker, grew up across the street from Granite City Steel in his hometown of Granite City, IL, where he went to work with a labor gang at the mill in the summer of 1944. From that beginning, Becker rose through the ranks of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) to become the union's sixth international president. He was elected president in November 1993 and re-elected in November 1997. Prior to his election as president, Becker served two terms as international vice president for administration, having been elected to that position in 1985 and re-elected in 1989. He previously served as administrative assistant to Lynn Williams, after Williams became international secretary in 1977 and international president in 1983.
Besides working at Granite City Steel, he worked as a crane operator at General Steel Castings, and as an assembler at Fisher Body. He also served in the Marine Corps. Becker became active in the USWA as a member of Local 4804 at Dow Chemical's aluminum rolling mill in Madison, IL. Working as an inspector in the mill, he was elected successively as a local treasurer, vice president and president.
He was appointed a USWA staff representative in 1965 and came to the International headquarters in 1975. As a staff technician in the Safety and Health Department, he helped establish some of the first national health standards adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workers exposed to lead, arsenic and other toxic substances.
As vice president, Becker chaired the USWA's Aluminum Industry Conference and led the union's collective bargaining in the aluminum industry. He headed the union's organizing program and led major corporate campaigns, including the world wide campaign against Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation that achieved the historic firing of 1,300 permanent scab replacement workers and the return to work of 1,600 steelworkers after a 20-month lockout.
Becker's presidency has been marked by many major achievements for the union, including:
Becker has given the USWA a strong voice in Washington, testifying before Congress and meeting frequently with leaders of Congress and the Administration, including President Clinton. He was a leader in the revitalization of the AFL-CIO with the election of John Sweeney as president in 1995. As an AFL-CIO vice president, Becker chairs the AFL-CIO Executive Council's key Economic Policy Committee.
He is an executive committee member of the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and chairman of the world rubber council of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). In addition, he was appointed by President Clinton to the President's Export Council and the U.S. Trade and Environmental Policy Advisory Committee.