SMU Community News

USW International President Tom Conway Dies at 71

Written by Ethan Bernard

Tom Conway, international president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union since 2019, has died at age 71.

“From his earliest time making steel to his steady hand leading us through the darkest days of the pandemic, Tom followed two simple guiding principles: the dignity of work and the power of working people,” David McCall, USW International vice president of administration, said in a statement on Monday.

Proud Reputation

Conway became one of the union’s most accomplished contract negotiators in steel, aluminum, oil, and other major industries, the USW said.

He spearheaded initiatives to organize more workers into the labor movement. Those efforts extended union representation to workers in a range of fields, from manufacturing to higher education.

“Under Conway’s leadership, USW members gained some of the movement’s most significant organizing victories,” the USW said.

In steel, for example, Conway helped to broker what was deemed an “historic” labor pact with Cleveland-Cliffs in October 2022 and later with U.S. Steel in November of that year.

Conway also advocated for “fair trade.” He pressed the US government to enforce trade laws and to prevent importation of “illegally subsidized and dumped products that damage domestic industries and destroy good-paying jobs,” the USW said.

“I came to regard Tom Conway as a personal friend and trusted business partner, with whom I shared a steadfast belief in the bright future of the American industry,” Lourenco Goncalves, Cleveland-Cliffs’ chairman, president, and CEO said in a statement on Monday.

“While Cleveland-Cliffs’ close partnership with the USW will continue, I will miss Tom Conway greatly,” he said.

David B. Burritt, president and CEO of U.S. Steel, also expressed his condolences.

“On behalf of everyone at U.S. Steel, I extend condolences to the USW, our member employees, and Tom Conway’s family and friends,” he told SMU in an email.

“I respected Tom’s passion for his mission, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Conway family during this difficult time,” Burritt added.

On the government side, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai offered her sympathy.

“Tom leaves a legacy of always standing up for working people, fair competition, and economic opportunity for all,” she said in a statement. “On behalf of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, I offer our deepest condolences to Tom’s loved ones and our friends at USW.”

Likewise, members of the Congressional Steel Caucus expressed their condolences.

 “The members of the Congressional Steel Caucus deeply mourn the sudden loss of USW International president Tom Conway, a devoted leader whose commitment to his members and their families was unwavering,” Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.) said in a statement. “Mr. Conway was an avid proponent of equitable trade policies and staunchly advocated for the development and well-being of steel-supported communities.”


Conway became an activist at USW Local 6787 in 1978 at the Burns Harbor Works in northwest Indiana. The mill, which now belongs to Cliffs, was then part of the former Bethlehem Steel.

He worked as a millwright in the coke plant. While doing that, he also served as a griever for plant-wide maintenance and was a member of the safety and contracting-out committees, the USW said.

Conway in 1987 joined the union’s International staff. He was elected as USW International VP in 2005, the union said.

“His time as USW president was too short, but it’s clear he will leave an indelible impact on our union and beyond,” McCall said.

Ethan Bernard

Read more from Ethan Bernard

Latest in SMU Community News