• Table of Contents
MONDAY MORNING SESSION,
SEPTEMBER 17, 2001
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David Adams, District Six, read the second partial credentials
Judy Atkins, District Two, and Bill Austin, District 11, the
co-conveners of the Resolutions Committee, took the stage; Atkins thanked the
committee for its hard work and long hours. Steve Hyzer of Local 506, a
committee member, read the resolution "Collective Bargaining." This
comprehensive policy statement sets out the union’s contract bargaining
Marianne Hart, District 10, spoke to Resolve 7, calling for
time off for union business. This language is necessary for the union to
function democratically; the resistance of employers, particularly in first
contracts, impedes union education and organizing work. The Convention
accepted an amendment offered by Mike Wilcox, Local 893, adding eye care and
dental insurance to the resolution’s benefit goals. The Convention adopted
In a dramatic report from the front-lines of UE struggle, two
Local 1114 members told delegates of their ongoing Unfair Labor Practice (ULP)
strike at Coach and Car in
Chicago. Guadeloupe Alva, bargaining committee member and picket captain, and
Octavio Morales, picket captain, were joined by International Representative
Tim Curtin. The Local 1114 members explained that Coach & Car's last
contract proposal demanded that 80% of the workforce accept a
reduction of their wages to $6 an hour — following what the union alleges
were a number of unfair labor practices on the part of the company in order to
weaken the union's bargaining position. Temporary agencies supply the company with
strikebreakers every day, prolonging the strike. But, Alva declared, the UE
members are not going to return until victory is won.
Kim Peniska, Local 1187, made a successful motion that he pass
the hat for the Coach and Car strikers. Peniska pointed out that he was on
strike for nine months just two years ago and understood what the Local 1114
brothers were going through. "I’m putting my $10 in the hat," he
declared. "Hang in there. There’s help on the way, right now!"
Mike Rivera, Local 1421, asked for the local’s address, to develop support
back home. Gerry LaValley, Local 274, announced that his Greenfield, Mass.
amalgamated local pledged $100. Brother Alva expressed the strikers’ thanks.
The collection raised $1,091.
Resolutions Committee member Robin Greene, Local 204, read
"For Workplace Health and Safety and an Ergonomics Standard." The
resolution drew comments from Bob Miller, Local 155, Mary Stewart, 618, and
Steve Hyzer, Local 506. The delegates emphasized that repetitive motion
injuries are real, and that workplace and legislative action must gain
remedies. Workplace injuries can indeed be caused by repetitive motion. Real
injuries must be recognized as such — as co-workers know. The resolution was
Bill Austin, co-convener of the Resolutions Committee, read
"Shop Floor Struggle." "If you stick together you can
accomplish just about anything," declared Debbie Schulz, 689, who
reported that her co-workers recently defeated the employer’s attempt to
impose a 24-hour, seven-day rotating work schedule through concerted action.
The basis for this union, said Glenn Bush, Local 1107, is "continuous
education, mobilization," the strength of unity on the job with backing
from the national union and district. The resolution was adopted.
Committee member Jonathan Kissam, Local 221, read "Rights
of the Healthcare Worker," both a pointed indictment of healthcare
conditions hazardous to workers and patients and a set of recommendations for
solutions. The resolution drew comments from Rodney McCraw, Local 1174,
Greather Grantham, Local 150, Shirley Thrush, Local 799, Lynda Leech, Local
618, Judy Hice, Local 1004, Clarence Hairston, Local 150, and Kim Peniska,
Local 1187, before its adoption. The delegates spoke from their experiences as
both healthcare workers and healthcare consumers, emphasizing the dangers and
unfairness of understaffing, and the urgent need for better pay and working
conditions for those who provide care to the sick and injured.
General President John Hovis explained the packet of 13
resolutions distributed to the delegates. These would not come to the floor
for discussion and would be voted on as a group near the end of the
Convention. These are resolutions that are essentially the same as those
adopted in the recent past. Any resolution would be discussed if just one
delegate requested discussion, Hovis said. The packet of 13 included
resolutions on public education, bankruptcy, the Labor Party, U.S. involvement
in Colombia’s civil war, the prison-industrial complex, an economy for the
people, the blockade of Cuba, the environment, labor law reform,
transportation of highly radioactive nuclear waste on U.S. highways and
railroads, retiree committees, the School of the Americas, and the family
Judy Atkins, District Two, committee co-convener, read
"Stop Plant Closings" – a resolution reviewing a major problem
that has beset UE members and other workers, and offering remedies through
both legislation and collective bargaining. "We can’t afford to have
this happen any more," declared Kim Peniska, Local 1187, who discussed
the threat of plant closing as an employer weapon in collective bargaining.
Atkins remembered the UE members in District Two who have lost their jobs
through the recent closure of United Shoe Machinery in Massachusetts and
Stanley Tools in Vermont. The resolution was adopted.
The resolution "Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage"
was read by committee member Norma Sprague, Local 267. John Thompson, Local
690, arose to report on the living-wage ordinance fights in Pittsburgh and
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He urged delegates to participate in or
initiate campaigns for living wage legislation in their localities. "Our
tax dollars should not subsidize a sweatshop economy," he declared. The
resolution was adopted.
John Thompson, as a member of the Resolutions Committee, read
"Health Care for All," which lays out the nature of the health care
crisis and proposes solutions centered on the Labor Party’s Just Healthcare
campaign and creation of a single-payer system. Before adoption, a number of
delegates rose in support and to comment on particular aspects of the
resolves. They were Shirley Thursh, Local 799, Carl Rosen, District 11,
Michael Marchman, Local 896, Fred Garcia, Local 223, James Fortier, Local 295,
John Thompson, Local 690, Gerry LaValley, Local 274, Kim Peniska, Local 1187,
Donald Way, Local 506, Will Anderson, Local 792, Shirley Harrison, 1135,
Marianne Hart, 1421, and Bill Lally, Local 758.
Appropriately clad in a Superman T-shirt, Charles Tangle,
Local 683, was elected Convention sergeant-at-arms. "Don’t tangle with
Tangle," observed Chairman Hovis.
Continuing with resolutions, the Convention took up
"Contract Bargaining Goals and Action Plan," read by committee
member Joe Geraneo, Local 262. "If you follow these guidelines in the
beginning, it will help you in the end," suggested Robin Greene, Local
204. "We have one of the best UE contracts in our area." Also
speaking on the resolution were William Newsome, Local 150; Merle Crossland,
Local 625, Shirley Thrush, Local 799, Clarence Hairston, Local 150, John
Thompson, Local 690, Nancy Mayer, Local 683. The resolution was adopted.
Delegates reassembled across the street in Mellon Square for
the official convention photo, taken by professional photographer and former
CWA steward Jim Campbell.
MONDAY AFTERNOON SESSION,
SEPTEMBER 17, 2001
John Lambiase, District Six, Barbara Prear, District One,
co-conveners of the Organizing Committee, presented "Organize the
Unorganized: The UE National Organizing Plan."
Director of Organization Bob Kingsley delivered a report to
the Convention that emphasized the difficulty, urgency and hopefulness of
organizing. "We are organizing in tough times, economic times that make
our organizing harder and more necessary at the same time," he said.
During the economic recovery of the preceding decade, working people didn’t
recover much. Instead, inequality grew by a number of measures, as workers’
incomes lost ground and the big bosses rewarded themselves with a 531% pay
increase over the last 10 years. U.S. workers are working longer hours to make
ends meet than workers anywhere in the world, Kingsley observed. And now we
are in times of economic uncertainty, with no one certain of the depth of the
The shift in wealth is due to the labor movement’s
"power outage," said Kingsley, as union membership fell from 30% to
13% of the workforce in just a generation. "The less we are organized,
the more we are going to be exploited," the union officer declared.
We organize to gain power, for justice, dignity and respect,
Kingsley said. And there’s another basic reason: "to ensure the very
survival of our organization," he said. The financial plan to be
considered on Wednesday will provide the union with sufficient resources to
keep on fighting for next 10 years. Kingsley reminded delegates that
approaching half of the union’s locals were organized in just the last 10
years. Had the resources not been made available then, "half the people
you see here today would not be here." The question before the membership
is this, the organizing director said: "Will we have an offense, or will
we become resigned to decline?" In the past 12 months, 73 UE locals have
lost membership, nine of them experiencing plant closings Altogether
approximately 1,200 members were lost due to layoffs and closings. "We
don’t expect next year to be all that different," he added.
The good news, Kingsley said, is that a combination of new
members reaching first contracts and coming directly into dues-paying status
offset those membership losses. "That means we ended the year with just
about the same number of members as we started," Kingsley said — adding
that the "miracle" of the 1990s was the union’s ability to hold
the line against declining membership levels through organizing. UE has the
same number of members today that we had in 1992. UE held the line even while
other industrial unions experienced huge membership losses. "There’s
not much middle ground as I see it," the organizing director said.
Without the resources to organize and grow, "we’re in a free fall into
the dustbin of history."
The 1990s miracle was achieved by a hard-working staff and the
contributions of volunteer organizers. In the past year more than 200 members
from some 40 locals assisted in organizing. Director of Organization Kingsley
asked those present to stand; their contributions were acknowledged with a
round of applause. Greater membership assistance in organizing will be needed
in the year ahead; the plan calls for organizing schools and Regional
Organizing Committees (ROCs), he said. With lost-time costs split 50/50 by
local unions and the national union, the ROCs would consist of UE activists
who would develop and work on regional organizing plans and recruit
co-workers, Kingsley said. The UE officer stressed that the help is needed:
"we’re trying to do as much as we did 10 years ago with a third fewer
organizers on the ground." We need to call on our members. Our hope is to
get the first ROCs up and running this fall.
In reviewing the work of the past year, Kingsley reported that
there are nearly 700 new members in the ranks of statewide UE Local 150 in
North Carolina, who came into the union as a result of the union’s
"dignity" campaign in state Department of Health and Human Services
facilities since March of this year. With more than 1,000 members, Local 150
is now one of 10 largest locals in UE — and, said Kingsley, "the
potential for further growth is enormous." Further, UE successfully
concluded six first contracts covering 1,000 workers at Henry Mayo Newhall
Hospital, two bargaining units employed by Grafton County, New Hampshire,
GATX, Glastic Corp. and Niagara LaSalle.
Kingsley said organizers engaged in a broad search for new
campaigns, reaching out to 300 workplaces, more than 200 of them in industrial
sector. These included sister shops in the GE, Rockwell, Consolidatd
Containers, and Freudenberg chains, and cooperative work with the California
Nurses’ Association, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy and
Mine Workers (ICEM), Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) and Japan’s
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren).
UE remains locked today in three first-contract struggles,
Kingsley said. He reviewed the tough fight to achieve agreements covering
hundreds of new UE members at The Electric Materials Company (TEMCO), Berlin
Health and Rehabilitation, and ISSI, and appealed to delegates to write
messages on postcards (on their tables and attached to leaflets) to be sent
the bosses of the three companies.
Kingsley concluded by declaring that the hope found in UE’s
historical resilience and bedrock principles will see the union through this
"time of testing."
Delegates rose to their feet for a standing ovation as a large
Local 150 contingent proceeded to the stage. They heard from new members Annie
Dove, president of the chapter at the O’Berry Center, and William Newsome,
president of the chapter at the Cherry psychiatric hospital. The new two
members outlined for delegates the union’s progress since March and the
issues around which their co-workers are organizing.
International Representatives Marion Washington and Carol
Lambiase introduced delegates to representatives of the newest UE local: only
three days earlier the staff of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind
in Pittsburgh had voted last week to affiliate to UE as Local 613. Present
were President Norm Yeargers, Vasu Babu and Treasurer Paul Weber. President
Yeargers described the work of the staff’s work and the school’s high
standards responsible for the facility’s recently achieved status as a
"blue-ribbon" school. "Only one union was able to meet our high
standards — UE," Yeargers said, noting that the staff had formerly
belonged to the American Federation of Teachers. Teachers and nurses felt out
of touch with that union and disaffiliated some years ago. "We are proud
to be members of UE," he declared.
Local 1004 President Judy Hice recounted the tactics,
including ribbons, buttons, postcards, candlelight vigil, picketing, and
finally, a strike notice, that achieved a first contract with Henry Mayo
Hospital. The agreement includes a union shop provision and advance notice of
changed work schedules, along with other improvements.
Local 1166 Vice President Patrick Grant reminded delegates
that GATX Logistics workers had to go through two representation elections
before facing their own tough fight for a first contract. A one-day strike got
the attention of GATX’s main customer, General Motors — the strike shut
two GM production lines — which led to a settlement. And it was a good
contract. Larry Comer, Local 1166, recalled how UE’s militant reputation
worried the company and convinced him that this was the right union. "I’m
glad to be a part of UE!" he said.
Local 758 President Bill Lally told the story of union
organizing at the Glastic Corp. — from an uninspiring Steelworkers campaign
in 1981 to the frustrations of overcoming fierce company resistance during the
eventually successful UE campaign in 1998 — and the 25-month fight for a
first contract that included rallies by UE and its allies in Cleveland, New
York and Tokyo and that was complicated by the sale of the plant. Finally,
last November Glastic workers overwhelmingly ratified a first contract that
includes the union shop and 100% company-paid health insurance for the
Delegates were on their feet, clapping, as Karen Harden, Local
758 chief steward, sang the "Ballad of Fred;" to the tune of the Beverley
Hillbillies theme, it’s a wicked satire on a boss who vowed he’d never
sign a contract with UE. (He didn’t: the new owners canned him.)
The members of new Local 254 have made the front page of
Vermont’s major newspaper several times, most recently on Labor Day. And no
wonder — they are the first nursing home workers in Vermont and the first in
the CPL/REIT chain in the United States to win a union election. The
Canadian-based corporation has hired one of the most notorious U.S.
unionbusting law firms to wipe out the union. Local 254 members — 120
workers, nurses aides, kitchen aides and others — are making headlines by
pressing their fight for a first contract in two nations and by calling public
attention to the scandal of understaffing in Vermont nursing homes. Delegates
heard from International Representative Kim Lawson and Local 254 member
Crystal Greer, who declared, "We still don’t have first contract but we
are strong in our fight."
International Representative Deb Gornall and Mick Patrick, a
steward and negotiating committee member, gave delegates an update on the
ongoing, 21-month-long struggle for a first contract at TEMCO: the company is
on trial for more than 50 unfair labor practice charges but is still violating
workers’ rights — and workers are still fighting back. "I ask for
your aid in accomplishing our goal," Patrick said, "not just to help
my shop, but to help others, too."
Following a short break, delegates offered their comments on
the organizing plan. Ray Pompano, Local 243, wondered why only 25% of field
staff have organizing as their primary assignment. Doug Whitcomb, District
Two, commented, "we have a wonderful resolution. Now we have to find ways
of actually putting it into effect." John Lambiase, District Six, looked
forward to the success the union would enjoy the day when staff assisted the
members in organizing, instead of the reverse. John Thompson, Local 690, spoke
as someone fired during a tough organizing campaign in stressing the necessity
of members building the union. "It can be done if we work together,"
declared Laverne Ollison, Local 1193. Barbara Prear, Local 150, counseled that
the union should be open to new approaches to organizing. The Convention
adopted the organizing plan and dismissed the committee with thanks.
On behalf of the Resolutions Committee, Jim Lemke, Local 1111
read "Build UE Rank and File Political Action."
Delegates heard from Political Action Director Chris Townsend
who placed political developments in the context of "an economic
situation that looks scarier and scarier." He noted that the "world
shaking events" of the past week would further destabilize our
economy." The collapse of the stock market has its ramifications for UE
members in plant closings and budget cuts and layoffs in both the private and
public sectors. Big business and the Bush Administration seek to surrender
Social Security to Wall Street and fast-track negotiating authority for the
President in order to push through the Free Trade Area of the Americas, an
expansion of NAFTA. Aware that his Presidency lacks legitimacy, Bush’s
backers are continuing the election campaign by courting African-American,
Hispanic and trade union support, Townsend said.
The discussion on the resolution was continued until Tuesday