The session began with a special order of business. Ed Havaich, Local 751, proposed a salute to "two icons of UE": Political Action Director Chris Townsend and the "Queen of District Seven," Joyce Clayborne, on the occasion of their birthdays. To groans, Havaich announced he would sing "Happy Birthday" — and did, in his own style.
David Adams, District Six, gave the third and final credentials report.
The Convention heard the report of the Publicity and Education Committee, delivered by Christine Crooks, Local 1135, Will Anderson, Local 792, and Matt McCracken, Local 506. They were introduced by the committee convener Marianne Hart, District 10.
John Thompson, Local 690, called for greater cooperation on all levels of the union in achieving successful regional training conferences. He also opposed the plans to reduce the frequency of UE NEWS publication from 12 to eight issues. Marianne Hart, District 10, pointed out that the resolution calls for an expanded Internet edition of the UE NEWS which could be downloaded and distributed. Kim Peniska, Local 1187, and Fred Garcia, Local 223, also opposed a cutback in UE NEWS frequency. Judy Hice, Local 1004, proposed a survey to determine how many members have computer Internet access. Mary McElroy, Local 893, made delegates aware of possible access to translation of union materials into Spanish. The resolution was adopted and the committee dismissed with the thanks of the Convention.
Chairman Hovis announced that a delegate had requested the opportunity to speak on the resolution concerning the School of the Americas; therefore, that resolution should be pulled from the packet of 13 distributed on Monday. The Convention voted to adopt the remaining 12 resolutions.
The remainder of the lengthy, expanded session was devoted to consideration of the union’s financial plan and constitutional amendments.
Director of Organization Bob Kingsley gave a slide presentation reviewing the major elements of the financial plan. The union has sustained deficits for ten years, drawing from its reserve funds. This can’t continue indefinitely, Kingsley observed. The choices before UE are merger, dramatic reduction in services and staffing, or a new financial plan. The experience of other unions suggests that merger means paying more to get less; the second option means not being in a position to fight for the members, and accepting decline. UE’s leaders have chosen the third option.
A new plan is needed, the UE officer said. "We tried to organize our way to a secure future, but that hasn’t been enough," he said. The national union has cut spending, but that hasn’t been enough. Per capita increases haven’t been enough — if per capita had kept pace with inflation, it would now be more than $15, Kingsley observed. So the leadership is now seeking significant per capita increases of $6 over three years, to reach $18 in 2003. The first $3 is catch up, to make up for inflation; the next $1.50 is keep up, to cover inflation over the next few years, and the final $1.50 will shore up the union and put us ahead, he said.
At present UE per capita is on the bottom tier of dues structures within the labor movement. This proposed per capita increase will move UE to the bottom of the middle tier, assuming other unions do not raise their per capita rates as well, Kingsley said. He stressed that the proposed increases would not affect those workplaces in which the average wage is $10 an hour or less. A task force will recommend constitutional amendments at the 2002 Convention to address the method of per capi ta payment, Kingsley noted. "Ours is a special brand of unionism, a union worth fighting for," he said in conclusion.
President Hovis assured delegates that it wasn’t easy to stand before them and recommend a per capita increase, and pledged the officers would abide by whatever decision the membership reaches. He reminded delegates that the biggest expenses faced by the national union are salaries, health insurance and office rent. The insurance costs will be higher as a result of Internal Revenue Service rules which will prohibit the union from using employee pension monies this year to pay for retirees’ medical insurance. (This is the pension plan covering officers and staff.) With regard to the cost of the headquarters, he said, no proposal is off the table.
Ray Pompano, Local 243, raised questions about the pension plan — how much is it overfunded, and why hasn’t information about the pension plan been brought before the membership? In succession General Secretary-Treasurer Bob Clark and Carl Rosen, District 11, took the microphone to explain the operation of the pension plan and stressed that the national union has a fiduciary responsibility to retirees and invested employees that precludes use of the money for any other purposes.
Some 20 delegates rose to discuss the financial plan. They represented large locals and small, co-workers earning a decent wage and others facing a greater struggle to make ends meet, long-established locals and locals organized within the last decade. Some spoke in unqualified support for the plan, certain that they spoke for those back home, too; others personally supported the plan, but were unsure if a majority back home felt the same way. Some felt certain that their locals could not support the plan, politically or financially.
Ray Pompano, Local 243, objected to the task force and its mission and moved that the task force be eliminated. President Hovis offered an explanation of the task force’s goals. Carl Rosen, District 11, Sue Smock, Local 506, Shirley Thrush, Local 799, Marianne Hart, District 10, and Bob Miller, Local 155, spoke in opposition to the motion. Gerry LaValley, Local 274, spoke in favor of the motion. The motion was defeated.
Discussion returned to the financial plan, with comments from a number of other delegates, in support and in opposition, and raising questions about the plan and its implementation.
Pat Rafferty, Local 506, reported that as a national union trustee he was on the special committee charged with investigating the union’s finances. As a co-convener, he began the report of the Constitution Committee.
First to be considered was the proposed per capita increases (amendments to Article 15, Revenue, Section A), including a provision which would exempt those work sites where the average wage is less than $10 an hour. Speakers were John Lambiase, District Six, Larry Winland, Local 770, Rod McCraw, Local 1174, President Hovis and General Secretary-Treasurer Clark.
There was a roll-call vote on the motion. It carried 125 in favor, 36 opposed, with one abstention.
The Convention then voted to recommend amendment of Article 15, Section B to place all but a portion of Strike and Defense Fund monies to the credit of the General Fund. Delegates then voted to recommend amendment of Article 18, Section D, to raise minimum dues to $4.62 a week, $20 a month or an equivalent amount based on hourly rates in 2001; to $5.08 a week or $22 a month in 2002 and to $5.31 a week or $23 a month in 2003, and to permit minimum dues of $3.92 a week or $17 a month if the average wage in the work site is less than $10 an hour, a provision that would expire on Nov. 30, 2002.
The Convention voted to approve transfer of interest earned and the $1 per month of per capita allocated to the Strike and Defense Fund to the General Fund, and to authorize the transfer of $1 million from the Strike and Defense Fund to the General Fund.
Co-convener Carl Rosen reported that the Constitution Committee recommended non-concurrence with a resolution that would affirm support for annual conventions. The committee’s recommendation was based on its conclusion that the resolution would have no effect, that it was not appropriate at this time due to the ongoing discussion and projected vote on this issue in 2002.
Judy Atkins, District Two, Jonathan Kissam, Local 221, Ray Pompano, Local 243 spoke in opposition to the recommendation of non-concurrence. Dale Steubenhofer, Local 506, Ed Havaich, Local 751, Mary Stewart, Local 618, and Sue Smock, Local 506, spoke in favor; several of those backing the committee’s recommendation said they were not opposed to annual conventions but agreed that the decision should not be made at this convention. Delegates voted their endorsement of the committee’s recommendation of non-concurrence.
The Constitution Committee also recommended non-concurrence with a resolution proposing a name change, suggesting that this was not the time for such a significant move. Lester Koch, Local 112, whose local proposed the resolution agreed, saying that this could be the beginning of discussion. The delegates accepted the recommendation of non-concurrence. The Constitution Committee was then dismissed with the thanks of the Convention.
The Policy Action Committee presented the three resolutions for which it recommended special attention and a plan of action. Co-conveners Connie Spinozzi, District One, and David Adams, District Six, read the resolution "Stop Privatization and Expand Public Sector Workers." Committee member David Kitchen, Local 506, read "Stop FTAA." Adams read "Support the Jobs with Justice Movement."
Eric Marcks, Local 893, commented, "it’s appropriate that these resolutions are together." Also speaking on the resolutions were Carl Rosen, District 11, Ray Pompano, Local 243, Paul Spors, Local 1128, and John Thompson, Local 690.
At 3 o’clock, further discussion on the resolutions was postponed for the election of officers and trustees.
Phil Bishop, Local 731, nominated John Hovis for another term as general president. The nomination was seconded by Debra Schulz, Local 689. There being no other nominations, the delegates directed the General Secretary-Treasurer to cast a single ballot for Hovis.
President Hovis remarked, "the past year been an unusually trying one." The three officers have been working to preserve the union while carrying out their regular assignments — "no easy task," he said. President Hovis gave special thanks to the General Executive Board, and to the UE staff.
Concerned that friendships and unity have been jeopardized by the debate over the union’s future, Hovis offered his apologies to anyone that he may have offended. "We need our unity, we need to be working together, we need each other," the president said. "Let’s join together and rebuild this great organization," Hovis declared, receiving a standing ovation.
Connie Spinozzi, District One, nominated Bruce Klipple for general secretary-treasurer. She praised his role as local president, district executive board member, field organizer and international representative. Describing Klipple as a "people person," Spinozzi said he "brings knowledge, integrity, understanding and dedication to this great union" and will be "a catalyst in moving the union forward." Spinozzi thanked outgoing General Secretary-Treasurer Clark for his contributions. Barbara Prear, Local 150, seconded the nomination.
There being no other nominations, the delegates directed the General Secretary-Treasurer to cast a single ballot for Bruce Klipple.
Addressing the Convention, Klipple thanked delegates for their confidence. He thanked his wife and family for their support. Over the last several months, Klipple said, he has tried to meet with as many UE members as possible. "You gave me advice, I listened, I will continue to listen," he said. Klipple told delegates he will be looking to them for assistance because "the answers lie with the rank and file." He thanked the members of District One he has known over the years who have taught him the meaning of democratic, rank-and-file trade unionism. We have the tools to save the union; we simply have to do more, Klipple said. He thanked Bob Clark for his contributions and vision. "I am confident John, Bob and I will work very well together, building our union, making it strong. I believe in this, deeply," Klipple said. "I’m up for the challenge."
Joyce Clayborne, District Seven, nominated Bob Kingsley for another term as director of organization. John Lambiase, District Six, seconded the nomination. There being no other nominations, the delegates directed the General Secretary-Treasurer to cast a single ballot for Kingsley.
The Director of Organization thanked delegates for the honor of a tenth term. And he said: "Waiting out there somewhere in your community is a group of workers yearning to have a union, ready to fight for justice on their jobs. Let’s work together to find them and bring them into UE."
The floor being open for nominations for trustees, Carl Rosen, District 11, nominated Jim Lemke, Local 1111; Dale Steubenhofer, Local 506, nominated David L. Kitchen, Local 506; Russ Abbott, Local 218, nominated Dorothy Johnson, Local 299; Bob Miller, Local 155, nominated Craige Turner, Local 120; Bobbie Nesbitt, Local 714 nominated Virginia Garrette, Local 767. Turner had indicated he would accept first alternate; Garrette said she would accept second alternate. There being no other nominations, the delegates directed the General Secretary-Treasurer to cast a single ballot for Lemke, Kitchen and Johnson as trustees, Turner as first alternate and Garrette as second alternate.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, for allowing me to serve as general secretary-treasurer for the last six years — it’s been an honor," declared Bob Clark. He also thanked the many members, local and district leaders who worked hard in an unsuccessful effort to convince him to reconsider his decision not to run for reelection. He has accepted a position as international representative in District 11, which some well-wishers regard as a "bad career move." Clark countered that "career moves for corporate bosses. I’m a trade unionist" — it’s not the title that counts but being able to build the union. He said he will miss traveling throughout the union and meeting with members and being a part of the General Executive Board — he has served on the GEB since 1984, as District 11 secretary, District 11 president, and general secretary-treasurer. He assured delegates that he will continue to work hard for the union; of all the items he’s packing to bring home to Milwaukee, the most important is the UE Organizing Plan 2001-2002. He received a prolonged standing ovation.
"We’re not here to say goodbye but Godspeed," said Director of Organization Kingsley, who praised Clark for "six years of creativity and deep and abiding concern for the membership." UE Cartoonist Gary Huck presented Clark with a caricature, which again brought delegates to their feet.
Joe Geraneo, Local 262, rose on a point of personal privilege to pay tribute to Bob Clark. "In my opinion he’s done an outstanding job for this union," Geraneo said.
General Vice President John Lambiase gave the oath of office to the newly elected officers and trustees.
The three resolutions referred to the Policy Action Plan, and the plan itself, were approved by the Convention. The delegates dismissed the Policy Action Committee with their thanks.
The resolution "Fight Racism, Build Working-Class Unity" was read by Judy Atkins, Resolutions Committee co-convener. Twenty delegates rose to express their support for the resolution, and to relay personal experiences, report on union activities or comment on political ramifications. In various ways speakers echoed the remarks of Clarence Hairston, Local 150, who declared, "racism should be entirely out of our lives." The first to speak, Barbara Prear, Local 150, commented that "as a black woman coming out of the south, there’s no way I can help but speak out;" the final speaker, Rodney McCraw, Local 1174, spoke as a white man admitting to prejudices. Also speaking were Kim Peniska, Local 1187, William Newsome, Local 150, Pat Rafferty, Local 506, Clarence Hairston, Local 150, Shirley Harrison, Local 1135, John Lambiase, District Six, Cliff Hall, Local 151, Shirley Thrush, Local 799, Marianne Hart, District 10, Glenn Bush, Local 1107, Eric Marcks, Local 893, Lynda Leech, Local 618, John Thompson, Local 690, Ray Pompano, Local 243, Nina Williams, Local 799, Larry Winland, Local 770, Paul Spors, Local 1121, and Lou Panza, Local 689. The resolution was adopted.
The resolution "Protect and Improve Social Security" was read by Bill Austin, Resolutions Committee co-convener. Delegates adamantly expressed their opposition to privatization schemes. Speaking were Eric Marcks, Local 893, Sherri Niedfelt, Local 1161, Clarence Hairston, Local 150, Pat Rafferty, Local 506, Joe Geraneo, Local 262, John Thompson, Local 690, Russ Abbott, Local 218, and Fred Garcia, Local 223. The resolution was adopted.
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