In speaking on and adopting the resolution "Unionism Defeats Racism," delegates sent a powerful message to bosses and politicians, as well as neighbors and co-workers, that UE understands and rejects the destructiveness and divisiveness of racism.
"As workers, we must recognize that racism has been programmed into our everyday lives and we must begin to take down the barriers that keep us apart, one ugly brick at a time," the resolution states.
The resolution reaffirms UE’s policy of aggressive struggle against racism and in support of equal rights for all and calls on UE locals to defend our members aggressively against on-the-job discrimination. Among other points, the resolution also calls on UE leadership at all levels to seek out and encourage the development and hiring of more minority leaders and staff.
"Unity is the essence of unionism," declared Dennis Crawford, Local 506. "We must always remember to treat our fellow workers with respect," he said. "We all have the right to be treated with equality and respect by management and our fellow workers." If we fail to overcome racism, Crawford warned, "the boss will take us down."
Barry Rideout, Local 120, spoke in particular in favor
of Resolve 6(a), which calls on UE members to teach their children and
grandchild "that racism is destructive." "Racism is in
every part of our everyday lives," Rideout said. It’s a means by
which the rich and powerful "keep working class people divided so
that they can keep riches to themselves."
Resolve 6(b) calls on UE members to personally take "a leadership role to dismantle racism in our community." That’s what Local 506 attempts to do by responding to problems in the workplace through its Unity Council, said Pat Rafferty. In recognition of their efforts, Locals 506 and 618 were the first recipients of an award established by Citizens Against Racism in Erie (CARE), he said.
Kim Peniska, Local 1187, expressed his pride in the remarks of other delegates on this resolution, and in UE for inviting Jaribu Hill to speak at the Convention; "she opened my heart."
When Victoria Hoover, Local 683, stood at the podium to read the "Equal Rights for Women — Unfinished Business" to the entire Convention on behalf of the Resolutions Committee, she made a point of wearing a T-shirt with a message that set the right tone: "A woman’s place is in her union."
Pat Campbell, Local 731, especially liked Resolve 7, "Calls on UE locals to press for company-paid training programs for all workers, allowing women to upgrade their skills, and calls upon UE locals to fight for the rights of women to enter those jobs that have been traditionally reserved for men."
She noted that "women may not have brawn but they have brains." What she’s done to make work easier for her has sometimes caused men to laugh — "and then they adopt it themselves," Campbell said.
Kim Peniska, Local 1187, commented, "I’ve seen it on a picket line, when you make a woman mad, watch out."
Betsy Potter, Local 618, expressed pride both in UE’s historic support for women’s rights in General Electric’s factories and the "glaringly evident" presence of UE women, compared to those of other unions, in this year’s coordinated bargaining with GE. "Thanks for encouraging all women," she said.
Referring to years of discrimination, Mark Cleland, Local 791, declared, "never again should we allow women to go through what they’ve been through."
Shirley Thrush, Local 799, pointed out that four members of her local union’s executive board are women. "We will continue to fight for what we want, to make the [school district] administration back down."
Marianne Hart, District 10, observed that in years past, there had been a women’s caucus at UE conventions. "I thought we might consider doing that again."
"As the son and spouse of working women," Eric Marcks, Local 893, said he’s "proud to be part of an organization of that’s militantly fighting for all."
Ray Pompano, Local 243, noted with pride that his local elected a woman president, Madeline Scillia, in 1960. In her nearly two decades in office she shaped the union, he said.
James "J.J." Jarvis, Local 259, praised the tenacity and toughness of women on the UE staff.
The alarming rise in anti-homosexual violence is cause for concern by all working people," said delegates in one voice. "It is completely wrong and unacceptable to tolerate violence, hateful speech or menacing conduct that is directed at any of our fellow workers."
The resolution "Fight Homophobia" unanimously adopted by the Convention "encourages the national union, districts and locals to educate our membership and communities on the destructive nature of homophobia and the true anti-worker agenda of those who try to profit politically from it."
The resolution "commends the state of Vermont on passing civil union legislation" and "calls on UE locals to defend our members aggressively against on-the-job discrimination based on sexual orientation."
Jonathan Kissam, Local 221, explained the resolution
had been drafted by co-workers in Burlington, Vt. "We’ve seen ugly
and hateful stuff, and there’s always violence lurking below the
surface, he said. "I’m proud to be able to explain to new hires UE’s
record against discrimination and bigotry."
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