The North Carolina
Public Service Workers Union received a charter as Local 150 at the convention. Although
the state denies collective bargaining rights to public employees, workers are building a
union, collecting dues and have forwarded the National union their first per capita
payment. Field Org. Saladin Muhammed (at the podium) introduced Pres. Barbara Prear and
other members of the delegation.
Marlys Carter announced to the
convention that she felt "kind of funny." For the first time in 23½ years, she
was missing the first day of school as a para-educator in the Spencer Community School
Carters trip to Pittsburgh, Pa. began months earlier when she and
her co-workers decided that union organization was the solution to low pay, lack of
respect, no insurance or sick leave and reduced hours. Representing new Local 821
in Spencer, Iowa, Carter was one of many recent additions to the UE family who paraded to
the podium to tell of how and why they joined the union.
The owners of Limco, a UE shop in Erie, Pa., opened the door to UE for Andy
Goodman and his co-workers by purchasing Hurwitz Brothers in Buffalo, N.Y. As Betsy
Potter, Local 618, explained Local 683 Pres. Rich Drylie, a Limco
worker, introduced the Buffalo shop to the union.
Representing new Local 616, Goodman explained that along with
voluntary recognition, Hurwitz workers also gained their first union contract. "We
picked up a dental plan, pension plan, uniforms and some decent raises. I got a dollar
raise right on the spot."
Megan Nelson, Local 893
Iowas Urbandale School District aggressively opposed attempts by
staff to organize. But as Megan Nelson, Local 893, explained, an 8-1 UE victory
capped a series of legal defeats for the administration. The new UE members are
"feeling really good" about their first contract, she said.
Two years ago, the workers at Quad Cities Die Casting cast out a large,
well-known international union and went independent. "If you think bosses are bad,
you should have seen our BA," said Matt Warren, Local 1174. The Quad Cities
independent union affiliated with UE and began learning how to mobilize and educate the
membership. The result, Warren said, was "lots of gains" in recent negotiations.
Cherly Funk and Teresa Conner, paraprofessionals from the
Newton, Iowa schools, told of how lack of respect, seniority rights and decent pay
propelled the schools custodians, kitchen workers, bus drivers and teachers
aides to organize Local 898 and gain a first contract. Patti Briels, Local 865,
took part in a UE campaign among school support staff for the Glenwood Community School
District that saw the union prevail in two units over two other choices on the
ballot. What amazes her the most about her first UE contract is the grievance system.
"They have to listen to us," Briels said.
Jane Walters, Local 855, introduced a new term to the unions
vocabulary: prairie-dogging. No longer are workers at Hawkeye Community College lifting
their heads only to duck at the first sign of trouble, not with a signed contract.
District Two Pres. Judy Atkins and New England delegates proudly
accompanied the leaders of the new UE local at the University of Vermont to the podium as
Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley pointed out that the unions triumph in an election last
December was the largest UE organizational victory last year and the largest victory by
any union in Vermont in a decade.
Rob Doekel, Local 267
Bringing the greetings of his 300-strong local, Rob Doekel, Local
267, reported the union is fighting hard for seniority rights in negotiations. Norma
Sprague, steward for second-shift custodians, spoke of grievance battles won and new
grievances brewing. Don English expressed his awe that UE members from all over New
England came out to rallies to show their support for the organizing drive, despite
Marlys Carter reported that her local, too, is fighting for a first
contract. Although "feeling kind of funny being here," she expressed her
gratitude to convention delegates who are hoping and praying that Local 821 gets a
contract with the Spencer School District. "So the school board may think
theyve won this battle, but they havent seen anything yet because we intend to
win the war," Carter declared.