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63rd National
UE Convention
 

Celebration of
Organizing Victories

98convlogo_vsm.gif (2461 bytes)


 

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 23 years, she was missing the first day of school as a para-educator in the Spencer Community School District.

Carter’s 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

Iowa’s 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 school’s 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 union’s 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 union’s 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 snowfall.

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 they’ve won this battle, but they haven’t seen anything yet because we intend to win the war," Carter declared.

 

 

Convention Welcomes Carl Home

 

Carl Olsen, Local 248

 

It is good to be back," Carl Olsen said to thunderous applause. Nearly two years ago, the former UE Local 284 president stood in the same hall to announce that his local’s campaign to prevent closure of the J.C. Rhodes plant in New Bedford, Mass. was at an end.

Olsen came to this year’s UE convention to tell delegates of his return to the union.

Olsen took a job as a custodian for the richest school system in southeastern Massachusetts. His co-workers, who knew of his union background because of the highly-publicized Rhodes campaign, came to him with their complaints of favoritism and unfair conditions.

Clearly, his new workplace needed a union. "In my mind there’s no question, there’s only one union for the job, Olsen said." Groups of three began meeting at his home. Within weeks, Olsen had achieved 100% sign-up.

Despite the employer’s lies about UE and attempts to convince workers to back another union, Olsen and his co-workers voted unanimously for UE.

Negotiations for a first contract are near completion. Olsen said he expects to be paying dues again soon.

"Two years ago when I said the Rhodes plant was closing, I said I didn’t want to say goodbye, rather I was taking a leave of absence," Olsen said. "Officially, I am canceling that leave of absence."

 


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