The terrorism that has already come to America is the denial of
democracy on a daily basis to our nations workplaces," declared Dir. of Org.
Bob Kingsley in his convention report. He accused employers of "waging an ugly
war of firings, humiliation and intimidation" to deny workers their basic civil right
of organizing unions.
The unions top organizer paid tribute to the UE members who are
helping to organize the union and said the truer the statement "the members build
this union," the greater our success.
As a civil right, organizing should be simple and straightforward,
Kingsley said. Instead, organizing is becoming "harder, nastier, meaner and
dirtier." At a Baltimore plant the CEO promised his assembled employees, "Things
are going to get ugly around here." And, said Kingsley, they did firings
followed postponement of a production bonus.
Keith, a worker fired from a northeastern Ohio plastics company just
before the convention, became one of 10,000 workers fired every year for organizing; his
employer is now among the one in every three which responds to organizing by firing
workers, Kingsley said.
FIGHT THE FEAR
"The idea, of course, is to strike fear into the hearts of those who
seek to exercise their rights," the unions top organizer said. "Our
response, and we have no choice, is to fight the fear."
No example of unionbusting is uglier than Echlins use of nearly 200
armed thugs to beat back support for an independent union at one of its auto-parts plants
in Mexico, Kingsley said. "They did exactly what every boss in this country, yours
included, would like to be able to do."
Polls repeatedly show that the typical worker would like to have a union
but is blocked from that goal by employer terrorism, the UE officer said.
"We must work to change the laws which prevent the abuse of working
people," Kingsley declared. We must reclaim organizing as a civil right. We must work
to build a Labor Party that can take a leadership role on this issue." And, he said,
the union must find a way out of the "Labor Board" box that limits organizing.
MEMBERS BUILD THEIR UNION
if we dont do something soon, believe it or not our kids will truly suffer."
Bill Callahan, Local 751.
"I didnt realize
how good I had it working in a union shop until I saw these people struggling to work 12
hours a day at minimum wage ... yet afraid to ask for more, for fear of losing their job.
Luann Robbins, Local 751.
"I use to
work for non-union shops. I had no dignity or pride in my work. I just wanted to tell you
we need to keep organizing to remain strong.... Unions are good, thats why these fat
rats dont want any kind of organization in their places. We will keep fighting for
strength in numbers and remain united." Sue Smock, Local 506.
some experience. I just want to tell you that without that type of education and hands-on
experience, I would never have believed I had the type of strength inside me to go out and
actually try to organize... I had a dream also, that all UE brothers and sisters are
organizers. Organize the unorganized!" Ed Byard, Local 262.
really proud to say that weve got to remember the members run this union, but they
also build this union. We have to do that, you guys."
Charlene Winchell, Local 1121.
While the UE field staff is to work in these difficult conditions, the
memberships participation is crucial to the success of the unions organizing
program, the union officer proposed. Kingsley hailed the some 70 graduates from the
unions organizing schools earlier this year and the more than 240 UE members from 70
locals who came off the job to assist with organizing. "Thats the kind of
commitment that is going to be required to rebuild this labor movement," he said.
At Kingsleys request the rank-and-file organizing volunteers present
rose to enthusiastic applause. He also asked organizing school graduates to speak on their
experiences. (Statements and photos appear at left)
"We need to go still deeper into the ranks," Kingsley said,
encouraging delegates to make use of the packets of 10 cards distributed at the
convention. "Those cards are an invitation to an organized worker, an invitation to
organize, an invitation to justice, an invitation to dignity, an invitation to UE."
He asked each delegate to hand their cards to 10 unorganized workers, "when you are
out around town," at bowling, after church, at a bar.
"If were going to rebuild this movement, weve got to act
like a movement and in a movement everybody is moving, and thats why we are talking
about these cards," Kingsley said.
REVERSE THE GAP
Although unions represented 30 percent of the U.S. workforce just 30 years
ago, today the figure is only 14 percent. "Every percentage point drop is a new
invitation to exploitation," Kingsley insisted.
Organizing is necessary to reverse the present decline in working-class
living standards and the growing gap between rich and poor, the UE officer declared.
"Were working longer and harder for less," Kingsley said. Meanwhile,
"the lions share of the wealth created by our long hard labors is funneled
directly to the richest of the rich. Ninety percent of all new wealth created in our
country in the last 15 years has gone to the 20 percent of the people who are the
wealthiest and 62 percent of all new wealth created has gone to the richest 1
UE is doing more than saying labor needs to organize, Kingsley told the
convention. "Were working at it and were working hard."
The past year is the sixth consecutive year that a thousand or more
workers were organized under the UE banner, and in the 11 months since the previous
convention UE signed 11 first contracts, he reported.
With UE entering the third year of its five-year plan, the national
leadership believes the unions resources should be shifted to those regions where
there is greater possibility of success, Kingsley said. The record of the past two years
shows UEs "Factories-plus" approach is working, with organizing success
recorded across economic sectors.