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63rd National
UE Convention
 

Union Organizing
Confronts
Terroristic Bosses

98convlogo_vsm.gif (2461 bytes)


 

UE Director
of Organization
Robert Kingsley

 

The terrorism that has already come to America is the denial of democracy on a daily basis to our nation’s 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 union’s 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 union’s top organizer said. "Our response, and we have no choice, is to fight the fear."

No example of unionbusting is uglier than Echlin’s 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 don’t do something soon, believe it or not our kids will truly suffer." — Bill Callahan, Local 751.

"I didn’t 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, that’s why these fat rats don’t want any kind of organization in their places. We will keep fighting for strength in numbers and remain united." — Sue Smock, Local 506.

"It was 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.

"I am really proud to say that we’ve 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 membership’s participation is crucial to the success of the union’s organizing program, the union officer proposed. Kingsley hailed the some 70 graduates from the union’s organizing schools earlier this year and the more than 240 UE members from 70 locals who came off the job to assist with organizing. "That’s the kind of commitment that is going to be required to rebuild this labor movement," he said.

At Kingsley’s 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 we’re going to rebuild this movement, we’ve got to act like a movement and in a movement everybody is moving, and that’s 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. "We’re working longer and harder for less," Kingsley said. Meanwhile, "the lion’s 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 percent."

UE is doing more than saying labor needs to organize, Kingsley told the convention. "We’re working at it and we’re 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 union’s resources should be shifted to those regions where there is greater possibility of success, Kingsley said. The record of the past two years shows UE’s "Factories-plus" approach is working, with organizing success recorded across economic sectors.


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