Pat Huban, Local 212
This resolution speaks loudly to what we
plan to do," said Pat Huban, Local 212, of the "Stop
Plant Closings" policy statement. The delegate linked his support for the
resolution directly to the Beloit Corp. plan to close his plant on Oct. 31.
The Dalton, Mass. manufacturer of paper-making machinery, still profitable
after 154 years of operations, is one of two union plants within a 150-mile radius slated
for closure, Huban said. Two unprofitable non-union plants will continue in operation.
"Were going to try and fight," Huban said.
Many of the delegates spoke from first-hand experience of
corporate-mandated job loss in endorsing the resolutions call for both federal
legislation and strong contract language.
"We have to legislate at the bargaining table," Maken Dodge,
Local 124, told the convention. "I urge all locals to negotiate strong, concise
plant-closing language without loopholes."
Local 124 members worked for General Electric until their plant was sold
to Genicom in 1982. The contract continued the plant closing language contained in the
UE-GE National Agreement. Its good language, with good benefits, Dodge said, but it
had a loophole: Plant closing benefits are to be paid when the Waynesboro, Va. plant
ceases operations. "Genicom has gone from 4,000 workers down to 43. Yet they will not
admit that this is a plant closing."
Local 124 is fighting for benefits, Dodge said. "Its not by
choice that we leave these companies. They should be forced to continue benefits for those
displaced workers until they reach retirement age. Theres nothing sadder than a
55-year-old burger flipper with no benefits, no hope for a better job. Pension benefits
and insurance should continue with increases until retirement age."
Leonard King, Local 947, and Conrad Huffnagel, Local 777,
also endorsed strong contract language. Companies tell us they cant afford contracts
with better benefits, but give away tens of millions of dollars in severance pay to top
executives, noted Ida Betts, Local 1094. "We have to fight for our
portion," she insisted.
"We must hold our politicians accountable when they allow jobs to be
moved out," declared Ray Pompano, Local 243. "We must push our
politicians to make it illegal for profitable companies to move elsewhere to make greater
Butch Pridgen, Local 120
Butch Pridgen, Local 120, agreed with the resolutions call for a
Job Destruction Penalty Act. "Workers and communities are being held hostage,"
he said. Tom Dunn, Local 1172, suggested that the Job Destruction Penalty Act
direct a portion of any fines imposed on companies to worker education and training.
BTR, a British-based company, "was the kind of company to come in and
just rip you apart layoffs, firings, whatever," recalled Paul Rose, Local
204. Haskon workers expected better things from the American company that bought the
plant only to discover the new bosses were looting the pension plan. To protect
jobs and the community, Rose concluded, "you need more legislation to protect
Hakim Blacks, Local 1127
Two delegates representing workers at Steeltech in Milwaukee told how
the union kept the plant operating when the company appeared to be on the brink of
bankruptcy. "If it wasnt for the action of the members of the union standing up
and speaking up to the politicians, I dont believe Id be here right now,"
said Hakim Blacks, Local 1127. Brian Childs, Local 1127, expressed his appreciation
for the assistance of the National union in the successful effort to find work for the
troubled metal fabrication plant.
Joe Chavez, District 10, regretted the closure of the Friction
plant in southern California by the Echlin, Inc., which cost Local 1090 members their
jobs. "We need to fight," he said. "We need to do whatever we have to do to
keep fighting. We cant stand still and say, no, its not my