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63rd National
UE Convention
 

Delegates Demand:
‘Stop Plant Closings’

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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.

"We’re going to try and fight," Huban said.

Many of the delegates spoke from first-hand experience of corporate-mandated job loss in endorsing the resolution’s 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. It’s 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. "It’s not by choice that we leave these companies. They should be forced to continue benefits for those displaced workers until they reach retirement age. There’s 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 can’t 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 profits."

 

Butch Pridgen, Local 120

 

Butch Pridgen, Local 120, agreed with the resolution’s 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 you."

 

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 wasn’t for the action of the members of the union standing up and speaking up to the politicians, I don’t believe I’d 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 can’t stand still and say, no, it’s not my responsibility."


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