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TEMCO Workers
Choose UE; Reject Boss’s
Fear Campaign


New UE members at TEMCO celebrate their victory ...
Pratt, Drakulic

‘UE is run by us: the jitney drivers, welders, operators. We, the workers, run this union.’

That message, declared by Mike Drakulic (in photo at left) carried the day last month when a majority of his 250 co-workers at The Electric Materials Co. (TEMCO) in North East, Pa. voted for UE representation in a National Labor Relations Board election. Drakulic, a 27-year TEMCO employee, and Crystal Pratt, a 23-year employee, are shown here on their way to demand recognition of the union. Pratt holds a petition demanding recognition signed by a majority of the workforce. When the bosses took refuge behind closed doors, Pratt read the letter aloud. Above, new UE members at TEMCO celebrate their victory.

The 239 employees of The Electric Materials Company (TEMCO) will have UE backing as they insist on reversing a decline in wage and benefits at the specialty copper mill. Rank-and-file volunteers from UE locals had a crucial role in a closely-fought Dec. 9 election, offsetting the employers’ intensive anti-union campaign.

In business for more than 85 years, TEMCO provided decent wages and benefits as previous family owners attempted to compete with union shops in the area. TEMCO wages were once on par with rates at General Electric’s plant in nearby Erie.


However, a downward slide began when TEMCO was bought by United Stars Holdings, based in Beloit, Wis. The new owner eliminated workers’ cost-of-living adjustment, personal and vacation days, the Christmas bonus and other benefits.

Concerned workers contacted UE.

When the company snatched away retirees’ life and health insurance benefits, many workers thought the slide had gone too far. The victims were now those who had already devoted their working lives to TEMCO’s success and had retired in the expectation of receiving those benefits. "These retired workers didn’t do anything wrong, all they did was get old," one current employee commented.

Two years of steady union organizing reached a peak on Oct. 27 when a group of more than 50 TEMCO workers marched into the boss’s office with a petition for union recognition signed by a majority of the workforce. Although bosses took refuge behind closed doors, Crystal Pratt read aloud the letter signed by her and co-workers demanding recognition of UE as their union.


The employer refused the workers’ request, making necessary the Dec. 9 election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The company then unleashed an anti-union campaign of lies and intimidation, trashing the union in captive audience meetings and on a video sent to each employee’s home. A "fact of the day" bulletin board loomed large above the work area. Planted anti-union rumors circulated widely in the shop. The bosses used the tools of division and fear in a desperate attempt to divert the workers’ solidarity movement.

TEMCO workers had the active assistance of rank-and-file UE members, who took part in home visits and attended meetings and rallies and offered written statements of support. Essential to the union victory, the knowledge and experience shared by UE members gave TEMCO workers confidence in the face of the boss-spread anti-union lies and rumors.

A "truth squad" of volunteers and organizers visited TEMCO workers the week before the election with the facts about UE.


Randy Majewski, chairperson of the UE Local 506 Organizing Committee, and Local 618 Pres. Betsy Potter arranged for more than a dozen volunteers to spend hours of personal time assisting the TEMCO workers. Rick Mong, Local 506, and LuAnn Robbins, Jan Tomich and Bill Callahan, Local 751, spent weeks doing home visits. During the years-long campaign, Locals 506, 618, 611 and 751 all participated in the successful effort.

Although the bosses’ campaign had its effect, in the Dec. 9 election the union prevailed by a vote of 119-117. Workers cheered their victory in the sunny parking lot, although recognizing that many challenges lie ahead. The new UE members at TEMCO began preparing for negotiations and are determined to take the election victory forward to a first contract in the new year.

In addition to the crucial rank-and-file support, TEMCO workers were backed by the exhaustive efforts of District Six Pres. John Lambiase, Intl. Rep. Deb Gornall and Field Org. Michael Wilmore, with the assistance of other field staff and the UE National and Washington offices.

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