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
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
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.
UE MEMBERS VOLUNTEER
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
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
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
UE News - 01/00