Labor Anti-War Message,
Addresses Per-Capita Changes
UE General officers: Pres. John Hovis, Sec.-Treas. Bruce Klipple, and Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley.
The UE General Executive Board, meeting in the union’s headquarters here Jan. 16-17, endorsed the founding statement of
the newly organized U.S. Labor Against the War coalition (see: Union Leaders New Coalition- U.S. Labor Against the War). The Board agreed to publicize union-backed anti-war activity
throughout UE and further internal discussions about the issues behind the drive to war with Iraq.
Most of the two-day meeting, however, was devoted to consideration of the state of the union, with discussions continuing
late into the night on Thursday, Jan. 16.
The GEB consists of the three national officers and the presidents and secretaries of the union’s districts. The Board
meets quarterly; the January meeting was the first since the national convention in September and the election of district officers in
The Board devoted many hours to considering a new per-capita payment plan to be brought to district council meetings by
June for comment and to the convention in August for action. (Per capita is the per-member fee each local pays monthly to the national
union. In some unions, every penny of dues goes directly to the national headquarters; a portion is then sent to the locals. In UE, locals
collect dues and maintain control over their finances.)
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bruce J. Klipple examined the scenarios previously under discussion and the underlying revenue
assumptions. GEB members then reviewed feedback from district council meetings last year. "There was a high level of discussion at
the district councils, and most local leaders were open-minded about the proposals," commented Genl. Pres. John Hovis.
INSISTING ON FAIRNESS
In their wide-ranging discussion, the GEB members agreed a system should feature fairness, ability to pay, and simplicity,
while at the same time meeting the national union’s revenue goals. Board members insisted that a new system must be equitable.
After carefully reviewing the range of wage levels around the union, the Board agreed on a seven-tiered structure for
per-capita payments based on an annual calculation of the average wage in each union-represented workplace.
In his organizational report, Kingsley said the post-convention period as been "as busy as any in recent memory"
for the union. As it happened, "the biggest and most successful fights have been defensive struggles," he explained:
UE members struck General Electric for two days to defend their health care benefits. (See: Two-Day Strike Against GE Protests Medical Cost-Shifting)
New UE Local 1159 members are confronting Azteca Foods over its unfair labor practices; not one of them has crossed
the picket line since the strike began Sept. 30. (See: Azteca Workers Still Strong In Their Fight for Justice.)
After a 17-month struggle to gain a first contract, the UE Local 254 members at Berlin Health and Rehabilitation in
Vermont again bested the hired unionbusters there by prevailing in an election.
UE Local 893, IUP, convinced a raiding union to abandon its disruptive antics.
UE Local 684 members at TEMCO won a favorable decision by a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge
and went on to negotiate a settlement of the outstanding charges. (See New Year Seems Brighter For Local 684 at TEMCO.)
UE prevailed in a disputed election at TDI that took place just before the 67th UE Convention in September. (See: UE Wins TDI Election)
Meanwhile, organizing campaigns are moving forward in California, Illinois, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.
The Regional Organizing Council Institute in Vermont was an important development, Kingsley said. Rank-and-file volunteers
from around the country worked on an organizing campaign there, "and went home energized to work harder in their areas," the UE
officer said. The Regional Organizing Councils (ROCs) are a significant part of UE’s overall organizing strategy.
In Washington, reported Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend, unions are bracing for anti-labor attacks from the
Republican-controlled Congress. "It’s unclear what the Republicans will work on other than tax cuts," he said, predicting the
list will be topped by anti-worker "reforms" of overtime and private pension plans. In addition, Townsend pointed to the
anti-labor bias of what he termed the "homeland security fraud" and other assaults on civil liberties.
UE is preparing for another round of state-based political action, with the union’s rank and file converging on state
capitols to advance a pro-worker agenda, Townsend said. UE’s first political action day in Virginia in many years took place just two
days before the GEB meeting, and some state conferences have already been scheduled.
Townsend also noted the growth of local anti-war activities around the country and observed that UE took an early,
forward-looking position on war dangers.
NO TO WAR
Although some anti-war activity by labor has taken place in some sections of the nation, the beginning of a national labor
anti-war coalition occurred at a meeting in Chicago on Jan. 11, reported Rosen. UE had a presence at this meeting, which was attended by
representatives of some sizeable labor organizations, he said.
The GEB voted to donate $1,000 to U.S. Labor Against the War and to publicize the coalition’s statement around the union
as part of a broadened discussion about the possibility of a war against Iraq and the underlying issues. The Board also encouraged
attendance at upcoming anti-war rallies, particularly those on Feb. 15 in New York and other cities.
"This is clearly an issue that is on people’s minds," said Pres. Hovis. Sec.-Treas. Klipple will be
responsible for coordinating the union’s anti-war activities.
Since the convention, reported International Labor Affairs Dir. Robin Alexander, the union has hosted delegations
by Mexican and Japanese trade unionists. The three national coordinators of Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) had an extended meeting
with UE’s officers to discuss problems of mutual concern. UE officers also met with a high-ranking delegation from Japan’s National
Confederation of Trade Unions. (See: UE Hosts Zenroren Leaders Studying 'Living Wage'.)
Alexander recommended that the Board pay attention to developments in Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, with regard to
labor issues, and to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Free Trade Area of the Americas.
(The article above has been modified from the version which appeared in the print edition of the UE News.)