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GEB Hears
Reports of Active,
Growing Union

PITTSBURGH

Since the UE National Convention in September 1997, UE has waged four strikes in four different districts, won 10 out of 12 union elections and settled 12 contracts.

Reports and analysis of this high-level of activity shared the agenda of the General Executive Board (GEB) with the union’s education, international and political action work as UE leaders from around the country gathered here on Jan. 8.

The GEB issued charters to seven new UE locals in five states.

"Something may be going on in the labor movement, but there’s definitely something going on with us," said Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley, who described the fourth quarter 1997 as "one of the best fourth quarters for organizing" the union has experienced in years.

Overall, labor organizing in the United States appears to be on the rise, "with a few more unions picking up the ball and running with it," and shrinking unemployment rates leading to greater worker militancy, Kingsley said.

The UE story has been characterized by careful planning, a hard-working staff and widespread rank-and-file involvement.

SCHOOLED IN STRUGGLE

More than half the bargaining units where UE triumphed in representation elections are comprised of classified school district employees, Kingsley reported. Both money and better treatment are issues for the school custodians, kitchen workers, bus drivers, teachers’ assistants and clerical workers who are organizing with UE, he said.

The two most recent organizing wins, GEB members were told, involved the 330 service and maintenance employees of the University of Vermont and the 120 service, clerical and paraprofessional employees of Hawkeye Community College in Iowa. (See Page 3.)

Significant rank-and-file participation from UE members in New England and beyond, and the unanimous support of Vietnamese and Bosnian immigrant workers on campus were critical to victory at the University of Vermont, noted District Two Pres. Judy Atkins.

Dir. of Org. Kingsley reported that there is a significant amount of work underway in attempting to organize "sister shops" of UE-represented workplaces, ongoing affiliation campaigns, card drives at five locations and continuing work around UE’s special North Carolina project. That project involves building a union of University of North Carolina employees in a state that denies collective bargaining rights to public employees.

UE is engaged in 14 different struggles for first contracts, with positive results guaranteed in 11, Kingsley said. The organizing director also reported on the Echlin Workers Alliance (see Page 4) and the organizing schools for rank-and-file UE members planned for this spring.

WIDER WORLD WEB

UE’s international work will continue to stress organizing and worker-to-worker contact in the union’s relations with Mexico’s independent labor federation, the FAT, while at the same time seeking to broaden the union’s international contacts, reported Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark. "Since we face the same bosses around the world, we ought to be connected with other unions around the world," he said.

UE will affiliate with the Belgium-based International Federation of Chemical, Engineering, Mine and General Workers Unions (ICEM), which represents workers in the lighting and plastics sectors. The GEB ratified the officers’ proposal for affiliation based on the ICEM’s emphasis on active support of unions in organizing and collective bargaining struggles.

EDUCATION

The National Union is ready to offer workshops on negotiating health insurance at upcoming district meetings, reported Genl. Pres. John Hovis. In targeted areas, "train-the-trainer" workshops will prepare UE organizers for training local leaders on presentation of stewards and officer training classes. Reviewing the National Leadership Institute held last month, GEB members discussed the selection process and follow-up, agreeing that participants should be encouraged to "take the next step" by taking on greater responsibility within the union.

UE Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend forecast "McCarthy-like attacks" on the labor movement from its political foes in the November elections and renewed attempts in Congress to legalize company unions, eliminate overtime pay and grant bigger tax breaks to the rich.

Involvement in the Labor Party within UE’s ranks continues to grow, reported Townsend. He noted that the IUE has endorsed the Labor Party.

A proposed electoral strategy for the Labor Party will be presented to the party’s Interim National Council later this month; District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen, who represented the union on the committee hammering out the strategy, gave the GEB a report. (See next issue for details.)

A two-decades-old discussion within the GEB on National Union subsidies to districts is over, observed Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark. As part of financial housecleaning in the union’s five-year plan, those subsidies ended Nov. 1, 1997 and UE districts are now self-sustaining.

In another move to improve the union’s fiscal health, UE has suspended its monthly subsidy of Mexico’s FAT. Those regular payments have been as much as $2,000 and as high as $4,000. However, the FAT still receives support from the UE Solidarity Fund and the UE Education and Research Fund, Clark noted. The officers stressed the union remains fully committed to the UE-FAT Strategic Organizing Alliance.

UE News - 01/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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