Reports of Active,
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
Reports and analysis of this high-level of activity shared the agenda of
the General Executive Board (GEB) with the unions 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 theres
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
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
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
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
UEs 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
UEs international work will continue to stress organizing and
worker-to-worker contact in the unions relations with Mexicos independent
labor federation, the FAT, while at the same time seeking to broaden the unions
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 ICEMs emphasis on active support of unions in organizing
and collective bargaining struggles.
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 UEs 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
partys 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 unions five-year plan, those subsidies ended Nov. 1, 1997 and
UE districts are now self-sustaining.
In another move to improve the unions fiscal health, UE has
suspended its monthly subsidy of Mexicos 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.