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Local UE-GE
Leaders Hear
Call to Action

PITTSBURGH

Organizing Director Bob Kingsley UE-GE Conference Board Delegates
Dave Kitchen, Local 506 Chief Plant Steward

Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley (top, left) gives organizing picture; local delegates consider reports.
 

Leaders from UE locals in the General Electric chain heard a call to action on organizing, political action and preparations for national bargaining when the UE-GE Conference Board met here Dec. 11, 1998.

General Electric is preparing to worsen prescription drug coverage by limiting access to newly developed drugs, warned Steve Tormey, conference board secretary. He indicated that this area will be a major topic of discussion in the year 2000 negotiations.

Following a discussion on the developments within the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE Unions (CBC), delegates agreed with Local 506 Bus. Agent Pat Rafferty that UE must continue to work to improve the effectiveness of the multi-union coalition. "UE has a voice and credibility in negotiations," noted Rafferty, who chaired the meeting.

A CBC meeting scheduled for June in Memphis will consist of local union leaders, increasing rank-and-file participation; this will be the second-ever such gathering in a non-contract year.

UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley shared with local leaders the grim statistics about union membership in the U.S., pointing out that the working class is less organized today than it was 50 or even 30 years ago. Declining union strength leaves workers with less bargaining power when confronting corporations like GE and "is one of the root causes of the problems we discuss in forums like this," he said.

ORGANIZING GAINS

The good news, Kingsley said, is that UE is organizing, winning five representation elections since the August 1998 National convention. The quality and effectiveness of UE organizing is enhanced by rank-and-file participation, he said, noting that many attending the meeting have assisted in recent campaigns. GE locations are among those where UE currently has active campaigns, Kingsley added.

UE Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend predicted the new session of Congress would revive anti-worker legislation like fast-track authorization, legalization of company unions and repeal of overtime. In particular, Townsend said, the Republican majority will push ahead to privatize Social Security. "This is the corporate and Wall Street line," he said; "they want to get their hands on that money."

Reporting on the recent Labor Party convention, Townsend urged a renewed effort to build the new party. He insisted that only the Labor Party is prepared to put a stop to the flow of U.S. jobs to Mexico and beyond, and reported that the number of workers employed in maquiladora-zone plants in Mexico has topped one million.

In local reports, a number of delegates announced increases in shop employment.

EFFECTIVE STEWARDS SYSTEM

A record low number of written grievances in 1998 at the Erie plant was due to the work of stewards and chief stewards in resolving numerous problems with management in the buildings before going to paperwork, reported Dave Kitchen, Local 506 chief plant steward. He also noted that four UE locals in Erie, including GE Locals 506 and 618, participated in a successful unity rally when the KKK came to town.

Local 751 members at Mahoning Glass in Niles, Ohio are resisting concessions and refusing to be whipsawed against a GE plant in Kentucky, as the company seeks to exploit overcapacity in its lighting division, reported Chief Steward Ed Havaich. He also said Local 751 members are closely policing GE’s Six Sigma program.

UE News - 01/99


Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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