Call to Action
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
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.
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
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
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 GEs Six Sigma