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District 11 Discussion:
From Global Economy
To Shop-Floor Organizing


UE General President John Hovis   District 11 President Carl Rosen
UE General President John Hovis (left) and District 11 President Carl Rosen

Shop-floor organizing, politics and economy filled reports and discussion as leaders of UE locals from Nebraska to Wisconsin gathered here on Feb. 12-13 for the District 11 Council meeting.

In his remarks, District Pres. Carl Rosen warned of the possibility of economic recession. "I predicted a recession two years ago," said Rosen, "but that only means we are two years closer. Historically, the longer the expansion, the harder the fall, and we are now in the longest economic expansion in U.S. history."

High levels of household debt, foreign debt and an overvalued stock market are warning signs, according to the UE leader.

The labor protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last November indicated that global trade rules favoring multinational corporations have failed miserably to fulfill workers’ needs or protect the environment, Rosen said.


Compared to his days as a young union member in the 1960s, people today work longer hours for lower real wages, Genl. Pres. John Hovis said. Back then, the government told us we needed the war in Vietnam to keep the economy going, and today they tell us we need unrestricted trade to keep our jobs. Both are lies, said Hovis.

The rich have gotten richer by an average of 15 percent since 1995 while the average American family has about $33,000 in consumer debt, a 30 percent increase since 1995. "You might say there ought to be a law," said Hovis, "but I say there ought to be a Labor Party, and there won’t be a law until there is a Labor Party."


A common theme in the shop reports was the introduction of Kaizen work schemes by managers in pursuit of speed-up and ever-higher profit margins. John Ross of Local 888 at Meisner Electric in Newton, Iowa reported that Meisner’s version of Kaizen is something called "World Class Maintenance," which means that if your truck breaks down, you should have a mechanic waiting on the side of the road!

Delegates were also concerned about rising health insurance premiums, with increases ranging from 10 to 25 percent common during this negotiating cycle.

Robert Morris expressed the thanks of Local 1187 for the district’s support during the nine-month strike at CMI-Load King in Elk Point, S.D. Local 1187 members returned to work Nov. 18. Recent shop floor activity included the attempted dismissal of Local Pres. Jim Venard for "harassment" — defined by a boss as filing too many grievances! This caused another grievance to be quickly filed, and won. The boss in question will soon be departing.


Reporting on the union’s successful Iowa Political Action Day, Bill Austin of Local 893 noted that more than 50 UE members met with state legislators and Gov. Tom Vilsack. The governor promised to support state social workers and set up a UE liaison in his office. Wisconsin delegates made plans for their upcoming political action day. The council charted regional education programs. And the council also decided to send a delegation to Washington, D.C. to a mass demonstration in April against the International Monetary Fund.

"The Golden Rule is ‘he who has the gold makes the rules,’" suggested UE Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend in discussing the $2 billion to be spent in the 2000 elections, mostly by corporate donors. He pointed out that according to one study, the foreign policy of all four main presidential candidates is the same. We can never win if we try to play the money game, said Townsend; ultimately we will have to get out the vote to defeat whoever shapes up as the worst candidate.

The annual Valentines Dance on Saturday night, Feb. 12, ushered in an overnight snowfall that made delegates anxious about the drive home on Sunday. The dance and raffle raised more than $2,000 for the District 11 Political Action Fund to be used to send workers on trips to demonstrations and to raise political hell. Tom Dunne, Local 1172, raised $72 for organizing by Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) by supplying dancers with margaritas.

UE News - 03/00

Home -> UE News -> 2000 Archives -> Article

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