District 11 Discussion:
From Global Economy
To Shop-Floor Organizing
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.
WE NEED A LABOR PARTY
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."
KAIZEN WORK SCHEMES
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
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.
IOWA POLITICAL ACTION
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
UE News - 03/00