District 11 Meeting
And Political Action
For Workers’ Defense
UE Dist. 11 Pres. Carl Rosen
The local leaders from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin who met here Feb. 16-17 as the UE District 11
Council clearly understood that organizing the unorganized and political action represented answers to attacks by the bosses in both the
private and public sectors.
Although times are hard for working people due to layoffs and the mismanagement of the federal budget, workers are
fighting back and UE members are helping to lead that fightback, declared District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen in opening the discussion.
Rosen pointed out that Local 1193 members at St. Mary’s Nursing Home in Milwaukee’s inner-city have lost their jobs;
their employer was one of 12 nursing homes in the city shut down due to a lack of fair reimbursement for Medicaid patients — at a time
when the military budget is enjoying the largest increase in more than 20 years. Most of that increase has little to do with fighting
terrorism, he added.
The shop reports that followed revealed how many UE members are taking the fight beyond their own immediate boss to win.
Allen-Bradley workers are gearing up for a contract fight this spring through mobilization and education, reported Local 1111 Pres. Bob
Rudek. In addition, he said, Local 1111 leaders traveled to Erie, Pa. to discuss strategies for fighting job cuts and subcontracting
with the officers of Local 506.
Local 896, which represents graduate employees of the University of Iowa, is fighting budget cuts by going on the offense,
said Local 896 Chief Steward Michael Marchman. State politicians were brought to a legislative forum in Iowa City and grilled on
budget priorities. And Local 896 is growing stronger, recruiting 150 new members in the last three months, he said.
Also in Iowa, members of Local 893 lobbied at the state capitol and secured the allocation of additional state monies
which preserved members’ jobs, reported Bill Austin. The president of the statewide, public-sector UE local suggested that the
best way to convince Iowa politicians to support UE programs is to build a permanent network of UE-represented public employees in the
Local 1114 Chief Steward Guadalupe Alva from Coach & Car in suburban Chicago told delegates about his
co-workers’ successful 10-week strike. Workers returned Oct. 15 after a favorable ruling from the National Labor Relations Board that
prevented the company from cutting wages and benefits. Joining him were shop leaders Abel Diaz and Marcos Lugo and Lugo’s
son, Dario. (The younger Lugo picketed with his father and volunteered to be a picket captain, too.) Alva and Diaz said that UE
members at Coach & Car learned much about solidarity in their struggle.
The Coach & Car workers expressed their thanks for the financial help received from other locals, and singled out for
appreciation the Local 1111 members who got up one morning at 4 o’clock and drove two hours from Milwaukee to picket with the Local 1114
Alva and Diaz pointed out the strike was prolonged by the company’s misuse of temporary workers. The union worked with
Jobs with Justice, the Day Labor Organizing Committee, State Sen. Del Valle and V&V Supremo workers to beat the boss. Coach & Car
workers testified at Chicago City Council hearings in November on the need for an ordinance regulating temporary employment agencies.
THE INSURANCE MESS
Local 1135 Pres. Shirley Harrison reported that her membership at Tulip Corp. won a new three-year agreement that
gains an additional 20 cents for the lowest-paid machine operators beyond the general increase for all workers over the next three years.
Local 1135 beat back management’s plan of shifting 90 percent of the burden of health insurance increases to the members, but insurance
rates are too high, Harrison said.
Local 1172 Pres. John Fakler echoed the problems with high insurance premiums. Company attempts to illegally shift
insurance costs to members are being contested by Local 888, Meisner Electric, Newton, Iowa, and Local 1112, Badger Die Casting,
Load King bosses in Elk Point, S.D. learned their lesson from the strike of three years ago, said Kim Peniska,
Local 1187. Negotiations of only a day and a half netted wage increases totaling $1.80 over four years and only small increases in
A southeastern Wisconsin Regional Organizing Council (ROC) has been in operation since November. Mark Muszynski, a
Local 1111 member who is acting co-chair, stressed that although they have always been involved in building this union, the ROC gives
members a permanent role in organizing the unorganized. With the help of national staff, ROC members have identified target shops and have
begun the process of developing one-on-one contacts with non-union workers. Muszynski quoted a famous WWF wrestler in saying, "Stay
in touch, and see what the ROC’s got planned."
Locals from Iowa and South Dakota, states that have banned union-shop clauses in contracts, reported they have added
dues-payers to their ranks. Organizing committee members from two Chicago area shops addressed the council, stressing the need of the
workers in their shops for a union like UE.
"Democracy means power," declared UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis, who addressed the continuing need for a
union with UE’s unique values. "UE is about membership control," he said. When workers take control of their own destiny, they
present a formidable force. UE’s rank-and-file unionism fosters financial integrity, Hovis said. That means financial disclosure and
full participation of the membership in the decision-making process.
Rank-and-file unionism encourages independent political action and produces committed, dedicated leaders and staff, Hovis
suggested. UE’s style of unionism comes under attack, from business unionists who prefer to live and be paid like a boss, bosses who
want to co-opt local leaders, and politicians who would prefer to ignore workers’ needs. "The bosses also understand that UE’s
work to build international solidarity represents a threat to exploitation," he added.
"Our objective to build a unified, all-inclusive leadership and membership represents a threat to the racists, the
sexists, the homophobes and others who would seek to divide our ranks by perpetuating their prejudices," the national union president
Delegates also participated in a workshop on identifying multinational owners of UE shops and how to build international
solidarity as a way to fight back. District Pres. Rosen reported on his participation in a UE delegation to the World Social Forum in
Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Delegates discussed the feasibility of holding UE conventions every other year, instead of the present annual convention.
They agreed to continue that discussion at local meetings and the June district meeting. Delegates endorsed UE participation at the Labor
Party convention in July.
UE News - 3/02