District 2 Council
Above left, District Pres. Peter Knowlton, who
chaired his first council meeting in February. Above, New Haven, Conn. UE activists take part in the extensive solidarity effort
that helped achieve a first contract at Berlin Health and Rehab. Local 254 delegates reported on the agreement with the
Over the two full days of UE District Two’s February council meeting, delegates leafleted nearby workplaces for
single-payer healthcare, participated in a workshop on building union power in transnational corporations and heard remarks by a
Massachusetts AFL-CIO official.
Rising early on Friday morning, volunteers from UE Locals 234 (Fairbanks Scales), 262 (Madico and Cole Hersee), 248 (Orr
school custodians), 223 (General Cable), and 204 (Burke Industries/Haskon) leafleted hundreds of workers. Their leaflet supported
single-payer healthcare and encouraged workers to contact UE to build an organizing effort in their workplace. Some UE volunteers took
their extra leaflets to the local shopping area, to continue the outreach.
OF UNION ELECTIONS,
"What if Presidential Elections Were like Union Elections?" That question was posed — and answered — by a
unique slide show produced by the national AFL-CIO and presented by the state federation secretary-treasurer, Kathy Casavant. The
presentation demonstrated the obstacles workers face when organizing following Labor Board rules and imagined what a Presidential election
would look like if confronted with the same obstacles. The slide show clearly illustrates what unorganized workers face under such an
undemocratic system of gaining representation.
Casavant briefly explained to delegates the efforts amongst labor and community groups to reinstate the Massachusetts
capital gains tax and treat unearned income in the same way as wages. The Democrats and Republicans repealed the capital gains tax a few
years back as part of the tax giveaways to the corporations and wealthy. Reinstating the tax is a partial response to the impending budget
crises faced by Massachusetts and every other state that is being "balanced" on the backs of poor and working people.
Despite grim news from locals of mass layoffs, bankruptcies, and pending plant closures, delegates also reported on how UE
members are fighting back to improve their contracts and to protect their jobs from plant sales, privatization schemes, and efforts by the
boss to downgrade their conditions. The highlight of the contract and wage settlement reports came from new UE Local 254, the workers of
Berlin Health and Rehabilitation, who after 16 months of hard struggle claimed significant progress in their first UE contract. (See:
In Berlin Nursing Home Workers' First Contract, Average Wage Increases Exceed 11%).
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bruce Klipple, in his first appearance before the district council as a national officer, gave a
wide-ranging report on developments within the union since the 2001 convention. In particular, he brought to delegates’ attention the
union’s financial condition and the recommendation of the General Executive Board that the 2004 convention be suspended.
The Council devoted considerable time discussing that GEB recommendation and the biennial convention issue. Delegates
participated in a spirited and comradely debate as they voiced their opposition to the recommendation and recited the reasons why the
union needed to keep annual conventions and be careful "not throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Russ Davis from Massachusetts Jobs with Justice reported on the coalition’s efforts to build a "Movement Toward
a New Social Contract."
The Organizing Report focused on the formation of the Regional Organizing Councils (ROCs) as a way to reinforce the
importance of involving the rank and file in organizing. Reporting on the morning leafleting, Cheryl Nutting of UE Local 234 and Fred
Garcia of UE Local 223 said the Taunton police were called to the scene but didn’t prevent the leafleting, to the dismay of a
company security guard. Bob South, UE Local 234, reported on the ROC in northern Vermont and Jonathan Kissam, UE Local 221,
reported on that local’s efforts to build organization amongst unorganized non-profits in the Burlington, Vermont area. James Haslam
of the Vermont Workers’ Center told of that group’s herculean efforts to assist UE members at Berlin Health and Rehab through the
"Justice for Health Care Workers" campaign.
Sec.-Treas. Kissam reported on his trip to Porto Alegre, Brazil as part of the UE delegation to the World Social Forum.
More than 50,000 delegates from all over the world, representing the best of the world labor movement, came together with community
organizations to meet and discuss alternatives and ways to combat corporate globalization.
Intl. Rep. Carol Lambiase led a workshop entitled "Transnational Corporations, International Connections and
Building Union Power." Putting together slides, charts, and graphs, and with solid participation from the delegates, an analysis of
locals’ strengths and vulnerabilities as part of a transnational corporation came together. Then delegates discussed ways of how they
could use the analysis to strengthen the organization at home and build greater solidarity with their co-workers abroad.
Delegates got together by state to make plans for their spring state-wide political action day. Report backs on these days
will be on the agenda at the next District Council meeting in Greenfield, June 14 and 15.
Delegates were welcomed by Paul Rose, president of the host local, UE Local 204.
UE News - 3/02