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Union Action, Policy
Discussed by District 11

MILWAUKEE

Economic action and political action in defense of working people dominated reports to the UE District 11 Council meeting here last month, with delegates also dealing with important internal union issues.

Carl Rosen
District 11 President
Carl Rosen
   

District Pres. Carl Rosen laid out the details of a fragile but growing economy which added to delegates' first-hand accounts in their shop reports of how the fight for working people’s right to share in that prosperity goes on every day in Midwestern factories, offices and educational institutions.

While wage increases are besting inflation, Rosen said, we are working more hours, companies continue to attack retiree health benefits and the number of the uninsured continues to rise. Organized workers continue to stay ahead through persistence.

A case in point on the western reaches of the district, Pres. Rosen reported, was the unfair labor practice strike of Local 1187 in Elk Point, S.D. Delegates collected more than $400 for their brothers and sisters in Local 1187.

Politically, UE members are taking their message straight to the politicians. District Southwest Coordinator Bill Austin and Local 893 Pres. Dan Kelley told the council about yet another successful Iowa political action day in Des Moines. In addition to face-to-face sessions with legislators, Iowa members met directly with newly elected Gov. Tom Vilsack. Tom Dunne of Local 1172 in Milwaukee announced plans for a Wisconsin Political Action Day in the state capital, Madison, in which union members will likewise take their concerns to legislators.

District Sec.-Treas. Bob Rudek congratulated delegates for helping to make last November’s Labor Party convention a success. With the UE rank-and-file leading the way, said Rudek and other delegates, it’s time to join the Labor Party in going on the offensive to protect Social Security.

Genl. Pres. John Hovis, in his remarks to the council, reaffirmed UE’s commitment to the Labor Party and urged members to "get involved in local, grassroots politics, from school boards on up."

TOUGH QUESTIONS

Delegates tackled some tough questions about the structure of the national union. Genl. Pres. Hovis led off, reporting on a recent General Executive Board discussion that examined the possibility of staggering the schedule of national union events. This discussion took place, he explained, as part of the National union’s continuing efforts to balance activities and finances.

While a wide range of opinions were expressed, the majority of delegates appeared committed to annual conventions if cost-cutting measures were instituted. And many delegates indicated that while their locals may not be able to afford participation in the Political Action Conference every year, they were not opposed to the conference continuing as an annual event.

Also, several delegates took the microphone to raise objections about the assignment of National union field staff. A frank discussion ensued, followed by agreement that the National union needs to take a better look at how minority staff are recruited and assigned. Genl. Pres. Hovis related the discussion that took place at the January GEB meeting, where the National officers made a commitment to develop plans to recruit and retain people of color on the staff to recruit from within the union’s ranks.

JAPANESE ASSISTANCE

On the organizing front, Intl. Rep. Terry Davis reported on the assistance of UE’s Japanese sister union Zenroren in winning back the job of a worker illegally fired during an organizing campaign at a Japanese-owned plant in Milwaukee. Delegates also heard that Local 821 had achieved a first contract with the Spencer Community School District and that Keokuk Community School District staff, who recently affiliated their independent union, were in negotiations for their first UE contract.

The District Council welcomed John Goldstein of the Milwaukee Labor Council, who praised UE for its dedication to building an active and strong labor movement here and around the country. Goldstein stressed the need for all unionists to reconnect with the rich history of organized labor’s struggles. That was a message certainly not lost on UE District 11.

"It’s a necessity that we build our union to take on the companies," Hovis said in summing up the discussion. "We need to continue to better educate our members, build the Labor Party, support international labor solidarity, and build our union!"

UE News - 03/99


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