Union Action, Policy
Discussed by District 11
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.
District 11 President
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 peoples 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 Novembers Labor Party convention a success. With the UE rank-and-file
leading the way, said Rudek and other delegates, its 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
UEs commitment to the Labor Party and urged members to "get involved in local,
grassroots politics, from school boards on up."
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 unions 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 unions ranks.
On the organizing front, Intl. Rep. Terry Davis reported on the
assistance of UEs 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 labors struggles. That was a message certainly
not lost on UE District 11.
"Its 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!"