District 6 Council Wonders:
Wheres the Economic Boom?
Delegates listen to reports from
western Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia (above). District Pres. John
Lambiase chaired the meeting (above right). The council thrilled to Junk Yard Dogs
United, a skit written by Lynda Timblin, Local 618, with help from Rich Drylie,
Local 683. The skit, which celebrated the importance of organizing, included song parodies
such as I Get By With a Little Help from UE. From left, Rich Drylie, Dave
Kitchen, Donna Cramer (seated), Lynda Timblin and Tom Migdal.
Wheres the economic boom? That question appeared repeatedly at the
District Six Council meeting here Feb. 20 as speakers pointed to the threats against
Social Security, employer attacks on health insurance, on and off again overtime, layoffs
and plant closings.
A strong union remains the best defense during boom or bust, delegates
agreed. District Pres. John Lambiase, chairing his first council meeting, stressed
the importance of locals supporting one another.
A BOOM FOR THE WEALTHY ...
... A BANG FOR WORKERS
The present economy is "a boom for the wealthy and a bang for the
union worker," commented Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley in his remarks. "When
are we going to feel the positive effects of the expanding economy?" Nationwide,
manufacturing jobs continue to be eliminated while the growing economy adds new jobs
overall at one-third less than a living wage and with little or no insurance, he said.
Meanwhile, 62 percent of the new wealth created goes to the richest 1 percent, Kingsley
UE has seen four locals forced to strike since the National convention in
August because of employer attempts to worsen health insurance, Kingsley said, and some
union members are again threatened with plant closings despite the economic boom.
"What has happened to the recovery?" he asked.
The union is fighting for new UE members in neighboring Ohio who face a
tough struggle for a first contract from their employer, the Glastic Corp., owned by a
major Japanese corporation, the UE officer said.
SOCIAL SECURITY ...
TURN IT OVER TO WALL STREET?
The present economic boom gives the impression that workers would be
better off by turning Social Security over to Wall Street. Dont believe it, warned Howard
Harris of the Pennsylvania State University Labor Education Program.
Prof. Harris gave delegates the facts that show the strengths of the
present Social Security system and the potential to strengthen it. And he pointed out that
while the wealthy will become richer by plundering our Social Security, the 66 percent of
retirees who rely on the system for half or more of their incomes will be placed at risk (see: our online workshop about Social Security).
An economics workshop led by Linda Wambaugh and Barney Oursler
of the Pittsburgh Living Wage Campaign
pointed out that between 1990 and 1995 corporate profits have gone up 75 percent and CEO
compensation 95 percent while workers real wages declined by 9 percent.
Despite the "boom" 37 million people live below the official poverty line and 42
million Americans have no health insurance, they observed.
Reporting on the recent meeting of the General Executive Board, District
Sec. Dave Adams told delegates that the UE leadership is weighing the possibility of
staggering the schedule of national union events as part of the continuing effort to
balance activities and finances.
Delegates, meanwhile, took the first step towards returning the council to
three meetings a year. A second reading and vote is required for this constitutional
change to be implemented.