Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> 2001 UE Political Action Conference

UE Goes to Washington —
Delegates Tell
Congress to Get Real

Our Jobs
And Schools

Page One

UE News

• Page One:
Delegates Tell Congress to Get Real (Introduction)

Page Two:
No More NAFTAs! Lobbying Against Fast Track and FTAA

Page Three:
Delegates Cheer Congressional Allies

Page Four:
Defending Public Education

Page Five: 
Delegates (and an Articulate Teenager) Demand Closing School of Assasins

Page Six:
Conference Photo


Read the issues briefings conference delegates received in Political Action ...

UE News
Current Issue

The 2001 UE Political Action Conference: Confronting Corporate Power

The Chamber of Commerce is a leading force behind anti-labor initiatives in Washington — so UE members attending the union’s Political Action Conference last month decided to pay a visit to the Chamber’s national headquarters, located within sight of the White House. Demonstrating their disapproval are Steve Descharnais, Marc Falcon, Will Anderson, Wayne ‘Big Dog’ Ericson, Carlos Cortez, Intl. Rep. Bruce Klipple, Bryan Rice, Barry Rideout and Ron Rice.


Union members came to the nation’s capital March 25-28 and had a few choice words for those in charge.

Protesting the Chamber of Commerce ...
'There's a better chance of the boss belonging to the Chamber of Commerce than a worker belonging to a union – and those are just the kind of odds the Chamber likes, UE Research Director Lisa Frank told conferees.

"Shame, shame, shame," they chanted outside the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Attending their union’s political action conference, UE members also had a message to Members of Congress: Get real.

Too many jobs have already been lost to trade deals, declared upstate New York General Electric workers David Steins and Paul Rosatti in their Congressman’s office. "Vouchers take money from schools, from supplies and teachers," Sandy Coulter insisted to an Ohio Republican.

Iowa social workers looked their Republican Congressman right in the eye and told him, "Keep our paltry tax cuts, use them for Medicaid prescriptions."

Factory workers and school workers from California to Massachusetts addressed these and other issues, including legislative attacks on overtime pay and labor’s free speech rights.

The UE Political Action Conference, taking as its theme "Confronting Corporate Power: Defend Our Jobs and Schools," brought together activists from each of the union’s districts for intensive days of briefings, lobbying and protest.


UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis UE Genl. Sec.- Treas. Bob Clark Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley
UE Genl. Pres.
John Hovis
UE Genl. Sec.- Treas. Bob Clark Dir. of Org.
Bob Kingsley

Not for the first time, labor and its allies find themselves on the defensive in Washington, said UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis in opening the conference. "That’s no reason not to fight for issues important to us."

Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark agreed. "The boom years didn’t boom for us," he said. And now the new Bush Administration threatens new battles ahead. The Bush Administration, although illegitimate and anti-worker, can bring us together and unite labor, he suggested.

"There’s political action, and then there’s political action," Clark observed. "You can pay someone to speak for you, or you can take it to the streets." UE involves members directly.

"Don’t think for one minute that (what we do here) won’t make a difference," Clark declared. "If we don’t stand up, they will walk on our backs."


In visits to congressional offices, UE members found a wide range of responses — from the openly sympathetic to the openly hostile.

The conferees went to Capitol Hill after reviewing a specially prepared UE briefing book and hearing directly from experts on trade and education. All were equipped with the "UE Rank-and-File Congressional Quiz;" union members grilled each lawmaker (or aide) on the key issues. Meetings took place with nearly 50 Senators and Representatives or their aides.

A District 11 delegation led by Carl Rosen and Bill Austin enjoyed an encounter with an exceptional ally, Rep. Lane Evans (D., Il.). Not only does Evans share the union’s position on critical issues, he takes a leadership role as chair of the International Labor Rights Caucus in Congress and through participation in the Jobs and Trade Caucus. Many in Congress are clueless about the difficulties unorganized workers face in organizing unions; Rep. Lane expressed dismay at the obstacles.

"We saw Bernie (Sanders) — he’s wonderful!" exclaimed Annette Vachon, Local 221 (see: UE Delegates Cheer Consistent Congressional Allies).

The District 10 delegation expressed appreciation for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s record; an aide assured the California UE members, "You can count on us to be right down the line." "These are tough times," said District Pres. Marianne Hart. "These are tough times, including for those of us pushing these issues," the aide responded.

Iowa UE members (including the Local 893 delegation, the conference’s largest) met with an old ally, Sen. Tom Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the Human Services and Labor Committee. Wisconsin UE members (including the Local 1111 delegation, the third largest) felt especially comfortable visiting the office of Sen. Russ Feingold (D.), who ranked 100 percent on the UE Scorecard. "We thank him tremendously," said Michelle Young, Local 1161.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) "is a good Democrat but he was non-committal on everything," reported Annette Vachon, Local 221.


UE members make the case for Social Security to a skeptical aide to Rep. John Sweeney (R., N.Y.)

UE members make the case for Social Security to a skeptical aide to Rep. John Sweeney (R., N.Y.). They are District 2 Pres. Judy Atkins (back to camera), Paul Rosatti and David Steins.

Representative Cal Dooley meets with the Political Action Co-Chairs of District 10

Representative Cal Dooley (with suit and tie) meets with the Political Action Co-Chairs of District 10, Michael Rivera (Local 1421) and Mark Falcon (Local 1014) and District President Marianne Hart.

The delegates from Local 332, Fort Edward, N.Y. discovered Rep. John Sweeney opposes critical anti-labor attacks the union expects in this session. But the Republican Congressman is not fully in their corner. An aide clashed with them and District Two Pres. Judy Atkins on privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the rich and school vouchers.

"We’re with you on many of these," said Rep. Cal Dooley (D., Calif.), looking over the UE Congressional Quiz. Generally, though, Dooley said, his position was in the middle — "there are no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers."

Ohio delegates had a good meeting with Rep. Tony Hall (D.), reported Nina Williams, Local 799. Unlike the other Ohio lawmakers visited by District Seven members, his answers to the UE quiz consisted of something other than "I don’t know" or "no," she said.


Rep. Paul Gillmor has received a zero rating from UE in all but one of the last four years; based on what an aide told Craig Miros, Local 714, and Sandy Coulter, Local 767, the Ohio Republican seems headed for another low score. Nevertheless, the UE delegates eloquently made the case for a pro-worker agenda. Gillmor voted for the repeal of the ergonomics standard; the aide stared dumbfounded as Miros told how his hands shake and arm goes numb as a result of repetitive motion while on the job at G&C Foundry in Sandusky.

An ergonomics debate provoked District Six delegates; an aide justified Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R., Pa.) vote for repeal by saying businesses would have moved to Mexico. "It was offensive that the Senator would go along with workers being used, abused and discarded on both sides of the border," objected Donna Cramer, Local 506.

The low point for the District Seven delegation was the meeting with an aide to Sen. Michael DeWine (R., Ohio) — "a total little jerk, who made it clear he was there just because he had to be," reported Williams.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) is a mover and shaker on Capitol Hill — who scored zero on the UE Scorecard during the past four years. Meeting with a large, well-informed UE delegation, the Senator found himself unable to convince union members of the case for unregulated free trade or tax giveaways to the rich.


Many delegates expressed satisfaction with the experience — "the experience of a lifetime," is how Will Anderson, Local 792, expressed it. "I can safely say I will go back to my local and say this was worthwhile," he said. Craig Miros commented, "You don’t learn about politics by going to school. We were lobbyists for UE — and didn’t have to get paid $60,000 a year."

"I didn’t come down here to be politically active," started Dennis Crawford, Local 506. "To me, this isn’t politics, this is surviving. Our jobs, health, environment are on the line."

John Thompson, Local 690, proposed that district and national officers work to build attendance. "This is the centerpiece of the national union’s political action," he said.

Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend
Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend

Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend and Bob Clark recommended political action on the state level, too.

A big part of the political action conference is leadership development, and creating an understanding of "how bad things happened," Sec.-Treas. Clark said. "How good contract language can be brushed aside with a (lawmaker’s) pen."

"The fundamental question remains, how do we best build a political movement of labor and its allies to challenge corporate power," Clark declared.

Next: No More NAFTAs!Top of Page

  Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> 2001 UE Political Action Conference

  Home • About UE • Organize! • Independent Unions • Search • Site Guide • What's New • Contact UE
UE News • Political Action • Info for Workers • Resources • Education • Health & Safety • International • Links