Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 2000 Archives -> Article

Pennsylvania UE
Demands New Priorities
In Harrisburg



The delegations from Districts 1 and 6
The delegations from Districts 1 and 6, with District 1 Pres. Connie Spinozzi in the foreground at right, Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark first from the left in the second row, and District 6 Pres. John Lambiase first from left in the third row.
State Sen. Jane Earll and Sean Lynch, Local 506 State Sen. James Gerlach and Local 112 Pres. Lester Koch
State Sen. Jane Earll (above, left) is non-committal as Sean Lynch, Local 506 argues that the needs of working families should come before those of big business. Sen. James Gerlach (at left in right photo) was not overly sympathetic to the UE program, as explained Local 112 Pres. Lester Koch (right) and other District 1 delegates.
Erie delegates ponder the issues.
Erie delegates ponder the issues. Seated at the table, from left Ben Johnson, Local 506, Betty Thurlow, Joe Toscano, Vicki Hoover and Charles Tangle, Local 683.
A District 6 delegation got an 'outstanding' response from Sen. Allen Kukovich.
A District 6 delegation led by Pres. John Lambiase (foreground, left) got an ‘outstanding’ response from Sen. Allen Kukovich (right).

Monday, May 8 was a typical day for State Sen. Jane Earll (R.) of Erie County: a meeting with a General Electric official, followed by a visit from Ralph Pontillo of the Western Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

Well, not entirely typical.

Sen. Earll also found herself confronted by union members from three UE locals together representing several thousand workers.

May 8 was not a day for business-as-usual in Pennsylvania’s capitol, as the first UE Political Action Day here in more than 20 years brought together some 35 delegates from across the Keystone State. The day of education and lobbying was jointly sponsored by Districts One and Six and the National union; nine locals were represented.

In more than 30 meetings with lawmakers, the UE members raised their concern about the loss of manufacturing jobs, Gov. Ridge’s attacks on the unemployment compensation system, high prescription drug prices, the lack of affordable health care, privatization and the need for a living wage.


Legislators were not always sympathetic. In response to UE members’ call for universal health care, Sen. Earll commented, "Some people choose not to have insurance." When UE members described as "blackmail" business attempts to get tax concessions in exchange for jobs — and the GE official, according to the Senator, was looking for a tax break — Earll said simply, "that’s how business is done here."

Sen. Joseph Loeper, the Senate majority leader, made it clear that when he said "we have to do everything we can to create jobs" he meant workers should be prepared to make all of the sacrifices, including a higher tax burden and a worsened workers compensation system. The Delaware County Republican told a Local 155 delegation that wrecking the workers comp system "was the best thing we did" — a comment which led Anne Prieur to declare, "The legislation has hurt a lot of workers. It’s just ridiculous what people have to go through."

Sen. James Gerlach (R.) listened to delegates from Locals 111, 112 and 155 explain the difficulties involved in Gov. Ridge’s proposal to close all 74 unemployment compensation offices and replace them with eight call-in centers. He then smiled and announced that inconvenience and loss of benefits are "the price we pay to make government more efficient."


But the UE members found friends in the Pennsylvania capitol. Sen. Allen Kukovich, (D., Westmoreland Co.) was "outstanding" in his response to workers’ concerns and advocacy of single-payer health care. Rep. Tom Scrimenti (D., Erie Co.) said he was willingness to assist the new UE members at Temco in gaining a first contract and to help launch a Workers’ Rights Center.

Local 155 members met with a different kind of Republican, Rep. Ron Raymond of Delaware County. The son of a long-time UE Local 107 member and a former shop steward himself, Raymond declared that "unions are the only protection the little person has." He said the "right-to-work" "wackos" "don’t like me, and I don’t like them, either." He decried NAFTA as "a mistake," and said he disagrees with Gov. Ridge on privatization.


Rep. Mike Veon, the House minority whip, lent staff assistance to the UE effort and met with union members. "He was pleasantly surprised by UE’s political action and said he’ll ask labor lobbyists, ‘when are you going to bring your members to the Capitol?’" UE Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend reported. Rep. Veon singled out John Thompson of Local 690, a District Six political action co-chair, for his good example in consistently communicating union concerns to elected officials.

Before their intensive lobbying, the UE members heard from Bill Bacon, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Social Services Union, SEIU Local 668, who detailed the loss of jobs and services implied by the closure of the unemployment offices. He asked UE to lobby for a measure that would keep the offices open pending an audit of the existing call-in program — which his members say is not working.

The Pennsylvania Political Action was coordinated by District One Pres. Connie Spinozzi, District Six Pres. John Lambiase and Political Action Dir. Townsend. Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark reminded delegates that the event was taking place as a result of National convention action, and followed successful state-level political action events this year in Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin and Vermont. These events are an important part of the union’s work, he said, but the real answer lies in continuing to build our own party, the Labor Party.

UE News - 05/00

Home -> UE News -> 2000 Archives -> Article

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

Copyright © 2003 UE. All Rights Reserved