Demands New Priorities
|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.
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. 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 led by Pres. John Lambiase
(foreground, left) got an ‘outstanding’ response from Sen. Allen Kukovich
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’
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.
FROM OUTRAGEOUS ...
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
... TO THOUGHTFUL
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
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,
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
UE News - 05/00