||Above, the Retirees Association of General Electric — RAGE
— mobilized outside the Erie, Pa. GE plant gates on April 19 to demand a
pension increase. They were joined by members of UE Locals 506 and 618.
Speakers were Local 506 Pres. Randy Majewski, Intl. Rep. Stephen Tormey and
RAGE Pres. Charlie Fry. At right, at the April 18 UE-GE Conference Board
meeting; from left, Tormey, Local 506 Bus. Agent Pat Rafferty who chaired the
meeting, and Genl. Pres. John Hovis.
Delegates to the GE Conference Board focused on job security
at their meeting here in the UE Local 506 union hall on April 18. Local 506
Chief Plant Steward Dave Kitchen, joined by members Rich Manno
and Rick Robb, gave a detailed presentation on the local’s Job
Preservation and Steering Committee (JPSC).
The job preservation committees were established under
contract language first negotiated in 1997 by UE and General Electric and
strengthened in last year’s national negotiations. The contract provision
has helped the union advance a positive agenda on jobs. The result, as Kitchen
and his co-workers explained, has been the return of some subcontracted jobs,
the preservation of work and identification of new areas for potential job
Local 506 has recruited members knowledgeable in various work
processes in the plant and paired them up with stewards or other members with
organizational know-how and resources, Kitchen said. The union made a detailed
examination of the plant’s work processes, giving Local 506 the ability in
many cases to counteract the tendency of some managers to subcontract work.
Manno, the union’s resource person for assembly work,
explained his method of cost analysis, and related how the union had uncovered
many hidden subsidies to contractors which conceal the real cost of farmed-out
work. He stressed that developing a network of sources for information and
membership support was key to the process. He also noted the JPSC engaged in
nothing which might adversely affect members, such as job consolidation.
In stressing that JPSCs are not a "magic bullet" for
job security, Kitchen contrasted this approach with the often futile attempts
to "bargain" over company-announced work transfers. He also stated
that in no way does the operation of the JPSCs resemble participation in
GE-inspired "cooperation" schemes. All of the presenters stressed
that the idea was to promote job preservation as a union process with union
goals, which, in turn, depends on an aggressive and informed membership.
The multi-faceted nature of both the attack on jobs and needed
response was driven home in the report by Chris Townsend, UE political
action director. Noting that more than 10,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities
had closed since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, Townsend called attention to
the looming battle over the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and
demonstrations in opposition in Quebec (see: Protests
Slam 'Free-Trade' Scheme in Quebec; Chicago
Rally Blasts FTAA, Effects of NAFTA).
Delegates responded by unanimously adopting a resolution in
support of the demonstrations (which took place the following weekend) and in
opposition to FTAA and the "fast-track" mechanism designed to rush
it through Congress without amendment.
In other business, Genl. Pres. John Hovis reported that
the union had successfully prevented the adoption of rules by the Coordinated
Bargaining Committee which would have undermined the autonomy of individual
unions in the coordinated bargaining process. Hovis also updated delegates on
the ongoing struggle to secure a first contract at the TEMCO plant in nearby
North East. The company has committed massive unfair labor practices and is
engaging in surface bargaining. Local 506 Bus. Agent Pat Rafferty
reported that the issue of TEMCO’s conduct had been raised with GE, which is
a major customer.
The meeting was hosted by Local 506 and chaired by Rafferty.
UE News - 05/01