District 6 Fired Up
From left: Martin Bayuk, president of new UE Local 616; UE General
Secretary-Treasurer Bob Clark addresses delegates; and District 6 President Dan Smith
conducts the meeting.
The atmosphere was electric at the District Six Council meeting
here May 9, with highly-charged reports on organizing and building the Labor Party.
Without debate, delegates endorsed the executive boards
recommendation to affiliate with the Labor Party. Applause initiated by Bryan Rice, Local
623 swept the hall, underscoring support for the vote.
All of UEs districts have now affiliated with the Labor Party, noted
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark, who offered delegates his congratulations.
"Why is it that Congress doesnt listen to us?" Clark
asked. "We dont have the money, and we never will. Whats the alternative?
To build a movement, a political party that speaks for us. We have to mobilize to build
this movement the same way we do around contracts."
Turning to internal union matters, Clark noted that UE is entering the
third year of its five-year plan designed to sustain union activities. "Were on
target in every area except one," he said. "Weve made savings while
increasing spending on educational and other needed programs and activities."
The UE national officer praised the many District Six Council delegates
who attended the regional organizing school in Erie the previous month. "Dont
be surprised if we put you to work," Clark told them.
Delegates, already feeling positive about the organizing school, felt even
better when they saw a delegation of workers from Foamex, a non-union manufacturing
company in Corry. (As a result of the organizing school, Foamex workers have launched a
union drive.) Each of the guests had been visited at home by delegates who had attended
the organizing school. "Im encouraged by the Foamex presence here," said
Chris Falk, Local 697.
Newly-elected Local 692 Pres. Scott Buterbaugh told the council he has
"brought the excitement (of the school) back to the shop."
Hailing the results as "a clear cut case of what happens when members
are involved in organizing," Sec.-Treas. Clark presented a charter to Michael Downing
and Martin Bayuk on behalf of new Local 616 at Hurwitz Scrap Co. in Buffalo, N.Y. The
metal salvage plant was organized on the initiative and with the involvement of UE members
Bayuk, president of the new local, expressed thanks for the assistance of
the UE field staff, Local 683 Pres. Rich Drylie and Local 618 Pres. Betsy Potter.
"Were proud to be in UE," he declared.
STRUGGLES FOR JUSTICE
Former Local 697 Pres. Ken Dingus, fired illegally last year for leading a
walkout during the new local unions first-contract struggle, explained to delegates
that he chose a settlement and alternative employment rather than return to the shop, for
the sake of his family. But he had no regrets about his leading role in establishing the
union at Flex-Y-Plan. "If I had to do it over, Id do it the same way,"
said Dingus, as he struggled to control his emotions.
"I appreciate everything Ken Dingus has put into this union,"
said Roy Baire, new Local 697 president. "I pledge myself to continue on the struggle
Among the shop reports, Scott Allison, Local 611 reported that his
co-workers at Newell Porcelain would be taking a strike vote that weekend. John Thompson,
Local 690 reported on the final stages of a lengthy contract struggle with Reid Plastics.
Due to resistance on the part of Precise Technologies in East McKeesport to reaching a
decent settlement, Local 645 is asking for supporters to come to a rally on Saturday, June
6, announced Tom George.
RESPONDING TO HATE
The council heard a sobering report of a 52 percent increase activity in
Pennsylvania by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other anti-union hate groups over the past
year. Mia Giunta of the Pennsylvania Network of Unity Coalitions outlined the conditions
that trigger hate group activities and hate crimes, pointing particularly economic
uncertainty and hard times. But the former UE organizer stressed that hate groups flourish
when community leaders including the labor movement remain silent.
The solution, Giunta said, is a movement that isolates hate groups.
"When hate groups come to town, its important to organize unity coalitions.
Unions must be part of this movement, because unions know the best how to organize and
"Its about winning. Its about power," the guest
speaker told delegates. "We have a choice. Hatred and bigotry cannot exist without
the consent of the community."
"Thanks for an incredible, eye-opening experience," District
Political Action Co-Chair Donna Cramer told Giunta during her own report. Co-Chair John
Thompson hailed this years UE Political Action Conference as "one of the
best" before taking delegates through a preview of coming Pennsylvania legislative
threats. Both Thompson and Cramer urged participation in the Labor Party, including the
partys upcoming national convention.
Veteran UE Intl. Rep. Steve Tormey led a workshop on health insurance
bargaining, emphasizing the steps locals should follow in holding on to current levels of
benefits and fighting improvements for coverage and cost. Tormey reminded delegates that
the trend is toward greater employee share of premium costs and mergers and acquisitions
by for-profit health care providers, with declining quality and accessibility for working
"The basic problem is political," Tormey pointed out.
"Health care ought to be a matter of right."
Local 633 hosted the meeting.