GEB Backs Revised Plan,
Organizing Task Force
Clockwise, from upper left:
District 6 Sec. David Adams and Pres. John Lambiase; Dist. 10 Pres. Joe
Chavez and Marianne Hart; Dist. 11 Pres. Carl Rosen and Dist. 11/Iowa
Coordinator Bill Austin; Dist. 2 Pres. Judy Atkins; Dist. 1 Sec. Butch
Pridgen, Pres. Connie Spinozzi and Dist. 2 Sec. Doug Whitcomb; Dist. 7
Pres. Joyce Clayborn and Sec. Phil Bishop. Dist. 11 Sec. Bob Rudek is
The quarterly meeting of the UE General Executive Board here
May 20-21 continued high-level discussions on improving the union’s overall
work and strengthening its finances. The board meeting followed a one-day
dialogue between UE’s general vice president and general officers on the
direction of the union and comes on the heels of a similar meeting in
Washington in April.
The GEB consists of the presidents and secretaries of each of
UE’s geographic districts and the three general officers. The district
presidents are also general vice presidents of the national union.
Union leaders agreed on the need to adjust the five-year plan,
now at its half-way point, to bring the union closer to meeting its financial
and organizational goals. While there is "no magic bullet" for the
challenges facing the union there is also no crisis, board members said.
A key component of the revised plan, said Genl. Pres. John
Hovis, is a shift in union resources in favor of more organizing.
The GEB endorsed greater emphasis on affiliation and attempts
to organize larger workplaces, with a concentration in UE base areas;
reduction of expenses through closer oversight and assistance from locals;
adjustment of servicing work to shift more staff time to organizing; a study
of the need and impact of an additional per capita increase in the future.
A board task force will meet over the summer to brainstorm
ideas for revising organizing plans to build UE membership more swiftly. Judy
Atkins, John Lambiase, Carl Rosen and Connie Spinozzi —
presidents of Districts Two, Six, Eleven and One, respectively — will serve
on the task force with Bob Kingsley, UE director of organization.
"We’ve been trying a lot of different things,"
Hovis said. "It’s time to start applying and accomplishing." The
other top union leaders shared that outlook.
The GEB issued a charter to workers employed by the Delaware,
Ohio school district; these 80 workers will be Local 799.
The Delaware school employees were among the three organizing
victories scored by the union since January, reported Dir. of Org. Bob
Kingsley. During this period there were two losses.
An independent municipal workers’ union in Durham, N.C.,
voted in May to affiliate with UE. Some 100 dues-paying members are currently
in the union, with the potential for several hundred more. (See
UE News article.)
The Durham workers become part of Local 150, the statewide
public service workers local union which also has membership on University of
North Carolina (UNC) campuses. Kingsley said chapters have been established at
11 of the 16 UNC campuses. Close to 800 UNC workers are signed-up in the
union; with no easy way to collect dues, a system is being put in place, he
said. UE’s goals are to improve the effectiveness of the chapters and expand
to other campuses. A week-long outreach project was underway to bring the
union’s message to more UNC workers. Kingsley said 50 new dues-payers
signed- up within the first two days of the blitz.
"We have won some real victories," Kingsley said. On
UNC campuses the union has slowed and stopped privatization.
District One Pres. Connie Spinozzi described the UNC
organizing as "very immediate." She pointed to the grassroots
organizing and the involvement of students and the community in assisting
service and maintenance workers gain their rights.
South Sioux City, Neb. food service workers demanded union
recognition; the superintendent agreed to recognize UE following a card check,
Kingsley said. However, the school board and business manager objected, and
instead insisted on an election. (Workers subsequently won that election.)
Three first contracts have been achieved since the January GEB
meeting, with several fights still underway, Kingsley said.
In particular, the organizing director commented on the
mounting fight for a contract with the Glastic Plastics subsidiary of the
Japanese corporation Kobe. Glastic management has been available to negotiate
only twice a month since workers voted to join UE on Oct. 30, 1998 and has
actively sought to organize the non-union minority. UE has responded with
rallies at shift change and an e-mail campaign aimed at top Glastic management
The steelworkers’ union in Japan has raised the issue of a
first contract at Glastic in its own contract negotiations, Kingsley noted.
Unions have rallied at Glastic’s Cleveland headquarters. A multi-union
coalition is developing out of the UE campaign.
Completing a discussion begun at the January GEB meeting, most
board members said that delegates to district council meetings in February had
endorsed the practice of an annual convention as required by the UE
Constitution. (The possibility of a biennial convention was raised at the
previous GEB meeting as a cost-cutting measure.)
Given the financial burden, said District One Pres. Connie
Spinozzi, her district council was "fine with not having the convention
"There was a strong consensus in my district for an
annual convention," reported District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen. Delegates also
expressed support for cost-saving measures, said Rosen and other board
Rosen said that in District 11, "feelings were less
strong on the political action conference." While the annual convention
was regarded as a matter of principle, the conference was viewed "a good
thing" but "voluntary," he said. Both Rosen and District Two
Pres. Judy Atkins said locals in their districts had spoken on this issue by
sending fewer delegates to this year’s conference.
GEB members expressed some interest in having the political
action confernce every two years, with an emphasis on local activity on the
Genl. Pres. Hovis and Education Dir. Carol Lambiase
reviewed for the board recently conducted workshops and others planned for the
"We need to make sure use is made of the education people
are getting," said Hovis. "We want to give people a chance to
stretch their wings and fly."
Bob Rudek, District 11 secretary, reported that the value
of the union’s workshops can be seen in the work of the Local 1111 stewards
at Allen-Bradley in Milwaukee. "We’re seeing the results of the
full-day workshop (in March), the third one in probably five years,"
Rudek said. "They’re well worth doing."
Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend briefed the board on
the recently conducted UE Political Action Conference, labor law reform
legislation, the 2000 presidential elections and the NATO war against
Townsend described the April Political Action Conference as a
"a good event" that saw UE delegates hit hard on the issues of trade
and Social Security in meetings with members of Congress in a majority of
visits on Capitol Hill.
UE participation in the Labor Party continues to be strong and
constructive, with a high rate of individual membership, he said.
Turning to the Kosovo crisis, Townsend suggested that the war
be scrutinized to see who is behind — and who will benefit from — the NATO
offensive. He told the board members they should be proud of the statement
critical of the war adopted the previous month.
"This doesn’t benefit us as workers," declared Genl.
Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark, who questioned NATO’s transformation from a
defensive alliance into a military machine serving the western powers’
"special interests," in the words of Secretary of State Madeline
Albright. He warned that the new NATO could be used to crush worker
revolts against the global economy.
Butch Pridgen, District One secretary, said he personally
supports the NATO bombing campaign and suggested that the GEB statement
abandons the Kosovar Albanians.
"We created a situation that guarantees hostility,"
countered District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen. "More bombing isn’t going to
make it better. If our foreign policy is actually intended to support human
rights, we have to find other means."
Dir. of Org. Kingsley reported that, in response to concerns
voiced by local leaders with the number of people of color on the UE field
staff, the union has placed three African-American organizers on the staff in
recent weeks. A week-long training for new staff took place in Pittsburgh in
UE News - 06/99