District Two Council Reports –UE Organizing in
Northern New England
WEST LEBANON, N.H.
The UE committee at the Grafton County Nursing Home reported
on their negotiations at the District 2 Council meeting in West Lebanon, N.H.
From left, Sylvia Martin, CNA, Florence Frost, Housekeeping, Kathy Allen, CNA,
Bev Presby, CNA, Barbara Klinger, CNA.
Here on the New Hampshire-Vermont border, where unorganized
workers are responding to UE’s message of organizing, delegates to the
District Two Council meeting on June 23-24 heard first-hand reports of those
efforts — and their results.
Nursing home and correctional staff employed by Grafton County
here in northern New Hampshire reported on their first-contract negotiations.
The staff of the Northeast Kingdom Headstart nearby in Vermont negotiated a
first contract that awaits approval by the agency’s board.
Active campaigns at a nursing home in Vermont and at Split
Ball Bearing, a plant of more than 400 workers in Lebanon, also came to
delegates’ attention. Representatives of the Split Ball Bearing organizing
committee described how they write and distribute newsletters in the plant,
use the company’s "dispute resolution" procedure to bring
grievances to management’s attention and have set up a "UE@Timken"
website (www.ue-at-ta.org). Slowly but
surely they are building a UE majority.
The District Council was addressed by Anthony Pollina,
the Progressive Party candidate for governor of Vermont. Pollina told the
council he is running to win. Vermont Progressives have already been elected
to the Burlington City Council and state legislature. State campaign reform
legislation has freed candidates’ reliance on big donors.
The candidate questioned why state spending on prisons has
gone up 150 percent while spending on education has increased only 7 percent.
Pollina pledged to encourage Vermonters to join unions and to work to stop
corporate intimidation of workers who seek to organize.
UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark brought news of union
developments nationwide, especially the then ongoing national talks with
General Electric. He noted UE’s leadership role in those negotiations.
Many local leaders reported on contract settlements,
describing language and wage increases won through membership involvement.
Norma Sprague, UE Local 267 chief steward at the
University of Vermont, reported on a recently negotiated wage re-opener. She
also attended an International Solidarity
Conference in Montreal, Quebec and was preparing to participate in a visit
to Mexico co-sponsored by UE’s sister union, the Authentic Labor Front
Retired union members will soon outnumber active union
members, reported Phil Mamber, president of Mass Senior Action. In
response, District Two Pres. Judy Atkins encouraged delegates to build
the union so that Mamber’s organization is not bigger than theirs! Mamber, a
former District Two president, is willing to help locals organize their
The council meeting concluded with a workshop entitled
"The Growing Divide." Presented by Joan Parker from United
for a Fair Economy, the workshop graphically described the transfer of wealth
and power from "Us to Them" that has occurred over the last few
decades. The workshop was well received; delegates agreed to use the
illustrative graphs in their locals and in their communities.
UE News - 07/00