Struggle Enters New Phase
NORTH EAST, Pa.
Lane, TEMCO worker and UE Local 684 member, traveled from North East,
Pennsylvania to Beloit, Wisconsin last month with a message for the
company’s owner: TEMCO workers demand real negotiations for a fair
first contract — and reinstatement of Mike’s father, Ron Lane, who
was unjustly fired.
A rally outside TEMCO on June 19
hears remarks from Genl. Pres. John Hovis (above, left) and Local 506 Pres. Randy
Majewski (right). That rally included a ‘People’s Court’ trial; that’s
‘Judge’ Jim Cook in his judicial robes and wig noting Majewski’s
testimony. Local 684 took the first-contract fight to Beloit, Wis. on June 29.
Chief Steward Jim Lafferty meets with the plant manager (below). District 11
Pres. Carl Rosen explains the issues to a reporter (bottom photo). The large contingent from
District 11 locals included young Ramiro Castillo, grandson of Field Org.
The struggle of UE Local 684 for a first contract with The
Electric Materials Co. (TEMCO) entered a new phase on July 9 with the start of
a federal trial.
With a complaint issued on more than 50 allegations that TEMCO
has denied workers their rights under law, the National Labor Relations Board
began a formal hearing in Erie.
TEMCO’s 260 workers, who produce copper commutators, voted
for UE representation Dec. 9, 1999. Since then, union representatives have met
with management more than 30 times in an attempt to reach a fair settlement.
Company actions have frustrated that goal.
The charges against TEMCO include:
• Firing of an employee because of union sympathies.
• Suspension of an employee for union activity.
• Management disregard for grievances.
• Harassment of union activists.
• Unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment.
As the UE NEWS goes to press, the trial is expected to
last several weeks.
In advance of the federal trial, TEMCO workers conducted their
own "People’s Court" — appropriately in front of the factory —
on June 19, in the presence of allies from other UE locals and the Erie County
Bailiff John Lambiase (otherwise president of District
Six) brought the court to order, and presented the Hon. (a.k.a. Field Org.) Jim
Cook, who presided. Judge Cook read the indictment of TEMCO’s workers’
rights violations. Testimony came from UE Local 684 members Mike Patrick
and Crystal Pratt and Chief Steward Jim Lafferty. Mark Howard,
a Local 684 negotiating committee member, thanked the assembly for reminding
TEMCO workers that they are not alone in their struggle to improve their wages
and working conditions.
Several other witnesses stepped forward — Local 506 Pres. Randy
Majewski, Local 618 Bus. Agent Lynda Leech, Local 623 Pres. Bryan
Rice, Local 690 Pres. Jim Tew, Steelworkers Rep. Ron Oliver
and Stan Betts, an SEIU Local 1199P organizer, who spoke of the labor
rights violations committed by the Lutheran Home in Erie.
Closing arguments were delivered by UE Genl. Pres. John
Hovis, who declared that Roger West, CEO of TEMCO’s parent
company, "can either sit down with us and hammer out a fair agreement or
go to an expensive trial." Hovis led the crowd in a pledge to defend
workers’ rights at TEMCO. "Together we will build this union to make it
strong and win a fair contract for TEMCO workers."
With a jury consisting of representatives from UE Locals 506,
618, 623, 690, 692 and 697 and SEIU Local 1199P, the people’s verdict was a
resounding call for "A fair contract now!"
Three TEMCO workers and supporters from Locals 506 and 692
traveled from Erie to Wisconsin in search of Roger West, CEO of United Stars
Holding. West made himself scarce, but outside the flagship United Industrials
plant in Beloit, the Pennsylvanians found supporters from UE Locals 896, 1107,
1111, 1121 and 1193, from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen led the crowd in a march
from the plant gates to the front office, where Local 684 Chief Steward Jim
Lafferty delivered a petition from TEMCO workers to the plant manager; the
petition called on West to negotiate a fair contract. Area press and radio
covered a plant-gate rally, catching quotes from Rosen, Lafferty and Local 506
leader Donna Cramer. Ron Lane, TEMCO worker fired for his union
activity, also spoke to the media.
UE members distributed leaflets to United Industrial workers,
members of the International Association of Machinists, on their way to work,
thanking them for their support. The IAM lodge has been supportive of the UE
effort to gain a first contract. IAM members brought donuts, cookies, water
and soft drinks to the picket line.
A fifty-foot banner created at the rally will be on display at
the UE National convention in September for delegates to sign.
Field Org. Lynn Swiertz, who spent her 23rd
wedding anniversary at the United Industrial plant gate, coordinated the event
and media relations. Field Org. Ramiro Castillo was there in support.
"The struggle at TEMCO has been a long and hard battle
but we are ready to continue to fight for as long as it takes to win a measure
of justice for workers," says Pres. Hovis.
(This article is largely based on reports by Local 692 Pres.
Scott "Shaggy" Buterbaugh.)
UE News - 07/01