District 11 Fights for
Vows to Organize
In the shadow of the Mall of America on Oct. 20-21, UE
District Council 11 delegates met to organize their fight against fast track
trade promotion authority, defend public sector jobs, and build and strengthen
their union. Delegates reported workplace struggles and political action taken
since their last meeting in June.
Jennifer Yingling of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition
reminded the council that "1994 brought us NAFTA, and since then we have
lost half a million jobs by conservative estimates, our environmental
protections of groundwater and air have been eroded and the number of Mexican
people in poverty has increased by the millions."
Fast track will do more of the same, she warned. Trade
promotion authority would allow the President to negotiate international trade
agreements, limit Congressional approval to a yes or no vote without the right
to change the agreement and give Congress only 90 days to review potentially
thousands of pages of documents. The council considered how the Bush
Administration and elements in Congress are using the September 11 attacks to
push trade promotion authority.
Delegates took the time to review the Fast Track Fact Sheet
and write members of Congress to vote "No!" Paul Spors, Local
1121, wrote to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, urging him to vote "no" for the
simple fact that both Paul’s wife and Ron’s sister lost their jobs when
LaCrosse Shoe Co. closed and moved to China. Delegates planned on taking the
battle against fast track to the shops with letter writing and phone calls to
Congress in the weeks to come.
STATE POLITICAL ACTION
UE members in Wisconsin and Iowa are making preparations for
statewide Political Action Days. In Iowa, delegates reported, union members
are fighting to defend their jobs. Bill Austin, Local 893, observed
that "shortfalls in state revenue and expensive tax cuts over the last
few years have resulted in budget cuts that increase class sizes for UE
members at the University of Iowa and mean layoffs of UE members providing
vital services to Iowa residents."
Delegates attending the Political Action Day will demand that
politicians stop sacrificing workers and start balancing the budget
UE leaders throughout the district reported on the ongoing
political work of visiting politicians, organizing and participating in Labor
Day festivities. Mary McElroy, Local 893, reported on her participation
in the joint women’s delegation of UE and Students United Against Sweatshops
to Juarez. They visited maquiladora factories on the border, women’s
centers, and neighborhoods where Mexican workers live in houses made out of
wooden pallets and corrugated tin.
Delegates renewed their commitment to Jobs with Justice.
District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen spoke to the ongoing support from JwJ UE
members have received. He encouraged locals to join their local chapters or
support formation of chapters where there are none currently. Jobs with
Justice has been a key source of community pressure in the Local 1114 strike
at Coach and Car that began last August, Rosen pointed out.
ORGANIZING A PRIORITY
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark explained the role of
Regional Organizing Councils (ROCs) in building the union by organizing the
unorganized. Delegates throughout the district expressed commitment to
organize new members. The district’s first ROC will be initiated in the
Milwaukee area. Delegates from Iowa reported on a renewed internal membership
drive in that so-called right-to-work state.
FIGHTING, WINNING GRIEVANCES
Shop reports included many grievances won protecting workers
and defending the gains achieved through previous struggles. Many shops
reported layoffs, though a good number reported steady work. After hearing an
update on the Local 1114 unfair labor practice strike at Coach and Car,
delegates passed the hat to raise several hundred dollars in support of the
brothers and sisters on the picket line.
Locals reported they have geared up the fight for decent
affordable health insurance as their employers attempt to raise the costs. For
months insurance companies have warned the public of their plans to raise
premiums by huge amounts, while insurance executive salaries are on the rise.
Pres. Carl Rosen noted that the latest trend in healthcare insurance is an
effort to raise co-pays so high as to convince healthcare consumers not to get
costly procedures done.
Delegates ended their October council meeting with the
re-election of the four current District 11 officers: Pres. Rosen, Vice Pres. Shirley
Harrison, Sec.-Treas. Bob Rudek and Southwest Area Coordinator Bill
Austin. And delegates elected a full complement of 10 executive board members
as well as three trustees and an alternate.
UE News - 11/01