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At District 6 Meeting
Different Approach
Promotes Discussion,



District 6 Council delegates wear multi-colored stripes, badges of their wealth of union experience (above). Then-Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark (below) unveils an ‘image map’ of the solidarity mural on the wall of the Local 506 hall. 

When delegates to the District Six Council meeting took their seats on Oct. 13, the unusual rectangular seating arrangement was just the beginning of a different approach to the quarterly event.

As delegates sat facing each other, District Pres. John Lambiase proposed to make the most of their collective experience. And if any in the room doubted that experience, he quickly demonstrated that the local union leaders around him were women and men invested with considerable skills.

"How many of you have been stewards?" Lambiase asked. Those who raised their hands received bright stickers reading "steward." Officers, negotiating committee members, organizers, safety committee members and founders of locals in turn received their own colorful stickers. Not a delegate sitting along the rectangle lacked a sticker; many proudly wore several stripes.

"There’s a tremendous amount of experience in this room," the district president declared. "This is UE unionism."

This collective experience can be applied to problem-solving, Lambiase suggested. "We can learn from each other," he said. "We can look to ourselves to lead workshops." Lambiase encouraged questions during the shop reports that immediately followed, and that’s what happened.

Delegates had questions for each other about contract gains and shop problems. When Scott Allison, Local 611, reported that Newell Porcelain was proposing a highly questionable new definition of occupational injury, other delegates had comments based on their experience with workers’ compensation. John Thompson, Local 690, said his employer’s principal customer is imposing "a standing operating procedure;" Bryan Rice, Local 623, related the facts of a difficult disciplinary case; Gretchen Kelly, Local 625, described contract negotiations. All received suggestions and comments from other delegates.

The reports by Intl. Rep. Deb Gornall and Mick Patrick, Local 684, on the ongoing first-contract battle at The Electric Materials Co. (TEMCO) became a workshop, as delegates offered advice and encouragement. Showing their solidarity with the TEMCO workers’ struggle, delegates made suggestions aimed at building morale in the shop, developing community support and focusing on the employer’s unionbusting tactics.


The council cheered the news that the independent union at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children voted in September to affiliate with UE (see: School for Blind Children Staff Choose UE (Twice), Gain New Contract). Norm Yeargers of new Local 613 told delegates, "lots of non-public school staff would welcome UE."

In his final address to the district council as a national officer, Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark suggested that "the best part of the job is what I’m doing right now." He expressed his appreciation for the support shown by District Six leaders.

Clark discussed the financial plan endorsed by the convention in September and facing action by locals. The question before the convention, Clark said, "How important is it to maintain our kind of union? The membership stepped up and said, it’s very important." Emphasizing that organizing represents the union’s future, Clark encouraged participation in the new "Regional Organizing Committees" of rank-and-file volunteers. "The rank and file have always been our best organizers," he said. "The staff can’t do it by themselves."


Clark commented on the Sept. 11 attacks on the aftermath, suggesting, "it’s a good time to reflect instead of reacting." Considering the war against Afghanistan, he said, "how do you bomb an ideology? We didn’t bomb our way out of Vietnam."

He pointed out that 360,000 workers have lost jobs as a result of the terrorist attacks. What’s galling is that the government is willing to bail out companies already in trouble before Sept. 11, but not workers. "There’s never been a doubt in my mind that those who work for a living are more patriotic than those who don’t," he said.

Clark warned, "we must be careful we don’t confuse patriotism with racism." Growing up in the South, he saw Ku Klux Klan members "wrap themselves in the flag. In their warped little minds, they probably thought they were patriotic." But that’s not what this country is about, Clark stressed.

The district council heard from Gerald Kobell, director of Region Six of the National Labor Relations Board, who shared with UE members a philosophy of public service developed over more than 30 years. The lesson of last year’s Florida election is the need for a non-political civil service, with nationally consistent rules for elections, administered by career employees, not political appointees, he said. Kobell stressed his belief in the importance of achieving settlements of complaints — a settlement tomorrow is better than a resolution two or more years later, he said.

Kobell reviewed changes in case law and the implications of changes in technology, especially the use of email and videotapes. He emphasized that the procedure works, and that "the statute’s alive and well." The regional director engaged in a lively dialogue with delegates, particularly those from Erie, who had comments both on the TEMCO situation and the unfortunate outcome of a nursing home strike there.

The discussion showed the importance of political action and the need to change labor law, said John Thompson, political action co-chair. He and co-chair Donna Cramer reviewed Pennsylvania’s redistricting, a proposal for a statewide political action conference, the Policy Action plan adopted by the UE convention, and the November demonstration against the School of the Americas. Of special urgency, they said, is stopping trade promotion authority (fast track). Thompson rejected with disgust attempts to tie Congressional approval of fast track to Sept. 11. "It’s not okay to lower living standards and call it patriotic," he said.

Elected to district office were Pres. John Lambiase, Vice Pres. Tom George (Local 645), Fin. Sec. Pat Rafferty (Local 506), Rec. Sec. Mary Ice (Local 611), trustees Mary Stewart (Local 618), Don Kosobucki (Local 506) and alternate Sue Smock (Local 506), and executive board members Scott Buterbaugh (Local 692), James Tew (Local 690), Lynda Leech (Local 618), Gretchen Kelly (Local 625), Dave Kitchen (Local 506), Charles Tangle (Local 683), Bryan Rice (Local 623) and Scott Allison (Local 611).

UE News - 11/01

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