At District 6 Meeting —
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
"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
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.
NEW LOCAL WELCOMED
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."
‘TIME FOR REFLECTION’
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
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,"
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