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Veteran UE Member
Organizes New Local

MATTAPOISETT, Mass.

Nothing good comes from a plant closing — unless you are a custodial or maintenance worker for the Old Rochester Regional School District (ORR). These school district employees benefited from the leadership and experience of new hire Carl Olsen — who had been president of UE Local 284 at the J.C. Rhodes before the closure of the plant in neighboring New Bedford. On Oct. 29 ORR workers voted 12-0 to join UE in a state labor board election.

For years the non-union workers at ORR had put up with management abuses: low pay, too much work and not enough workers, compulsory meetings on non-work time, non-payment for time worked, unfair treatment, and an absolute lack of respect for the work that they do. The teachers and clerical workers were organized and the time was right for them.

THE POWER OF UNION UNITY

Despite their unit’s small size, the custodial and maintenance workers shook up the school hierarchy. Regular meetings culminated in letters and petitions to the school district signed by all the workers concerning issues of treatment and overtime distribution. Management would subsequently schedule meetings to address the problems in hopes of calming things down but it only proved to the workers the power of union organization.

As the election date drew near management began a "fear and smear" campaign to discourage the organizing efforts. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the UE they even suggested that workers consider a more "agreeable" union. "Being a small group of workers we had the luxury of being able to get together quickly and talk things over," said Brother Olsen. "It showed that the UE had no secrets and was a union that was run by the members."

Robert "Rocky" Rock, former secretary-treasurer of UE Local 284 came to meetings to help dispel the management lies and personally testify to UE’s rank-and-file character and how the union works day-to-day to protect members’ interests.

UE News - 11/97


Home -> UE News -> 1997 Archives -> Article

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