District 11 Takes
On the Issues,
Here and Abroad
||Gilberto Martinez (left), secretary of
a Mexican metalworkers local union, joins with District 11 delegates and activists
from the Fair Trade Coalition of Minneapolis in a human billboard around the largest mall
in the world, the Mall of the Americas to protest sweatshops owned by Nike. From right are
Local 896 officers Julie Schmidt and Deb Herman.
The District 11 Council meeting, on Oct. 17-18 took on issues close
to home, on the national scene, and even continents away.
On the District 11 level, shop reports from around the newly expanded
district, which now includes the locals from Iowa, were mostly upbeat, with gains reported
from various negotiations and shop struggles.
Delegates enthusiastically greeted the report of the union election
victory at Western Iowa Technical College just two days earlier and the affiliation of the
Keokuk Educational Office Personnel in Iowa. Visitors from two Wisconsin campaigns were
warmly welcomed. And next years officers were elected.
On the national level, there was much discussion of plans for the upcoming
Labor Party Convention, led by Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark. Locals were urged to
get involved in the Labor Party and spread the word.
And delegates heard a good example of how to do just that. John Hammes
of Local 1121 and Bob Clark recently made a successful presentation about
the Labor Party at the LaCrosse, Wis. AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. They reported that
they were very well received when they expressed the need for a political voice for labor,
with listeners even pulling out their checkbooks to sign up on the spot.
On the international level, both District Pres. Carl Rosen and
Sec-Treas. Bob Clark discussed the economic uncertainty created here at home by the crisis
in Asia and other parts of the world.
"What do we do?" asked Pres. Rosen. "Number one, we defend
our members and our contracts. Then we talk about what is happening in the economy and in
politics, both to our members and the community." UE must be prepared to take
leadership, working with the Labor Party and labor-community coalitions, he said. "We
must loudly proclaim our approach to the economic crisis and say that prosperity can only
be restored by restricting corporate power, by restoring the social safety net so that the
unemployed cannot be used to undercut our jobs, and most of all by raising the living
standards of working people so that they can buy what they produce."
Carol Lambiase gave a workshop on the Global Corporate Agenda, and
how the privatization of Social Security is a rip-off being perpetrated in other countries
as well, such as Chile. As a living example of solidarity across borders, two visitors
from the Authentic Workers Front in Mexico (FAT), Gilberto Martinez and Juan
Sauza, told delegates about the struggles Mexican workers are engaged in with their
bosses. (See: Mutual Discovery as Mexicans Tour
Putting words into action in true UE style, on Saturday at lunchtime the
delegates crossed the street from the hotel to join activists from the Fair Trade
Coalition of Minneapolis in a human billboard around the largest mall in the world, the
Mall of the Americas. Shoppers at every entrance saw the message about the sweatshops
owned by Nike around the world, where workers are paid starvation wages to produce the
popular shoes and clothing. UE delegates, wearing signs such as "Just Stop It,
Nike", added life and noise to the demonstration and caught the attention of
Re-elected and elected to district office were Pres. Carl Rosen, Vice
Pres. Shirley Harrison, Sec.-Treas. Bob Rudek, Southwest Coordinator Bill
Austin, Board members Revawn Cox, Mary Larsen, George Brown, Karel Hoogenraad, John
Fakler, Robert Morris, Mindy Williams, John Ross, Dan Kelley and Julie Schmid.
Trustees are Sam Plumeri, Vinson Walker, and John Hammes, with Mary McElroy
as the alternate.