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District 6 Thanks
Smith, Celebrates
Struggles

ERIE, Pa.

Retiring D.6 Pres. Dan Smith with UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis  
Retiring District President Dan Smith (left) shares smile with UE General President John Hovis.

Delegates to the District Six Council meeting here Oct. 24-25 chose a new district president to replace Daniel Smith, who had decided not to seek re-election. Other highlights included reports of hard-won settlements, discussion of the November elections and a workshop in conjunction with the Local 506 Stewards’ Conference.

New President John Lambiase, a veteran field organizer who assisted in the organization of several western Pennsylvania locals, was chosen over Jim Cook, president of Pittsburgh-area amalgamated Local 623.

Dan Smith, a former president of Local 612 at the now closed Westinghouse ceramic insulator plant in Derry, served as district president for 14 years. Throughout the weekend he was on the receiving end of accolades from local leaders and staff who praised his steadfast devotion to working people.

Genl. Pres. John Hovis, who presented Smith a plaque on behalf of the National union, hailed him as "a person who cares," respected as a UE leader on the General Executive Board and throughout the union.

FLUFF-FREE REPORT

Hovis gave delegates a somber, straightforward fluff-free look at the economy and politics that underscored his advocacy of membership involvement and union building.

The UE president urged get-out-the-vote efforts to protect Social Security and prevent expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Privatization of Social Security would inject trillions of dollars into Wall Street, money that would then be invested in low-wage operations in Mexico, South America and Asia.

Hovis rejected the alleged advantages of Social Security privatization as "a lot of phoney baloney." He backed his skepticism with the experience in Britain and Chile, countries where workers’ retirement incomes were wiped out when social insurance systems were turned over to speculators. Fast track authorization, "absolutely key to the free trade program," was defeated in Congress this fall but will return next year, Hovis predicted.

Economic indicators are not hopeful, with even Merrill "Bullish on America" Lynch laying off employees, the UE leader noted. Major layoffs were up 95 percent between August and September. More than 2 million workers were collecting unemployment insurance the first week of October, with 300,000 new applicants.

OUTLOOK FOR BARGAINING

Hovis predicted a renewed employer effort to hold down wages, aided by rising unemployment. This will be fueled by a decline in the rate of profit increases and employer worries of intensified competition when the new European currency takes effect Jan. 1, 1999. He also forecasted more cost shifting of health care expenses to workers, greater pressure on retirees’ benefits, and further subcontracting. Giving examples of new forms of subcontracting, Hovis said that "outsourcing is more now than cost-cutting — it’s a new manufacturing method."

"It’s not going to get any easier," Hovis said. "We must build unity in our shops." The National union will continue to assist locals and districts with the crucial job of educating stewards and officers.

"Not all the answers are in the workplace," the union officer said. "We have to continue to build the Labor Party, we must build cross-border solidarity and we have to continue to look for ways to influence the AFL-CIO."

STRIKE VICTORY

Butch Potts  
Local 611 Pres. Butch Potts reported on the successful outcome of the Newell Porcelain strike.

Local 611 made progress in seniority rights in the settlement that concluded Newell Porcelain workers’ 12-week strike, reported Pres. Allen "Butch" Potts, who thanked the district and national union for their support. Potts also announced he is stepping down as president to allow younger workers to take office. "It was the unity of young and old that fought this company back," commented District Pres. Smith.

A strike threat by Local 690 helped resolve a brewing contract dispute with Reid Plastics, reported John Thompson. Reid workers faced a tough battle; rallies and picket lines helped forge victory, he said.

Negotiations were far from easy at Precise Technologies this year, said Butch Karas; more than 20 bargaining sessions seemed to go nowhere. In the end, Local 645 secured a contract that adds $1 to the pension benefit and contains wage increases.

TEMPORARY SET-BACK

Barely a month before the meeting, UE lost a representation election at Foamex in Corry in a heartbreaking tie vote. "We knew it would be tough," said Ray Waite, an organizing committee member. "At the first captive meeting, the boss said no Foamex plant had ever been organized." The union went into the election process with a 65 percent majority signed up, but "the company played dirty," Waite said. He expressed confidence that the union would prevail — Foamex workers have already picked their UE local number. Delegates gave him a standing ovation.

Delegates and Local 506 delegates together participated in a workshop based on portions of the Labor Party’s Corporate Power and the American Dream book. In small groups, participants considered the obstacles in the road to the American Dream and what a "better business climate" designed with workers’ interests in mind might look like.

Local 506 Bus. Agent Patrick Rafferty reminded participants that "it takes organization to put things into practice. We have to put our political efforts together the same way we fight GE or the other employers represented here." People are always waiting for "someone else to do it," observed Chief Plant Steward David Kitchen; "The ‘someone else’ starts here. It’s not rocket science. It’s getting people to believe they deserve a break — and that it’s up to them to make it happen," he said.

Donna Cramer and John Thompson, the district’s political action co-chairs, gave a comprehensive report on the issues at stake and races taking place in the Nov. 3 elections.

Delegates raised $325 for the UE Local 120 members on strike at Locke Insulators in Baltimore, Md. and observed a moment of silence for two former Local 623 presidents, Henry McCorkle and John Fantaski, who passed away in recent months.

Elected to district office were John Lambiase, president; Chuck Fuller (Local 637), vice president; David Adams (Local 506), financial secretary; Betsy Potter (Local 618), recording secretary; Lynda Leech (Local 618), Gary Zobrist (Local 633), Jim Tew (Local 690), Mary Ice (Local 611), Rich Drylie (Local 683), Gretchen Kelly (Local 625), Walt Franke (Local 610), Tom Migdal (Local 692) and Bryan Rice (Local 623), executive board-at-large; Patrick Rafferty (Local 506), Craig Holmes (Local 633), and Roy Baire (Local 697); Joe Maruco, sergeant-at-arms; Donna Cramer (Local 506) and John Thompson (Local 690), political action co-chairs.

UE News - 11/98


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