District 6 Thanks
|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
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.
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 its a new manufacturing method."
"Its 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."
|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.
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 Partys 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
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. Its not rocket science.
Its getting people to believe they deserve a break and that its up to
them to make it happen," he said.
Donna Cramer and John Thompson, the districts political action co-chairs,
gave a comprehensive report on the issues at stake and races taking place in the Nov. 3
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.