UE History —
With a Local
NEW BEDFORD, Mass.
Retired UE Dir. of Org.
Hugh Harley has a front-row seat as the
District 2 Council hears a report on union activity.
Delegates to the District Two Council meeting here Oct. 20-21
celebrated UE’s 65th birthday in a special way — remarks by Genl. Pres. John
Hovis that highlighted the contributions of working people here in this
famous whaling port.
Beginning with the union’s organizational period in 1934-41,
Brother Hovis described the crucial stages of the union’s development. He
emphasized that the union was formed first by the locals, from the bottom up,
not by creating a national union first.
The history was brought up to the present time, with
references to the UE’s leadership today on the fight against concessions,
against NAFTA, and for the Labor Party. Hovis cited UE’s international
solidarity work with Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) as another example
of the UE in action. The president noted that the union’s membership has
also changed, with our new members coming increasingly from the public and
New Bedford may have gained fame as a seaport, but its
factories and working-class neighborhoods figure prominently in UE’s story.
Brother Hovis stressed the significance of the stand made by UE members at
Morse Twist Drill against concessions and plant closing. Dennis Brady
and Rod Poineau, former UE leaders at Morse, attended the meeting as
The council meeting considered the work of the 65th
UE Convention. First-time delegate to the National Convention, Dave Kassing,
secretary/treasurer of UE Local 274, gave a Convention report, as did veteran
delegate Bill Lynch of UE Local 262. District Pres. Judy Atkins
led a discussion on the Policy Action plans adopted by the Convention. These
included election activities challenging the candidates to respond to the
Labor Party’s Just Health Care campaign, and making plans for regional
stewards’ meetings and political action on public education.
Jose Soler, director of Labor Studies at the nearby
Dartmouth Campus of University of Massachusetts greeted the delegates. The
longtime union member, scholar and activist spoke both about his program and
his personal involvement in protesting the U.S. military bombing of the island
of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Delegates applauded reports of a number of excellent contracts
negotiated by Local 223, General Cable; Local 271, United Shoe Machinery;
Sargent Lock, Local 243, and General Electric, Local 332.
Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, director of MassCOSH, the
occupational health and safety coalition in Massachusetts, gave a workshop on
building stronger health and safety committees in the workplace. She also
described the new OSHA programs, such as the Star program and the VIP program,
which call for joint health and safety committees. The delegates discussed the
pros and cons of the program, and noted that OSHA’s funding has been cut so
that actual on-site inspections are very rare. Delegates agreed that as a
union, we must therefore do as much as we can to protect our members’ health
District Two officers, executive board members and trustees
were elected at this meeting. The elected officers are: Judy Atkins,
president; Ray Pompano, vice president; and Doug Whitcomb,
secretary-treasurer. The executive board consists of Mike Woychosky,
Local 218; Jonathan Kissam, Local 221; Bill Gould, Local 234; Norma
Sprague, Local 267; Wayne Ericson, Local 262; Charlie Piper,
Local 271; Jerry LaValley, Local 274; Dorothy Johnson, Local
299; and Joyce Sumner, Local 332. The trustees are Paul Rose,
Local 204; Sylvia Davis, Local 243; Mike "Rebel" Fortier,
UE News - 12/00