Lots to Consider
For District 6 Leaders
Delegates to the District Six Council here Oct. 21-22 had much
to say about collective bargaining (mostly successful), shop conditions
(mostly busy) and political action (also busy), and heard reports about
organizing (lots to do) and the elections (oh, brother!).
"It’s no secret these are difficult times but we can
still grow with organizing and the opportunity is there," declared
District Six Pres. John Lambiase. "If we are going to be
successful and prevail on certain campaigns, then we need to be many thousands
strong and organized."
In the year concluding with the 2000 UE Convention, said Genl.
Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark, UE organized nearly 2,000 workers. The union has
hope and vision and potential to match, he said.
The national officer noted that UE has run a planned deficit
for a number of years to subsidize organizing, with important results. In
District 11, more than half the present locals came into the union in the
1990s as a result of this policy. The second-largest local in the union was
one of them, he noted.
Nevertheless, the National union is taking a number of steps
to aggressively bring finances under tighter control, Clark said. In addition
to the cost-saving measures he’s instituted, Clark told the council, the
special committee on finances convened by the union’s General Executive
Board will help identify other steps.
As a whole, unions are in trouble because of their
unwillingness to change, Clark proposed. He pointed to the Labor Party as one
example of where unions could work to build a real political voice for working
SPY CAMS, COMPLIMENTS
A number of delegates rose to give shop reports, detailing a
wide range of conditions and grievances. Most reported steady work; some said
owners are investing in new equipment and hiring. The new technology has had
an odd result at Bruce Plastics, said the Local 689 delegates — the company
fired three supervisors and installed spy cams. In an unusual twist, Local 611
delegates reported that the president of Newell Porcelain complimented Intl.
Rep. Marion Washington for having enough foresight to insist on a raise
for laborers in the contract extension negotiated last year, as it is helping
to attract good employees.
Among those giving reports were Local 684 delegates who were
still struggling for a first contract with The Electric Materials Co. (TEMCO).
Local 683 Pres. Charles Tangle reported on his trip to
Mexico, as part of a worker-to-worker exchange sponsored by UE and Mexico’s
Authentic Labor Front (FAT). He found different approaches to resolving labor
disputes — as in the case of striking glass workers who took over operation
of the plant on a cooperative basis.
Carol Lambiase, UE Education Director, led a workshop on
the "team concept," highlighting new management techniques.
With the elections then a little more than two weeks away, the
union’s political action director, Chris Townsend, and delegates had
a lot to say about political action. Townsend pointed out that the
presidential debates often found the candidates in agreement — too often.
"Corporate power over our lives is the problem," he said.
Involvement in the political process — and support for candidates like Nader,
and progressive Democrats — is critical to our future.
John Thompson, district political action co-chairperson,
reviewed the races in western Pennsylvania of critical importance to UE
members. He wondered why the National Rifle Association was throwing money
into the campaign of conservative Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, even
though his Democratic challenger, Rep. Ron Klink, is an active
sportsman and gun-owner and proponent of the right to bear arms.
A VALUABLE LESSON
Mel Womack, attending his first district council meeting
since his Jan. 1, 1992 retirement, shared with delegates personal and union
history. He came out of the shop (Switch and Signal) and onto the staff at a
time when UE faced raids from the IUE as well as the challenge of rebuilding
after the disastrous split of 1949. Originally UE represented virtually all
workers in electrical manufacturing, including those employed by General
Electric and Westinghouse. "I had to realize that the IUE was born out of
the needs of the company and the UE was born out of the needs of the workers.
You can believe what I tell you because I have experienced it," Womack
"We have to organize and build this union together like
in the old days. You need to put organizing on your locals’ agendas, and do
it!" the veteran organizer exhorted.
Elected as district officers were John Lambiase,
president; Walter Franke, vice president; David Adams, financial
secretary; Mary Ice, recording secretary; Pat Rafferty, Craig Holmes,
Don Kosobucki and Mary Stewart (alternate), trustees; Dave
Kitchen, Lynda Leech, Scott Buterbaugh, James Tew, Gary Zobrist, Gretchen
Kelly, Bryan Rice, Charles Tangle and Scott Allison, executive
board; Joe Maruco, sergeant-at-arms; Donna Cramer and John
Thompson political action co-chairpersons.
UE News - 12/00