In the 1970s, salaried women workers at Erie GE fought important battles for workplace equality, including two strikes in 1974 and ’75 in which they demanded equal pay for equal work. The participants in these struggles were predominantly young women, and they were influenced by the ideas of the feminist movement as well as by UE’s long-established principles of equality and rank-and-file unionism.
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Before contract negotiations began, the members of Local 222, Sub-local 9, the New Fairfield Board of Education custodians, maintenance and groundskeepers, told their bargaining committee they needed significant wage gains. Their hourly wage rates were several dollars below those of comparable Connecticut school districts. Thanks to a strong committee and a unified membership, they were able to achieve that goal and settled a new four-year contract that runs through June 2018 and delivers the largest wage increases seen by this unit in many years.
The bargaining committee for Local 151 was very clear on what it was seeking when bargaining with Aetna Bearing Company began on September 22. But the company’s goals were very different, and over the next two and a half months, the committee and the members fought hard for improvements in wages and benefits.
UE Local 1135 ratified a new four year contract with the Tulip Corporation on December 22 after a contract campaign that included membership mobilization and a vote to strike. The battle became heated over raises and health insurance as well as fair treatment in the workplace. The auto parts company committed several unfair labor practices (ULPs) during bargaining, including unilaterally changing the health insurance.
UE Local 896-COGS (Committee to Organize Graduate Students), the union of graduate teaching assistants and research assistants at the University of Iowa, ratified a new two-year contract this week. They blocked the university's efforts to take back much of what they'd gained in past contracts, and instead made important gains in many areas, thanks to membership involvement.
During his years as a local union officer and as a UE organizer, union members nicknamed Ernest Thompson “The Train” because of his ability “to deliver” in negotiations. In 1943 Thompson came out of his shop, American Radiator in New Jersey, to become the first African American organizer on the UE staff. In March of 1947 he took a leave from the national staff to become business agent for UE Local 427, and he was elected vice president and later executive secretary of the Hudson County CIO Industrial Union Council.
After more than three weeks on strike, the members of UE Local 279 at Weir Valves and Controls returned to work today, Tuesday December 16, under the terms of the most recent “last, best and final offer” from the company, and a return to work agreement that was negotiated by the union and company on Monday. The members voted unanimously on Friday, December 12 to return to work under these terms, but at this point no contract is in place yet.
At a November 1968 class for stewards and local officers in Latrobe, PA, James Matles, one of UE’s founding officers and then secretary-treasurer, talked about how the youth rebellion of the 1960s was beginning to affect industry and unions. “The young people in the shops are involved in a revolt of their own, which is growing day by day… The young worker doesn’t give a damn for the company’s shop rules and he drives the foremen crazy.
As one year ends and another is about to begin, we wish all our members and your families the best in the holiday season and health, peace and prosperity in the New Year. We also think this is an appropriate time to reflect on where our union and the working class movement have been, and where we’re headed.
Following a month of negotiations and the big October 24 plant gate rally by Northeast Region delegates and Local 234 members, the local on October 29 reached agreement on a new three-year contract with wage increases of 4 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent.
Life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment were significantly improved, and will now equal the employee’s straight time annual earnings, rounded up to the next thousand, with a minimum of $33,000 and a maximum of $50,000. Previously the coverage was $29,000.