Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually in the United States from September 15 to October 15 to recognize the contributions of people of Hispanic or Latino heritage to our country. With this issue of the UE NEWS, we’re launching an annual feature that will highlight what Latino members have done to built the labor movement, and our union and helped win important victories.
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UE News Updates
Rocío Peréz was a member, activist and steward in Local 1110 at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago and a leader in the plant occupation in December 2010. She is still a Local 1110 member and one of the worker/owners of New Era Windows. She was interviewed by UE International Rep. Leah Fried for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Lauro Bonilla was born in a small town near Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, one of 11 children. His father, a small farmer, encouraged Lauro to look for work in the U.S. because it was becoming very hard to support a large family.
Local 1121 has negotiated and ratified a new three-year agreement with Aramark Industrial Laundry. The old contract expired at the end of April, but bargaining on a new agreement was not completed until July 11, and four days later the members ratified the new contract by 2 to 1.
The major issue was health insurance, where the company wanted to replace the existing 80/20 plan with a 70/30 plan, which would also impose higher employee contributions and a 25 percent co-pay on prescriptions. It also would have increased the out-of-pocket maximum from $4,000 to $8,000.
UE Local 799 members, who work for the Delaware City Schools, approved a new two-year contract on August 7. The new agreement improves wages by 2.25 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second year, and includes a 25 cent “bump” to increase the hourly wage rates of workers in several classifications, including cooks, cashiers, custodians, assistant head cook, assistant head cashiers and assistant head custodians. The bump raises the rates for steps 1 through 10 of the wage schedule, the lowest-paid workers in the unit.
Retired UE International Representative Ed Bloch died in his sleep on Sunday, August 24 at his home near Albany. He was 90 years old. Bloch was first hired by UE in 1951 in the national office in New York City, but spent most of his long career with UE in upstate New York, assisting UE locals and organizing the unorganized. He retired in October 1984 but continued to work with UE locals, especially Local 332 at GE in Fort Edward.
The new three-year agreement for paraeducators in the Windsor Locks public schools brings 7 percent in wage increases and maintains the existing health insurance with little increase in cost to members. The paras are members of Sub-local 4 of statewide UE Local 222, and they approved the new contract unanimously.
Two enormous challenges face UE Local 893-Iowa United Professional this fall: state elections in which the future of public employee unions is on the line, and contract bargaining with heath insurance under attack. Delegates to the local’s annual statewide convention on July 26 devoted their attention to preparing for those coming battles.
A year-long campaign of rank-and-file worker action, organized by UE members at the big Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP) owned by Cummins Engine, has resulted in a big wage increase for all workers. Technicians (production and operations workers) will receive an 80 cent across-the-board hourly raise and skilled trades will get 75 cents, even though they don’t have a contract or a certified majority union.
The encampments are gone: young people no longer sleep in tents at Zuccotti Park near Wall Street or in the financial centers of other cities. But the impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to be felt. Its participants performed a vital public service by making Americans aware of how economic inequality has gotten worse in our country. The issue of inequality has now become a force in our politics and culture, and it’s fueling new forms of protest and fightback by members of the 99 percent, particularly the bottom 20 percent who work hard but are cruelly underpaid.