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.
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UE News Updates
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.
On June 4, Walmart workers in several U.S. cities staged protest strikes, demanding higher wages and “Respect Now!” This was the latest manifestation of a growing movement for change among people at the bottom end of economic inequality, low-wage workers in such industries as retail, restaurants and fast food, and logistics. Three weeks earlier, on May 15, fast food workers across the U.S. and around the world struck to demand a $15 hourly wage.
For the second consecutive contract, UE Local 329 members employed at Kennedy Valve have made substantial gains in wages, benefits and working conditions. On June 7 members overwhelmingly ratified a new four-year agreement which was the result of careful work by the local leadership and UE staff. Kennedy Valve, a foundry, is a leading producer of fire hydrants and water valves.
The agreement raises hourly wages by $1 immediately and 50 cents in each of the last three years of the contract. The first year wage increase alone is more than 5 per cent.
A coalition of unions representing employees of the Town of Berlin has reached agreement with the town administration on healthcare covering all the workers. The coalition includes two units of UE Local 222, the statewide public employee union. These are Sub-local 52, the blue collar workers, and Sub-local 28, white collar workers.
This is the second coalition bargaining agreement on healthcare between the town and the alliance of five unions, which also includes the Home Health Care Workers-AFSCME, Berlin Police Union-AFSCME Local 1318, and Middle Management Association.
Long before their contract expiration last June, the bargaining committee for UE Local 222 Sub-local 43 surveyed their members to learn which issues needed to be addressed in negotiations. The most important issue for all members was maintaining the current Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO health insurance plan, and limiting the cost increase for these hard-working, underpaid professionals.
Members of UE Local 150 employed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) met on March 19 with the head of that department, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, about many serious workplace issues. On the same day, the union publicly released to the public and the media a 25-page report on issues facing DHHS workers. (You can download the full report as a PDF file from the link below.)