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.
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.
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.
Members of Local 243 gathered on Saturday evening, November 1 at a banquet hall to celebrate their local's 75th anniversary. You can see a photo album of that event on UE's Facebook page. The Spring 2014 issue of the UE NEWS included the following piece on Local 243's distinguished history.
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 joined UE in 1950 when he got a job in a UE shop, and was hired onto the UE staff in 1951 in New York City. He 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 assist UE locals, especially Local 332 at GE in Fort Edward.
|David Montgomery addressing delegates to UE's 71st Convention in New Haven, 2009.(Photo by Ron Flowers)|
Helen Quirini, a pioneer activist for the rights of women workers, and for the past 30 years a powerful voice of GE retirees, died on October 4 at age 90.
March each year is Women’s History Month, so this is a good time to reflect on the contributions that UE women have made to their union and to the long, continuing struggle for women’s equality in the United States.
In an article posted on its website on New Year’s Eve, The Nation, highly-respected weekly magazine on the political left, named the “Most Valuable Progressives of 2008." In this year-end round-up of exemplary activism, The Nation’s Washington correspondent John Nichols placed UE at the top of an impressive list of agents for positive change.
One of the last of the founding generation of UE leaders, Charles Newell died May 30, just four months short of his 100th birthday. Newell was the father of Amy Newell, former UE organizer and UE Secretary-Treasurer from 1985 to 1994, the first woman to serve as a national from officer of a manufacturing union. His wife of 53 years, Ruth (Voithofer) Newell, was also a UE organizer; she died in 1999.