Gathering at the historic Franklinton Center at Bricks in the eastern part of the North Carolina, UE’s statewide Local 150 held its 12th biennial convention on August 20 and 21. Nearly 70 delegates and guests gave reports on important victories and struggles across the state, discussed the role of community-faith-labor coalitions in winning broad social changes, and celebrated 25 years of struggle since Local 150’s founding in 1997. Bishop William J. Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign gave the keynote address.
UE NEWS Features
Seventy-five years ago, the labor movement suffered its greatest setback of the 20th Century: the Taft-Hartley Act.
Despite a valiant effort by millions of rank-and-file workers to prevent its passage, Taft-Hartley became law on June 23, 1947 when the Senate overrode President Truman’s veto. Taft-Hartley halted what had been a remarkable decade of progress for working people, tamed union militancy, and set the stage for the long decline of the U.S. labor movement. We are still feeling its effects today.
On Sunday, June 19, our nation will celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates the abolition of slavery, as a federal holiday for the second time. Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect on the ways that the history of slavery still shapes our country’s politics and economy. It is also a reminder of how our history — including the history of all labor struggles — is shaped by the conflict between our human desire for freedom and our bosses’ demand to control our labor.
For more than two years, over 200 workers who bottle Gatorade, BodyArmor, Juice Bowl, Arizona Iced Tea, and Tropicana Juices for Refresco, the world’s largest independent bottling company, have been fighting to secure a measure of justice at work. With their second NLRB election win in less than a year, they are one step closer to winning it.
In one of the largest NLRB election wins for any union in recent years, 3800 graduate workers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology voted on April 4 and 5 to join UE. The MIT Graduate Student Union/UE (MIT-GSU) prevailed by a margin of almost two to one. Following the decisive 1785-912 victory, the MIT administration indicated their intention to begin bargaining with the union in an email to all graduate students.
In the 1930s, as rank-and-file workers in the electrical manufacturing industry were establishing UE in workplaces like the giant General Electric plant in Erie, PA (Local 506) and Sargent Lock in New Haven, CT (Local 243), a union with a similar “Them and Us” philosophy of unionism was building militant, interracial unions in iron ore mines in an area known as “Red Mountain” near Birmingham, Alabama.
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UE Director of Organization Gene Elk will be retiring at the end of his current term, on October 31. Elk first joined the UE staff in November of 1977, and served the union as a Field Organizer, International Representative, and Secretary of the GE Conference Board before his election as Director of Organization in 2015.
September 5 marks the 75th anniversary of a National Labor Relations Board election that took place at the China American Tobacco Company in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was the first NLRB victory in eastern North Carolina for the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural & Allied Workers of America (FTA-CIO), part of a campaign that would bring nearly 10,000 tobacco “leaf house” workers, most of them African-American women, into unions.
Rafael Fuentes, 16, fled his native Honduras with his family to escape a local gang that was trying to recruit him. Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with 37.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020. Fuentes and his family are among the thousands of refugees who have arrived at the U.S. border this spring. Most of them are from Central America, and are fleeing poverty and violence that is a legacy of U.S. foreign and military policy.
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