The last week of 2022 we counted down the Top Five UE NEWS Stories of that year on social media. Click here to read them!
UE NEWS Features
Ralph Fasanella, a former UE organizer who became recognized as one of America’s greatest painters of working-class life and struggle, passed away twenty-five years ago, on December 16, 1997. His paintings — which he intended to be viewed in union halls, not private homes — depict a working class that is diverse, politically engaged yet exuberant in their leisure, and, most importantly, organized and willing to engage in struggle.
Employers loudly proclaim that their workforces are not interested in belonging to unions, speaking for them by claiming that they are satisfied with their unorganized status. This, even though poll after poll shows that workers across all demographic groups and industries indicate wide support for unions. They further express in large majorities a willingness to join a union if that were possible. What stops these workers from organizing is the fact that employers will — and do — resist with every legal and illegal means when workers try to exercise their right to organize.
The economic situation working people find themselves in right now is, to say the least, confusing. All of us are paying higher prices for the basic necessities of life, especially at the gas pump and the grocery store. On the other hand, as reported in recent UE NEWS updates, many UE locals are negotiating the best contracts they have seen in years, and some locals have even been able to convince their employers to raise wages mid-contract.
What’s going on?
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.
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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