In a new book, The Long Deep Grudge, historian Toni Gilpin recounts the history of the Farm Equipment Workers union (FE). Like UE and the ILWU, the FE practiced a militant and democratic form of unionism that contested the boss’s power on the shop floor as much as in contract negotiations. Throughout the book, Gilpin makes a compelling case that the aggressive shop-floor struggle conducted by rank-and-file FE members, and the majority-white FE’s deep commitment to racial equality, was inextricably connected to the left-wing views of the union's leadership.
UE NEWS Features
From November 24th to December 4th, 2019, United States Labor Against the War (USLAW) and the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) led a joint labor delegation to Colombia. Participants included union members and staff from UE, National Nurses United, UNITE HERE, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the United Steelworkers, and the National Writers Union. The delegation also included a member of About Face: Veterans Against the War and Latin America solidarity activists.
Under the slogan, “UE: The Union for Everyone,” delegates from UE locals across the country met in Pittsburgh from August 25-29 for UE’s 76th National Convention. UE members made several historic decisions: unanimously endorsing Bernie Sanders for President, becoming the first union with significant manufacturing membership to endorse the “Green New Deal,” and reaffirming UE’s long-held support for single-payer healthcare, now commonly referred to as “Medicare for All.”
UE General President Peter Knowlton has announced that he plans to retire when his term ends on October 31, and he will not seek reelection at this year’s convention.
He will be retiring with over three decades of service to UE as a field organizer, district and then regional president, and national officer, though as Knowlton is quick to remind anyone he's around these days, this is not the end of his contributions to the union — he plans to stay active as a retiree.
July 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of UE's first contract in Vermont, with the Jones and Lamson Machine Company in Springfield. Chartered in October 1943 to organize Springfield's machine tool industry, Local 218 won its first NLRB elections, at Vermont Foundries and Jones and Lamson, early in 1944, concluding first contracts with both companies in July.
When 1700 UE members, members of Locals 506 and 618, went on strike for nine days in the bitterly cold Erie winter, they weren’t just fighting for themselves. They were fighting for the future of their community.
On February 25, Wabtec Corporation took over operations of the Erie locomotive plant from General Electric, and immediately demanded a laundry list of concessions, including a two-tier wage structure — that new hires would come in at permanently lower wages, as much as 38 percent lower than what current UE members make.
Seventy years ago, on December 10, the General Assembly of the new United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 58 member countries committed to respecting a wide range of civil, political and economic rights as human rights, rights that all people have simply by virtue of being human. December 10, International Human Rights Day, commemorates the adoption of this document.
As we know, UE is now 82 years old, founded at a March 1936 meeting in Buffalo by rank-and-file delegates from a dozen plants in the electrical equipment and radio manufacturing industries. But in each of the plants represented at that founding convention, and in the other plants where workers formed UE locals in the months and years that followed, a history of struggle going back many years led to the formation of UE.
Ten years ago today, members of UE Local 1110 made history by occupying their factory, Republic Windows and Doors. They captured the imagination of a nation reeling from financial collapse, won an endorsement of their cause from the president-elect, and forced one of the nation’s most powerful banks to come to the table and negotiate.
Every election, politicians promise jobs. Regardless of who wins, good jobs keep getting scarcer in most UE communities. Is there anything else that working people can do to create — and more importantly, keep — good jobs in our communities?
If you like what you read, please consider subscribing to the UE NEWS — for as little as $5/year you can support great labor journalism and receive the print edition of the UE NEWS four times per year.