Welcoming UE local leaders to the Northeast Region council meeting on November 1, Region President Autumn Martinez noted the abundance of strong women leaders in the room. UE locals from across New England reported on contract negotiations and workplace struggles and discussed building cross-local solidarity and the challenges of climate change.
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UE unequivocally condemns the removal of Bolivia’s elected president Evo Morales by the military on Sunday, and the violence carried out by the military and right-wing paramilitary forces against Indigenous people and political activists in that country. This coup is just the latest example of an attack on a progressive Latin American government by “big business forces supported by U.S. administrations”, as denounced by UE policy, attacks which have as their goal the fattening of corporate profits at the expense of the region’s workers and environment.
Former UE District One President Bob Brown has passed away.
Brown was featured in the first edition of The Troublemaker's Handbook, in a section on sit-down strikes. In January of 1990 he helped lead a group of UE Local 174 members in occupying the SMS Automotive Products plant in greater Philadelphia. SMS had abruptly closed the previous October and owed some 75 workers accrued vacation pay and insurance premiums. After six days of negotiations, the workers won a $40,000 settlement that met all of their demands.
UE Local 625 member Sharon Johnston calls her company’s healthcare plan “The Don’t Get Sick Plan,” because of the high out-of-pocket expenses. “I’d like to go to the dermatologist because my father had cancer,” says Johnston, but “that’s a six-hundred dollar bill there. I can’t afford that, that’s my paycheck.”
UE’s national officers, the presidents of the Eastern and Western regions, and several senior staff met in Chicago the weekend of November 1-3 with leaders from other unions participating in the North American Solidarity Project: UE’s Canadian partner Unifor, National Nurses United, and the Inland Boatmens’ Union/ILWU. The group reviewed the project’s work and made plans for next steps in five core areas: Workers’ Rights and Workers’ Power, Equity and Anti-Racism, Medicare for All, Climate Change and Just Transition, and Trade and Migration.
After three months and a marathon, almost 19-hour final bargaining session, Local 203 reached a new three-year contract with City Market in the early hours of October 1. The contract will increase the starting rate for the lowest-paid job classifications from $11 to $13, with a new wage scale that significantly increases wages for the lowest-paid workers.
On Monday morning, August 26, UE convention delegates voted unanimously to endorse Bernie Sanders for President.
“We live in dangerous times,” declared UE Director of Organization Gene Elk as he introduced the organizing report to the Convention on Monday afternoon. “The National Labor Relations Board, which was originally established to help organize unions, has been turned over to the union-busters that seek to destroy us” and “income inequality is skyrocketing, as stock prices continue at record levels and good-paying jobs disappear.”
Delegates to UE’s 76th Convention reaffirmed the union's longstanding commitment to Medicare for All, unanimously endorsing a resolution on Tuesday morning declaring that “the U.S. employer-based private health insurance system is a disaster” and demanding that Congress pass H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019.
The commitment to international solidarity that is a core UE value was on display at the convention, as guests from Canada, Mexico, Italy and Japan joined UE members to celebrate victories, share experiences and reaffirm solidarity.
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