UE Local 221 members who work for the Head Start program at Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA) ratified a new two-year agreement this fall. The new contract updates the wage scale for the first time since 2002, when workers agreed to freeze the wage scale and only take cost-of-living adjustments in order to help the agency through some difficult financial times.
UE NEWS Updates
UE stands in full solidarity with the members of Unifor Local 594 who have been locked out by Co-op Refinery in Regina, Saskatchewan, and the members of Unifor who have come from across Canada to support them. We unequivocally condemn the heavy-handed and aggressive tactics used by the Regina Police, including the arrest on Monday January 20 of Unifor National President Jerry Dias, Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle, and other Unifor members.
After running a militant contract campaign which included a one-day strike of their employer, ABB, UE Locals 625 and 626 ratified a three-year agreement on December 21. The vote was held in a crowded room of union members at the American Legion in Mt. Pleasant, PA. The workers, who build high-quality circuit breakers and high-voltage equipment at locations in Greensburg and Mt. Pleasant, PA, had been working without a contract for seven weeks.
Despite the company’s lawyer’s assertion early in negotiations that UE members’ “shenanigans” would have no effect on the outcome of negotiations, it was only at the last moment, with members taking action and the expiration looming, that the company began making wage proposals that members could begin to consider as fair.
Only a couple of months prior to negotiations with the 70 members of UE Local 1161, the manufacturing company Spartek, Inc. lost their second-largest customer. The health insurance industry’s greed compounded the situation, with premiums for the company set to increase by more than 15 percent.
Nonetheless, Local 1161 members demanded a fair contract and wore UE Local 506-inspired t-shirts reading, “The company whispers you can’t handle the storm” and “UE replied, WE ARE THE STORM.”
Member involvement paid off in this year’s contract negotiations for Local 1160 — their new four-year contract with Roth Pump includes hefty first-year wage increases, as well as improvements to the 401(k) and the way that members move through the pay scale.
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.
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.”
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