On Sunday, October 10, UE held its second Florence Criley Women’s Leadership Fundraiser. This event raised over $2600 to subsidize the costs of UE women attending leadership development programs. The featured speaker of this year’s event was Larsene Taylor, former president of UE Local 150 and former member of the General Executive Board (GEB), UE’s highest rank-and-file decision-making body outside of conventions.
UE NEWS Updates
UE Local 319, whose members produce industrial lubricants for Battenfeld Grease & Oil Corporation of New York, ratified a new three-year contract on October 8. The local’s gains include average wage increases of $.81 per hour for each year of the contract and additional employer contributions to workers’ health savings accounts (HSAs). The local successfully fought back all concessions proposed by the company.
In his final organizing report to a UE convention before his retirement at the end of October, Director of Organization Gene Elk gave an overview of what he called “one of the most fruitful periods for organizing in UE that I can remember.
“Despite the pandemic and despite outrageous attacks on the labor movement, I am proud to say that organizing is alive and well in UE,” Elk told delegates “Neither the pandemic nor the attack from the right could stop us from carrying out UE’s mission to organize the unorganized.
Last Thursday, 20 workers at the Refresco bottling plant in Wharton, NJ marched on company managers, demanding that the company begin negotiating with their union, UE Local 115.
The workers delivered a letter signed by a majority of their coworkers that called out Refresco’s lack of respect, and asserted that without workers having a real say over their working conditions, the “plant will remain in its current state of chaos.”
Although they were unable to gather in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 delegates from UE locals across the U.S. nonetheless held a successful virtual convention from September 20-24, with all of the inspiration, education, democracy and solidarity of a regular UE convention. They were joined by dozens of guests, including rank-and-file members, new UE members from recent organizing campaigns, retired UE officers and staff, and guests from allied unions Unifor (Canada) and the FAT (Mexico).
Food service workers at the Wallingford school district were holding their first membership meeting as new Sublocal 92 of amalgamated UE Local 222 on March 12, 2020, when they learned that the schools they worked in were being closed for an indefinitely amount of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new agreement negotiated by Local 221 with Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA) will bring significant wage increases for workers at this Head Start agency which serves Vermont’s northeast counties, one of the poorest parts of the state. The most underpaid workers will see increases of up to 28 percent.
As COVID-19 cases dropped in the early summer, and before the surge of the Delta variant in late summer, UE’s two elected regional presidents took the opportunity to get out and visit locals in person.
State workers who were on the front lines through the pandemic are frustrated at the current budget proposals coming from both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly.
“I’ve worked here for 22 years and have the scars to prove it,” said Licinia Ochoa, a machine operator, explaining why she “jumped into” the UE organizing campaign at the Refresco bottling plant. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I did all these years.”
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