UE Local 683, whose members process and transport scrap metal, ratified a 1-year contract extension on Monday, July 20. Faced with bargaining during a pandemic and major economic recession, the union secured the continuation of employee healthcare premiums based on 2020 rates for the next 12 months, a hazard pay bonus for those who have worked since the COVID-19 outbreak, and a provision allowing accrued vacation payouts.
UE NEWS Updates
Members of UE Local 208 in St. Albans, VT joined US Congressman Peter Welch on Wednesday in demanding that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reverse their plan to furlough workers — 1,100 in Vermont and over 13,000 nationwide — on August 3.
As colleges and universities around the country announce plans for re-opening in the fall, UE members who work on their campuses are expressing concerns that they are being treated like disposable plastic gloves and paper masks, by institutions more interested in making money than protecting workers’ health.
UE launched a new Instagram account today with a celebration of UE cartoonist Fred Wright, who was born on this day in 1907. He worked for UE from 1949 until his death in 1984. The UE NEWS asked retired managing editor Peter Gilmore, who worked with Wright, to write a recollection of Wright for this occasion.
The protests that have swept our country since the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police in May have put the issue of police violence front and center. The labor movement has a special responsibility to speak out on this issue. Too many of our members have experienced violence and harassment from the police due to nothing more than the color of their skin. All workers who struggle for a better life are threatened when the police are used to violently suppress protest. And just as our country is starved of needed social services due to a bloated military budget, state and local services are underfunded due to overspending on increasingly militarized police forces.
In what is so far the largest NLRB election victory of the COVID-19 era, almost 400 workers employed by federal contractors at the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) have voted overwhelmingly to join UE in a mail ballot election. When the ballots were counted on June 12, UE had won 84 percent of the vote.
“Unions are the backbone of working men and women everywhere,” said PTI driver Samantha Saint-Cyr, explaining why she and her co-workers voted to join UE. “Without them we are subject to the whims of Corporate America.”
“Homestead” is one of those place names in U.S. labor history – like Haymarket and Flint – that carries a lot of meaning. The courageous 1892 struggle by the workers of the Homestead mill and their community, against robber baron Andrew Carnegie, his union-busting lieutenant Henry Clay Frick, and the Pennsylvania National Guard, ended in defeat for the workers and killed the idea that craft unions could succeed at collective bargaining in mass production industries. But in Mike Stout’s memoir of his life as a worker and union leader in the Homestead mill’s final decade, he makes clear that something of the rebellious spirit of 1892 survived. “For me,” he writes, “1892 and 1982 are part of a whole, two points on the same pole of resistance and spirit of solidarity that sprang up, thrived, and was eventually suffocated at the great Homestead steel mill.”
Workers at the Willy Street Co-op, who voted to join UE by a wide margin in September, ratified their first UE contract in March. The new contract addresses all of the issues in their organizing program, including getting rid of a widely-hated attendance policy and making progress towards a living wage. The more than 300 workers work in three stores around Madison, as well as an off-site kitchen and a central office.
At the end of February, Local 228 successfully negotiated a three-year contract with a new contractor, LDRM, which took over operations of the National Visa Center on March 1. The new contract includes hefty wage increases, measures to soften the blow of runaway insurance costs, and no substantial concessions on language.
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