“Given the current pandemic, Medicare for All is needed now more than ever. Thousands of American families will face astronomical medical expenses due to the COVID virus. Many will be forced into bankruptcy because of their inability to pay. Today is the day we make Medicare for All our top priority for 2021.”
UE NEWS Updates
“This has been a really busy period,” UE Director of Organizing Gene Elk told the General Executive Board during their January meeting. “We now have opportunities to organize hundreds of workers.” Elk gave an overview of several large campaigns the union is currently engaged in, among 1500 graduate workers at the University of New Mexico, 900 graduate workers at New Mexico State University, and 700 largely black city workers employed in the utilities, public works, and sanitation departments of the city of Virginia Beach.
Debra Gornall, who retired as Eastern Region President in 2017 after four and a half decades as a UE member, local leader, field organizer and international representative, passed away on January 17.
Tinius Olsen workers, members of UE Local 155, ratified a new three-year agreement on February 12 after tough bargaining.
UE members at Tinius Olsen make materials testing machines, sales of which have been slow due to the pandemic-related slowdown in the construction industry. Despite this, the union was able to prevail upon management to preserve their $1.25 hazard pay through August. Workers will then receive a one-time bonus of $650, and a two percent wage increase in each of the second and third years of the contract.
Pittsburgh “frontline” singer Anne Feeney, who performed at UE rallies, picket lines and conventions for over 35 years, passed away on Wednesday, from COVID-19. Feeney told the UE NEWS in 2017, “I love going to picket lines,” and she could often be found wherever workers were in struggle.
Nearly 1,000 graduate workers at the University of New Mexico — a clear majority — have joined United Graduate Workers of UNM/UE, and have petitioned for recognition with the state labor board. But the university administration has filed a motion seeking to strip graduate workers of their right to form a union under state law, reneging on its prior public commitment to respect graduate workers’ right to organize.
When new managers at Portescap met with the UE Local 155 last fall to begin negotiations for a new contract, they declared their intention to make wages, paid time off, and even overtime dependent on improvements in productivity and attendance. They said they didn’t want to give raises to workers who were just doing “the bare minimum.”
UE Local 155 members who work for M Chasen and Son made it clear that they were willing to walk off the job if they didn’t secure significant raises — and instead they walked away from the bargaining table with a $1/hour raise.
A one-day walkout, followed by a petition and a strike vote making it clear that workers were willing to take action again, brought home a solid first contract for new UE Local 728 at the Kentucky Consular Center at the end of November. Workers ratified the new agreement on December 5.
UE Locals 625 and 626 ratified an agreement on December 11 that will require their employer, Hitachi ABB, to increase the company’s contributions to workers’ health reimbursement and health savings accounts amid new insurance plans being offered in 2021. Added costs of the proposed plans triggered a re-opener in both locals’ contracts which gave them the right to negotiate over the increases and strike if necessary.
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