On March 16, six days after North Carolina governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UE Local 150 leaders Darrion Smith, Nathanette Mayo and Angaza Laughinghouse held a press conference at the state capitol building, demanding expanded sick leave for all workers, personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 masks, gowns and gloves, hazard pay, and other protections for essential frontli
UE NEWS Updates
The work performed by the teachers, speech language pathologists, and registered nurses of UE Local 613 at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children requires a high level of technical and social skills.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the local has also needed to confront new challenges in maintaining the participatory principles of bottom-up, rank-and-file unionism. Led by the efforts of their executive committee, union representation and meetings have proceeded with minimal interruption.
In mid-March, as the number of COVID-19 cases began to increase across the country, UE Local 506, whose members work at Wabtec’s huge locomotive manufacturing facility in Erie, PA, began pressing the company to take action to ensure the health and safety of its members, their families and the Erie community.
UE Local 170, which represents state workers throughout West Virginia, has been working in many different ways to help their members in this time of need. “We just received our first order of 500 cloth masks, gloves, safety glasses and wipes to give out to members at the state hospital,” reports Vice President Leslie Riddle. “Due to back orders this has been a difficult process at times. But we have placed orders for several more.”
Local 1123’s most recent contract with National Consolidation Services was signed in late 2018, when the business was on the brink of bankruptcy. The local was forced to accept a wage freeze and a “new hire” tier $3 per hour below the regular rate, but got the company to agree to a wage reopener in April 2020. Negotiations took place on April 16, and the union negotiated a settlement which provides for 50-cent across-the-board wages each year and removes the tier.
The William & Mary Workers’ Union, the newest chapter of UE Local 160, has been organizing workers at the College of William & Mary, a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia, since 2019. Like their counterparts in North Carolina and West Virginia, public workers in Virginia do not have the right to collective bargaining. Since going public in November, the union has made significant progress in growing and making their demands heard on campus.
UE Local 893, Sublocal 15, which represents the Cedar County Road Crew in Tipton, Iowa, ratified a new three-year agreement on March 3. The agreement includes a wage adjustment of one dollar plus two percent in the first year, one dollar plus three percent in the second year, and seventy-five cents plus three percent in the third year. “The membership was pleased with the contract, which brings road crew wages up with those in surrounding urban counties,” said Sublocal Secretary-Treasurer Hap Deerberg.
UE locals from coast to coast have been taking action to make sure workers’ voices are heard as decisions are being made which impact our health, our jobs, and our ability to provide for our families. The next issue of the UE NEWS will feature extensive coverage of local activities, but in the meantime we have put together a selection of press coverage that UE locals have received over the past month. (Not a UE member? You can still subscribe to the UE NEWS for as little as $5/year.)
This year, we celebrate International Workers Day as the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the central importance of workers to our society. It is the labor of frontline workers — healthcare workers, grocery and food workers, sanitation workers and others — that is keeping people alive right now, not the wealth accumulated by capitalists.
As working people and representatives of trade unions, we join environmental activists in marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with alarm and concern for the future of our planet. The time to fight for immediate and bold climate action is now, but the needed economic transition will not take place without strong guarantees for worker rights and good jobs for all.
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