In February, by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 over the incumbent company union, Renzenberger rail crew drivers at more than 30 rail yards covering the length of California voted in a mail-ballot election to be represented by UE. Like Renzenberger drivers who have previously joined UE in Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio, these workers suffered from low wages, outrageously unfair work rules, abusive bosses, and lack of benefits.
Since the birth of UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, in 1998, one of its central goals has been the repeal of North Carolina General Statute 95-98, which outlaws collective bargaining and union contracts for all state and local public employees. Local 150 delegates and leaders often tell other UE members that this law is a “Jim Crow law.” For Black History Month 2014, the UE NEWS asks, “What is Jim Crow?”
It took more than two years of bargaining on a contract renewal that should have been completed in June 2011. But in December workers in the North Haven Department of Public Works unanimously ratified a new four-year agreement with substantial raises, back pay for delayed raises, and other improvements.
A growing movement of low-wage workers is demanding a living wage for workers in fast food, retail, and other industries in this country that make huge profits by paying employees less than what they need to support themselves.
Beginning in 1947 and continuing until 1977, GE intentionally dumped approximately 1.3 million pounds of highly-toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River from Fort Edward and the neighboring plant in Hudson Falls (now closed.) GE also polluted the soil and groundwater under its plants and in the surrounding communities.
Local 1421 members at Stepan have a new three-year contract with 2.5 percent raises each year. The contract was settled in just two bargaining sessions.
“We really didn’t give anything back,” says Local 1421 President Bryan Martindale. “We made one concession in order to fight off a greater evil.” The company tried to impose a two-tier wage system, calling the lower tier a “training wage.” “They wanted to hire people at $6 less per hour. We beat them on that.”
At the end of difficult negotiations in which members conducted a six-week contract campaign, Local 1421 has a new three-year contract with Tree Island Wire that includes a new healthcare plan that drastically reduces workers’ costs.
Georgina Cabrera, a member of UE Local 222, has been named Connecticut Paraprofessional of the Year. On November 14 she became the first school paraprofessional to receive the renamed Anne Marie Murphy Paraprofessional of the Year Award.
After four months of bargaining including two extensions, the members of Local 684 members on November 26 approved a new five-year agreement with The Electric Material Company (TEMCO). The new contract includes yearly wage increases of 1 percent, 2 percent, 2.25 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent. The first raise is retroactive to October 4, the original contract expiration date. Each member will also receive a signing bonus of $1,600.