More than 40 members of UE were on hand to make history in Atlanta at the end of June, as over 10,000 people gathered for five days in the biggest social justice event in our country in recent memory, the U.S. Social Forum (USSF.)
Nearly 50 members of UE, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Jobs with Justice and other supporters rallied on June 6 outside the annual meeting of DirecTV in New York City to protest the denial of workers´ rights by the giant satellite TV company and its subcontractors. Four of them – Northeast Regional President Peter Knowlton, UE Local 719 member and DirecTV contractor employee Victor Iddings, International Rep.
One of the last of the founding generation of UE leaders, Charles Newell died May 30, just four months short of his 100th birthday. Newell was the father of Amy Newell, former UE organizer and UE Secretary-Treasurer from 1985 to 1994, the first woman to serve as a national from officer of a manufacturing union. His wife of 53 years, Ruth (Voithofer) Newell, was also a UE organizer; she died in 1999.
The Bush administration has no love for unions anywhere, but in Iraq it has a special reason for hating them. They are the main opposition to the occupation’s economic agenda, and the biggest obstacle to that agenda’s centerpiece - the privatization of Iraq´s oil. At the same time, unions have become the only force in Iraq trying to maintain at least a survival living standard for the millions of Iraqis who still have to go to work every day, in the middle of the war.
Two leaders of Iraq´s labor movement, Hashmeya Huhsin Hussein, president of the Electric Utility Workers Union, and Falah Abood Umara, general secretary of the Federation of Oil Unions, are touring a dozen U.S. cities this month, from June 4 to June 29. They will address members of Congress, union members, and the general public about the impact of the U.S. occupation on the Iraqi labor movement and the lives of working people.
The labor movement in Iraq is fighting to stop a proposed “hydrocarbon law” that would turn over the lion’s share of their country’s oil reserves to major foreign oil companies. U.S. Labor Against the War is calling on U.S. unionists to help the Iraq´s unions.
Four years after a majority voted to be represented by UE, the National Labor Relations Board has gotten around to counting the ballots which on March 14 showed that, by a vote of 33 to 5, workers at Hishi Plastics had chosen UE as their bargaining representative. Justice delayed may be justice denied, but Hishi workers are seizing this belated opportunity to achieve some justice on the job with their first UE contract.
UE Locals 222 and 243 sent members to Hartford on April 18 for UE’s third Connecticut Political Action Conference in that state. This year the UE event was coordinated with Labor United for Healthcare as a multi-union lobby day to push for the Connecticut Saves Health Care Program (SB 1371), a bill that would establish a state single-payer plan.
UE members in Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles participated in mass marches on May 1, International Workers’ Day, focused on the fight for the rights of immigrant workers in the U.S.
Over 50 UE members were among the more than 150,000 marchers in Chicago, birthplace of May Day as a world labor holiday. UE’s contingent included members of Locals 1101, 1110 and former Local 1104.
Most Americans who came of age during the Cold War grew up believing that May Day was some sort of communist holiday, invented by the Russians. Every year on May 1, television news would show us official parades through Red Square in Moscow, the leaders of the USSR standing in review atop Lenin’s Tomb as soldiers marched in formation and tanks and missiles rolled past. Few Americans were aware that May 1 each year was the occasion for general strikes and mass parades by labor union members in other foreign capitals such as Paris, Rome, and Mexico City.