JBM Bluegrass Satellite/DirecTech has agreed to pay approximately $1.9 million to workers at its Columbus, Ohio facility for massive unfair labor practices the company committed in its efforts to destroy the workers’ union, UE Local 719. This is a major victory over an extremely anti-union employer; however, these workers are still engaged in a very difficult fight for their first UE contract.
UE Local 221 members at the Flynn Regional Box Office in Burlington, Vermont unanimously ratified a new three-year contract in June. The agreement includes wage increases of 3 percent each year for workers at the maximum rate, and annual raises of 4 and 5 percent for workers at lower rates. Before organizing with UE, wages at the Flynn ranged from minimum wage to just a dollar above minimum wage. By the end of
this contract, the Flynn workers’ fifth, the start rate will have reached $10.21 and the maximum rate $12.28.
Workers at Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier Vermont who are organized into UE Local 255 made significant progress in this round of contract negotiations. By keeping the members informed and remaining united, the final contract retained important protections and made some significant improvements. The new agreement, covering 108 workers, is a three-year contract with reopeners on wages, health insurance, retirement and gain share.
Members of UE Local 203 at City Market/Onion River Co-op in Burlington Vermont, fought for and won a two-year agreement that fixed many wage inequities that had developed under the previous agreement. Average wage before negotiations for the 122 workers in the bargaining unit was $10.88. With no turnover, the average wage at the end of the two-year contract term will be $12.29.
On July 3 – the day before Independence Day – a bill to revoke the ban on collective bargaining and contracts for state and local government employees was approved by a majority of a House judiciary committee. This is an important first step toward repealing North Carolina´;s unjust 50-year-old General Statute 95-98, and giving public employees the right to bargain.
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.