I recently attended a two day conference on food justice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of the most marginalized cities in the middle of one of the richest counties (Fairfield County) in America. Bridgeport seemed a fitting place to hold the conference; a place rich with racial and cultural diversity going through the all too unfortunate struggles of poverty and gentrification. Statistically, 18.4 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, and Fairfield county is the most “economically uneven region” in America.
After a tough round of negotiations, UE Local 610 members on May 4 approved a new three-year agreement with their employer, Wabtec. Wages will increase 50 cents each year, and there is a slight increase in the night shift differential, from 85 cents to 90 cents. For workers at the rubber plant in Greensburg, the union won an increase in the set-up rate from $17.84 to $18, before the general wage increases were added.
Field Organizer Omar el-Malah died in his sleep on June 26 at age 39. Doctors gave the cause of death as acid reflux.
He joined the UE staff in 2003, with previous experience working for several other labor unions. His primary assignments in UE were in New England and the Mid-Atlantic area, although he frequently worked in other parts of the country to assist UE campaigns.
UE Local 716 has gained 50 new members through National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections at two rail yards in Ohio. Local 716 is the new statewide local of rail crew van drivers in Ohio employer by Hallcom (formerly Renzenberger.) These two wins bring to seven the number of rail yards represented by the Local 716. The NLRB counted the ballots on June 13.
UE's history of fighting for equality for women workers is featured in a question on this year's Advanced Placement (AP) United States History Exam from The College Board. High school students across the country who score well on the AP exam can earn college course credit before they start college.
Retired UE Field Organizer James "Jim" Ermi died Saturday at Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly, NJ, following a heart attack. Jim served as a UE organizer for 26 years in the Eastern Region and before that, District 1, organizing and assisting UE locals primarily in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Ermi became involved with UE some 30 years ago as a worker at Stryker Machine Shop in Trenton, NJ, which he helped to organize into UE Local 155. After the union was established in the shop, Jim was elected chief steward.
March 21 is UE’s birthday, and this year we turn 80. It was on that date in 1936 that 43 delegates from 17 local unions gathered in Buffalo for a two-day convention, and by the time they left they had created a brand new national union, the United Electrical and Radio Workers of America.
By a 2 to 1 margin, with 106 members in attendance, Local 770 voted to ratify a four-year contract with Hendrickson Truck Suspension that breaks the two-tier wage system the company had imposed in the previous round of negotiations. While it will take 10 years for a new hire to reach top scale, the new agreement provides a pathway to the top for all employees. Ten workers were restored immediately to top wage; these members had been laid off in 2009 and later recalled at second-tier wages, which had cut their pay by $3.57 an hour.
On February 8, members of Local 243 voted 187 to 5 to ratify a new three-year contract that increases wages and the pension, and maintains the existing health insurance. Maintaining the medical benefits with no increase in costs to workers was one of the most important elements of the agreement, and members were extremely pleased about it. “We’re ecstatic our medical is unchanged,” 27-year employee Gina King told the New Haven Independent.
Seven years after their six-day sit down at Republic Windows and Doors, which received national and worldwide attention and support, that courageous action of UE Local 1110 has brought them another victory. They will receive two weeks’ back pay from their former employer Republic Windows and Doors.