Convention Gives Boost To International Solidarity

August 29, 2003

68th National UE Convention Daily Summaries Wednesday Morning, August 27th, 2003

The convener of the Resolutions Committee, Peter Knowlton, District Two, expressed the committee’s appreciation for the work of National office staff Lisa Frank, Peter Gilmore and Mari Carpenter, Field Organizer Omar el-Malah and District 11 office manager Shirley Houston in the preparation of the resolutions.

Resolutions Committee member Matt McCracken, Local 506, read "International Solidarity."

In connection with this resolution, the convention heard from International Labor Affairs Director Robin Alexander. She reminded delegates of the divisions the Cold War created in the labor movement were global as well as domestic. The AFL-CIO collaborated with the CIA in attacking democratic unions abroad and overthrowing pro-labor governments. Since the 1980s,"neo-liberalism," with its deregulation, privatization, downsizing and other anti-worker attacks, has become the policy of corporate elites the world over. Labor’s experience with NAFTA and neo-liberalism has fostered change. New leadership in the AFL-CIO has encouraged organizing, and cleaned out most of the spies and thugs on its international payroll.

For the past decade, Alexander said, UE has been working to build a new kind of international work based on organizing and rank-and-file participation. She reviewed recent and planned work, emphasizing worker-to-worker connections across international boundaries.

The convention heard from Eunice Wolf, for two decades a leader of the Brazilian metalworkers’ union, a worker in a Carrier air conditioner plant. She applauded UE’s convention theme, saying that it is important that women and men fight together to achieve more rights for both. Her union federation, the CUT, will dedicate its 2006 conference to female trade union leaders. She noted proudly that, as a result of struggle by union women, the CUT is the only trade union federation in Brazil that with an affirmative policy that promotes women.

Wolf reviewed conditions in Brazil, a populous country with high levels of economic development, unemployment, and trade union membership. The Workers’ Party (PT) has significant representation in Congress, and elected as the republic’s president a factory worker for the first time. She explained that because the PT does not have a majority in Congress, President Luis "Lula" da Silva has had to engage in alliances with other parties. This creates a situation where the CUT offers critical support to the Administration. "This means there will be many conflicts between the CUT and Lula’s government," Wolf said. "The reforms that Lula is proposing aren’t every thing that we want, but we understand they will lead to a transition from a neo-liberal to a democratic and just country." A major issue at present is reform of Brazil’s Social Security system. CUT backs the administration’s proposals, which have come under sharp attack from both the left and right. She pointed out that in spite of such controversy, Lula enjoys an approval rating of 75 percent, the highest ever enjoyed by a Brazilian president. The CUT understands that success for Lula will strengthen workers and their unions around the world.

A number of delegates took to the floor microphones to endorse the resolution, speaking from their own experiences with the UE’s international program and recognition of the immediate need for international solidarity. Speakers were Marianne Hart, District 10, Carmyn Stanko, Local 267, Annette Joseph Walker, Local 160, Barbara Prear, Local 150, John Thompson, Local 690, and Becky Dawes, Local 893. The final speaker, Carole Braun, Local 767, successfully moved that delegates make contributions to send delegates to the International Working Women’s conference to take place later this year in Atlanta.

The resolution was adopted.

President John Hovis read the final credentials report.

Resolutions Committee member Kevin Esch, Local 896, read "Labor Law Reform to Establish Our Constitutional Rights."

Speaking in support of the resolution, Ed Havaich, Local 751, declared, "The enemies of our freedom do not sleep. We must build this union, we must build solidarity." Jonathan Kissam, District Two, pointed that UE gained two new locals in Vermont in part because of many years of work to elect worker-friendly candidates, develop community support, and build a strong Jobs with Justice chapter – the kind of work mandated by this resolution.

The resolution was adopted.

General Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Klipple reviewed the national union’s budget for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 fiscal years. Before doing so, he pointed out that only in recent years have any unions, including UE, attempted to set an annual budget. This union’s budget procedure comes from the recommendations of a committee established a few years ago to take a hard look at union’s resources.

While the national union succeeded in holding the line on spending, coming close to staying within the projected expenses, income was much further off the mark, Klipple said. "The Bush Administration’s policies, or lack of policies, have shoved the American economy into the tank. It’s certainly had an effect on this union," he said. Although the union succeeded in bringing new people into the union, a number were lost through layoffs and plant closings. The UE officer reminded delegates that per capita accounts for 78 percent of the union’s income. The shortfall in 2002-2003 caused the national office to make some unpopular but unnecessary adjustments.

"We need to do better," Klipple said. He reminded delegates that this was only the third year in which the union developed a budget. He reviewed for delegates how the national union is cutting expenses, and also pointed out that the income projections for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2003 are more conservative.

Your union is financially sound, Klipple assured delegates. But he cautioned that now is the time to make the plans, to make the adjustments, that will assure a stable future.

The power-point presentation by the General Secretary-Treasurer was followed by another on the per capita recommendation from the General Executive Board. The plan calls for a graduated, flat per capita. "We’ve been trying to figure out how to get stability and fairness," he said. "We’ve had various versions." This plan, developed by a rank-and-file committee and altered following consultations with district and local leaders, meets three major objectives: it achieves fairness, recognizes our growth and diversity; and stabilizes our finances. This plan, Klipple said, will keep the union going for next generation.

The convention next heard the report of the Policy Action Committee. Co-convener Jonathan Kissam, District Two, explained the approach: develop a plan of action based on key resolutions that can be carried out districts and locals around the union. Convener John Lambiase, District Six, read the report, which lays out an action plan based on health care, political action and labor law reform.

A number of delegates responded with ideas and statements of support for the plan: Peter Knowlton, District Two, Dennis Singer, Local 1111, Frank Fusco, Local 506, James Jordan, Local 683, Raymond Sanders, Local 150, Bobbie Nesbit, Local 714, Louis Panza, Local 689, Bob South, Local 234, Larsene Taylor, Local 150, John Thompson, Local 690, Jeff Tillson, Local 1121, and John Lambiase, District Six.

The plan was adopted, and the Policy Action Committee was dismissed with the thanks of the convention.

Delegates then adopted the packet of resolutions distributed earlier in the week.

Resolutions Committee member James Lemke, Local 1111, read "Defend Our Civil Liberties."

Carl Rosen, District 11, and Don Gaskill, Local 770, offered strong statements of support. The resolution was adopted.


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