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Delegates Elect New Officers, Approve Constitution Amendments in Wed. Afternoon Session

28 August, 2015

Wednesday afternoon, August 19 at the UE Convention included discussion and approval of several amendments to the UE Constitution and a few additional resolutions, election of officers, and paying tribute to two longtime UE leaders who will be stepping down and retiring.

The salaries of UE national officers and staff are spelled out in the UE Constitution, which requires their pay "not to exceed an amount equal to the highest weekly wage paid in the industry."  Granting a raise to UE officers and staff requires a convention vote to amend the pay provisions of teh Constitution, and ratification by a majority of the rank-and-file members in local membership meetings. Constitution Committee co-conveners Carl Rosen, Western Region; Scott Slawson, Local 506; and Ray Pompano, Local 243 presented the committee’s recommendation, which included no raises for the coming year, and 3 percent raises in the following year, effective December 1, 2016. Delegates approved the amendments on the salaries of the national officers and staff. They also approved an amendment that will increase the per diem meal allowance for officers and staff away from their home cities on union business, effective December 1, 2016, from $28 to $33 a day. Delegates approved deleting some obsolete language about the old per capita dues system, and authorized transfers of money between different union funds.

The delegates then took up the resolution “Restore the Right to Strike.” Andy Weinberg and Brian McPherson, both from Local 279, spoke about their local’s exemplary strike last winter. “Plan your strike very well. It’s very important to have the community behind you 100 percent,” said McPherson.

Scott Slawson, Local 506, said the UE-GE contract includes the right to strike on grievances, a right his local exercises. “If there is a threat it gives us power. This resolution goes hand-in-hand with organizing.” Mike Wells, Local 267 at the University of Vermont, said the only public sector workers who can legally strike in Vermont are teachers, but “I started a rumor that we were going to strike anyway.” Anthony Watts, Local 1135, said his local was helped in negotiations by the company being “so scared that we might strike.”

Delegates discussed and approved a resolution titled, “Preserving Democratic Member-Run Unionism.” Scott Slawson said, “I was in the United Steelworkers. It is staff-run. The beauty of this union is that the national officers don’t run it, we do.” Sharry Niedfeldt, Local 1161 and Marie Lausch, talked about their experiences in less-democratic unions than UE. “I learned a lot in UE. Local officers need to work together. I tell members, ‘You are the union, not us.’” Also speaking on the resolution were Mike Ferritto, Local 506; Elizabeth Nikazmerad and Kathleen Coonrod, Local 203; Carl Rosen, Western Region; and Becky Dawes, Local 893.

The convention approved a resolution on coalition building, “Build Jobs with Justice and the People’s Movement,” on which Elizabeth Jesdale, Local 255, spoke. Delegates also approved a resolution on economic policy, “A Just Economy for All,” on which Bonita Johnson, Local 150; Joni Anderson, Local 1107; Scott Slawson and Mike Ferritto spoke.

ELECTION OF OFFICERS

President Klipple, reminding delegates that he is not running for reelection, called for nominations for general president of UE. Autumn Martinez, Local 255, nominated Peter Knowlton, who has served for years as president of the Northeast Region. Bryan Martindale, Local 1421, seconded the nomination. With no further nominations, delegates voted to instruct the secretary-treasurer to cast a single ballot in the name of Peter Knowlton, thereby electing him president. Peter walked to the dais as delegates stood to applaud, and gave a short acceptance speech.

Klipple called for nominations for secretary-treasurer. Ray Pompano, Local 243, nominated Andrew Dinkelaker, and Joan McAdoo, Local 792 seconded the nomination. There were no further nominations, and delegates approved a motion electing Dinkelaker. Andrew spoke briefly, thanking the delegates.

Next Klipple asked for nominations for director of organization. Scott Slawson nominated Gene Elk, a UE international representative with decades of experience in organizing and negotiating. The nomination was seconded by Marie Lausch, Local 222. Tamyra Levick, Local 208, asked if Bob Kingsley would run for another term and nominated him. Kingsley respectfully declined the nomination and drew laughter when he asked, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you get?” Delegates gave Bob an enthusiastic ovation in appreciation for his years of service.

With no further nominations, delegates approved a motion electing Elk. Gene walked to the stage as delegates applauded, and in a brief speech thanked delegates for their support, thanked the staff for their hard work, and pledged to continue building UE.

Klipple then took nominations for three trustees and three alternate trustees of the national union, one of each from the three regions. The nominations were made by the regional presidents: Deb Gornal, Eastern; Carl Rosen, Western; and Peter Knowlton, Northeast. The new trustees are Don Brown, Local 506; Autumn Martinez, Local 255; and Karel Hoogenraad, Local 1139. Alternates are Chris Wolford, Local 170; Jim Lynch, Local 222; and David Betsworth, Local 893.

President Klipple administered the oath of office to the new officers and trustees, and then brought the entire General Executive Board to the stage. The terms of the new national officers begin on November 1.

The session ended with numerous tributes and gifts to Bruce and Bob, thanking them both for their many years of hard work and leadership to UE. Delegates approved two resolutions, titled "Bruce Klipple" and "Bob Kingsley", which summarized the careers and contributions of these two leaders and wished each of them a long and happy retirement. The testimonials continued that evening at the official convention banquet.

See many more photos from the UE Convention and related events on UE's Facebook page.