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International Solidarity is Focus of Tuesday Afternoon Convention Session

26 August, 2015

Following workshops, the convention reconvened late Tuesday afternoon to hear from international guests and discuss the resolution on International Labor Solidarity. Leah Fried, UE director of international strategies, introduced the guests from the FAT of Mexico, the CSN from Quebec, and for the first time at this year's convention, a delegation from the Italian metalworkers union FIOM-CGIL, including two GE workers from Florence.

Benedicto Martinez said the FAT continues to help worker get away from company unions and build real unions in their workplaces. The FAT brought a case before the International Labor Organization (ILO), the UN’s labor agency, against Mexican employers’ use of “protection contracts” with corrupt unions to keep real unions out. The ILO ordered Mexico to end this practice. He said solidarity is a two-way street, and in the relationship between UE and the FAT, we help each other.

Martinez will be retiring soon, and there was an exchange of gifts. He has been a guest at many UE conventions and other events over the past 20 years.

Dominique Daigneault president of the Montreal Central Local of the CSN, spoke to delegates by video; she had been at the convention earlier in the week.

Stefano Maruca, international secretary of the FIOM, spoke for the delegation from the Italian metalworkers. With him were Daniele Colosi, president of the FIOM local at a GE plant in Florence, and Marcelo Frascati, a FIOM representative in Florence. Maruca said we must fight against government austerity policies and against attacks on workers’ right to organize.
    
Several delegates spoke on the resolution “International Solidarity.” Kathleen Coonrod, Local 203, recalled her participation in a UE solidarity trip to Mexico last February. She also participated in the march against nuclear weapons in April with a large delegation from our Japanese labor ally Zenroren. “Solidarity is about reaching across geographic boundaries that corporations are now allowed to ignore,” she said. Nathanette Mayo, Local 150, said she learned much by attending the World Social Forum and it affected how she looks at her union struggles with the City of Durham.

Charlene Winchell, Local 1121, said she also learned a lot on a UE trip to Mexico, and urged members to give to the UE-FAT Solidarity Fund. Elizabeth Jesdale reported on attending the CSN’s national congress last year, and Carl Rosen, Western Region, spoke about a 2014 trip to attend the convention of India’s New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) and international work on behalf of precarious workers.

The resolution “Stand Up for the Rights of Immigrant Workers” was read by Nathanette Mayo, Local 150 and a member of the Resolutions Committee. Carl Rosen described how the employer at Kraco, Local 1021 in Compton, California, has been using immigration regulations to try to destroy the union. UE is fighting efforts to deport the leaders of the union there, which has made great contributions to UE, including a militant strike in the 1970s. Senowa Mize-Fox, Local 203, described fighting for the rights of an immigrant co-worker against whom the employer is discriminating because of his accent, although he speaks fluent English. Peter Knowlton, Northeast Region, and Phil Dedera, Local 1077, also spoke for the resolution.

Following the recess of the convention until Wednesday morning, delegates from GE locals met briefly as the UE-GE Conference Board, with the Italian and Mexican guests attending. The Italian brothers shared details about GE’s operations in Italy, the workforce, labor conditions and their union’s negotiations with GE.

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