United Electrical Workers Endorse Sanders

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday welcomed an endorsement by the 35,000-member United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Peter Knowlton, the union’s national president, called Sanders “the most pro-worker pro-union presidential candidate I have seen in my lifetime” and said electing Sanders “is a unique opportunity that workers and unions must not pass up.

“We are proud to endorse Bernie Sanders and support his campaign,” he added.

The endorsement was approved unanimously by rank-and-file local delegates from the union’s three regions over the past six weeks.

Knowlton said the labor organization and Sanders have longstanding ties in Vermont. “As more of our members around the country have seen and heard Bernie over the past few months,” he added, “they’ve seen that his policies and priorities match our own. So, there has been a groundswell of support for Bernie with members volunteering for the campaign.

Sanders welcomed the news while he was campaigning in Rhode Island ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary elections here and in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

“I thank the 35,000 members of the United Electrical Workers for their endorsement,” Sanders said. “During my 25 years in Congress, I have been proud to stand side by side with the UE fighting to increase the minimum wage to a living wage; to guarantee health care to every man, woman and child as a right; to make it easier for workers to join unions; to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure; to transform our nation’s energy system; and against disastrous trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalized trade with China which have destroyed millions of decent-paying jobs in America.”

Altogether, more than 100 national and local unions, representing over 1.5 million workers, have endorsed Sanders. They include the Communications Workers of America, the American Postal Workers Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the United Electrical Workers.

European Journalists Support Organizing American Media Workers

by Paul Garver

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[ed. note] Mike Elk is leaving Politico, where he was part of a team hired to write for Morning Shift. Mike will focus on organizing media workers.

Mike is pictured here with his father Gene Elk, director of organization for the United Electric Workers (UE)

Mike Elk is a first rate labor reporter with a strong union background and a fierce commitment to the workers’ movement. He is one of the few U.S. labor journalists to understand the importance of global worker solidarity. Too bad that Politico did not publish more of the articles I know he was working on. I wish him the best in continuing to organize media workers.

In a statement yesterday, Politico pledged to remain neutral on its workers organizing a union.

Following is an article on Mike Elk by the European Federation of Journalists, together with its protest letter to Politico, which has being trying to establish a European bureau.

Update (20.08.2015) The European Federation of Journalists sent today a letter to Politico CEO Jim VandeHei expressing its concern about news reports suggesting that Mike Elk, Labor reporter at Politico and co-author of the Louisville Statement, has been fired. Politico confirmed, on Thursday, Mike Elk’s departure, saying it has “nothing to do with his union activities”. (…)

Over 12,000 jobs have disappeared from the US media industry, over the last decade. But according to Pew Research Center’s count, 5,000 full-time edit jobs have been created in 2014 across US digital publishing companies. As a consequence, unions are cropping up in digital newsrooms. And a new group, Media Workers Unite, calls for rights for US online journalists.

Earlier this year, the employees of Gawker Media, Vice and Salon voted to unionize: they want to share in the growing prosperity of digital media industry and be able to establish decent working conditions for online journalists.

Pay in digital publishing companies is consistently lower than traditional media, where union collective bargaining has led to better agreements on salary, retirement security and working conditions. Following the most recent US survey, the median annual salary for Journalism and Mass Communication B.A. graduates was $40,500 for union members and $32,000 for non-union members.

Underpaid and exploited, US online journalists are now seeking to unionize. Some of them founded a new group, Media Workers Unite, announcing the release of the “Louisville Statement of Media Workers’ Rights”, on October 8th, at The Carl Braden Memorial Center in Louisville. Among the 12 rights they call for: overtime protections (hours worked above the limit of 40 hours a week must be paid), less restrictive social media policies when journalists are off the clock, protections against age discrimination, freelancers rights, racial and ethnic diversity…

“When you are in the labor movement, no matter how scary this world can get, you never walk alone,” says Politico reporter Mike Elk, co-author of the Louisville Statement with several journalists and trade unionists, including members of the Newspaper Guild, an US affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). “As a workplace safety reporter, I see overtime as hazard that science tells us leads to mental health collapses like that I experienced that has been widely ridiculed by many. Despite the naysayers, we must put a stop to forced overtime in the media industry as it is literally killing media workers (…) and causing serious mental health issues for so many others. (…) The days of McCarthyism are over in the newsroom – everyone deserves a voice!”

The authors of the Statement call on media workers to join them this October 8th – 11th in Louisville in developing a Nationwide Center for Media Workers.

efj on elk

UE General Executive Board Statement on Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign

UE General Executive Board
May 29, 2015
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America
Sanders has been a strong voice encouraging workers to build unions, opposing excessive corporate power and economic inequality; and for measures to curb climate change, notes the UE General Executive Board in a statement urging its members and locals to consider participating in his campaign. The statement also urged Sanders his to offers a stronger critique of US interventionist foreign policy.

At its meeting May 28-29 in Pittsburgh, UE’s General Executive Board adopted the following statement on the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The UE General Executive Board welcomes the entrance of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the presidential race. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, will compete in the Democratic primaries for the Democratic nomination. In his 35-year career in elected office, including 25 years in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been a strong friend and ally to UE members and to workers generally. He has urged workers to organize – as he did when workers at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) in St. Albans organized UE Local 208 in 2008. When Vermont workers have organized, struck, or been engaged in other actions to defend their rights against employer greed or mismanagement, Sanders has spoken publicly in their behalf and assisted them in many other ways.

Recently the Vermont State AFL-CIO Labor Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling him “the strongest candidate articulating our issues”. With the present stable of corporate-sponsored candidates in the presidential race we could not agree more.

Sanders has been a strong voice in American politics encouraging workers to build unions, against excessive corporate power and economic inequality; against the corrosive influence of big money in politics; for the environment and measures to curb climate change. He’s introduced legislation to not only protect Social Security but to increase the benefits, and supports a single-payer system of national health insurance, raising the minimum wage to $15, changing federal law to make it easier to organize, and has pledged to dismantle the Citizens United decision which enables corporations and wealthy donors to give unlimited dollars to political campaigns.

At his official campaign kickoff rally on May 25 in Burlington, VT, Sanders threw down the gauntlet to the corporate elite. “This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class. And that is: You can’t have it all. You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities.”

We are pleased with the way Senator Sanders frames these issues and the worker-based set of policies he is offering, in contrast to the pro-corporate policies of the other Democratic and Republican candidates. We encourage his campaign to offers a stronger critique of the interventionist foreign policy that is offered both by Hillary Clinton and the Republicans. We need our government to stop getting us into wars, stop trying to dominate and interfere in other countries’ affairs, and cut back the billions we spend on war and weapons and use those resources peacefully and productively to address our people’s needs at home.

We encourage UE members and locals to take a serious look at Bernie Sanders’s campaign and to consider their active participation in it.

Union Campaign Wins Big Raise At Rocky Mount Engine Plant

UE News

[Eds. note: Because of the relevance to the topic of how minority unions can function in the South, Talking Union is departing from its usual practice of not reposting organizational press releases. We applaud the patience and persistence of the UE’s long term organizing strategy, and hope that other unions will emulate it.]
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A Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation

by Eric Fink

OrganizeTheSouth-640_Feb17“Organize the South” was the call on Monday evening February 17 in Durham, North Carolina, where an overflow crowd gathered for a discussion on “How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Worker advocates and adversaries alike have identified the South as a crucial battleground in the fight to reverse the long decline of the U.S. labor movement. This Fall, the AFL-CIO committed itself “to develop a Southern organizing strategy” as “one of its top priorities”. The UAW’s bid to represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee became a focal point in that fight, and the union’s narrow defeat in last week’s NLRB representation vote has led some to suggest–dolefully in the case of union supporters, cheerfully in the case of union busters–that a southern organizing strategy remains futile.

The panelists at Monday’s event in Durham rejected that pessimistic conclusion. Their common message was that unions can win in the South, and doing so is an essential part of the broader goal of defeating the reactionary political and economic agenda nationwide. The key to labor’s success in the South is cultivating and mobilizing community support for workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.

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A New Era for Worker Ownership, 5 Years in the Making

The New Era Windows Cooperative opens its doors (and windows) for business

by Kari Lydersen
Reprinted with permission
from In These Times

neweracoop(May 9, 2013) The workers know launching and running a company won’t be easy, but given their deep knowledge of the industry and their personal investment in the project, they are confident they can do it.

Today, in a revamped Campbell’s Soup building in an industrial and residential section of southwest Chicago, the New Era Windows Cooperative will celebrate the grand opening of its new factory.

Becoming a worker-owned cooperative is the latest chapter in the saga of the workers of Republic Windows and Doors, who gained the nation’s attention by occupying their factory—twice—and became a symbol of resistance in the face of corporate corruption and the economic crisis.

The journey to this moment has been a long and rocky one. Right before the December 2008 holidays, with the economy plunging into crisis, unemployment skyrocketing and a cold snowy winter setting in, 300-some workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory on Goose Island in the Chicago River learned they were about to lose their jobs. Owner Richard Gillman announced that the factory would be closed, leaving workers without the unused vacation pay and severance pay legally due them. And their health insurance would be cut off promptly.

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UE Denounces GE Layoff Announcement; Union Members Plan April 16 Rally to Keep Jobs in Erie

KeepItMadeErie, Pennsylvania – Union members at the General Electric plant in Erie will rally from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, to protest GE’s plans for layoffs and transfer of work out of the Erie plant. The rally will take place at the East Gate of the GE Erie Works, at the corner of Water Street and Main Street in Lawrence Park Township, zip code 16511.

On April 9, GE Transportation announced to United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 506 that it intends to transfer a substantial amount of work done by our members to its newly-built facility in Fort Worth, Texas. According to the work transfer notice provided to UE, GE’s decision may result in the loss of up to 950 jobs by the end of 2013.

According to UE Local 506 President Roger Zaczyk, GE was not truthful when it originally notified its employees and the Erie community in April 2011 that it was building a locomotive facility in Fort Worth, Texas. According to Zaczyk, “GE told us that the Fort Worth facility would be an ‘overflow’ facility and that the new Texas plant would only ‘complement’ the work performed by our members in Lawrence Park. We were repeatedly told that once Fort Worth started production, the Company had enough orders to keep both Erie and the new plant busy.” Continue reading

Seeking to Stem Gasoline Price Spikes, NJ Oil Refinery Union Expands Search for Buyer

 

UE_logoThe union representing workers at Hess Oil’s Port Reading, NJ refinery has expanded its search for a new owner for the plant who will continue its operation. Hess recently announced plans to close the 70,000 barrel-per-day refinery as part of a corporate restructuring in which it will exit the refining business. Workers at the refinery are members of Local 106 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE). “The gigantic gasoline price spikes hitting customers are a direct result of the closing of the Port Reading refinery and similar industry actions”, said UE National President Bruce Klipple. “Our early outreach to interested firms who could continue operation of the refinery is promising. Within one week of the start of our campaign we have half a dozen interested parties who have consulted with UE. We expect more to come forward.”

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Red, White and Blue-Washing: GE Backs Off Boast of 13,000 New Jobs

by Mike Elk

Mike Elk

Mike Elk

WASHINGTON, DC–General Electric (GE) has often faced criticism from organized labor for pioneering the outsourcing of American jobs. The company’s greener-pastures tactics were epitomized by former CEO Jack Welch in a famous quote: “Ideally, you’d have every plant you own on a barge to move with currencies and changes in the economy.”

But earlier this month, at a high-profile event at the Newseum underwritten by GE and hosted by The Atlantic Magazine, current GE CEO Jeff Immelt insisted that higher shipping costs have spurred the company to begin bringing jobs back. Continue reading

Crunch Time for the Serious Energy Workers

by Eric Ebel

The UE members at the Goose Island plant of Serious Energy, formerly Republic Windows, in Chicago are trying to keep alive their dream of taking over the ailing factory and running it as a cooperative. They have formed a company, New Era Windows, LLC, and secured funding, but the present owner is threatening to sell the factory’s equipment out from under them. Accordingly, the union has invoked the arbitration clause in its shutdown agreement with the employer.

The factory first drew attention in December of 2008, when Republic Windows announced that it was abruptly shutting down production it would not be paying employees for accrued sick leave and vacation pay, and it would be canceling their health insurance. The company claimed its hand was forced by loss of its credit line at Bank of America, though it was revealed that the owners had bought a non-union plant in Iowa and were trying to move equipment there.

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