This Saturday join us from 11am to 3pm at Galeria de La Raza as we reclaim an art form of resistance. CultureStrike will be doing LIVE printing of an anti-gentrification art piece. JOIN US at Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco and witness how an oversize woodblock is printed, enjoy the art exhibit, and stay for an evening reading by undocumented writers. Featuring the work and words of Susalita Cortez, Julio Salgado, Oree Originol, DJ AGANA, Edgar Alejandro Aldana, Sonia Guiñansaca and many more!!
As President Obama ponders when and what executive action he will take on immigration, he has made clear that he is committed to increased border enforcement (Sept. 5 press conference in Wales).
My experience with the Southern Movement Assembly was new, distinct, and exciting. The feeling of being in one building with all different types of people; with great ideas and solutions to problems it gave me a heart warming feeling. The conversations made me realize that the more people the stronger you are.The unity was shown in numbers and volunteer work. The Project South youth program also made me feel comfortable and at home.
It felt good to know that there are more youth participating, and speaking up. The youth came from all over the region and with them came insight. I met a unique brother from Arkansas -- he and I shared similar ideas. The conversations once again let me know that youth are not the same as others may perceive them to be. Although we played music, laughed, and talked alot once it was time to strategize all the youth were attentive.
Which comes to show that you can have a disciplined mindset at any age. I want more youth involved in programs like this and on the way back home I thought hard. The experience inspired and motivated me to be more committed to doing things for the youth in urban communities. The Southern Assembly was also a good place to network. I met many different people that were dealing with different problems. The same people offered connections to problems I was trying to solve and they lead me to the right people.
Mike Zellars is a graduate of the Eco-works program (teaching youth to do energy audits and energy education) and a youth activist with YEA among other groups. He lives in Detroit Michigan.
Urban Campesin@s are youth leaders from South East San Francisco who are reclaiming lands and leading food justice projects on publicly owned lands in our neighborhoods. Click on the video produced by the Bay Area Video Coalition to hear from Urban Campesin@s in their own words....
Injured GM workers intensify fight for just settlement; are joined in appeal to CEO Mary Barra by autoworkers’ Union
Former GM worker Manuel Ospina dramatized his quest for a fair settlement with GM with a renewed hunger strike and burial to his neck, in full view of the Colombian U.S. Embassy. (El Tiempo photo)
BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA― On August 26, 2014, a group of autoworkers dismissed from General Motors after developing permanent disabling injuries on the job, dramatized their appeal for justice by burying injured worker Manuel Ospina in the ground, up to his neck. Ospina’s companions, Jorge Parra and Carlos Trujillo – also former assembly line workers at GM Colmotores, sewed their lips shut and vowed to not eat until GM agrees to meet to reach a just settlement. Thursday, Jorge Parra replaced Ospina in the ground. Their actions have attracted extensive media coverage in Colombia.
Support for the injured workers is growing, in Colombia and beyond. On August 5th, the leadership of the industrial union, SINTRAIME, emailed an appeal to GM CEO Mary Barra in support of the injured workers’ association, ASOTRECOL. The appeal was also critical of GM’s hiring procedures at the Colmotores plant which are in violation of the US-Colombia “Labor Action Plan.”
SINTRAIME at GM once represented 1,400 workers, but has seen its numbers reduced due to anti-union persecution. GM routinely used intimidation tactics to prevent workers who were hired on one-year contracts from joining the union, including having new hires sign paperwork promising not to and threatening that joining would result in their contracts not being renewed. ASOTRECOL members did not benefit from union protection.
Citing Barra’s June 5th statement informing GM employees to directly contact her, if necessary, regarding car safety issues – SINTRAIME President Felix Herrera wrote:
“When talking about the ignition switch fiasco, you said that GM has a ‘responsibility to act with integrity, honor and a commitment to excellence,’ and that ‘we are going to do the right thing for the affected parties.’ We ask that you extend this same commitment to the injured and former workers who contributed to GM’s success.”
GM has not responded. Other appeals in support of Asotrecol, including letters from over one hundred clergy, the Michigan Coalition of Human Rights, and 80 members of the British Parliament, have also been ignored.
This month marks the third anniversary of the tent encampment erected at the entrance of the U.S. Embassy by a handful of the hundreds of fired injured workers. One of them was 10-year employee Manuel Ospina whose job on the line required repetitively lifting 75 lb. sway bars. GM denies his injuries were work-related. X-rays reveal the screws surgically inserted into Ospina’s spinal column. The 44-year old man cannot walk without a cane. Disabled and denied workers compensation, he has watched his family slide into poverty and now faces foreclosure of their home.
“GM claims that the injuries were suffered on workers’ off-time, but the workers hardly hadoff-time,” says Paige Shell-Spurling, one of the lead organizers of the U.S. based solidarity campaign. “Spinal injuries from poor ergonomics and injuries from repetitive movements are common at GM Colmotores.” The plant operated mandatory shifts of 10-14 hours, 6 days a week. On Sundays, many of the workers including Ospina, Parra and Trujillo volunteered their services to GM’s community program, “GM Volunteers.” Instead of investing to improve the aging plant, local management made it a practice to force workers to work long hours and then illegally dismiss the injured workers and replace them with young new hires.
“These workers have been greatly mistreated by GM,” says Minister Jerrold Foltz, whose Virginia congregation, Wellspring UCC, has supported the injured workers for over two years. “It’s unconscionable that GM wouldn’t provide better for its employees.”
North American supporters are gearing up for a new round of solidarity actions to bring visibility to General Motors’ inhumane response to the injured Colombian GM workers. Past actions have included rallies at GM headquarters, coordinated protests at GM dealerships, the recent protest with “GM Recall Survivors” at the annual shareholders’ meeting, demonstrations in front of the homes of GM executives (including former CEO Daniel Akerson), and at annual auto shows, including Detroit’s.
Quoting from an August 26th letter to unions by Jorge Parra (translated from Spanish), “Today we complete 1120 days of resistance. We will continue our difficult struggle with the objective of making our situation visible internationally. Our goal is to achieve the recognition of our rights by General Motors.”
For more information, or to make a donation to help keep this struggle going, please visit: www.asotrecol.org
Contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org
X-ray of Manuel Ospina’s spinal column showing the consequences of his GM employment.
WASHINGTON — Under pressure from nervous Democratic Senate candidates in tight races, President Obama is rethinking the timing of his pledge to act on his own to reshape the nation’s immigration system by summer’s end, and could instead delay some or all of his most controversial proposals until after the midterm elections in November, according to people
(Aug. 27, 2014) After two years of failed attempts in Congress and months of internal deliberations, President Obama is likely to go it alone in the coming weeks and roll out a series of unilateral changes to the nation's immigration system.
Three years ago today, Tropical Storm Irene came roaring across Vermont, bringing heavy winds and so much rain that most of our rivers spilled their banks. Roads, bridges, and homes — in some cases, entire neighborhoods — were washed out by the floods, isolating many of our communities for days as neighbors worked to support each other through the crisis. Irene had a devastating impact on so many of our lives and livelihoods, through lost homes, posessions, traumatic experiences, and financial hardship. But many of us also carry with us the amazing stories of communities coming together, like the residents of Weston mobile home park in Berlin, who mobilized to demand equality and fairness in the wake of the storm.
A year after the Irene, the VWC offered this reflection:
"Tropical Storm Irene both exposed and deepened the economic and human rights crisis people in our communities face every day — a crisis of injustice. Many people in Vermont live on the edge of economic crisis. All it takes is a single environmental crisis to push thousands of people over that edge. A large proportion of homes destroyed by Irene were mobile homes residing in floodplains, and belonging to low-income Vermonters who are least likely to have the resources to rebuild their homes and lives after a disaster.
Irene showed how in Vermont -- as around the world -- poor and working class people are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can and must solve the climate crisis while simultaneously improving the lives of poor and working class people by transforming the systems that currently exploit and degrade people and the planet."
Now it’s three years later, and those patterns have only become clearer and more grave. From the impacts of Superstorm Sandy on low-income urban neighborhoods in New York, to the series of devastating typhoons which have displaced thousands of rural poor communities in the Philippines, we're seeing how the people least responsible for the global climate crisis are the hardest hit by the storms, droughts, and extreme weather associated with its impacts.
In the face of this crisis, we’re taking action to link our struggles for economic, social, and environmental rights into a powerful movement for people and the planet. Earlier this month, the Workers Center partnered with Rising Tide Vermont and 350-Vermont to host a Northeast Climate Justice Gathering, which brought together 250 people from the US northeast and eastern Canada to explore opportunities for collaboration, especially between the labor and environmental movements. Also in early August, VWC member Amanda Sheppard represented the Workers Center at the Climate Justice Alliance national convention in Richmond, California, which brought together community-based groups organizing for a just transition towards local, living economies.
Reflecting on her experiences, Amanda said, “Spending time with community members living adjacent to Richmond’s massive Chevron oil refinery opened my eyes to the ways our current economy exploits both resources and people, all for the sake of profit. We need to take advantage of opportunities demonstrate our collective power, and lead from the grassroots in building an economy for people and the planet.”.
Looking ahead, the VWC is joining over 850 labor, faith, environmental, and community-based organizations in calling for a massive Peoples Climate March in New York City on September 21st, coinciding with a major United Nations summit on climate change expected to draw heads of state from around the world. The Workers' Center is working with a number of organizations to coordinate round-trip buses from Vermont to New York -- Click here to join a bus, or email email@example.com for more information about this mobilization!Tags: Healthy EnvironmentLivable Planet
The White House is considering proposals from business and immigrant rights groups that are pressing President Obama to provide hundreds of thousands of new green cards for high-tech workers and the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Retired UE International Representative Ed Bloch died in his sleep on Sunday, August 24 at his home near Albany. He was 90 years old. Bloch was first hired by UE in 1951 in the national office in New York City, but spent most of his long career with UE in upstate New York, assisting UE locals and organizing the unorganized. He retired in October 1984 but continued to work with UE locals, especially Local 332 at GE in Fort Edward.
Ed Bloch was born in Manhattan in 1924. He served in the U.S. Marines in World War II. An experience late in his military service drove Bloch’s lifelong quest for justice and peace. In November 1945, three months after the Japanese surrender, Bloch’s platoon, on his order as platoon leader, opened fire on a Chinese village of unarmed civilians who were Communist sympathizers. Bloch traveled to China in 2011 with his wife, daughter and friends to apologize for what he considered an atrocity. An elderly Chinese politician told him he was forgiven. “Before they pull the sheet over me, I wanted to seek justice,” Block told the Albany Times-Union after the trip. “I felt I had sinned. I needed to make amends.”
The memory of that 1945 incident in China drove Bloch’s passion for union work and in opposing war. He was active in Veterans for Peace from the Vietnam era until his death. In a wheelchair, he joined the Veterans for Peace contingent in Albany’s 2014 Memorial Day Parade. Bloch was also active in building labor-religious coalitions and in the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, which brought together unions and supporters in the Albany area.
As a UE organizer, Bloch fought fearlessly to defend the union when it was under severe attack in the 1950s from employers, the government and rival unions, at plants such as the Schenectady, NY GE plant and RCA in Lancaster, PA.
In 1984 and ’86 Bloch ran for Congress against Republican Gerald Solomon, a longtime incumbent. His platform as a candidate reflected UE’s policies on national issues: worker rights, economic justice, and peace.
“Ed Bloch was an inspirational figure to several generations of UE activists and organizers,” said Steve Tormey, retired international representative who worked with Bloch on GE issues. “He swam in waters that were not always friendly,” Tormey added, such as Bloch’s efforts, often successful, to convince veterans groups to oppose U.S. military interventions.
Bloch is survived by his wife Naomi, four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. There will be a longer obituary in the next issue of the UE NEWS.
by Troy Neves, USAS Local #115 Northeastern University, Regional Organizer Representative to the Coordinating Committee
As USAS students gear up for another year of fighting corporate greed on our campuses and around the globe, it’s a great time to reflect on the work some students kept busy with at our Summer Convention.
Over the weekend of August 9th and 10th, USASers from around the country gathered once again in Washington DC to celebrate our victories, plan our next steps, and support one another. On Friday night, students attended the first USAS Student Labor Movement Gala, a celebration of USAS and our supporters as we enter our 18th year. Students, alumni, and allies gathered at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters building to share stories, meet allies, and hear speakers, such as Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
We were also proud to show our solidarity with T-Mobile retail and call center workers who are organizing for union neutrality in their workplaces. Workers are organizing because of sweatshop-like conditions in their call centers — they sometimes aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom without strict monitoring, creating an extremely high stress environment. Our catchy flash mob called on T-Mobile to stop union busting and allow workers to organize for their rights.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, we sharpened our skills, built community in our caucuses, and voted on proposals. At the end of the weekend, four proposals passed with a two-thirds majority.
- USAS passed a Sexual Assault Policy that focuses on the safety and dignity of survivors who are a part of our movement.
- USAS officially stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine and supports the work of our allies in the BDS movement and all of those who resist the occupation in Palestine.
- USAS will continue our research and planning around Student-Worker Organizing on our campuses.
- Lastly, USAS has established a student committee to identify members with skills in categories like media, arts, and coalition-building that will work to support these students’ leadership.
Thank you to everyone who could make it to DC for the Summer Convention. As USAS enters into “adulthood” we are planning big things for the future. I am personally looking forward to seeing everyone in Knoxville, Tennessee for the 18th Annual USAS National Conference in February 2015!
[This article appeared at TomDispatch.com. Follow on Twitter @TomDispatch]
August 21, 2014
TENANTS OF MAROLDA PROPERTIES: WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO STAY IN CHINATOWN
Tenant Leaders Applaud the Tenant Protection Unit for Investigating Predatory Equity Landlord
Chinatown, NY – The Chinatown Tenants Union, a project of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, is happy to announce that the Marolda Properties Tenant Coalition has secured the support of the State Tenant Protection Unit and Governor Cuomo. Yesterday, a subpoena has been issued to Marolda Properties for preying on rent-regulated tenants and using illegal tenant harassment tactics. Last year, dozens of tenants from buildings across Chinatown came together to demand an end to displacement and mistreatment of local residents. CAAAV, along with coalition partners including MFY Legal Services, Asian Americans for Equality, Cooper Square Committee, and University Settlement, began organizing tenants living in Marolda-owned buildings after noticing illegal harassment patterns. Marolda Properties were forcing buy-outs on tenants, bringing tenants to court for frivolous lawsuits, and denying essential repairs and maintenance, as a way to drive residents out.
The subpoena is a result of the tenants organizing to fight fortheir rights and is a major step forward to protect affordable housing in New York City. Marolda Properties tenant leaders will continue to work with TPU in the ongoing investigation to ensure that they can remain in their homes and live in safe and healthy conditions. Wun Ng, tenant from 83-85 Baxter said, “The Baxter building is special to me because a lot of my relatives live there. I have a connection to all of the residents in the building. We just want to live in peace and quite. Our village is being torn apart. I know if we all work together we can stop the aggressive harassment of tenants. Today, I’m here to demand equitable housing for all.”
Tenants having been organizing and using a range of tactics to hold their landlord accountable including legal recourse. Michael Grinthal, a Supervising Attorney at MFY Legal Services said, “Marolda Properties and its owners have come into Chinatown very aggressively over the past couple of years, and MFY has gotten many calls from tenants facing bogus court cases and other harassment in their properties. We are happy to partner with the Tenant Protection Unit and believe that it will greatly assist our efforts to embolden tenants to stand up for their rights.” The tenant harassment and displacement isn’t isolated to Chinatown and is representative of the deplorable conditions that low-income tenants are facing throughout the city. From the South Bronx to North Brooklyn to Harlem, tenants have had enough of rising rents, lack of repairs, and unlawful evictions. “Marolda’s actions fly in the face of the history of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, communities built by immigrants and communities sustained by affordable housing that contribute to the unique culture of New York. We are seeing tenants all over fighting back against predatory equity. The Marolda Properties Tenants are part of a much larger movement for housing justice,” said Cathy Dang, Executive Director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities.
“There’s no denying it — these tenants have a right to remain in their Chinatown homes, and we won’t stand for landlords who try to bully them out,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I’m so pleased that Governor Cuomo and the Tenant Protection Unit are strongly investigating Marolda Properties for alleged illegal harassment of their rent-regulated tenants, and I look forward to seeing justice for these families. I also thank CAAAV, AAFE and MFY Legal Services for their passionate work on this important issue.”
The Black Nation Charges Genocide! Our survival is dependant on Self-Defense!
Mike Brown, Ezell Ford and Eric Garner are among the latest victims of the ongoing genocide of Black People in the United States of America. Every 28 hours in the United States law enforcement, vigilantes, or security guards extra-judiciously murder a Black person. It is imperative that we as a people act upon every tragedy and hardship inflicted upon us by the government and the corporations to address the systematic genocide of our people in a protracted, programmatic, and strategic way.
The United States of America, as both a state and a criminal enterprise, has proven time and time again throughout its entire 238-year history that where Black people are concerned, genocide is the order of the day. The mass extrajudicial killings of Blacks aren’t just the result of rogue police officers and crazed racist vigilantes; it is a state sponsored program of containment designed to keep the Black nation in a position of subservience and subjugation to the White settler colonial nation.
The United States Government and the vast reactionary sector of the settler colonial nation who’s interests it was designed to represent, has been engaged in a war on Afrikan people from the time of its inception to the present day. The United States Government continues to lose legitimacy through its actions against our people. Through its refusal to address the ongoing human rights violations against the Black Nation the United States has shown itself to be the perpetual facilitator of the suffering of the Black Nation.
We cannot and should not count on our enemies – like the courts, and other forces of the US government or transnational corporations – to protect us. We have to protect ourselves. Justice for Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner or any of the hundreds of other Black women, men and children extra-judiciously executed by vigilantes, security guards and police every year will never be found in the courtrooms of the United States. Marissa Alexander is potentially facing decades in prison for firing a warning shot to defend herself and her children against an abusive partner while George Zimmerman is walking free after murdering Trayvon Martin in cold blood. Even in cases where the verdict apparently is in favor of our people, like in the conviction of Theodore Wafer for the murder of Renisha McBride, these sorts of trials uphold the status quo by not addressing the root issues behind the oppression of our people in a systematic way. The United States Government does not even have the right to try these cases because it is the primary architect of the state of emergency and continuous crisis the Black Nation is forced to endure. We cannot afford to be distracted from the work that must be done to insure the survival of our people.
The rebellion our people are waging in Ferguson must be supported. But, spontaneous rebellions are not enough. The only way we are going to successfully defend ourselves from genocide is to build a massive social movement with self-determination and self defense as its central unifying principles. We need a coordinated movement that strategically takes on the systemic oppression and exploitation that prevent Black people from exercising self-determination and human rights. We have to defend ourselves if we want to survive.
We call on people around the country to support The Organization For Black Struggle based out of St. Louis, Missouri in their efforts to secure the resources to hire a full time organizer. They have been working since 1980 to fill the vacuum left by assaults on the Black Power Movement and have been providing critical leadership in support of the people’s struggle. To connect with The Organization For Black Struggle visit http://obs-onthemove.org/.
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) believes that an essential part of our Movement for survival must be Self-Defense Networks.
We think there are two types of Networks that we have to build:
New Afrikan or Black Self-Defense Networks are alliances, coalitions, or united fronts of Black organizations whose purpose is to defend the New Afrikan or Black community from external (the police, FBI, white terrorist organizations, etc.) and internal (agent infiltration, intra-communal violence, etc.) threats to its safety and security.
People’s Self-Defense Networks are multi-national (or multi-ethnic and/or racial) alliances, coalitions, or united fronts whose purpose is to defend their communities against mutual enemies and threats and advance a common agenda based on shared interests, hopes, and aspirations.
Oppressed peoples and communities can and will only be secure in this country when they are organized to defend themselves against the aggressions of the government and the forces of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation.
The Every 28 Hours Campaign proposes a model for organizing:
- The formation of Black Self-Defense Networks to defend our people and combat police terrorism. These Networks should seek to build Copwatch programs, engage in mass rights based education trainings for the community, serve as first responders to acts of Police Terrorism, and help coordinate mass resistance to these acts via mass mobilizations and direct action. These Networks should also be encouraged to engage in offensive campaigns, such as referendums to institute Police Control Boards.
- The formation of People’s Self-Defense Networks to defend the lives and interests of all oppressed peoples’ and exploited classes against various forms of state terrorism. These People’s Self-Defense Networks would work as multi-national alliances to engage in a broad manner all of the tasks mentioned above to defend oppressed peoples and targeted communities, such as LGBTQ2GNC communities, against institutionalized racism, white supremacy, institutionalized sexism, patriarchy and state repression be it racial profiling, gender profiling, stop and frisk, mass incarceration, or mass deportations.
- Waging campaigns for local referendums to institute Police Control mechanisms – i.e. community based structures that have the power to hire, fire, subpoena, and discipline the police on the local level. And waging massive, non-compliant campaigns of resistance employing BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) strategies and tactics on statewide, regional, and national levels.
- Forming People’s Assemblies, on local, citywide, and regional levels to engage in program and demand development initiatives that will enable the people to engage in the broad implementation of people’s programs for self-defense and mutual aid.
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the Every 28 Hours Campaign seeks to strengthen organizing initiatives within Black or New Afrikan communities for self-defense, by presenting these initiatives with a comprehensive analytical framework and practical organizing tools to ground and unite them.
MXGM offers to Black and other oppressed communities three resources
1) Operation Ghetto Storm, a full report on the 2012 extra judicial killings;
2) Let Your Motto Be Resistance, an organizing handbook for self-defense; and 3) We Charge Genocide Again!, a curriculum for the Every 28 Hours Campaign, to further this objective
Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killing of Black People
Let Your Motto Be Resistance
We Charge Genocide Again!
For more information on these resources or trainings please contact Taliba Obuya at firstname.lastname@example.org
For coalition building and Self-Defense Networks please contact Watani Tyehimba at email@example.com.
Two enormous challenges face UE Local 893-Iowa United Professional this fall: state elections in which the future of public employee unions is on the line, and contract bargaining with heath insurance under attack. Delegates to the local’s annual statewide convention on July 26 devoted their attention to preparing for those coming battles.
In her opening address, Local 893 President Becky Dawes told delegates that public workers are under attack everywhere. “We must continue to strengthen our Union by continuing to increase our membership,” she said. “Short term we need to do this to prepare for this fall’s contract negotiations, long term we need to increase our membership to fight back against those who do not like public employees or believe in the essential public services we provide”.
At the convention delegate elected the negotiating committees for the social services and science bargaining units. The social services negotiation committee will consist of Becky Dawes, David Betsworth, Treasurer Rosann Raymond, Secretary Sheila Thompson, and committee members Amy Lyons, Cleo Hester, Heather Jorgensen and Peter Nielson. The members elected Russell Royce and Tom Weir to the science unit negotiating committee.
Over the past few months all members were sent contract surveys. President Dawes and International Representative Greg Cross went over the surveys with the convention delegates and had the delegates assist with establishing the priorities for the upcoming contract negotiations.
The convention included an important discussion on the history of public-sector unions and the origins of the current political attacks. Delegates were reminded that the current Republican governor, Terry Branstad, has been hostile to public employees and unions for a long time. In 1974 Iowa passed the Public Employees Rights Act under Republican Governor Robert Ray. Branstad, then a state representative, not only voted against the bill, but proposed many of the 60 amendments adopted, and more that were defeated, which sought to weaken the bill’s ability to protect public workers. In 1993 public workers won 5 percent raises in binding arbitration, defeating the state’s proposals of zero raises. Complying with the law and the arbitrator’s ruling, the state legislature appropriated funds to pay for the raises. Branstad, who was by then governor, vetoed the appropriation bill. The State Supreme Court eventually overruled Branstad’s veto. Through his career, Branstad has shown that he is at least as opposed to public workers’ rights as Governor Walker of Wisconsin.
There have been many attempts in recent years to gut public workers’ rights in Iowa. Each of these attacks by the Republican governor and Republican State House of Representatives was blocked by the 26-24 Democratic majority in the State Senate. This fall half of those Democrats are up for re-election and five are facing serious threats to their re-election. There are also four Republican state senators who are facing strong challenges from Democratic candidates. Local 893 officers urged union members to vote, do turnout, and educate their co-workers, friends, and family on threats to their livelihood at stake in this fall’s election.
UE Western Region President Carl Rosen reiterated the challenges facing members of Local 893 in both the upcoming elections and negotiations. He told members that the Western Region stands with 893. Delegates from each of the sub-locals also reported on their work, which led to discussion the things sub-locals across the state are doing to increase membership and participation. Iowa is a “right-to-work” state that creates incentives for union-represented workers to refuse to join their union, so constant organizing is an imperative for UE’s public sector locals and sub-locals in the state. Local 893 is composed of state employees including social workers and income maintenance workers, as well as other public employees. The local has members in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Following the convention adjournment, members enjoyed a social event, a Missouri River boat cruise on a beautiful western Iowa summer evening.
The new three-year agreement for paraeducators in the Windsor Locks public schools brings 7 percent in wage increases and maintains the existing health insurance with little increase in cost to members. The paras are members of Sub-local 4 of statewide UE Local 222, and they approved the new contract unanimously.
Before negotiations started, the union bargaining committee conducted a survey of members to learn what issues needed to be addressed. The survey results showed that members had four priorities. They wanted to keep their medical insurance plan without cost increases; to add a dental insurance “rider” to the insurance to cover caps and crowns; a reasonable wage increase; and progress on addressing concerns for their professional development as paraeducators.
The board of education’s priority, as the UE committee soon learned, was to eliminate the separate classifications covered under the old agreement (special education paraprofessionals, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten aides, and reading assistants), replacing the specific job titles with the general classification “para-educator.” The board argued that the job duties are very similar in nature, require the same levels of education, training and experience, and are paid under the same wage schedule. This issue was discussed at length, and after reviewing the seniority list to be sure senior workers would not be put at a disadvantage, the union agreed to this change.
The employer was willing to keep the current health insurance, but wanted to increase the employee premium share contribution by 1 percent each year of the agreement, which is the standard increase in Connecticut public sector contract bargaining and in interest arbitration rulings on disputed contracts. The board also wanted to dramatically increase co-pays for medical services.
The union committee responded by presenting spreadsheets which showed that the 1 percent premium share increase together with big increases in co-pays would eat up workers’ wage increase. The UE committee’s hard work on the healthcare issue finally paid off. The board of education agreed to no increase in workers’ premium contributions or co-pays in the first year of the contract. In the second and third years, the premium share will increase by 1 percent, with minimal increases in co-pays each year. The union also gained dental coverage for caps and crowns.
The wage increases agreed upon are 3 percent the first year, 2 percent the second year and 2 percent the third year.
On professional development, the employer agreed to add contract language in the contract that provides for a “Professional Development Committee” including one paraeducator from each of the four schools and the special education director. The committee will be assigned to develop a professional development schedule and pertinent topics to be covered. An additional full day of development was also added to the contract.
The UE committee raised the concern that some members were being forced to use their own personal vehicles to transport students. The board agreed that this should not be happening, and language was added to prohibit this from occurring in the future.
The union also gained improvements in seniority language; a $5,000 increase in life insurance coverage to $30,000 (formerly $25,000); a $2 hourly stipend when paraeducators work outside their schools providing “life skills” assistance; and each member to receive a free copy of her personnel file once a year.
The UE bargaining committee consisted of Co-Presidents Tracey Rand and Karen Walker, Jo-Anne Bornas, Kathy Bloom, Missy Pascarelli, and Jean Walsh. They were assisted by Field Organizer Colleen Ezzo.