This Page will be used to educate current members on the need for Unions, Union history, Collective Bargaining, history of our Local 81359 and Contracts since we began, etc., and other pertinent facts related to Unionism.
A Brief History of UE Bargaining with GE--70 Years of Struggle
Remember UE represented all GE workers until 1954, when IUE (CIO) took over as the main Union for represented workers at GE; read other article on Union Education Articles--on left menu, about the battle between IUE & UE. Many great old documents and pictures in these articles; a great history of our beginnings.
There are 2 ways to read this very informative article:
Cover of "Organizer's Bulletin" issued by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) ca. 1954 (Helen Quirini Papers).
Unions have a long history at the Schenectady plant of the General Electric Company (GE). Workers were initially represented by craft unions, including a group of armature winders who held a "folded arms" strike in [1905? 1906?] that was the first sit-down strike in the United States. In 1926, GE established a company union, the Works Council, which was ineffective. In 1934, a small affiliate of the radical Trade Union Unity League that had formed at the Schenectady plant in 1932 and another small union organized with many British socialists in 1933, merged into a single union of three hundred members. In 1936 that union became Local 301 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). UE Local 301 was one of the first locals to join the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The failure to achieve pay increases lead to UE Local 301's first major strike in 1946.
Subpoena issued to Helen Quirini to appear before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations on February 19, 1954 (Helen Quirini Papers).
However, by the late 1940s, the UE, including Local 301, faced a more serious challenge than the management of General Electric. It was accused of being Communist-dominated and was under investigation by the United States government over the course of many years. As part of the goverment's inquiry, members of UE Local 301 were called to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations chaired by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
In 1949 the CIO expelled the UE (along with other unions in its ranks with alleged Communist connections) and replaced it with the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE). In a series of challenges, including three elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, the IUE attempted to replace UE as the bargaining agent for workers at the General Electric plant in Schenectady. As part of the process, both sides issued booklets, flyers, and pamphlets arguing their case for representing workers. Not only do these materials document the struggle between two competing labor organizations, they demonstrate the concerns of the day over the threat of Communism in the United States.
UE Local 301 Information Bulletin, ca. 1952-1954 (Helen Quirini Papers).
IUE-CIO News bulletin, ca. 1951 (Helen Quirini Papers).
The UE organizer's bulletin pictured at the top of this page is described in its preface as "a handbook on Congressional and other witch-hunting committees and how they aid Big Business in its drive to lower the living standards of the American people through speed-up, frozen wages, high taxes, high prices - and ultimately if not stopped - through depression and war." Similarly, an information bulletin issued by UE Local 301 discussed what it saw as "red-baiting" by the IUE and the CIO. On the other side of the issue, the IUE issued its own flyers contrasting the "Communist Style" of confusion versus the "American Style" of debate.
By 1954, Local 301 was the largest local remaining in the UE. However, its supporters were increasingly under pressure to sever their connection with admitted Communists and more and more workers supported joining the IUE. In March 1954, UE Local 301's business manager announced that the local would withdraw from the UE and join the IUE. The third and final NLRB election between the UE and IUE took place on June 30, 1954. Having lost the previous two elections between the two, the IUE finally won, 9,005 votes to UE's 5,179.
Front cover, Electrical Union News for June 29, 1954, issued by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 301 (Helen Quirini Papers).
Back cover, Electrical Union News for June 29, 1954, issued by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 301 (Helen Quirini Papers).
Local 301 News, July 2, 1954, issued by IUE-CIO (Helen Quirini Papers).
As the Contract expires at 12:00 AM Monday, June 17...we are reminded of the term we used at the last Contract in 2010 -- Moral Turpitude. What it means is this -- the lack of morality to the point of criminality. That term is strong enough in legal language to get a person terminated and/or jailed. Moral Turpitude implies the need for CEO's and their Corporations to treat all their employees with respect, equality, fairness and honesty. No one is above the law, and no employee should be treated morally different than any other class of employee. In 2010, we used that term to describe the unfair, dishonest, inequal treatment of the hourly workforce in that year's Contract. Any Contract that creates disparity to the magnitude of that Contract can only be interpreted as morally wrong (remember the 25-50% wage cutbacks for only some employees, at one site). In 2013 , we are seeing a determined stubbornness on the part of the Company to decimate our Healthcare and Pensions also. This is unacceptable.
Here is the quote REPEATEDLY stated on the Momentive Web Page set-up for these negotiations-- "We remain committed to working to reach a fair and equitable agreement that meets the needs of our employees, and are hopeful that we can achieve our common goals. The negotiations process has provided both parties with a critical opportunity to work together, build for the future of our Waterford and Willoughby sites and secure our competitiveness. As we move into the final days of negotiations, we are striving to reach an agreement that provides a market-competitive and comprehensive wage and benefits package, promotes a safe work environment and delivers strong employment opportunities for the Waterford and Willoughby regions."
There it is--fair and equitable, meets the NEEDS of our employees, delivers STRONG employment opportunities; but here's is the rub brother and sisters-- market-competitive wage and benefits package. In other words, like the 2010 Contract...if we (Momentive) want to roll back your wages (or deny increases) and benefits, then we are justified. There is NOTHING justified in rollbacks and concessions in bargaining. It sends the absolute WRONG message to the workforce that diligently produces your product. It is TOTALLY unfair and inequitable. The hourly workforce can NOT take another hit...plain and simple; NO more out of pocket expense. NO more concessions! And when Momentive talks about market-competitive, there is only one definition we want to hear--compare us to other chemical workers, other chemical plants, and other large workforces (over 500 hourly employees; in our plant--over 800 employees in the 2 Unions). Momentive...answer this question -- Do you want meet the needs of your employees and build for the future OR destroy the last once of hope for fair and equitable Contract, and therefore destroy your own chance for success as a business???
In our opinion, every employee deserves respect, fairness, equality, a good living (wages and benefits), and a work environment FREE of moral turpitude! We are definitely at a crossroads, we truly hope Momentive makes the right choice.
Investment Returns in Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans Outperformed Those in Defined Contribution (DC) Plans --
NEW YORK, May 22, 2013 — Investment returns in defined benefit (DB) pension plans outperformed those in defined contribution (DC) plans — predominantly 401(k) plans — in 2011 by the widest margin since the mid-1990s, according to new analysis by Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW), a global professional services company. The difference in 2011 investment results counters a recent narrowing of the gap between DB and DC plan performance.
NEW BOOK EXPOSES THE WORST OF EMPLOYER PENSION SCHEMES
"Retirement Heist"-- by Ellen Schultz, a former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
(This is a Part of "Educate Ourselves in Preparation for Contract 2013.")
"Retirement Heist" is a new book by Ellen Schultz, a former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She carefully describes how companies plunder and wring profits from the defined benefit pension plans of American workers. It's required reading for union leaders engaged in bargaining with the country's biggest corporations.
Schultz reveals how companies siphon billions of dollars from their employees' pension plans, not to benefit retirees, but to use these funds to hide the growing liabilities of their executive pension plans. At some companies, executive plan liabilities far exceed those of the regular employee pension plans. These Supplementary Executive Pension Plans, SERPs, are not supported by a pension trust, and are available only to a select few of a company's executives.
Ms. Schultz also details how corporations purchase billions of dollars of life insurance on their workers, and use the policies as informal executive pension funds, collecting tax-free death benefits when insured workers and retirees die, all without the knowledge or consent of the employees or their families.
Several CWA employers are discussed in the book, with whole sections devoted to GE and Lucent.
Two of the more infuriating statements come from Victor Rice, CEO of Varity. Although his company's pension fund was overfunded, and the cost of retiree healthcare was low, Rice still wanted to cut retiree benefits. A company memo entitled "Philosophies & Objectives" stated, "the Company is not committed to maintenance of a retiree's standard of living." When Rice finally found a "legal" way to make retiree medical coverage disappear overnight, he bragged that he had "loaded all his losers in one wagon." I suggest that when reading this book, you do so fortified with a glass of wine, a martini, or as in my case, with a fist full of blood pressure medication.
Our challenge now is to find a way to put a stop to this egregious behavior. Legislation is a long shot at this time, and even if new laws were passed, clever consultants would probably find loopholes, just as they have found ways around other federal pension legislation. Nevertheless, everyone interested in ensuring that employees and retirees are treated with fairness, respect and dignity must work diligently to find creative ways to expose the disgraceful practices revealed in "Retirement Heist."
By Bill Freeda
Bill Freeda is president of the Media Sector Retired Members' Council.
Chemical workers at Momentive in Waterford, New York, fought a losing battle against drastic wage cuts in 2010. This time they roundly rejected the company's deal and are gearing up for a showdown. Photo: Jon Flanders.
Fourteen ballots were disqualified because “NO” was scrawled on the outside. But it didn't matter—the vote was overwhelming. Members of IUE-CWA Local 81359 rejected a one-year extension of their contract, which expires in June, despite the intensive in-plant meetings that Momentive management organized to push for the deal.
“At first [the contract extension] looked fairly good,” said Frank Farina, a silicone operator for 26 years at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, New York, near Albany. The plant makes silicone products that go into caulks, adhesives, foams, cosmetics, and tires.
“Then I started looking back at what they did to us three years ago,” Farina said. “They violated our national contract, eight major violations, the main one being failure to negotiate in good faith, and I started thinking about it more and more, and you know what? I don't think I can trust anything they tell me.”
There is speculation that the opening of a Momentive plant in China lies behind management’s interest in a contract extension. An extra year without a showdown in Waterford would have given the Chinese plant time to ramp up production and potentially undermine any industrial action in the U.S. in 2014.
Lived to Fight Again
Labor Notes readers may remember that the chemical workers of Local 81359 fought a losing battle against wage cuts a few years ago.
Momentive executives approached the union in early 2008 saying they needed to transform the business. The private equity firm Apollo Management had just taken over the plant from GE. They sought steep wage cuts and outsourcing, especially of jobs where veteran workers were employed.
Local 81359 offered many ideas to save the positions, including work area flexibility, fewer supervisors, and lower starting wages for new hires—all to no avail. Management imposed the cuts unilaterally, violating the contract. But by this time the economy had crashed and orders were way down, leaving the local little leverage.
When the next contract came due in 2010, management’s offer didn’t rescind the cuts but offered big lump sums. The local narrowly voted it down, but the votes of two smaller Momentive locals not affected by wage cuts (technicians in Waterford and quartz products workers in Willoughby, Ohio) were enough to put the contract over the top 388-337—leaving 400 Waterford workers still suffering pay cuts that in some cases approached 50 percent.
This year, the landslide of “no” votes in Local 81359 made the votes of the small locals irrelevant, though they passed the extension. The final tally at 81359 was 64 for extending the contract, 467 against.
“I am so proud of my members for standing up and fighting back!” said President Dominick Patrignani.
Patrignani, the executive board, and the members have put together proposals that would go a long way toward amending the hatred and disparity left in the plant by the 2010 contract. They are determined to use the fact that economic conditions for the industry are relatively favorable.
Momentive workers are gearing up for a showdown that will test the resolve of both labor and management. IUE-CWA 81359 members are now familiar sights at area picket lines—which has created favorable conditions for labor solidarity in the Capital District. Activists in the Troy Area Labor Council and other councils in the Capital District Area Labor Federation plan to pitch in for a serious contract campaign this spring.
Jon Flanders is a member of Machinists Local 1145 and of the Troy Area Labor Council. IUE-CWA is the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers.
A total of 84,350 pension plans have vanished since 1985. This figure shocked Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Donald L. Barlett and James W. Steele, who just released their latest book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream." Their chapter on retirement chronicles the heist of the American dream's secure retirement by the financial elite and is a very important section of the book, says Steele, who spoke with the AFL-CIO about the retirement crisis. Steele says there is another number we should pay attention to: $17,686. That's the median value of 401(k) accounts in 2011. For most working people, the amount in their 401(k) account would pay them less than $80 a month for life.
A strike is the most recognizable and publicized element of a workplace dispute, but it’s also one of the most confusing and misunderstood. This simple guide helps clarify what a strike is and what’s involved.
(Download the printable PDF version too!)
What is a strike?
A strike occurs when workers withhold labor in order to improve their working conditions.
Strikes are often the most impactful way workers can use their collective power to influence terms and conditions of their employment.
Why do employees choose to strike?
Employees may choose to strike when: 1. an employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as refusing to recognize its workers as a union; or 2. the employer, employees, and their union are unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement and the most recent proposal on the table is unacceptable to employees.
Union members vote on whether or not to strike. Because of the personal and collective sacrifices striking requires of workers, many unions require a two-thirds majority vote in order to strike.
Workers don’t always strike over “bread and butter” issues like wages and benefits. Teachers have gone on strike to improve class size; warehouse workers have gone on strike over unsafe conditions; and machinists have gone on strike to keep jobs from going overseas.
Strikes can be undertaken as a last resort by employees wanting to resolve a significant labor dispute with their employer or when matters are at an impasse and workers have exhausted all other options.
What’s at stake for striking employees?
Strikes can pose significant risks for employees, which is why workers and their unions don’t take the decision to strike lightly.
Even if they receive a modest level of financial assistance through their union’s strike fund, workers are not paid by their employer during a strike.
There is no guarantee that an employer will meet the demands of striking workers.
Workers engaged in an economic strike can lose their jobs if their employer decides to hire permanent replacements.
Are strikes legal?
U.S. workers have held the legal right to strike for more than 75 years. Depending on the sector and industry in which someone works, various laws dictate when and how a strike can occur.
Workers generally do not have to be in a recognized union in order to strike.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants the majority of private sector employees the right to strike. Farmworkers, domestic workers, independent contractors and some supervisors are explicitly exempted from the law. The Railway Labor Act protects the right of workers specifically in the railway and airline industries to strike in certain circumstances.
Federal government workers do not have the right to strike. State and local government workers only have the right to strike if their state allows it by statute. Workers in essential services – police officers, firefighters, and prison guards – generally never have the right to strike.
The International Labor Organization considers the right to strike essential to freedom of association, as long as it doesn’t interfere with public safety.
Types of strikes
An unfair labor practice (ULP) strike is in response to an employer violating federal labor law – for instance, when an employer fires employees for attempting to form a union. Workers cannot be permanently replaced in a ULP strike.
An economic strike is when workers strike to compel an employer to modify a bargaining position – such as when an employer insists on cutting pay and benefits. In these strikes, an employer can permanently replace workers.
A sympathy strike occurs when workers strike in solidarity with other striking or locked-out workers. For example, union-represented delivery drivers may refuse to cross a picket line to deliver packages to a company whose employees are on strike, even though they are not directly involved in the dispute. If workers honor a ULP strike, they cannot be permanently replaced, whereas if they honor an economic strike, they can be permanently replaced.
What’s the difference between a strike, a lockout, and a work stoppage?
A strike is the opposite of a lockout, which is an employer-initiated action that prevents employees from working.
Employees can stop working temporarily in response to abnormally dangerous working conditions. This is considered a work stoppage, not a strike, and workers must return to work when the conditions are properly addressed. When employees covered by the NLRA engage in a work stoppage, employers cannot permanently replace the workers because it’s not considered a strike.
How often do strikes occur?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks strikes and lockouts involving more than 1,000 employees.i In 2011 there were 19 large strikes and lockouts, a rise from 11 in 2010 and 5 in 2009. However, from the 1940s up until the late 1970s, there were hundreds per year.
Scholars have attributed the employer’s ability to permanently replace striking employees as a reason for the sharp decline in strikes in the United States.ii Because U.S. employers can permanently replace workers engaged in an economic strike, the International Labor Organization considers the United States in violation of international standards on the freedom to associate.iii
Contract Time is Coming (Less than a Year Away): You MUST Educate Yourselves.
It has been a difficult time of Concession Bargaining, Lock-Outs, Give Backs, Roll Backs, Higher & Higher Employee Costs for Labor. Please READ these Important Articles on this Trend in Labor Relations ....the latest article is on the Caterpillar & IAM Contract (after a 4 month strike)
Believe it or NOT....There are 3 Very Important Topics on our Home Page that can, and are, Having an Effect on ALL Union Members!
They are having an effect on the survival of the Middle Class!!
Please read the articles under the National & Local Labor News Section!
The Recall of Scott Walker in Wisconsin...Tom Barrett for Govenor
The Mobilization and Fight of CWA Against Verizon (A whole menu section devoted to this)
The Fight to Reverse Citizens United-- the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government.
Pensions Under Attack...Read this Article and the Others on our page "Watch These Trends..." (on left menu)
With our Contract coming up next year....you MUST educate yourselves on the TRENDS in Labor Agreements. We are under Serious Attack; our Middle Class way-of-life is under ATTACK. We MUST fight back; and to do so...you have to be educated to the facts! Go to our page "Watch These Trends..."
Given the firepower behind it, The 99% Spring looks like it has the potential to rival Occupy Wall Street, although it’s more organized in this early stage than that grassroots protest. (We found this photo on the UAW’s Facebook page.)
Declares the site, “In the tradition of our forefathers and foremothers and inspired by today’s brave heroes in Occupy Wall Street and Madison, Wisconsin, we will prepare ourselves for sustained non-violent direct action.”
From April 9-15, the site says, its supporters will gather across the country — “100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country.”
The site says there will be training programs to a) tell the story of the economy b) learn the history of non-violent direct action and c) launch campaigns to win change.
There’s nothing more specific about where or how these campaigns will take place, but the site adds,
“This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time.”
Paperback, 304 pages
Cloth (ISBN-13: 978-1-58367-281-5) January 2012
In early 2011, the nation was stunned to watch Wisconsin’s state capitol in Madison come under sudden and unexpected occupation by union members and their allies. The protests to defend collective bargaining rights were militant and practically unheard of in this era of declining union power. Nearly forty years of neoliberalism and the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression have battered the labor movement, and workers have been largely complacent in the face of stagnant wages, slashed benefits and services, widening unemployment, and growing inequality.
That is, until now. Under pressure from a union-busting governor and his supporters in the legislature, and inspired by the massive uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, workers in Wisconsin shook the nation with their colossal display of solidarity and outrage. Their struggle is still ongoing, but there are lessons to be learned from the Wisconsin revolt. This timely book brings together some of the best labor journalists and scholars in the United States, many of whom were on the ground at the time, to examine the causes and impact of events, and suggest how the labor movement might proceed in this new era of union militancy. Look at the sites below--
50 Million People Building a MOVEMENT for Economic Justice & Democracy
A MUST Read !!
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A NEW Booklet from CWA---Building a Movement for Economic Justice & Democracy
A MUST Read-- Excerpt Below
Part II: A DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT IS NECESSARY
IF WE ARE TO MOVE FORWARD TOWARDS ECONOMIC JUSTICE
1. Pay after inflation has not risen in the US in decades—despite economic growth nearly all of the gains have gone to the wealthiest 1%. US trade policy has made this worse, depressing wages and increasing the return on capital.
2. The percent of workers covered by collective bargaining has declined to a level not seen since the era before the Great Depression.
3. Progress on our key economic issues; sustainable jobs, fair trade, health care for all, retirement security and bargaining and organizing rights has been blocked.
4. Our partners focused on climate change, fighting housing foreclosures, civil rights or student debt face the same blocks in our democracy.
5. Blocks in our Democracy:
• Broken Senate Rules
• Money in Politics
• Voter Suppression
• Path to Citizenship
6. The Democracy Initiative with 45 endorsers from labor, green, faith, civil rights, democracy groups, community organizers, students and with more than 30 million members offers us a path to eventually break down these democracy barriers.
7. If we join our key economic fairness issues to the democracy issues we bring together a movement of millions that can Stand Up and Fight Back in the workplace and in our communities. PARTNER ISSUES • Climate Change • Dream Act • Foreclosures & MoreCWA ISSUES 1. Secure Sustainable Jobs 2. Health Care 3. Retirement Security 4. Bargaining & Organizing Rights
This chart shows (in booklet) the major issues for CWA and progressives and spotlights how our ability to move forward on our agenda is obstructed.
CWA has worked hard for bargaining and organizing rights, sustainable jobs, fair trade, good healthcare for all, and retirement security, but we have been blocked.
Our progressive allies have also been blocked from achieving climate change legislation, the DREAM Act, measures to decrease home foreclosures and other issues.