The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers (C.O.R.E. 46) hopes that you have already heard that The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (I.U.O.E. 302) has rejected their contract offer and is now on strike. There are pickets going up all around the Puget Sound. C.O.R.E. 46 stands in solidarity with the Union Operators. As decided by our members, it is the position of C.O.R.E. 46 to NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE, and never work with scabs (someone performing the work of a striking worker). Our industry is made up of many Unions, but we are all one working class and we are united in the fight for a higher and higher standard of living. There are some questions that fellow electrical workers may have regarding the strike and we would like to offer possible answers to some of these questions.
Q: There is a picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Our unions were built on the principle of labor solidarity. Honor your fellow workers, NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE.
Q: There is no picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Obey your conscience. Pay attention to the positions that operators usually fill on your jobsite. Are those positions being filled by other workers or by management themselves? How would you feel if you were on strike and some scab came and did your job, possibly for a lower wage than you do it? Never work with scabs.
Stand strong Fellow Workers, and keep I.U.O.E. 302 in your thoughts and prayers. If you have any questions you can email C.O.R.E. 46 at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers
C.O.R.E. 46 www.core46.org
CORE 46 hosted a Cross Trades Rally in support of all workers fighting for better contracts. We were joined by nearly 150 members of the various building trades and other local unions at Westlake Center in Seattle on May 31st, 2018.
In today’s dysfunctional economic climate, straightforward bargaining frequently comes up empty. Employers come to the table with lengthy lists of takeaways and refuse to compromise. Claiming impasse at the earliest opportunity, they threaten to carry out their final offer or impose a lockout.
To cope with these realities many unions are turning to militant contract campaigns. Creative and aggressive tactics can demonstrate members’ solidarity, resolve, and willingness to act.
Successful contract campaigns rely on wide participation. Months before negotiations begin, the union selects a contract action team. Using individual and group meetings, surveys, and house calls, the team reaches out to every worker, soliciting suggestions for bargaining demands and ideas for exerting pressure. Films, speakers, and handouts educate members about labor struggles.
Many have expressed frustration that the Sick & Safe hours accrued are not put into an account like the health care or vacation funds. Part of the reason for this is that the law requires employers to pay out current wage hours, not wages earned at a previous wage scale. For our trade a clear example is an apprentice who moves up in year would get paid at their current hourly wage, not the wages from the previous school year when they actually accrued the benefit. So, banking wages does not work and banking hours is not possible due to these discrepancies.
Unlike most workers however, many if not most of us are continually switching employers. As one job winds down, we are laid off and re-dispatched to a new employer. When we are released from employment we are relieved of the Sick & Safe hours which we have accrued under the law. This of course leads to workers trying to figure out how can they work the system to ensure that they receive the benefits that they earned before those benefits are taken away. Often this leads to workers taking time for Sick & Safe situations during the last stretch of the job when they are most needed, putting them at odds with the contractor.
To avoid a loss of the benefit and ensure that the jobs are fully staffed to complete the job, the benefit should be paid out when the employee is laid off. This would help keep the workers on the job until the end, and still give them the opportunity to take care of their Sick & Safe situations which the benefit is intended to accommodate. When a worker is able to count on being able to afford to go to the doctor, get check ups, and what ever else they will be in healthier condition for the next job. Allowing this to occur after lay off, helps mitigate the downtime the contractors will occur during the project.
For most of us, the strength of the labor movement in the United States has been steadily declining for our entire lives. The monumental victories of the first half of the 20th century (the 8 hour day, closed shop union contracts, unemployment insurance, etc.) have been under attack and for many workers these fundamental rights have been all but eroded. With the loss of union power we have also lost the methods and tactics of struggle that made those victories possible in the first place.
That is why the recent strike of the West Virginia teachers union is so important. Not only were they able to win the 5% pay increase they were fighting for in the era of “right to work”, they did it by returning to the rank and file militancy of the past. In order to win their strike the teachers had to defy state law as well as their own union leadership and in doing so they reminded us all of where our true power lies: with the rank and file and on the job.
The strike in West Virginia began with the blessing of the statewide teachers union leaders. Frustration had been boiling over among teachers across the state for years. Teachers in West Virginia in 2016 were the 48th lowest paid in the country, the average salary being around $45,000. Wages were not keeping up with rising healthcare costs and cost of living. A vote was taken and a work stoppage began on February 22nd, closing schools in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
From the beginning the strike was dynamic and explosive. Union members didn’t simply sit back and wait for the leadership to tell them to act, they took matters into their own hands. A rank and file Facebook group was started that quickly grew to 20,000 members voicing their frustrations and updating teachers in other parts of the state about unfolding events. The teachers had broad demands which brought in other public sector employees in West Virginia who supported them on the picket lines.
It is this strategy of action and solidarity that made it possible to continue the strike even after the official union leadership called for it to end. After the leadership struck a deal that was unacceptable to the membership they didn’t hang their heads and go back to work, they continued the strike as a “wildcat”. A “wildcat” is a strike that is called without the approval of the local, national or international union leadership. This tactic was common in the past and crucial to the strength of the labor movement in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s but has been suppressed and forgotten in more recent years.
In the end the teachers won a 5% pay increase which was approved not just for teachers but for all State employees. They did it by remembering the lessons of the past, not just the lessons of the labor movement but other movements of working people like the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s as well.
That lesson is this: the rules are often written not for us, but against us. They are written by politicians who line their pockets with donations from big business. They are written by companies that want to drive down wages and erode conditions to maximize their profits. They are written by so called union leaders who want to advance their own career no matter the expense to the workers they are supposed to represent.
But these rules are also arbitrary. They exist only as long as we let them exist and they can be overcome when we realize the power of our solidarity. This is what we are going to have to do if we want to rebuild a powerful labor movement that can defeat attacks like “right to work”.
There is an analogy that I think best illustrates this point. To a lion, the whip of the lion tamer seems too powerful to overcome. The lion might believe that for weeks or even for years, and during that time he will do what the lion tamer says. But we know that the lion is much greater than the whip, and the tamer knows this as well. All the lion has to do is realize it.
This article is found in Trouble Maker’s Handbook 2, published by Labor Notes, and is reproduced here with permission.
Imagine if the call was for Henry Miller…
by Michael Ames Connor
Harry Bridges works at Powell’s Books. He keeps an eye out for fellow workers. At least, that’s what they say.
The story, repeated by many members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5, goes something like this: Every once in a while, over the store intercom, comes a page for Harry Bridges. “Harry Bridges to manager Block’s office.” “Harry Bridges to the loading dock.” It’s a pretty good intercom system, so everyone can hear it.
These union folks who work at Powell’s — clearks, booksellers, loaders, techno-cats, and book buyers — they know, together, a little about everything: cooking, fly fishing, Japanese poetry, and labor history. They know about Harry Bridges. People know Bridges has been dead for years. But they know his reputation — fierce ILWU fighter who led the 1934 longshore strike that established the union. Part of joining ILWU means learning a little about their union and learning what Harry Bridges stands for: members know that if he’s going to check out the loading dock, they should too.
When they get there (and it’s usually 30 or 40 people who show up), they find one of their co-workers in a little difficulty with the boss. A disagreement, an argument, a confrontation. Before they show up, maybe that co-worker is in a little trouble. Maybe the boss is taking a hard line, getting ready to make an example, thinking about tossing a troublemaker out the door. That’s why Harry Bridges gets the call.
So 30 or 40 people show up, and the manager backs down. Happens every time. With one or two people there, the boss can do what he likes. But with 30 or 40 people, as Arlo Guthrie once pointed out, you got yourself a movement.
Nobody’s ever seen Harry Bridges at Powell’s. They just know he’s there, watching to make sure nobody gets picked on, or picked off.
Looks like there is some solidarity developing at IBEW LU 46! Last week Rank & File members put forward a motion to declare Wednesdays as Union Pride Day. The motion specifically asked the Local’s leadership to send out a “robodial” to their membership asking the members to wear IBEW t-shirts each and every Wednesday starting this week.
This is an effort to show unity for a strong Sound & Comm contract as the unit goes back into negotiations in November. When the Inside Wire unit joins in this effort, not only does it support the Sound & Comm unit, it will also help get Inside Wire members geared up for their contract negotiations starting early next year. If you are with IBEW make sure you and your coworkers wear a union shirt, button, or hardhat sticker starting this Wednesday.
Don’t have a union shirt or sticker? You can show your commitment to solidarity by not wearing the company clothing on Wednesdays, or by wearing a button if you have a company uniform!
In this month’s copy of Labor Notes, there is a quiz and discussion in the “Steward’s Corner” about assessing the risk of the impact Right To Work (for less) could have on your Local Union. The survey and discussion revolve around the relationship between the leadership at the Hall, representatives, stewards, and the membership. The survey is only 10 questions, but the answer for every question in regards to Local 46 was one of the two worst possibilities. For example:
“What happens when a workplace problem arises that affects many people?”…
(a) Members are too afraid or unaware of their rights to file a grievance, much less take collective action.
(b) Members call for help, but the union representative doesn’t act.
(c) Members call for help, and the union representative files a grievance.
(d) Members call for help, and the union representative works with them to make an action plan.
My answer to this question is in bold. This is just one of the 10 questions, but they all have a similar tone and they all illustrate a lack of support from the Hall. Our Local is in serious trouble when it comes to building solidarity with the membership and while we get to experience the short term repercussions of this on a daily basis, we are setting ourselves up for long term issues that could break our union if RTW finally comes to be established in Washington State.
The number of people who are not participating in our Local should be taken as a sure sign of the number of members we are at risk of losing when RTW gives them the option to stop paying dues. Around 20% of the membership are participating in our Local’s elections, that leaves 80% of the members with their hands up saying what difference does it make. If even half of these members take that thought a step further and instead say, “why should I pay for this?”, then we are going to be in serious trouble.
We cannot sit back and hope that the election will bring a change in our leadership which will lead to increased solidarity. We have to start demanding it from the representatives in our Hall, and from our fellow brothers and sisters in the field. Let us demand that the Hall take our concerns seriously and get them out to our jobs so we can show them the issues in person.
If we don’t build solidarity in this Local, we will not only continue to lose the short game, but we will lose the long one as well.
The following story is an example of members standing up for themselves to ensure that they are paid properly. The names of those involved have been shorted or changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
We want to share your story too! Please send your story to us @ email@example.com By sharing our stories we are able to educate each other, and help show that standing up for our rights can and will win in our favor!
This is my own story. Brother Kevin is the only other hand I remember from the job. He is now a 48 hand, I believe, and 100% traveller – like owns a big RV and lives in it. He’s 50ish. Janet Lewis also can verify this story, and she may well know some others on that job.
We took calls for a project at SeaTac airport for runway lighting work in August 2002. This was preparatory for the 3rd runway. I was actually a “poacher” here, as the e-board had declined my membership transfer from local 134. Tony was the night foreman, and I actually don’t think there was a day crew.
Things started off badly with Tony saying something to Kevin that Kev took as threatening. Tony didn’t apologize, he tried to minimize it as “just street talk”, and gave Kevin a continual hard time.
We weren’t ever making it to our cars, parked in the same yard as the trailer and connexes, by end of shift, which was 3 or 4 a.m. I think. Except for one real worm trying to get on steady, everyone was complaining, and a few spoke directly to Tony about it. Tony again refused to apologize, but would take an attitude of we had no reason to complain. In fact we weren’t even off the airfield/tarmac on time consistently. We were only getting 40 hr checks.
One evening, a few weeks into the job, all but Tony and the worm were back at the trailer, just a few minutes before end of shift, and I piped up and told my co-workers that somebody needed to deal with the situation, and I’d be willing to deal with it, but didn’t intend to take over, especially since I was not yet a local member. Everyone was happy to let me do it. I’d been keeping accurate notes on my Palm Pilot, and called the hall and got Janet. She was surprised and pleased that I had such meticulous notes. She told me to continue to do so, because they were vital for dealing with the situation. I don’t know if she ever called the contractor or not. Things didn’t change, and on the rare occasion that we were all back to the trailer on time, nothing was said. I reminded my co-workers that I was keeping accurate records and working with Janet. In any case, we all got laid-off the same night in late November, at the end of the job, and I gave Janet final and complete records of times we arrived at, and left the trailer at the beginning and end of the shift every day.
About a week later we all got a call from Janet to either go to the contractor office or call them to mail a check for unpaid time. Although it should have been paid as O.T., we were paid for about 40 hours of time, which is what Tony had attempted to beat us out of. I don’t know if Janet didn’t think of the O.T. element or what.
Kevin thanked me, and so did Janet. Believe it or not, I still hold Janet in higher esteem than any of the Rep’s! She GETS SHIT DONE!!!