IP Newton B. Jones reminds delegates that when working people come together, they’re a powerful force.
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FROM INSPIRING STORIES about Boilermakers winning more work in shipyards to negotiating contracts that add back benefits corporations wrenched away from members, Industrial Sector Operations lodge leaders were inspired and equipped at the ISO Conference July 9-11 in Las Vegas.
In addition to plenary sessions featuring storied labor leaders from across the globe, members gained information and insight to take back to their locals in industry-specific caucuses and breakout sessions. Breakouts featured information on in-plant organizing for the ISO sector; updates on the Family and Medical Leave Act and Duty of Fair Representation; basics for financial officers; pension and annuity updates; effective grievance writing; and medical marijuana in the workplace, among other topics.
International President Newton B. Jones opened the conference with an inspiring speech on multiple Boilermaker successes across the United States and Canada throughout the last year, including the birth of a new local.
“Just a few weeks before this conference, we learned that the workers at Aggregate Industries in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, voted in favor of unionizing with the Boilermakers,” IP Jones said to thundering applause.
He also announced the kick-off of a new women’s caucus initiative, tentatively called Women At Work™, through which the union will actively engage women in the trades.
“We know there is a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to recruiting, retaining and advancing women in our industries,” IP Jones said. “We want to be proactive leaders when it comes to promoting opportunities for women and addressing the unique issues facing women in the trades.”
He said that the first Women At Work caucus would take place later that week
“We’re looking forward to bringing together female Boilermakers who’ve joined us for ISO with other female leaders to begin the groundwork for a foundation of support and advancement for our sisters in the Brotherhood.”
IP Jones also reminded delegates that union members are stronger when working together to advance the goals of working people. “Our nation was built by working people, not by the few elite who think they hold the puppet strings on our nation. When working people come together, we’re a powerful force,” he said. “We’re Boilermakers, and we’re here to build our Brotherhood.”
Boles talks power of the labor movement
JERRY BOLES, PRESIDENT of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, emphasized the Signalmen and Boilermakers commonality as well as the long history between the unions.
“These two groups, both with ties to the rail industry, historically defend what’s right,” Boles said. “The Signalmen stand by their Boilermaker brothers and sisters. We stand united for what is fair and right for one another.”
Boles recalled the historic three-month Pullman’s Strike in 1894, where an injunction in federal court halted the strike, and as a result, federal troops were sent to Chicago to enforce the ruling. The strike ended with 26 dead and a railroad yard in flames.
“This reminds us how hard the early years were,” Boles said. “History is a reminder to never forget where we came from.”
Those reminders, he said, are needed now, because the government and some corporations are working hard to undermine what unions have worked to achieve. “In the media, the political arena, as well as the workplace, we work in dangerous conditions while corporations make record profits.”
Boles praised the Boilermakers for continued innovation that advances the cause of working people.
“Your organization is a shining beacon. You’ve taken bold actions at the forefront of the labor movement. You’ve spearheaded initiatives such as the M.O.R.E. Work program and federally approved apprenticeship programs. You have lobbied throughout the country for more union working class jobs,” Boles said. “No matter our differences or our affiliations, we are all brothers and sisters. Union is not just a word. It’s a calling.”
IndustriALL’s Özkan outlines ‘Industry 4.0’
KEMAL ÖZKAN, ASSISTANT general secretary for IndustriAll Global Union, outlined how the world is dramatically changing for the working class. He described Industry 4.0 as a basket of technology that’s influencing the world’s fourth industrial revolution.
“A huge transformation is now happening in the world,” Özkan said. “In the economy, transportation, jobs, climate changes and technology.”
He stressed that new technologies are not the problem. The problem is corporations using them to reduce labor costs and displace workers.
“What are we going to say to those workers impacted from these transformations? The only morally defensibly answer is to make the transformation with justice,” he said. “We must be able to tell them what they’ll do tomorrow. No one will support an unjust transition. It needs to advance a sustainable future.”
The way to guarantee that is to “demand a seat at the table for the transition,” he said.
He also pointed to the widening gap between workers and the wealthy. And the power of big business over governments, which was exposed through the banking crisis during the most recent recession.
“The world has more wealth but also more inequality,” Özkan said.
The answer, he said, is to increase union power. The United States labor movement represents only 6.6 percent of people in the workforce. It’s the lowest of all industrialized nations.
“I believe we need to continue to work together and create a winning culture,” he said. “The union movement must make itself relevant to a new generation of the working class.”
AFL-CIO’s Hart recounts wins within the metal trades
JAMES HART, PRESIDENT of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, detailed the reorganization of the department, including recaptured history and records, energized employees and expanded staff.
“The truth is, sinners belong in church, and workers belong in the union. If you put up walls to prevent workers to come into the union, shame on you,” Hart said. “That’s why we reorganized the metal trades. That’s why we take on fights.”
He detailed several recent wins for workers in the metal trades across the U.S. including the Philly Shipyard (formerly known as Aker Philadelphia Shipyard). The shipyard, which employs Boilermakers, had run out of work.
“That wasn’t acceptable, so we sprang into action. Boilermakers are the biggest affiliate in the metal trades for the AFL-CIO,” Hart said. “I turn to Boilermakers when I have issues.”
So, the AFL-CIO and the Boilermakers created a plan to gain back the work and, due to concerted action, the Philly Shipyard will soon be receiving its certification for repair work and shortly after, three training ships will be docked there for repairs.
“Together we can deliver. We always go forward; we don’t look back,” Hart said. “Anyone who tells you that you are irrelevant, it is because they fear you.”
AFL-CIO’s Markell measures pulse of U.S. manufacturing
BRAD MARKELL, EXECUTIVE director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, offered delegates a detailed overview of manufacturing in the U.S.
Manufacturing is important for more than just good jobs for the working class, he said. “If we don’t keep manufacturing in this country, we lose our edge in technology. We lose private research and development, which keeps the U.S. on the cutting edge.”
He cited two major issues facing manufacturing today: the trade deficit and temporary workers.
“When you don’t see manufacturing rising, that means people aren’t buying, or manufacturing is being shipped overseas,” Markell said.
And while up to 600,000 jobs have been added in manufacturing in the last three years, it isn’t as strong as it used to be. A lot of that is due to the trade deficit. For example: With China producing two times more steel than they can use, the market is in a glut. Manufacturing supported by the Chinese government provides “super cheap labor” according to Markell. He said that the U.S. could gain 3.3 million jobs if it didn’t have a trade deficit with China.
The addition of temporary workers into manufacturing lowers costs for owners, but workers’ pay has taken a hit. Manufacturing used to pay 17 percent more in wages, but that’s declined to 13 percent. Temps capture 10 percent of the job market for manufacturing.
“Temps have grown, and that’s giving us a problem. Toyota is using about 40 percent staffing services. These are permanent temps,” he said. “The benefits are non-existent or super slim, and the pay is lower. We need to put a stop to that.”
Better trade deals are the way to strengthen U.S. manufacturing and end abuses, but NAFTA 2.o falls short.
“We have to get the labor rights situation in Mexico right. They all make really, really low wages, and the U.S. can’t compete with someone making $3 or $4 an hour,” Markell said. “Our Mexican brothers and sisters deserve a raise.”
Brown energizes delegates in fiery close
ED-ISO TYLER BROWN fired-up delegates in the closing session, reminding them that the Boilermakers union is stronger when everyone bands together to achieve positive change for working people. He reminded everyone that unions are under attack by many powerful people who want to destroy the Boilermakers and other unions for economic reasons.
“We’ve been around over 120 years. We do the hardest jobs, and we step up when others step back from a challenge,” Brown said. “And that includes fighting back against anti-union entities that want to keep us out or withhold what’s fair.”
Brown recounted recent Boilermaker wins in organizing and gaining more work through the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund and praised members for standing up against right-to-work efforts in Missouri and West Virginia.
“Now is not the time to rest on those successes but to use them as catalysts for what’s next—more organizing and more membership growth in our existing local lodges,” he said.
Brown called for lodge leaders to strengthen their locals and recruit non-union coworkers to join the Boilermakers.
“It means modeling integrity as a leader and keeping your local’s focus on the union—what’s best for your local and our union,” he said. “When I look around this room and see even a small portion of our dedicated brothers and sisters, that makes me hopeful for our future and what we can and will accomplish together. It makes me proud to be a Boilermaker, to be your brother and to know you are all in this with me.”
Additional speakers included Mike Snowden, market president of labor bank operations at Bank of Labor. Snowden gave an update on the health of the bank, noting there’s been a 60 percent growth in deposits during the last six and a half years and a 254 percent growth in loans during the last three years.
President and CEO of ULLICO Ed Smith gave an overview of the insurance group, emphasizing that they have only one client—the United States labor movement. He said they focus on two important goals: to protect unions and to grow unions.
Director of Government Affairs Cecile Conroy highlighted the importance of the Jones Act and the need to support the Protect the Right to Organize Act, new legislation that offers stronger backing of labor.
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram gave an update on USA membership and outreach. And Dave Stewart, the lead designer of the Boilermaker History Preservation department, gave an update on the team’s work and resources available to lodges.