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Industrial Sector leaders meet in Las Vegas

“Trade unions are the most powerful civil society organization. We need to be focused on organizing.”
— Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL

U.S. Air Force Maj., retired, Brian Shul describes his experience flying the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.

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Event draws Boilermakers from 83 local lodges, five district lodges

THE 2017 INDUSTRIAL Sector Operations Conference drew 172 delegates from across North America to the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas July 31-Aug. 4. The meeting provided opportunities to learn from plenary speakers and breakout presenters, and to network with other lodge leaders.

During the four-day conference, delegates met in five industry-specific caucuses and 26 breakout sessions. Speakers addressed delegates on local lodge finances, railroad retirement, labor arbitration, building the union, labor law, conducting audits, being an effective steward, new officer training and many other topics important for leaders in the Industrial Sector. Also presenting were the Boilermaker National Funds office, a consultant for the Boilermakers National Pension and Welfare Funds (Canada), and staff from Bank of Labor and the International.

International President Newton B. Jones delivered the opening address, announcing staffing changes to strengthen sector representation. The new appointments include Gary Powers, Director, Shipbuilding and Metal Trades Services/ Assistant Director–ISO; Arnie Stadnick, Director, Canadian ISO for Lodge Services/AD–ISO; Bill Staggs, Executive Director, Cement Lodge Services/AD–ISO; John Mansker, Director, Railroad Lodge Services/AD–ISO; Don Hamric, AD–ISO; and Debbie Goodwin, Researcher–ISO.

IP Jones also stressed the importance of organizing and explained the union’s efforts to increase organizing staff and target underserved areas. He welcomed three new organizers: Claudia Mancia, Mircha Vorobets and Erica Stewart (subsequently appointed International Rep). Organizing initiatives on the West Coast will include outreach to Russian and Latino communities.

Shul encourages delegates to follow their passion

MAJ. BRIAN SHUL, U.S. Air Force, retired, the event’s keynote speaker, told his story of recovery after being shot down near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War and his “second career” piloting the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, the fastest and highest-flying plane in the world.

After Shul’s crash, doctors told him he’d never fly again because of the extensive burns he’d suffered. He proved the doctors wrong when, following his recovery, he became one of only 93 people to pilot the SR-71, which could travel at three times the speed of sound.

During his seven years piloting the spy plane, he took up photography as a hobby and used his skills to shoot photos of the Blackbird and other aircraft. After 20 years of military service, Shul retired to pursue photography and other endeavors.

He encouraged conference participants to follow their passion. “Do the thing you most love, no matter what anyone else is saying.”

Global union leader cites causes of income inequality

KEMAL ÖZKAN, ASSISTANT General Secretary of IndustiALL, discussed increasing income inequality across the globe. He explained how the widening disparity is caused by several factors: a globalized supply chain (the movement of raw materials and products and services from company to consumer) that ignores fair wages and human rights; the decline of collective bargaining, which has resulted in unfair profit distribution; and wealth accumulating at the top of the supply chain instead of benefiting workers.

Özkan noted that the power of unions within the Group of 20 (an international economic forum comprised of members from the European Union and 19 countries including the U.S. and Canada) is also declining, to the detriment of workers.

“We find ourselves in a world that seems to move backwards,” he said.

IndustriALL is combating the world’s growing inequality by building union power in supply chains and advocating for workers across the globe, Özkan said, noting that unionizing more workers will improve conditions for everyone.

“Trade unions are the most powerful civil society organization. We need to be focused on organizing.”

Zeff, Jackson blast Nabisco for moving Oreo plant

NATE ZEFF, ASSISTANT to the strategic campaign coordinator for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Milling union, and Anthony Jackson, BCTGM organizer, blasted Nabisco for laying off 600 workers at its Chicago plant in 2015, and moving their jobs to Mexico.

Zeff said that Nabisco made the decision after workers refused to accept $46 million in annual concessions. “Nabisco is paying the Mexican workers $1 a day with no benefits other than giving them a ride to work.” Nabisco then ships products from Mexico back to the U.S., selling Oreos at the same price as when U.S. workers produced them, and pockets the labor cost savings, he added.

According to Zeff, Chicago isn’t the only casualty. Over the last 20 years, Nabisco has shuttered seven other plants in the United States and Canada; meanwhile executives at Nabisco and parent company Mondelez are richly rewarded. Last year Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld receiving approximately $17 million in total compensation.

BCTGM is now engaged in an active campaign to boycott Nabisco products from Mexico. They’re asking consumers to determine if a product is made there (details are at www.fightforamericanjobs.org) and if it is, to ask the retailer to only stock goods made in the United States.

Jackson, one of the Chicago workers laid off, railed against Rosenfeld and her disregard for workers. “She doesn’t care about me or my kids. She cares more about cost-cutting.”

“If we don’t stop them, they’ll move to another country and exploit those workers.”

— Anthony Jackson, BCTGM

Jackson gave an impassioned plea for Boilermakers to get involved in the boycott. “If we don’t stop them, they’ll move to another country and exploit those workers,” he said. “Tell people. We can’t advertise like [Nabisco] can.”

Hartwich calls out LafargeHolcim

MATTHIAS HARTWICH, DIRECTOR of IndustriALL Global Union’s Mechanical Engineering and Materials Industries sectors, spoke to delegates in the cement caucus about the safety records and merger of cement giants Lafarge and Holcim.

According to Hartwich, LafargeHolcim is now the largest worldwide producer of cement, with a presence in 90 countries, employing over 12,000 workers in the United States and Canada.

Before the merger, IndustriALL pushed for workers’ rights and safety concerns to be addressed, said Hartwich, adding that IndustriALL is currently organizing to build workers’ rights and set up best practices in health and safety.

He said records showed that in 2016 alone, 86 people were killed working at LafargeHolcim facilities.

“That’s a massacre,” said Hartwich, adding that workers died because management didn’t listen to them. “If [a company] wants to come to a zero-harm policy, they need to ask the workers.”

Brown praises solidarity, urges organizing

ISO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and Chief of Staff Tyler Brown closed the conference with praise for Boilermaker solidarity and a call for more organizing.

He cited the lockout of 172 Westinghouse workers in May and the unity showed by those members in the face of “draconian cuts” proposed by the company.

“In the end, we took on Westinghouse, this big employer, because these guys stood together in solidarity,” Brown said. He observed that while Westinghouse workers had a union backing them, only seven percent of workers in the U.S. are unionized.

“Those unorganized workers are at the mercy of their employers,” he said. “They can be fired at any time, for pretty much anything. What are we going to do with the 93 percent of workers that aren’t organized and need us?” He said those workers are the reason the Boilermakers need to organize.

“Look at the Boilermakers — we’re best in class in everything we do. We’re the best, and there’s no reason why folks out there who are unorganized, if they knew about us, wouldn’t want to become a part of this Boilermaker family.”