USW Convention UpdateDay 2Delegates Boost Strike and Defense Fund;Pave Way for First Woman Vice PresidentThe United Steelworkers 2008 Constitutional Conventionyesterday approved by overwhelming margins resolutionsto bolster the union’s Strike and Defense Fund and toexpand the International Executive Board (IEB).A modest 3 cents an hour increase in dues was passed by astrong margin after delegates from around the country stood insupport of the proposal to increase the levels of strike and lockoutbenefits available to members who need them.“We have to fight the battles that employers force upon us,’’said International Vice President Fred Redmond, who chairedthe debate. “We have no option but to give our members on thepicket lines the resources they need so employers will never beable to starve us out.”With the approval, the weekly strike payments to locals willincrease from the current maximum of $115 per striker to $150.In two years, the benefit will rise to a maximum of $200 perweek.Emergency medical benefits for members and their familieswill be improved to provide coverage at a lower price with nodeductibles and no pre-existing medical condition exclusions.“This debate is about our future,” International President LeoW. Gerard told the delegates. “We will show multinationalemployers that they can’t push you or me or any of our membersaround.”Since its creation 40 years ago, the Strike and Defense Fundhas paid $1.1 billion to local unions to help members duringlabor struggles. Over the last decade, some 115,000 membershave shared in more than $300 million in benefits.The constitutional change will raise dues by either fifteenhundredths of one percent (0.15 percent) of a member’s totalmonthly earnings, or, by local union option, three cents per houruntil Dec. 31, 2012, and thereafter 0.15 percentThe vote capped months of deliberation in the United Statesand Canada on how to ensure that the fund is strong enough toprotect and defend members in strikes that are getting harderand longer – an average of 26 weeks.The fund, created at a special convention in 1968, provideslocals with weekly cash to be used to help members in time ofneed. It provides emergency medical coverage for members andtheir families to avoid catastrophic losses during strikes.The fund also sustains Building Power training programsand helps support effective public information and corporatecampaigns against difficult employers.For those who can’t legally strike, such as public sectoremployees, the fund helps to provide legal help for interest arbitration,mediation and labor board hearings. It also pays forlegal representation in lawsuits, including those that attempt torestrain our right to picket.Prior to tackling the dues issue, the delegates overwhelmingapproved the creation of a new International Vice President atLarge, a position that is expected to, for the first time ever, go toa woman.The new position will be filled by an “extremely qualified”woman who has come up through the ranks of her local union,Gerard told the delegates to applause.“Let’s show what we stand for,’’ Gerard said in urgingapproval. “Let’s show we aren’t afraid of the future and haveroom for people of all colors and races, and a woman can goanywhere in this union and do anything that has to be done.”
Congresswoman Tubbs Jones to Delegates:“Let the Union Spirit TakeHold of This Land”In a rousing speech to delegates Tuesday, Congresswoman StephanieTubbs Jones, the first African-American woman elected to U.S. Housefrom Ohio, urged delegates not to expect divine intervention if theyhoped to set American in a new direction.Urging unprecedented activism in the upcoming November elections,she said, “There are those who believe God’s going take care of everything.Well, that’s not faith. That’s superstition.”Referring to President Bush and his cabinet, she declared, “The foxesare in our house and it’s time to put ‘em out!” She detailed the foxes’resumes:• George Bush, who worked for an oil exploration firm.• Dick Cheney, who was CEO of Halliburton.• Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice who served on Chevron’sboard of directors, and even had an oil tanker named after her.The only way to turn around energy policy, she made clear, is to elect Barack Obama.Tubbs Jones, who supported Senator Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, urged delegates to unify behind the presumptive Democraticpresidential candidate.“I ain’t telling you who to vote for,” she joked, “but I am telling you to vote for Barack Obama.”Championing the revitalization of manufacturing, Congresswoman Tubbs Jones recounted “standing with LTV retirees and hearingthem being told, ‘you can retiree, you’ll have benefits.’ And then up came the devil and the devil was in the details.”She declared, “It’s time for those in Congress to step up for you. And I promise you, I’m going to be there.She concluded with the same verses from a poem with which she had begun her speech:“Let the union spirit take hold of this land. Let the union’s power fill every woman and man.”IMF President Decries Globalization:“There Exists No Human Rightfor Free Trade”International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) President JurgenPeters told delegates Tuesday that globalization is savagingthe rights of workers in both the developed and developingworld.Speaking in German through a translator, Peters quotedfrom Article 23 of the United Nations 1948 Declaration ofHuman Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to work.Everyone without discrimination has the right to equal pay forequal work,” and everyone has the right to “remuneration worthyof human dignity.”Instead, globalization is “mercilessly pitting workers againsteach other, is causing jobs to be downsized, is causing decliningsalaries and worsening security, and is leading to a growingworldwide inequality.“These developments undermine more and more of oursocieties,” he added, as does the “uncontrolled use of resourcesthat damage the environment and threaten the life of future generations.”He concluded that the United Nation’s Declaration onworkers’ human rights has to be given higher standing than therules of the World Trading Organization (WTO), declaring,“There exists no human right for free trade.”Peters also hailed the USW’s continuing support for theMexican miner of the Los Mineros union as “a fantastic examplefor international solidarity.“That’s why I hope your efforts to create a global unionwill be successful,” Peters concluded.