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January 20, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-01-20

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ThO Michigan Daily-Sunday, January 20, 1980-Page 7
Workshops focus on labor future

Insuring a Voice
in Unions
The workshop featuring dissident
Teamster leader Peter Camarata and
grass-roots union activist Herman Ben-
son, aimed at an issue both speakers
agreed was a basic, quintessential
principle of the American labor
movement - insuring a voice for rank
and file union members. "This means
giving members the right to get up and
speak at meetings, the right to pass out
leaflets, the right to assemble freely
and the right to run their own slate of
officers in elections," Benson told the
group. "Those are basic prerequisites.
Without these basic rights any other ef-
forts will be ineffectual." Camarata
maintained that most unions have
historically denied their members
these basic rights. "What has to
change," he said, "to insure a voice for
the rank and file is that unions must be
viewed as a fighting instrument
* dedicated to the rights of workers. Too
many unions are currently nothing but
a platform for the advancement of
union leaders."
Our Health
and Safety
The health of American workers is
currently under attack, in the form of a
Senate bill that would exempt most
work places from government inspec-
tion, said panel members.
The "Occupational Health and Safety
Administration (OSHA) Improvement
Act," currently is in a subcommittee of
the Senate's labor committee, and is
supported by senators with liberal
reputations, such as Alan Cranston, (D-
Cal.), and Harrison Williams (D-N.J.).
"This fight coming up is not any dif-
ferent from the fight we had in the
beginning. We had to fight for the whole
program and they (industry) tried to
water it down," commented keynote
speaker Charles Younglove, District 29
director of the United Steel Workers.
Younglove, who l'epresents more than
40,000 workers in Michigan and Ohio,
acknowledged that in the past, workers
have lost ground on health issues
because they were not considered
strike issues.
* Organizing the
James Clark of the United Auto
Workers led off discussion with the
statement that labor organizing in the
South in the '80s can be summed up in
two words: "Damn tough." "Cor-
porations are becoming more
sophisticated," Clark said. "We cannot
afford to sit back and continue to allow
erosion to occur." But, Clark em-
phasized, despite the problems unions
face in signing up workers south of the
Mason-Dixon line due to a tradition of
unorganized labor, southern workers
are not unwilling to join unions. The
common belief that southerners reject
unions in principle is a myth, he asser-
ted. For all the attention paid to labor-
management disputes at large southern
companies such as J. P. Stevens, a
great deal of work is being done at sm-
smaller plants with smaller groups of
workers, according to Bob Kasem,
assistant to the president of the Inter-
national Chemical Workers Union.
Vicki Sapporta of Teamsters Local No.
710 stressed the difference in social pat-
terns in the South. "The political and
church pressures you don't run into in
the North" make organizing difficult.
Minorities and
" Unions

Civil rights activist and labor
organizer James Farmer yesterday
urged union members to support
minority rights. Farmer, speaking to
an Angell Hall audience of ap-
proximately 50, stressed the traditional
ties between the civil rights and labor
movements. Farmer, executive direc-
tor of the Coalition of American Public
Employees, discussed the effects of
management hiring policies on labor
relations. Citing the problem of reverse
seniority lay-offs, under which workers
most recently hired are fired first,
Farmer proposed two alternatives,
work sharing and voluntary early
retirement. Dorothy Jones, a staff
member of the University's Union
Minorities/Women Leadership Project,
said, "There are only a handful of
women in leadership positions in labor
unions." She noted, however, that
women are becoming involved in union
politics at the local level, and that this
involvement has influenced labor
issues, such as maternity leave and
child care.

Careers in Labor
No dissenting voices were heard
among the approximately 70 students,
union members and labor officials at-
tending the workshop led by Charles
Younglove, director for the United
Steelworkers of America, District 29,
Kim Fellner, Information Director for
the Screen Actors Guild, and Ira
Arlook, Executive Director of the Ohio
Public Interest Campaign. Younglove
and Fellner emphasized that dedication
to the labor movement and a strong
desire to serve people are essential for
people who are considering careers in
working with labor. Panel members
said employment opportunities are
available in research and education,
legal work, clerical work, industrial
health, public relations and organizing.
Younglove stressed that promotion of
qualified individuals from within the
rank and file was preferred. Douglas
Richardson, a field representative for
the AFL-CIO and a member of the
audience, suggested that people should
get involved in political organizations
connected with unions to both
strengthen the connections and to find
employment in labor.
Farm Labor
A discussion group led by members of
the Farm Labor Organizing Committee
(FLOC) focused on the ways large cor-
porate canneries, such as Campbell's
have "vertically integrated" the dif-
ferent stages of production in order to
consolidate their control over pricing.
The organizers said laborers from
different sectors of the industry often
are pitted against one another in a
struggle for better conditions, and local
growers are forced into an "exploit the
workers, or go under" posture.
"Fragmentation in the labor
movement is our biggest obstacle,"
said Baldemar Velasquez, a Toledo
organizer. According to the FLOC
organizers, workers can only gain in-
fluence by joining together, and also
educating the consumer about the
causes of both high prices and worker
FLOC's overall solution would be to
restructure the industry to re-distribute
economic control to workers, farmers,
and consumers.
While full-time University students
are heavily subsidized by the state,
workers and others who also need
educational subsidies are not, accor-
ding to Hy Kornbluh, director of the
University/Wayne State Institute of
Labor and Industrial Relations.
Kornbluh was one of three labor ex-
perts who spoke at the workshop
designed to explore new educational
benefits for union membership. Kor-
nbluh said that although he does not ad-
vocate decreasing funds for University
students, it should not stop there. He
said workers need an opportunity to
further their education, but that until
pushed, educational systems will not
provide it.
Harry Lester, Education Director for
District 29 of the United Steelworkers of

America, agreed. He said the labor
movement must develop its own lear-
ning system. "We can't expect this to
come from anywhere but ourselves,"
he said. He emphasized, however, that
the educational programs should not
lose identity with the workers. It was
pointed out that labor education is one
of understanding, more than learning
specific skills.
Art Shy, Education Administrator for
the United Auto Workers (UAW), said
today's worker is "drastically dif-
ferent" than the worker of 30 years ago.
According to Shy, 30 per cent of the
UAW has some college education. He
said the UAW must reach its young
members, who he said "have been
taught to question authority and look at
things differently."
Alliances for
Energy, taxes, and plant closings
were the three issues addressed.
"Energy crisis can become a crisis of
life," said Chuck Wilber, Michigan
Coalition on Utilities director, referring
to the recent deaths of three Detroit
residents because the utility company
had shut off their heat.
Citizens for .Tax Justice Executive
Director Dean Tipps criticized the
Proposition 13 tax cuts in California,
and claimed the move led to attempts to
cut taxes in other areas. Tipps said
even though the tax cut meant a reduc-
tion in federal services, it was adopted
because "people were looking for a
solution for their problems."
Ira Arlook, the Executive Director of
the Ohio Public Interest Campaign, was
successful in getting a bill opposing
plant closing into the Ohio state
legislature. Arlook said striking is not a
successful tactic when it comes to plant
closings, because "the fact that plants
can move anywhere and are doing so"
limit labor's power. The struggle, he
said, must be "to gain democratic con-
trol over government."
Energy and
Richard Grossman, Co-director of
Environmentalists for Full Em-
ployment spoke in favor of a new
energy philosophy. He said new energy
systems can be "neighborhood"
systems that aren't extremely com-
plex, and don't require a smaller num-
ber of people to run them. Grossman
cited the major energy companies for a
lack of concern over jobs. He also
claimed that, with a few recent excep-
tions, "The role of organized labor so
far has been to back up the major com-
panies." Scott Kingdon of the Michigan
State Building and Construction Trades
Council said he sees two energy
philosophies: one for all-out energy
development, and the other for a com-
plete lack of large-scale organization.
He said neither philosophy is correct
and proposed a compromise, to incor-
porate both major plants and neigh-
borhood facilities. Kingdon said that
such a plan would serve to "relieve our-
selves of some dependence on our
friendly Ayatollah who in my view,
may go down as the father of our
energy development program."

Grossman claimed during the question
and answer period that a breakdown in
one of his "neighborhood" systems
would not be a catastrophe, as would a
major plant breakdown.
Working Women
Headed by Joyce Kornbluh, from the
University's Institute of Labor
Relations, the workshop examined
women's goals concerning labor, and
strategies for achieving these goals by
1990. Linda Ward, a steelworker, ex-
pressed her desire for increased
medical insurance and safety measures
in factories. Others were concerned
with child care for working mothers,
income security, equal pay for male
and female workers, and involvement
of women in the top union positions. The
consensus was that women need to
organize themselves in order to win
their demands. Karen Nussbaum from
Cleveland Women Working, said
women must organize, and that the
Coalition for Labor Union Women
(CLUW) is helping them do it. CLUW
was set up in 1973 and has brought
women together from all over the U.S.
to educate them and confront union
issues. Gloria Johnson, national
treasurer of CLUW, emphasized the
misconception that women work for
"extra money". "A woman's income
may often raise her family out of pover-
ty," she said.
Unions in the
Public Sector
Discord was the keynote of the Public
Sector workshop, as panelists and
audience members bickered about the
future of public sector labor unions.
Harry Linne, President of the Michigan
Federation of Teachers, said the reason
for the lack of unity among the public
unions is that "everybody is looking at
their own narrow interests. We seldom
have time to work with other unions (to
achieve our goals.)" Detroit Police Of-
ficers Association President David
Watroba, another panelist, predicted
moderate growth in public sector
unions in the 1980s. He also forecast
national legislation before 1990 to cover
public sector bargaining.
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