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Enterprise Rent-A-Car workers attempt to organize with Local 201.


Unity Update

Local 201 Organizing Program Highlights for 2006
By Rand Wilson, Organizing Director

IUE-CWA Local 201's organizing committee has focused on building "Working At GE" (WAGE) Committees at its Northern New England plants and reaching out to many more workers at GE vendors about forming unions. 

The organizing committee's approach has emphasized Local 201 member involvement.  The committee helped organize three weekends where Local 201'ers traveled to the homes of potential members from GE or vendor shops to "talk union."  It's hard work – but also lots of fun!

The most important development this year is that more members with previous work experience in vendor shops are talking with their former co-workers and friends about the benefits of uniting in Local 201.  These members were recruited as a result of last year's new member survey and direct follow up by the organizing committee.  A similar survey is underway now.

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Uniting GE workers in WAGE Committees

To build up political support for winning the huge defense contract, workers in Hooksett used the same petition to President Bush that we used in Lynn.  The Hooksett petitions were signed by over 70 GE workers and were presented by WAGE members to Congressman Jeb Bradley.

The campaign was a great opportunity to involve WAGE committee leaders in a political campaign and show workers in those plants the benefits of everyone working together for jobs.

The upcoming national contract negotiations with GE provide a similar opportunity to involve WAGE committee members.  The Auburn, ME committee organized a meeting to discuss contract issues with national negotiating committee member (and Local 201 Business Agent) Ric Casilli.  Hopefully other WAGE committees will convene similar meetings with Ric.

Uniting with workers at GE vendors for good jobs

Local 201'ers also circulated the Joint Strike Fighter Engine petition to workers in the vendor companies, making the case that a contract for GE would also result in more jobs at local vendors.  About 20 workers from vendor firms signed the petition.

Unfortunately outdated labor laws and weak politicians have made it far too easy for employers to illegally interfere with workers' rights to form unions.  Workers at the vendors are naturally concerned about management retaliation for their union activity. 

When companies receive public subsidies, it's an opportunity to reduce employer interference.  One local GE vendor, Middleton Aerospace, received a low interest loan from the state and a ten-year tax break to consolidate its Middleton and Peabody plants into a new facility in Haverhill.

A number of local politicians strongly supported a bid by Local 201 leaders to reach an agreement with Middleton management that would make it much easier for employees to join.  But the public pressure wasn't enough and thus far CEO Bob Segal has refused.  In the meantime, former employees who now work at GE have been staying in touch with Middleton workers.

More member involvement needed

Earlier generations of workers fought for -- and won -- the good full time jobs our families and communities need.  But the pay and benefits that GE employees enjoy today in Lynn can't be maintained in isolation from what's happening to the majority of working people.  It's in every member's interest to step up and help more workers unite to win their rights.

About 35 Local 201 members or retirees participated in one aspect or another of organizing in 2006.  The entire membership owes them a debt of gratitude for what is probably the most frustrating work in the labor movement.  While we had no union victories, these members did the ground work that will surely pay off in the future.  Next year I hope that we can double the number of members involved in organizing and celebrate a few wins!

Unity Update...
Auburn GE workers discuss participation in 2007 contract campaign
Rand Wilson, Local 201 Organizing Director

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Members of the Auburn WAGE Committee gathered on April 23 to hear from Local 201 BA Ric Casilli (2nd from left), in his capacity as a member of IUE-CWA National Negotiating Committee. Casilli came to Auburn to give workers there a preview of some of the anticipated bargaining issues and the expected timing of nationally coordinated membership activities to spotlight members' top concerns.

GE has traditionally used the wage and benefit package negotiated with its unions to set the pattern for what it gives to GE workers who are not united in unions.

The number of workers belonging to unions at GE has declined from about 35 percent in 1980 to less than 15 percent today. While overall employment at GE has stayed about the same, nearly half of the company's workforce is now outside of the US.

"We've held off GE in past years, but as union membership declines, it's getting harder and harder," said Casilli. "The only way we can defend GE workers wages and benefits is by uniting more GE workers behind the unions' national negotiating committee."

"That means our contract campaign has to educate and involve many more workers from non-union plants like Auburn. The WAGE committee is really leading the way," Casilli concluded.

Local 201 members begin visiting workers from GE vendors and other local manufacturing companies

Six members of Local 201 -- David Bjorkman, Jeff Crosby, Norm Hirschfeld, Gary Ralston, Bob Reynolds, and Susan Strauss - went door-to-door over the weekend of April 8 and 9 to visit with workers from other manufacturing companies about the importance to the local economy of winning the Joint Strike Fighter contract.

Over the course of the weekend teams from Local 201 visited with workers from Analog Devices, Central Centerless, Middleton Aerospace, Sensitech, and Synventive.

At each visit, Local 201 members asked people to sign a petition about funding for defense jobs in Massachusetts. Several enthusiastic workers took extra petitions back to their workplaces. Members of each team also gave out information about the right to organize, a brochure about IUE-CWA Local 201, and the most recent Local 201 newspaper. 


You probably know that Local 201 has hired an organizer to implement the local’s organizing program. What you might not know is the organizing program’s goals and priorities. Who exactly is the local trying to organize? Why is the local trying to organize a particular company or group of workers instead of another? Which groups of workers would make the best fit with Local 201?

The policy board developed a three level strategy as part of the organizing program. In order of priority, Local 201’s organizing priorities are:

1. Other GE locations (W.A.G.E.)

2. GE River Works vendors

3. North Shore companies

Clearly, organizing other GE locations, and in particular those locations which do the same work as Local 201 members, is the highest priority. Our bargaining power increases as the number of union-represented workers within GE grows. This makes it easier for negotiators to get a better contract.

At the same time, GE workers who join the union gain the full benefit of the contract, not just the parts GE chooses to extend to workers at the nonunion locations, which are often changed, weakened or withdrawn when it suits management’s needs.

Local 201 is already helping to unite workers at other GE locations. We’re currently working at GE locations in Wilmington, NC, Hooksett, NH, and Auburn, ME to implement IUE-CWA’s "Working At GE" program (WAGE). WAGE is designed to build union support at GE locations, which have been traditionally difficult to organize.  For more info visit:

Our second priority is to help workers at vendors who supply and support the operations at the Riverworks in Lynn.

Many Local 201 members are aware of who these vendors are. You’ve seen their trucks making deliveries or their labels on the boxes or crates their parts come in. You could have even worked for one of them at some time.

You may also have family or friends who work for one of the vendors. Some of them might have expressed a desire to join a union to get the wages, benefits and protection union workers enjoy. You can help them organize where they work and help yourself at the same time. Here’s how:

Have them contact the local’s organizing department at (781) 598-2760 or, if they’d like, get their information and call the office yourself or forward it through a steward or board member.

Our third priority are workplaces in the area that are not connected to GE but whose workers are looking to organize with Local 201.

Regardless of where they work and what they do, if you know someone in the area who wants to organize have them get in touch with us. If Local 201 IUE-CWA isn’t the right fit for their type of work, we’ll help them get in touch with a union that is.




For further information contact Local 201 IUE-CWA at (781) 598-2760