Local 338 is an amalgamated union representing four separate bargaining units: Kaiser Aluminum - production/maintenance and clerical/technical workers, Kaiser Alutek workers, and LB Foster pre-cast/railroad ties division workers. We number more than 1000 private sector members who work primarily in manufacturing industries in North Eastern Washington.

 

 
left picture left picture

Legislation & Education
Ted Cummings


 

Idaho AFL-CIO Convention Report


By Ted Cummings:

The Idaho AFL-CIO convention was held Sunday June 13th through Wednesday June 16th at the Red Lion in Post Falls Idaho. 

There were 89 delegates from across Idaho and Washington in attendance along with numerous guests and speakers. 

Liz Shuler, Secretary/Treasurer, AFL-CIO was the first of many speakers.  Liz spoke about the importance of supporting the Pro-Act and the role that bill will play in ending right to work, nationwide.  She cited reasons such as it takes over four hundred days for workers to reach a first contract and the fact that the giant non-union business, Amazon, has an injury rate double of most workplaces as examples.  The Pro-Act will reverse the damage from the Taft-Hartley Act which has been in effect since 1947.

USW District 12 Director Gaylon Prescott spoke next and gave an impassioned speech about the challenges the labor movement faces today.  Declining membership has left us with diminished political and social support and strikes today can go on for years instead of being an effective tool at bringing employers to the table to bargain fairly.  Gaylon reiterated the need to pass the Pro-Act so that workforces can not be locked out and permanently be replaced by a scab workforce.  Gaylon’s speech was extremely well received by all the delegates and was referenced many times throughout the rest of the convention.

Idaho AFL-CIO President Joe Maloney spoke about and opened discussion on Resolution #2, Special Assessment to Support the Political Program of the Idaho AFL-CIO.  This resolution which is about funding a full-time lobbyist was the central topic of the convention and caused much concern and discussion over the cost, and the reaction from the general membership to spend the money.  The motion was passed on the final day of the convention by a comfortable margin, but it remains to be seen what level of support it will generate from all the affiliates. 

Tammy Johnson, Executive Secretary Wyoming AFL-CIO addressed the convention and describe her challenges and successes in a red state, she focused on wins no matter how small and in building relationships wherever she can find them.

David Kearns, OSHA Area Director gave a very frank and honest report on workplace safety.  He had slides of horrific accidents that were tough to look at.  He pointed out that virtually all accidents are preventable.  He spoke about the effect on co-workers who witness workplace traumatic injury and death and sadly reported that at times the trauma has led to a co-worker committing suicide.  Investigating these injuries often brings out that while the employer has extensive policies and procedures to show investigators, workers on the floor frequently report they would be fired if they followed those policies and that those policies only exist on paper.  David shared that the most successful safety programs are the ones that use a team approach and use a “we are our brother’s keeper” mentality. Mr. Kearns acknowledge that he would not have a job without unions and that it was union support that led to the creation of OSHA.   Idaho ranks among the top five highest occupational death rates in the western United States. There is one OSHA inspector for every ninety-one thousand three hundred forty employees.  It would take them one hundred sixty-nine years to inspect every business in Idaho.  Most common comment from injured workers is “I never thought it would happen to me”.

I chose to attend the Columbia Basin Initiative Q&A with Justin Hayes as my breakout session on Tuesday.  This is a controversial proposal to breach four dams on the Snake River.  This proposal comes from Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson and was met very unfavorably with most in attendance.  Many USW members who work at the papermill were vocal about their disapproval of the proposal.  Mr. Hayes did a great job getting the data and facts out and handled the mostly hostile crowd very professionally.  It does not sound like the bill has much of a chance but what stuck with me the most is his comment that change is coming. Whether we like it or not, we should be in on the discussions on how to best mitigate the coming changes. 

That theme of being at the table or on the menu came up repeatedly and I believe it is true.  I hear over and over from members who tell me they do not follow politics.  The problem is if we are not involved, the people who do not share our views, end up writing the rules and impacting our lives in ways that are not favorable to our families or communities. 

The Tuesday night banquet was a great evening, especially when our brother Dale Broadsword was recognized for his many years of union efforts, receiving the Robert MacFarlane Award!  Congratulations Dale, well deserved!!

Wednesday morning the convention reconvened to debate and vote on the ten resolutions that had come before the convention. 

I am happy to discuss the convention in more detail with anyone who has questions.

Ted Cummings

WA Legislative and Education