On December 4th, 2011 Local 108 held its General Membership Meeting. Items on the agenda included:
- FINANCIAL REPORTS (Charles N. Hall, Jr.)
- CITIZENSHIP FUND REPORT (Kathy Campbell)
- STATE OF THE UNION (Charles N. Hall, Jr.)
- REMARKS FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM
- PUBLIC SECTOR REPORT (Jasper Parnell)
- RESOLUTION #1 – CIVIC CONTRIBUTIONS (Kathy Campbell)
- RESOLUTION # 2 – CITIZENSHIP FUND (Kathy Campbell)
- RESOLUTION #3 – IRVING ROSENBERG SCHOLARSHIP FUND (George Giordano)
- POLITICAL REPORT (Kathy Campbell)
- REMARKS FROM SENATOR RONALD RICE, ESSEX COUNTY, DISTRICT 28
- REMARKS FROM SENATOR ROBERT GORDON, BERGEN COUNTY, DISTRICT 38
- REMARKS FROM LINDA GREENSTEIN, MERCER COUNTY AND MIDDLESEX COUNTY, DISTRICT 14
- RESOLUTION #4 – MORE STRENGTH THROUGH ORGANIZING (Patricia Gonzalez)
- RESOLUTION #5 – CREATING A STRONGER POLITICAL VOICE (Jasper Parnell)
- RESOLUTION #6 – RE-ELECT PRESIDENT OBAMA (George Giordano)
- RESOLUTION # 7 – RE-ELECTED SENATOR MENENDEZ (Lamar Hall)
- RESOLUTION #8 – SUPPORTING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING (Patricia Gonzalez)
- RESOLUTION#9 – IN SUPPORT OF THE 99%
- COMPLETED, PENDING AND UP-COMING CONTRACTS (George Giordano) AND ORGANIZING REPORT
- GOOD & WELFARE
- BLESSING AND LUNCH
For more on the speech given by Charles Hall at the meeting please continue reading below:
DECEMBER 4, 2011
GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Good Morning, Brothers and Sisters, your families and distinguished guests. I would like to begin my report to you by getting straight to the point of how difficult 2011 has been for our union, working families and the 99% of Americans looking for a fair deal.
The labor movement and middle class families in our great state of New Jersey came under a fierce attack from a Republican Governor and his party with the help of some Democrats and Democratic leadership. An organized attack to weaken collective bargaining rights through legislation was waged against the public sector unions and in my opinion, on the labor movement as a whole. Our union, along with public sector unions from all aspects of our society along with community groups and working families fought back to prevent this tragic blow to the labor movement. Although Local 108 founded as a retail and private sector union, today we are a union which represents bus drivers, maintenance workers and public sector workers.
Local 108 joined the fight to protect collective bargaining rights for our members in the public sector and also recognizing the fight was an attack on the labor movement as a whole. Our union took a leadership role in this fight having a seat at the New Jersey AFL-CIO Unity Table strategizing against this well organized attack on labor. We marched, used media and demonstrated across the state to mobilize union members, educate the public on the importance of the right to collectively bargain and to maintain a middle class.
We lobbied our Democratic Assembly and Senate focusing on Democrats who controlled both houses only to be faced with arrogance and party politics. I shall never forget standing outside the State House in June for the final vote with thousands of other union workers, community groups and concerned citizens to ultimately have public sector collective bargaining rights stripped away through legislation. The vote has weakened collective bargaining in our state and has caused a rift in the state labor movement that will not soon be forgotten.
In our quest to continue standing up for working families, I made a bid for Public Office for Essex County Freeholder-At-Large in the June 2011 Democratic Primary Election. Many wonder why I would challenge the system. Others urged and warned me not to. I have to tell you brothers and sisters, I am not one to follow the crowd or (get along to get along). I truly believe that our party, the Democratic Party has lost its way and has lost its soul. Its no longer about the people, it’s about party politics and power brokers. Although we didn’t win the election, we sent a strong message, telling the party, don’t take “JOE CITIZEN” for granted.
In November 2011, Governor Christie had targeted certain Democratic legislators across the state with the expectation of increasing Republican members in the Senate and Assembly. In fact, he was looking to get the majority in any house he could. Local 108, along with other unions and community groups worked with Working Families United for New Jersey to mobilize and educate citizens in targeted districts.
The Christie plan was to target Democratic Senators and Assembly members who spoke up against anti-labor legislation. These were our friends who never waivered. I am proud to report that Working Families’ efforts helped Linda Greenstein (D-14) and Bob Gordon (D-38) and others be re-elected to office. The Democrats remained in control of both houses.
We will continue to join hands with our brothers and sisters to fight off any future attacks of public sector Union members
So Brothers and Sisters, we must be prepared to fight back against this vicious right wing attack. There has been an awakening of citizens across the United States and other countries. Citizens of the United States are expressing their discontent against corporate greed and privatization of financial markets over social justice. Young people are calling attention to the burden of student debts from college loans. Our citizens are speaking out and they are speaking out loudly. I believe that citizens speaking out make our society better. It is our constitutional right to peacefully protest and express our views.
THE BIG PICTURE
They are organized and well financed. They have a plan to weaken the unions, and the Democratic Party and their ultimate goal is to take the presidency.
U.S. Occupy Movement
- Occupy Wall Street: Movement composed of unemployed, students and labor and community rights activists. Peaceful protestors have faced arrests, the use of surveillance tactics designed for counter-terrorism and the use of crowd dispersing chemical agents and sound equipment.
- Detractors claim the movement has not made a clear demand, but ignore the fact that the very existence of the movement has been to make a clear statement against corporate greed and privatization of financial markets over social justice.
- Occupy movement on campus: Supports the position of Occupy Wall Street while calling additional attention to the overwhelming burden of student debts on America’s youths. Medicare and social security benefits enjoyed by Baby Boomers are expected to be greatly scaled back for those currently in their 20s. Coupled with the massive student debt, many young Americans are expected to spend their entire careers deeply indebted to financial institutions.
- Peaceful protests by students and professor at public meetings in the CUNY University system have been met with mass arrests and police brutality.
- U.C. Berkeley incident: peaceful protestors sprayed directly in their eyes and mouths with pepper spray, which law enforcement guidelines state should be used for “dangerous or violently resisting suspects”.
- Occupy Movement around the country
- Encampments around the country have been met with coordinated crack-downs by law enforcement in conjunction with homeland security, calling into question protections for civic engagement and freedom of speech in the United States.
- Euro Zone Crisis
- Protests are on the rise as national sovereignty is called into question in countries across Europe. Democracy is being called into question as popularly elected leaders are replaced by technocrats. Unelected by the people, austerity measures are imposed without the consent of the people, workers’ benefits are being stripped away to pay for the actions of irresponsible bankers. Protestors from across the ideological spectrum have taken to the streets to protest against the lack of transparency and democratic engagement.
- Big Countries: Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
- Arab Spring
- Across the Muslim world (Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco, Libya) the people have risen up against long standing dictatorships to declare that they demand representation in their governments and meaningful democratic reforms.
THE BUSINESS OF THE UNION MOVES ON DESPITE BEING FACED WITH A HOSTILE ATTACK ON LABOR IN OUR STATE.
- Overreaching theme between Occupy Movement, Arab Spring and Euro Zone Crisis: Average citizens, community organizations, religious groups and labor unions are all taking to the streets to demand greater democratic accountability. People are tired of economic forces dictating government policy. Social justice is a key demand, with a nod to the principles of social democracy and direct democratic involvement from citizens. People have become weary of neo-liberal policies that have broken unions and community ties in favor of market forces. People have a hard time believing that neo-liberal free market policies bring greater democracy.
With a feeling of uncertainty about collective bargaining and unionism from some people, we continue to do what we do best and that’s fight for our members and working families. We aggressively negotiated good contracts in the private sector and under the new law maximum contracts in the public sector. We have been able to salvage some of our losses in membership that resulted from layoffs in this bad economy by organizing new members. Every step of the way we have been stead fast in protecting the rights of our members in the workplace.
Our health and pension funds continue to be strong and solid. We continue to struggle in our general fund because of escalating expenses related to administration, operations and representation. We have experienced a noticeable loss in membership which has negatively impacted General Fund finances. You will hear later in the meeting reports, substantiating our Unions state of being.
Local 108 has been active on the ground, protecting and speaking out for working families across the state:
- Supporting Verizon Union Members on Contract Bargaining
- Supporting People’s Organization for Progress, 381 Consecutive days of Rallies to raise National Awareness about
- Need for National Jobs Program
- Ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya
- Preserving workers’ rights and collective bargaining
- Moratorium on Foreclosures
- Opposing privatization of public education
- Realization and Finalization of National Healthcare
- Affordable college education
- As a member of the New Jersey Minimum Wage Commission, I have continued to urge Legislators to raise the minimum wage. All of the data required for the commission to review by law supports the need for a raise in the minimum wage.
- As the Chairman and a Member of Working Families United for New Jersey established in 2011:
- A 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to increasing participation in the civic process, issue education, and grassroots outreach to the divers communities in New Jersey.
- Working Families United for New Jersey consists of labor, religious, community, civil rights, student, women and retirees groups collectively committed to building a better life for all working families in New Jersey.
- Our goal is to build a non-partisan grassroots civic organization to engage communities who are directly impacted by legislative policies and yet have not been involved in the civic and legislative process.
- A Statewide grassroots coalition, dedicated to countering the unprecedented assault on collective bargaining rights, benefits, and the ability of middle class families to work towards a reasonable quality of life.
- Speaking out publicly through the media, against issues that negatively impact working families
- Local Talk - Editorial against the recent three (3) trade agreement in South Korea, Colombia and Panama in which Congress passed on October 12, 2011
- The Jersey Journal, November 21, 2011 & Hudson Reporter, November 6, 2011 - Editorial fighting for a wage increase for the West New York Crossing Guards
- NJ AFL CIO Unity Table’s Mission is strategic planning in the fight against eliminating Collective Bargaining Rights
- Staging Location for Essex-West Hudson Labor Council for Labor to Labor
- We are Actively involved in Community Services
- AIDS Resource Foundation
- Outreach Program within the Community (Feeding the homeless)
- Partners in Acts at the Franklin St. John’s Community Center (back to school, Book Bags for Kids, food packages)
- Food Distribution for seniors in Newark’s Central Ward
Local 108 is currently faced with two (2) struggles. Our negotiations with the West New York Crossing Guards have stalled for over fifteen (15) months with the Town of West New York who recently elected a new mayor, Felix Roque, a Republican. I have had the unpleasant experience of explaining to city official after city official that the crossing guards are part-time employees and are among the lowest paid city employees and have no health benefits.
I have tried to make each administration see that settling a contract with the crossing guards will have negligible effects on their budgetary concerns. My pleas have thus far fallen on deaf ears. The town has all but refused to negotiate and has expressed that they must first negotiate with the police, fire and CWA members.
We are now engaged in a public campaign reaching out to parents and the media to express the crossing guards’ struggle. The crossing guards are hard working individuals who provide safety for the children in their community. They depend on every dime to make ends meet.
We filed an Unfair Labor Petition at PERC for bargaining in bad faith.
The second matter of serious concern is the filing of Chapter 11 and planned liquidation of assets by the Syms/Filene Company. The company has approximately 1,700 employees with 1,500 of them unionized. Local 108 represents 150 workers in New Jersey Syms store locations.
We have represented Syms for over thirty-nine (39) years and have a very close relationship with the members employed at the company. These workers have dedicated a substantial part of their work life to the Syms Company. In all honesty, they were treated well by comparison to similar retailers.
We have an obligation to the Local 108 members employed at Syms. We must help them through this transition of finding new employment. I promise you we will meet that obligation by providing the tools and help necessary to find new employment. The Union has retained bankruptcy counsel to protect the members’ interest as it relates to current working conditions and pension liabilities. Local 108 will soon negotiate the terms of a closing agreement.
As you have heard, your union has been aggressively representing you and the interests of working families across the state. Your union continues to answer the call of workers who feel they need a union in their workplace. We recently received a call from Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth from the non-professional employees to help them organize. Our staff has begun a campaign and is out talking to workers as early as 5:00 a.m. and as late as 12:00 a.m. midnight.
This is what it takes to reach workers and help them to form a union. We will continue to guide the Trinitas workers through the process.
Brothers and Sisters, I want you to know your union is working hard for you. You might not realize that our agents on a day to day basis handle many problems for our membership. I would like to share with you two (2) recent grievances that our union handled on behalf of our membership.
A Littman’s member along with his co-workers filed an independent, state action against the company regarding payroll practices and won. This employee thereafter was terminated unjustly as we understood the facts. The case was somewhat complicated because the criminal justice system played a role in the grievance.
In any event, the company improperly terminated the member and probably did so out of retaliation for reporting the payroll infractions. Our agent, Kathy Campbell, zealously defended the member and pointed out the faults in the company’s termination. Our legal team aggressively defended the grievant flushing out the facts of why he should not have been terminated.
At the end of the case, the grievant met with Kathy and the Union’s attorney and said he has dealt with many attorneys but our attorney was the best he has ever seen. We are confident that the Arbitrator’s decision will go in our favor.
In another case, we are challenging Littman Jewelers’ discipline and termination of employees who do not meet their commission goals. We believe that the commission goals are set unfairly on our higher paid senior employees. This, my brothers and sisters is what we do on behalf of the membership.
OUR COUNTRY IS IN A MESS
I began my report by saying to you that I wanted to get straight to the point. As I come close to the end of my report, I would like to continue being frank and honest with you. Our country is faced with record unemployment. The unemployment rate, as of October 2011, in New Jersey is at 9.1% which is 414,778 people unemployed and nationally at 9.0% which is 13.1 million people. This does not take into account people who are no longer collecting benefits. We have also seen record foreclosures.
U.S. companies continue to move jobs into other countries. China is steadily moving towards becoming an economic superpower in the world market, continuing to build ultimate military capabilities. Our political system seems to be dysfunctional. A political party that has put party politics in front of what is best for our country; yes, I am referring to the right wing, the Republican Party and the Tea Party. They have decided they will obstruct any plans of our President and the Democratic Party at all costs.
This, my friends is beyond belief, while Americans have no work and families are suffering, the Republican Party has blocked the President’s jobs bill every step of the way. This is an unconscionable tactic being played out. The truth of the matter is that we are living through the effects of the policies put in place under the George W. Bush presidency.
Eight years of deregulation for business, tax cuts for the rich and financial institutions unchecked. I don’t want to discourage you but I must state the facts as I see them.
WE ARE A GREAT COUNTRY AND WE WILL RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
As I see it we have limited options. I believe that the best option would be to re-elect President Barack Obama so that he can continue to fix the mess he inherited from the failed Bush Policies. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the time to play the blame game. The point I am making is that he has begun a course of action that has slowed down and prevented our country from financial disaster.
We have seen and heard from the party of no ideas, only criticism. We have seen up close the best of what the Republican Party has to offer. Without getting personal, could you imagine any of the candidates that the Republican Party is offering up dealing with the current crisis our country is in? You have heard my report, you read the paper, watched the news and you know the deal.
Our biggest job in 2012 is to help make sure that President Barack Obama is re-elected. In our stat we must make sure our US Senator Robert Menendez is re-elected. The enemy is at the gate, he is well organized, well financed and as you heard has been seen in different States across our Country.
Let me just take a minute to tell you why I think it’s important that we re-elect President Barack Obama. President Obama has stood up for Working American s through his economic stimulus, healthcare reform, auto industry recovery, pay roll tax cut, Veteran’s Opportunity to Work Act, middle class tax relief and defense of collective bargaining rights and President Obama has preserved in his efforts to achieve progressive reforms against obstructionism from members of Congress dead-set on putting politics before policy at the expense of the government’s ability to navigate the country out of the current economic crisis ( and preserve the American standard of living): and President Obama stood by organized labor and supported the rights of Working Americans to engage in collective bargaining in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin and (spoken out against bigoted immigration policies in Alabama and Arizona).
President Obama has also proven to be a strong commander in chief as it relates to the military defense and the continued protection of our country against terrorism.
As for the good Senator Robert Menendez, he has a 100% favorable AFL-CIO-CLC voting record. He gets it. The Senator knows the importance of having a middle class in which citizens can strive for a better life. He knows the value of having a good job with benefits in our country.
I believe that if we continue to fight back and speak out in the way citizens are doing today and support of elected officials who share our values, America will once again reach its greatness.
I am humbled and honored to serve as your President and may God Bless you and Your Family.