With this year's convention theme being an invitation to "Come Make History with Us," rank-and-file delegates who gathered the last weekend in September for UE Local 170’s ninth annual statewide convention celebrated a number of important victories won during the past year, but also made plans for many challenges and opportunities ahead for the local’s members to continue making history for public workers in West Virginia.
The statewide convention is the highest decision-making body of UE Local 170, where rank-and-file delegates, elected by the members of their chapters, meet to nominate and elect the local's officers, trustees, and delegates to national and regional union meetings; report on their chapter's activities, discuss and approve the local's political action priorities for the coming year, and any proposed changes to the local's constitution and by-laws.
For the first time, delegates and guests met for two days at the convention, which was held at the Canaan Valley Resort in Davis, West Virginia on September 26 and 27. In addition to the regular convention agenda, the local added an additional day to schedule two workshops on “Building and Maintaining Effective Chapters” and “Effective Grievance Handling” in order for the delegates to sharpen their leadership skills.
Donna Morgan, UE Local 170 president, welcomed the delegates and guests, pointing out several important victories the local helped win during the past year, including new pay plans at the Division of Highways and the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. However, Morgan added that “we’re facing serious challenges – right to work, threats to dues check-off, and other attacks in the coming year.” Morgan also reported that the local’s internal organizing campaign had added more than 170 new members since June 1 (that number has grown to more than 200 members since the convention).
Jamie Beaton, UE Local 170 chief steward, reported on numerous grievance victories the local has won over the past year. “Of the twenty-five grievance victories won by West Virginia public workers in the past year, nearly fifty-six percent were won by UE Local 170, and half of these victories involved reversal of dismissals,” said Beaton.
“I want to commend you on the things that you are doing in West Virginia,” said newly elected UE General President, Peter Knowlton. “The kinds of fights you are waging in West Virginia are similar to the fights our other public sector members are facing.” Knowlton pledged that the national union will continue to support the local in its organizing and political action activities.
UE Eastern Region President Deb Gornall brought greetings from the thousands of members throughout the region. “The Eastern Region is committed to provide you the assistance you need in all of your struggles,” said Gornall. “Local 170 with it’s never give up attitude, keeps our union growing in West Virginia.”
Larcene Taylor, UE Local 150 president, also brought solidarity greetings from her members in North Carolina. “With all of the attacks that workers are facing today, we must stand solid in our efforts to defeat these attacks,” said Taylor.
Mother Jones, as portrayed by UE Local 170 Chapter 6 president Leslie Riddle, also addressed the delegates and guests, recalling her life story and adventures in West Virginia in support of coal miners in their battles with the coal companies.
Chris Wolford, UE Local 170 vice president, led a discussion on the local’s political action priorities for the coming year. After meeting in chapter caucuses, the delegates voted to make winning pay raises for public workers and defeating attacks on workers’ rights, the local’s political action priorities for the coming year.
Chapter 2 delegate and UE young activist, Gary DeLuke reported on the UE's Young Activist program and events that he participated in during the past year, including an international peace march in New York City, the UE Local 506 contract rally in Erie, and the UE young activist program at the UE National Convention in Baltimore.
The delegates nominated and elected the local’s statewide officers and trustees for the coming year: Donna Morgan, president; Chris Wolford, vice president; Jamie Beaton, chief steward; Melanie McCartney, secretary-treasurer; Sandra Summers, recording secretary; Gary DeLuke, Cynthia Potter, and Roger Crites, trustees. The delegates also nominated and elected Donna Morgan, Chris Wolford, Cindy Burke, and Nola Lilly as delegates to Eastern Regional Council meetings.
In an effort to ensure the local has the financial resources that its members will need in the coming years, the delegates voted to raise the local’s dues from $17 per month to $20 per month effective January 1, 2016.
For more info and additional photos, visit the UE Local 170 Facebook page.