UE Local 170 rank-and-file delegates from across West Virginia met at Canaan Valley Resort in Davis, West Virginia on October 1 and 2 at their tenth annual state convention, the local’s highest decision-making body. With this year’s convention theme being “Let’s Organize for a Better Tomorrow,” the delegates focused on ways to build the union in the coming year, starting with an organizing blitz, scheduled for the week of October 17 – 21.
In the months leading up to the state convention, rank-and-file UE Local 170 members nominated and elected convention delegates at their local chapter membership meetings.
Donna Morgan, president of UE Local 170, welcomed the delegates and guests, pointing out that this was the local’s tenth annual convention. Morgan recognized UE Field Organizer Gordon Simmons, a founding member of the local when he worked for the state Division of Culture and History. Morgan then introduced West Virginia House of Delegates member Peggy Donaldson Smith (D-Lewis County), a long-time supporter of UE Local 170 members and state workers.
Delegate Smith reminded the delegates of the attacks that West Virginia workers endured at the hands of the Republican-controlled legislature, including right-to-work for less legislation, repeal of prevailing wages, weakening of coal miner safety protections and attempts to privatize state-run nursing homes. Smith pointed out that if the Republicans maintain control of the legislature and win the governor’s office in the November elections, all bets are off. She said that the Republicans are already making plans to downsize state government and lay off state workers.
“I am your voice in the West Virginia Legislature,” said Smith. “I am there for you. I am fighting for West Virginia workers every day!” Morgan and the delegates from Lewis County then presented Smith with a plaque in recognition of all of her work on behalf of West Virginia workers.
The delegates nominated and elected Donna Morgan president, Chris Wolford vice president, Jamie Beaton chief steward, Melanie McCartney financial secretary, Gary DeLuke recording secretary, and Amy Rogers, Leesa Chambers and Michael Duminiak as trustees. The delegates also nominated and elected the locals’ delegates to the UE Eastern Regional Council and the UE National Convention.
After discussion and caucusing, the delegates voted on the local’s political action goals for the coming year, including full funding for PEIA, stopping privatization and contracting out, and defending the right to representation.
The delegates also heard reports from UE Secretary-Treasurer Andrew Dinkelaker and UE Eastern Region President Debra Gornall.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Bruce Dotson and Gordon Simmons came up to the national office in Pittsburgh and invited UE to ‘come make history with us in West Virginia,'” said Dinkelaker, who congratulated the local on its ten-year anniversary. Dinkelaker challenged the delegates to continue building the local in the coming year with the goal of reaching 2,000 members by the time of the next national convention in August 2017.
UE Eastern Region President Gornall also congratulated the local on its anniversary. “I saw your local grow the membership and fight for workers’ rights by organizing; meeting one on one with workers; holding rallies for workers’ rights; and undertaking political action work,” said Gornall. “All of us together must encourage and increase our fight for collective bargaining rights; educate members on legislative attacks; and build membership involvement in political action.”
Chapter 6 President Leslie Riddle staged a one act play, portraying coal miner Johnny Miner, who recalled the history of the West Virginia Mine Wars, including the Battle of Blair Mountain.
The delegates also recognized out-going local recording secretary Sandra Summers, a founding member of UE Local 170, who is retiring on October 31. Summers worked for the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) as a social worker.
The delegates also participated in two workshops on organizing and grievance handling.