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Sun Jun 12, 2016, 07:22 PM

Local labor council opts closure over expansion

National leadership asked it to pick up 17 more counties

The Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council’s board included delegates elected from unions throughout northeast Indiana. They represented more than 10,000 workers, including hourly employees at BF Goodrich, BAE Systems, Bluffton Motor Works, Dana and Frontier. They also represented building trades including steel workers, carpenters, painters and electricians.

Most – but not all – delegates were unhappy with the AFL-CIO’s decision that the Central Labor Council’s territory should expand to include Indianapolis, Muncie, Marian and Kokomo.

The former Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council was the only one of the five formerly separate councils that employed a full-time staff member. Twenty years ago, delegates voted to raise their dues from 35 cents to 50 cents per member per month to support a more active organization.

It became the highest dues rate in the state.

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” is a longtime advocate for the working poor and a friend of Lewandowski. Ehrenreich said she consults Lewandowski when she’s not sure how to think about an issue.

Ehrenreich, the founder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, is impressed by the Workers Project. She recalled a reporting trip she made to Fort Wayne in 2009 to interview working people for articles printed in the New York Times. At her request, Lewandowski assembled about 50 people of various occupations, ages and races to talk about how they were faring during the Great Recession.

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