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Joe Uehlein’s Biography
Posted February 10, 2009 at 11:49 pm
37 years experience in all aspects of trade union work, including major focus in organizing, bargaining, strategic campaigns, coalition building, and art and activism.
- Former Director, AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns
- Former Secretary-Treasurer, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO
- Also served as Executive Assistant to the President, and Director of Organizing at the Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO
- Board of Directors, Ceres
- National Advisory Board, Union of Concerned Scientists
- Former Field Director, OSHA-Environmental Network
- Member; United Nations Commission on Global Warming in the late 80’s and early 90’s representing the AFL-CIO
- Board of Directors, Global Labor Strategies
- Advisory Board, Future of Music Coalition
- Board of Directors, LaborArt
- Organizer of first ever AFL-CIO Arts & Activism Award
- Assisted in organization of the Tell Us The Truth tour
- Board Member, Festive Revolution
- Board of Directors, Musicians Against Sweatshops
- Board of Directors, Washington DC Labor Film Festival
- President, Labor Heritage Foundation
- 40 year member of the American Federation of Musicians
- Solo artist and band leader (the U-Liners)
Joe has over 30 years experience in the labor movement in all aspects of organizing, bargaining, coalition building, strategic campaigns, and more.
Prior to Joe’s retirement in June of 2005, at age 52, he served as Director of the AFL-CIO’s Center for Strategic Campaigns, and as Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department.
Joe began his trade union career working in an aluminum mill in Central Pennsylvania, as a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). After the mill shut down Joe went to work doing heavy construction as a member of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).
He spent many of the early years of his tenure organizing industrial workers throughout the southeastern United States. Joe became a pioneer of what is now called the “strategic campaign.” These special efforts involve power structure analysis, vulnerability assessment, workplace organizing, and the development of leverage strategies to correct the behavior of the most anti-union and anti-social companies. Joe was a chief architect of the famous Ravenswood Campaign, designed to track down and pressure Marc Rich, the largest metals trader in the world and fugitive from US justice, to end a viscous management lockout of the workers (union-busting) at an aluminum mill owned by Mr. Rich in Ravenswood, West Virginia. The campaign was waged on five continents in 22 countries for nearly two years. A complete victory resulted in the firing of management, and restored all locked-out workers to their jobs with a good union contract.
Joe was also a chief organizer of the labor component of the massive anti-corporate globalization demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle, WA on November 30, 1999. The WTO’s (World Trade Organization) first meeting on US soil could not be held due to the demonstrations – a great victory, and a powerful coming together of progressive forces who believe that globalization should serve humanity, not corporate interests.
Joe has also devoted tremendous energy to work in the environmental movement, and to building bridges between the labor movement and the environmental movement. Joe serves on the Ceres board of directors – a coalition of large investors (public pension funds like CALPERS and NYCERS)), environmental organizations (Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth), and others like labor and citizen organizations. Ceres, and its new spin-offs, The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Facility Reporting Project (FRP) are designed to take corporate accountability an important step further by requiring corporations to file extensive “full spectrum – triple bottom line” reports each year on the social, economic, and environmental practices from the corporate level down to the level of each facility – globally. Joe is also a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. In the mid ‘80’s Joe helped found the OSHA-Environmental Network, a coalition of labor and environmental organizations. Joe served as field director of this organization.
Joe is the founder of a new arts and activism project, CultureWorks, dedicated to integrating art and activism in ways that help unite and inspire people to achieve progressive change. CultureWorks will advocate for the use of art as a central element in the progressive movement, but CultureWorks will also train leaders and organizers on how to utilize art in their campaigns. Art and music can help communicate, educate, and inspire. Cultural tools can and should become a more central element in our planning because no matter how brilliant our attempts to inform, it is our ability to inspire that will make the difference and build a movement.
Joe is also a musician and band leader, and is a 40-year member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). His deep interest in the culture of the working class motivated him to help found the Labor Heritage Foundation (LHF) in 1980. The LHF is a working class arts organization dedicated to raising awareness of working class issues through the arts – using cultural tools, like art and music, to help with organizing, bargaining, mobilization and education, and union building. The LHF also maintains a network of artists whose art form has a working class thematic.