Union Leader Faces a Challenger

The president of one of the biggest unions in western Massachusetts will face a challenger in an election next month. UAW Local 2322 is based in Holyoke and represents about 3,000 workers. The local has eight full-time employees. It is a subsidiary of the UAW union based in Detroit, Michigan, which represents about 390,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

The Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) is a subsidiary of UAW Local 2322. The vast majority of Local 2322’s members are members of GEO. GEO members work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, grading students’ exams and papers, teaching classes, and performing other tasks.

Other members of Local 2322 include childcare workers and nurses at 17 companies including ServiceNet in Northampton and Providence Hospital in Holyoke.

Ron Patenaude has been president of Local 2322 for nine years. He is running for re-election against Jocelyn Silverlight. She has been the leader of GEO for two years.

Silverlight said, “If elected, I will work my hardest to ensure that everyone in this union feels they have a voice in their workplace. I will work creatively with the members of Local 2322, and will partner with organizations sharing our values.”

Patenaude said, “I come to work each day ready and able to do my best to join with our members – all of our members – to win better wages and working conditions, and to advocate and join our allies in any fight for economic and social justice in our community.”

Kate Bronfenbrenner is a Labor Studies professor at Cornell University. “Members can decide who to vote for based on one-on-one meetings with the candidates,” she told the Valley Post.

More information about the candidates is at:



Silverlight can be reached at Silverlight4UAW2322@gmail.com. Patenaude can be reached at ron4uaw2322@gmail.com. More information about the unions they run is at www.geouaw.org and www.uaw2322.org.

Unions that have term limits for their president include the National Education Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, and the New York State Nurses Association.

Silverlight and Patenaude each provided the Valley Post with names of three members of Local 2322 who supported their candidacy. Here are the results of those six telephone interviews:

Jan Clausen said, “I have worked with Ron for a number of years. He has been a great leader for our union. He has a fighting spirit and a vigorous social justice commitment.”

Anna Waltman said, “I have been working closely with Jocelyn for about a year. She has made our union much stronger. She is good at communicating with people. She is direct and honest. Her leadership style is all about empowering other people.”

Eric Hopkins said, “Ron reached out to me and talked to me about my job. He inspired me to get involved in the union. Now I am a shop steward, on the bargaining committee, and I’m active in other ways.”

Jake Williams said, “Jocelyn will be a great leader of Local 2322. Ron hasn’t done enough to develop leaders among the members. He would rather try to solve members’ problems for them. That results in a weak union. As the leader of GEO for the past two years, Jocelyn has worked with members to show them how they can solve their own problems, and build the union.”

Karen Murray said, “Ron was awesome helping my co-workers and I to join the union. Our employer fought our organizing drive. He was very supportive, patient, and respectful of us. We won in a landslide. I think it was because of him. He is a motivator.”

Eric Hoyt said, “Ron has been president for nine years. It’s time for a change. We need more member-to-member organizing. Jocelyn will help make that happen. She is a great leader.”

Kurt Richwerger works for the New York City-based Association for Union Democracy. “Voter turnout in elections for president of a local union is usually below 30 percent,” he told the Valley Post.

In recent decades, the richest Americans have gotten richer, while the middle class has gotten smaller and the ranks of the poor have swelled. Union workers in the U.S. make about 29 percent more money than non-union workers. That’s around $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is about 50 percent; for black workers, approximately 31 percent. This data is from www.bls.gov.

Millions of workers in the U.S. are union members, including workers at Stop and Shop and UPS.

Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason. Workers who belong to a union can only be fired for just cause.

More information about unions in the Valley is at:


The May issue of Labor Notes magazine will feature an article about recent elections for president of union locals around the nation in which a challenger defeated an incumbent, editor Jane Slaughter told the Valley Post.

Local 2322 members should receive a ballot in the mail by May 4. They should mail their ballots back by May 11. Results will be announced on May 16.


In other union news, on April 27 at 2 p.m. there will be a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new public library in South Hadley. The $10 million project will be built by union members. More information is available via www.shadleylib.org. A drawing of the building is below.


Contested election

It's good to see a contested union election being reported as news. It actually IS news,with consequences for members, workplaces and the local economy, although rarely covered in the mainstream press.

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