I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are poised to celebrate a wonderful Christmas season. It is a great time of year to catch up with family and reconnect with loved ones and even yourself. As you are reading this, it is doubtful that the news of General Motors North American downsizing has escaped your periphery. As this news continues to flow, I hope it drives a serious notion home. Family is the most important thing in our lives; not our careers, positions or even aspirations.
Corporations have a need to run more and more efficiently with greater profits regardless of their product line or purpose. This need has no basis upon classic consumer request nor what the market deems necessary but merely because Wall Street and their stockholders tell them, they must in order to stay in their good graces. Corporations have lost their way when it comes to “the customer is always right”. Now, “the customer will get what we can provide the leanest and at the lowest cost so our shareholders don’t dump our stock”. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, that’s for sure.
This is why family must be our top priority. Becoming a “dad” is the greatest job that I have ever been able to attain. I love the challenges my career has presented me thus far and I even get excited about what the future holds in the next decade plus of my working career but then that will end and I will enjoy, god willing, a relaxing retirement enjoying what will never end, being “dad”. That is why during this season of thanks and family, I ask you to take stock and remember why we all work. The old adage “I work to live, not live to work” needs to strike a chord with us all and get us back to what matters, which is family. I work with passion and driven direction alongside the greatest team anyone could ask for and we all work hard towards making our community better and improving the working class but after our time has come and gone other great leaders will take up that mantle, I will still be dad!
My sons, Carter, Matthew and Drew will always be my greatest accomplishment. That being said, I did not become their “dad” alone! My greatest blessing in life has undoubtedly been my wife Kristin; she made the life I am blessed to live possible. You didn’t think I could talk about being “dad” this whole time without giving credit to the one person who made it all possible, did you? Kristin has been my rock, my best friend and the boot in my behind when I needed to step up. The motley crew that I have just introduced you all to is my family. The reason for this season and all seasons for that matter, for whatever our working future brings our way, our families will always be there until the end.
Corporations and careers have difficulties just as our families do at times. Just remember the twists and turns that Corporations put us through is for their bottom line without any regard for our time or us. The twists and turns we go through for our families will always benefit the ones we love and that is the only bottom line. So, during this season of thanks and praise, from my family to yours, I pray you have a Merry Christmas and a very happy and safe Holiday Season.
As I take stock of the world in which we work and live, it becomes apparent that we must find a way to look at this place in time and not merely accept the world how it is but rather take hold and step into the game to help change the tide. No, I don’t mean just politics, I mean fun life, work life, real life.
William Durant brilliantly identifies the problem in society with his quote “the political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority”. I would adjust it a bit and replace “political machine” with “1%” to be more relevant today. Those of us operating in common life outnumber those with wealth and privilege in society by an incredible number. The real life issue is that these elitist individuals have capitalized on what we as a working class have ultimately done to ourselves. We don’t look at another person in a better paying job or house and think, that’s where I want to be, how do I get there? What will it take me doing to rise up to that level? We are more inclined to look at that those situations and think that is not fair, I should have that. Pushing away the facts of the matter that the other individuals have more time in the job or on earth to have accomplished these things. When we covet, we lose perspective and those in the 1% understand this and foster these environments because when we divide ourselves over the scraps they maintain their spoils. Worse still are those who, looking upward, want what they have not yet earned while looking down upon those who are less fortunate. We all know that the situation in which you are born can be a help or hindrance to your position in life. This is an unavoidable truth for most all of us in society. We must face and overcome obstacles that a sliver of our society will never understand nor care to. Does this mean we are we all screwed? Is there no hope for us? Of course not, we merely need to unite and come together with a few basic understandings. Are our possessions and our stations in life attached to how hard we work? Of course not. This is the first understanding we must come to realize. Second, we must not judge others for being different or in lesser societal positions. We must look at them as opportunities to deepen our understanding of community. When we concentrate on community building and bringing diversity together, we win. We can then begin to rise as people, neighborhoods, towns and even movements! When I talk about taking hold of our place in time, I mean becoming an inspiration to your kids, coworkers and neighbors. Strive to have your actions in life be positive and constructive. If we all take hold of ourselves and be happy with what we have and realize that reaching out in any direction to grab the hands of our fellow people can create unity and begin to untie the binds that hold us down in our lives. If we can begin to believe that we are winning when we are pulling up a neighbor or reaching upward ourselves and counting on a neighbor or coworker to pull us up, then we have a chance. In the end, we need only remember one thing; basic math is simple and 99 hands clasped together will always be greater than 1 hand holding us down!
Observation…. Union membership is not growing in correlation with dividend postings for stockholders or salaries of CEO’s yet it appears that union members and organizations have become complacent. Based upon conversations with both new union members and non-union members the answer is becoming ever more clear; if I don’t feel the pain, why worry, or worse yet, the nothing is going to change mentalities prevail.
In my opinion, the problem is corporate greed and their propaganda machines. Where we as Union members and Union organizations have faltered is failing to keep pace with the corporate propaganda machines in painting a true reality as we live versus what the rich need us to believe. Starting in the late 1800’s through the 1950’s there was clarity as to why joining a union was important. In fact, there were so many reasons to join a union that corporations could not compete with their propaganda. This period of time gave birth to organized Labor in America along with its peak membership and political influence gaining Americans many of the comforts we now take for granted like; weekends, child labor and fair practice laws, labor and safety boards, workers compensation and unemployment protections, to name a few. This is proof that active union membership can positively affect our society. Now that a few generations have past and all of these gains have become so commonplace, Americans aren’t as in tune with the fights our predecessors survived to win these rights. So, why don’t more people want to unite and become a strong working class or become union members in light of all this? The answer is in the propaganda, try this comparison, sit a picture of a cashier or grocery bagger on a table next to a picture of a CEO in a business suit and ask a friend this question, to which of these photos do you most relate? Undoubtedly 90% will relate to the CEO for no other reason than they feel they work too hard to be compared to a Supermarket worker, my friends this is the propaganda winning. This is where we need to realize we indeed are closer to the cashier and bagger in almost all ways of society than we ever will be to the CEO’s. We as American workers need to understand that CEO’s will never know what it is like to make a product or contribute physically to durable goods. They operate in fiction and projection, which provides nothing tangible, yet we want to relate to them for our own self-image. I hear people talk about $15.00 minimum wage and how all Americans don’t deserve that, yet executives and CEO’s garner 400 percent or more than their workers and there is no offense. This is the propaganda hard at work; we have divided and distracted ourselves arguing against our own self-interests to the elation of the rich. Corporations make billions for their CEO’s and shareholders, so why do we argue that we as the working class don’t deserve a living wage or job protections? Why would we fight to keep America’s working class unsafe and in poverty? Propaganda, that’s why. Now more than ever we need to step up along with our Labor organizations and go on the offensive to remind American workers that we have rights in our work place, which include a living wage. We should also demand politicians who support America not just rich America. As proven from 1920 through the 1950’s strong Union membership drives political change. Let’s start this change together, be a proud Unionist and defend the belief that when we are together we win. Division only drives us down; our children’s future depends on our ability not only to maintain but also to gain on what we have inherited from those courageous enough to fight for what is right and just for all American’s not just the few. Though the reasons for joining aren’t as perilous as in the past, the attack on our livelihood is modern and aggressive which proves that Unions must go heavy on the offensive because now just as before we are still relevant.
March 2018: Change the World
How many times have we all thought “I want to change the world”? I know that I have thought this many times throughout my life, thinking that changing the world would make it better, at least for me!
What if we were to take another look at it and realize the phrase “change the world” doesn’t necessarily mean a physical external change? What if when we make this statement, we look at how we can change ourselves internally to more positively affect the physical world? I’m not saying we have to go full on President Kennedy with “…, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” rather what can I do that will eliminate negativity and complacency in my immediate world.
Let’s all stop waking up and thinking “what has the world done for me today”? All too often we look at our reality and point out all of the things that are wrong which are getting in the way of our happiness; you can use the excuse of bad roads, poor leaders at school, work and even in Local and National government, there is even a nasty neighbor or co-worker you can blame. “Changing the world”, does that mean all of these negative detractors to our happiness need to change for us to be happy? No! We are the controllers of our lives not anyone else! Allowing all of these exterior influences to dictate our happiness is not anyone’s fault but our own. What if we flip the script and realize by allowing ourselves to be so adversely effected by these influences we, in turn, have become one of the negative influences in someone else’s “world”.
Now understanding this and correcting this flaw is easier said than done, I challenged myself to make this change some time ago and now can say that I have finally started to get feedback from those around me that it has begun to present itself as a positive correction in my life. Change isn’t easy or quick for any of us but if the reasons are true and we believe that the person we can become on the other side of these efforts is worth the work we can hold to it and accomplish anything.
The challenge I present to you today is this; don’t enter into a situation looking for what you can pull out of it for your benefit, look at what efforts you can put into the situation so many more can benefit. Once you accomplish this you will be proud to know that by your own power and commitment, you “changed the world”.
December 2018: Your best friend
As we enter into the holiday season, we can use this time to reset the batteries and reflect on the blessings in our lives as Union brothers and sisters. With this time upon us, there is a topic that I would like to cover during this rediscovery period.
While learning about the various units, I’ve noticed there are a few folks who work in our shops who have signed off paying their union dues. I truly believe that many of these individuals have no innate disbelief in the Union or its positive impact on raising working standards. In fact, I believe these folks understand that working in a Union shop provides them with better benefits, pay and working conditions.
The individuals that I have had interactions with merely aren’t in agreement with a particular person in an elected position, or a piece of their Agreement, and—even more unfortunate—something they wanted didn’t go their way. Now this clearly is the “I’m gonna take my ball and go home” philosophy that we all saw as children growing up. My hope is that these folks may have gotten themselves in life’s “rut” and just need a reset.
We need to remember that in life negative things happen in all facets of our lives, but we can still appreciate the positives that coexist with these small inconveniences or irritations. I have thought of life as an adult attempting to utilize this “all my way or nothing” approach and how it would work in its simplest form—like this:
They say dogs are a man’s best friend, but the accompanying dog hair that attaches itself to all of our earthly belongings is not! My wife and I see our dog as loyal (yet flawed) and we are comfortable knowing that she is protecting our whole family while we are distracted. With that, my family and I work around that negative aspect of being dog owners. Now, if we were to take the approach that since we don’t like her hair on our couch and even though she is loyal and would protect us when called upon, we can no longer feed her due to this hairy nuisance, Lily would show little change at the onset … but over time our Lily girl will grow weak and no longer be able to defend us.
Clearly this isn’t how we treat our best friend, because we want her strong and although we dislike the hair, Lily is well fed. My wife and I pray she never has to protect us but if she should have to, Lily is at the ready.
This is just like paying union dues. There are flaws and minor irritations in our UAW, but how can we support enjoying all of the benefits of membership while not feeding the UAW? I will always feed the UAW and my Lily girl and tolerate the irritations because I know that a strong and healthy UAW is better for us than fighting alone.
That being said, I ask that you use this holiday season to reflect and see if the irritations of life have inadvertently led you off course. If this is true, it’s never too late to repair a relationship or rejoin the family. God Bless and I hope you have Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. – Ben Frantz and Family
September: This is who I am
Hello brothers and sisters, my name is Ben Frantz and I am the new Vice President of Local 652. I’ve chosen to use this first article to provide a brief history of myself so we can be better acquainted. I was raised mainly on the governmental aid and by a few great people and community families who understood my position in life.
Though, as a child I couldn’t comprehend how poor we were, I now use those memories often to provide myself a grounded perspective and to keep myself working hard in all aspects of life. As an adult, I realize that I can teach my three boys that determination and never quitting just because life can be difficult is not the Frantz way nor is it the way of the UAW.
Getting started in the UAW
Hiring into GM in July of 2002, I was fortunate to meet some people who have done great things inside the Local. South Plant (building 32) is where Ted Krumm and I first met; he is now the Chairman of the GM Unit of 652.
Shortly after hiring in, I was moved to the Lansing Grand River plant where Mike Green and I met. Through these encounters and support and encouragement from these individuals and many more, I started my path of representing Lansing Grand River as an alternate District Committeeman on the night
A year after being elected the District 2A alternate, I ran for the District Committee spot which I retained through three more elections over a five-year span. Many individuals were placed in my path who gave me knowledge on both what to do as well as what to avoid as a representative of the people.
The three years leading up to my election this past June as the Vice President, I represented the GM Unit of Local 652 as a Shop Committeeman representing multiple Divisions. The progression from representing a small group of members on a single shift as a District Committeeperson to the multi-shift and multi-location responsibility of Shop Committee was one that I will always appreciate.
It was a period filled with learning experiences of long-term goal achievements, patience and issue resolution. As a Shop Committee bargainer, going through local negotiations was an invaluable experience that will pay dividends in this new role of VP.
As I reflect upon this life journey, the similarities are striking and speak to the very essence of the type of person, husband, father and representative I strive to be.
As a child being blessed with uncles who were willing to replace an absent father figure, going out of their way to push me to excel at all things life. Community families taking me in and showing me the true meaning of family and taking care of one another.
When I entered General Motors, meeting the great leaders that I’ve met and having them show support and sharing knowledge while challenging me to be the best at representing the membership all correlate so well.
These worlds are so different, yet so similar, and as I have been blessed to receive the trust of this membership to represent their interests as their Vice President, I say only this: I don’t take that support lightly. I will never stop pushing those who will come after me to be the greatest they can be, all the while keeping the best interest of the membership at the forefront of all they do—because that’s my commitment to you and that’s who I am.