December 2017: Making the holidays fine
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are happy times spent with family and friends, good food and celebration. But for some, the holidays are marked with feelings of anxiety and depression, commonly referred to as the Holiday Blues. Stress over hosting family and friends, purchasing gifts, changes in our daily routine or diet and thinking about friends and family who have passed on or live too far away to visit can all contribute to feelings of stress, sadness or loneliness during the holidays.
As we plan our holiday activities, we don’t have to make sure everything we do is perfect or over the top in order to show someone that we care about them. Lending a helping hand, paying a visit, and even a phone call can mean a lot to someone regardless if they might be experiencing the holiday blues, and will help combat any blues of our own.
There is usually a lot going on between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We will most likely attend more than one event with family and friends and will be confronted with lots of food, alcohol and spending. This can cause a lot of anxiety so be realistic about what you can and can’t do and set limitations. The holidays are more enjoyable when you are not stressed about the repercussions later. This doesn’t mean you need to abstain from drinking and eating at parties, or that you cannot buy presents for those you care about, but rather that you are doing so in moderation so you don’t stray far from your regular routine.
With the holidays right around the corner, many of us may be wondering how the year went by so quickly. Maybe because we immerse ourselves so much in our work and outside commitments that we don’t notice how fast life can be? I hope you’ll take a little time to slow down during the holidays this year. This holiday season, be sure to take a least one whole day where you can put that cell phone away, throw on some pajamas, and remain far away from all the busy restaurants and malls. Whatever you decide to do, take a day for you this year.
In closing, I would like to extend a huge thanks to you the membership for your support in allowing me the privilege to serve as we close out yet another year at Local 602. As always, be sure to take advantage of Local 602 events and opportunities provided at our union hall and in and around the Lansing area. It’s been my goal to make sure UAW Local 602 has a strong presence in our community. Our 2018 calendar is booked even before the year begins, and I couldn’t be prouder as we utilize our hall to the fullest extent possible.
I would like to extend a thank you to each of the following: Tim Bogar, staff member of the Lansing Labor News for your years of hard work and expertise in making the Lansing Labor News what it is today, I wish you the best in your retirement; our UAW Local 602 standing committees who give up their personal time to host events, educate and provide services to our members, their families and friends; the officers and staff I have the pleasure of working with every day as well as our Local’s chairman, members of the shop committee, districts, alternates and appointed.
Together we work hard as a team to bring the direction of our Local forward in these changing and often uncertain times. Many times our work goes unnoticed, but we have been entrusted to do the hard work and make the difficult decisions and we willingly step up to the challenge.
I believe the real measure of our accomplishments is not in the things we do individually, but in the outcome of the direction we take collectively.
Thank you and may you all have a wonderful holiday season!
September 2017: How you can help
The devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has left tens of thousands of people in search of temporary housing. It is estimated that it will take years and billions of dollars to see any kind of recovery. Hit with gas shortages, skyrocketing prices for food and bottled water, looting and fraud, it’s impossible to imagine the emotional toll on the people most affected by the storms. Many have lost everything, and for them recovery may be a lifetime effort.
As of this writing, the death toll from the storm in Houston alone had risen to 37 as the latest statewide damage surveys revealed the staggering extent of the destruction. The Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 37,000 homes were heavily damaged and nearly 7,000 were destroyed. Over 325,000 people have already sought federal emergency aid in the wake of Harvey, while statistics concerning the impact of Hurricane Irma are just beginning to surface. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, residents were left without food and clean drinking water, putting them in a critical survival crisis.
And then Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico, destroying the electrical grid and causing untold suffering for our brothers and sisters there.
I’ve been asked what we as union members can do to help those in need during this difficult time. One suggestion that comes to mind is our contribution to the United Way. Here in Lansing, the Capital Area United Way is coordinating flood relief efforts through recovery funds created by United Way Worldwide. These funds will support local communities and the surrounding areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. 100% of individual donations given to these recovery funds will be distributed to the affected areas.
United Ways in the affected areas will continue to raise money locally and respond to emerging needs. The national fund will complement those efforts and provide a single clearinghouse for individual and corporate donors who want to impact all affected areas. This will go a long way in helping local United Ways meet storm-related needs and support long-term recovery throughout the affected regions.
United Way has always supported disaster relief efforts, partnering with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and others. You can find out more by visiting www.unitedway.org/recovery. Also available through the United Way is a text-to-give option (simply text UWFLOOD to 41444).
One of the most depended upon charity organizations, the United Way helps millions of people by improving the quality of life for individuals and families in our communities and abroad. Labor has always been welcome at the table. I volunteer my time, as do other local UAW members, as a board member of the Capital Area United Way in Lansing. We see firsthand the positive impact volunteers and donors make in the lives of those needing a helping hand.
I encourage you to support the Capital Area United Way campaign in your worksite, or if retired to support this organization by volunteering your time and giving donations. Every little bit adds up to become an essential resource for those in need. Enough cannot be said for such a great organization, the Capital Area United Way is surely an organization worthy of our support.
Our endorsed candidates for the November 7 election appear in the box below. We would ask our membership to please consider your support in the best interest of working people in the entire Lansing area. The CAP Council goes into a screening process of each candidate who has asked for our endorsement. We ask about their positions on issues that concern working men and women. Also, community involvement and supporting labor issues. Thanks again in advance.
May 2017: Thanks to those who step up
Most of the Lansing area Locals have held their general elections and I want to take a moment to recognize
everyone who chose to run for an elected position. Deciding to make the commitment required to hold an elected position in your union is no small decision. Those who have held these positions can attest to the higher level of personal stress and the sacrifice of time spent with family and friends. I commend those who held prior elected positions and those who are newly elected.
Here at UAW Local 602, I look forward to working with the new and returning members of our executive board. We have a great membership when it comes to our commitment to be involved, and I’m not just talking about those who are elected. I have always said “you don’t have to hold an elected position to make a difference in your union” and that rings true considering the many volunteers that step up to serve our fellow sisters and brothers of UAW Local 602.
Throughout any of the functions, events and community outreach opportunities, you will see the wheel proudly displayed by UAW members. It’s a great organization to belong to.
The UAW is a family. What is a union family? No matter where you’re from, regardless of your opinion, regardless of your beliefs, we stand with one another! We stand with one another for justice, we stand with one another for equality, we stand with one another for civil and human rights, we stand with one another for a better future, because this is what Solidarity looks like!
This is what makes us the best of the best. When we strive to be inclusive, we become a diverse family with many backgrounds, talents, experiences, ideas and goals.
Remember, united we stand, divided we beg. We are each a piece of the puzzle that completes the picture of a UAW family. Working together we can be unstoppable and a force to be reckoned with. And let’s not forget how beautiful a picture we make when all those pieces come together.
March 2017: Dealing with changes at Delta plant
The Corporation announced they will be laying off our third shift starting in May of this year. I hope everyone recognizes the commitment and contribution of those impacted by this announcement, our temporary and low-seniority members. They have played a significant role in the success of General Motors. This announcement has a dramatic effect on, and places stress and hardship on, many in our UAW Local 602 family. My hope is that we can bring these folks back to work, but in the meantime we all need to do whatever we can to help them during this time.
I have been working with our benefits representatives; worker’s comp and unemployment representative, Harold Brown; EAP representative, Martha Adams; and production zone, Heather Woods, to produce a booklet providing important information and resources to those facing a layoff due to the recent announcement of a reduction in shift.
To keep you up to date as much as possible, UAW Local 602 provides many resources for information, including our website, www.local602.org; the Line Talk Newsletter, which goes out to the plant floor twice each month; as well as social media and print media.
While all of these are great ways to stay informed, the best way is to attend your monthly membership meetings. Our meetings are held the second Sunday of the month (unless the second Sunday falls on a holiday) at 6:00 pm. Let’s all come together as a membership and be available and willing to help, in any way possible, our sisters and brothers affected by this layoff.
As with any changeover in product, we may see some ups and downs as we work to maintain stability and meet market demand for quality and sales projections. From the meetings I’ve had with the national parties in Detroit, I have every indication to believe our future at LDT is looking bright. I believe we have submitted a solid business case for full utilization of our facility and we will continue discussion over adding a third product to our plant.
Recently, I had the opportunity to represent the membership of UAW Local 602 at the International Auto Show in Detroit for the unveiling of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse. As I spoke on camera to the various media outlets, I wanted to be sure they conveyed to the public who the true heroes were concerning the recognition our vehicles receive: the UAW Local 602 women and men who sacrifice their time and commitment every day on the assembly line. They truly are the experts when it comes to assuring a world class quality vehicle is provided to our customers.
I was very excited to announce the new Traverse will be built at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant (LDT) by our UAW Local 602 members. During the auto show in New York we will unveil the second vehicle to be built at our facility, the 2018 Buick Enclave. The new designs of the two show off some of the best technology and safety features of any GM product on the market.
As someone who is involved in many of the Lansing area community outreach programs, I would like to encourage you take advantage of volunteer opportunities within your community. Volunteerism is important to the good and welfare not only for our local outreach services, but more importantly to those who depend on these programs in order to sustain their family’s health and well-being.
The second Saturday in May is the largest one-day food drive in the nation and this is just one of the many ways you can help out in your community. On May 13 the National Association of Letter Carriers (NLAC) will be holding their annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. As they deliver your mail, you get to do your part by filling their mailbag with non-perishable food items. You can also volunteer your time at your local Post Office to help sort food gathered from the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Visit either of the following sites for more information on how to participate: www.nalc.org or www.usps.com.
In the Lansing area, the Mystic Lake YMCA Camp will be looking for volunteers to help with their “Work or Shirk” clean up April 28–30 and again October 20–22. The Mystic Lake YMCA Camp offers high quality camping programs for children and teens. Their programs focus on helping campers develop the skills necessary to have great success in life by helping children gain confidence, make great friends and by teaching lifelong skills to further their maturity.
On Wednesday, May 24, we will be having our Volunteers of America (VOA) Homeless Veterans Stand Down at Lansing’s Adado Riverfront Park. It’s a shame when we hear the words “homeless” and “veterans” in the same sentence and the only way to change that is to do our part in making sure goods and services are provided for those in need.
If you haven’t done so, I welcome you to spend a little time volunteering for any one of these events. Our Local’s Standing Committees are the best when it comes to coordinating and providing assistance and education to our membership and to the public. They are instrumental in keeping these and other programs in the limelight and are always willing to welcome you with open arms, should you decide to help.
With all of the outreach our Local Union is involved in, there are endless opportunities to lend a helping hand. Volunteering is a great way to stay mentally and physically healthy. Not only will you build self-confidence, make new friends and have a positive effect on the day-to-day lives of your fellow volunteers, you’ll also experience purpose and satisfaction as you change the day-to-day lives of those in need. Volunteering can also work as a great gateway to future career opportunities and teach you valuable job skills.
All in all, make 2017 YOUR year. It’s an awesome feeling to look back and know you’ve made a difference.
January 2017: New legal services plan
The new Legal Services Plan is called the UAW-FCA—Ford-General Motors Legal Services Plan (“Plan”). Effective Wednesday, January 25, 2017 the Plan will begin taking new cases.
A new case can be opened by calling this toll-free number: 800-482-7700.
Eligible participants in the Plan will include active and retired UAW-represented employees at FCA, Ford and General Motors and their surviving spouses.
What legal services or matters will be covered by the Plan? The Plan will offer an “office work” benefit, which will provide services for the following types of legal matters:
• wills and trusts
• powers of attorney
• purchase or sale and other uncontested issues regarding residential real property
• uncontested family matters
• credit reporting
• contracts for goods or services
• residential leases
• birth or marriage certificates
• name changes
“Office work” services will include advice, document preparation, document review, factual and legal research, and correspondence. No representation will be provided by the Plan in court or in any litigation situation.
In addition to office work services, the Plan does provide UAW members and retirees with full representation, including attendance at hearings, for Social Security disability applications, suspensions and terminations.
For many legal matters that are not covered under the new Plan, or that require court activity, the Plan intake staff can still process a participant’s inquiries. Such matters will be referred to outside private cooperating attorneys, who will provide legal services to Plan participants at a reduced legal rate.
December 2016: Community involvement
This time of year can be a busy time for all of us. We expend a lot of our energy during the few precious hours away from work getting ready for the winter months, doing last minute shopping for family and friends and of course, hunting down all of those papers we will need for our year end taxes, just to name a few.
This time of year also brings us some quiet time, time to reflect on the year gone by. We will look back and judge how well we’ve fared during the events of the past twelve months. This is the time of year when we miss those we’ve lost over the years. This is also the time when we wish for better things to come by re-evaluating healthy goals and personal relationships.
As we prepare for our holiday break I am excited by all of the wonderful things I see our local accomplishing, and the groundwork we are laying for a very exciting future.
We have long-standing ties to the Lansing community. When you consider the myriad of problems that our community faces, such as unemployment, homelessness and financial challenges, our commitment in providing outreach is invaluable. Thanks to your generosity through programs such as Old Newsboys, Angel Tree, Coat Drives and Toys for Tots, many children who would otherwise go without during this Christmas season will have boots, shoes, socks, a warm coat and a present under the tree.
I encourage you to get involved in your union and in your community. Volunteer your time with one of our Local’s standing committees, be a member of a board or council of a local organization, volunteer at a local charity or become a member of one of the many constituency groups the local union is proud to support. Service to one another is the highest calling. You can be proud to be a member of UAW Local 602, for being part of its history, and especially for the significant impact you will have on our membership and the surrounding community.
For me personally, this year seemed to fly by quickly. The office of the President has been busier than expected but that is a good thing. The Executive Board has been working hard to secure the viability of our union hall’s future and to ensure that the membership will continue to have opportunities for education and involvement. Our membership is our first priority above all else. I feel good knowing we’ve done all we can to make a positive difference in the lives of those who’ve entrusted us to represent them. I hope we all can find something we did this past year that truly made a difference in someone’s life. If we can do this, nothing life throws at us can bring us down.
May your Christmas this year be filled with blessings and good times with family and friends.
September 2016: The right to vote was hard won. Please use it!
Recently Ron Bieber, retired Director of the UAW Community Action Program (CAP) and now current President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, and Gerald Kariem, Director of UAW Region 1-D, spoke at one of our Lansing Area CAP meetings concerning the upcoming presidential election and the importance of electing labor friendly candidates to the Michigan House of Representatives. The message was clear, we are in a serious battle. We need to come together now even more than ever to ensure we elect a president that is on the side of labor. In addition, our county commissioners, prosecutors, city council races, etc. are just as critical in ensuring the voice of labor is heard so that the very foundation the labor movement was built upon can continue to stand on solid ground. Sticking together in solidarity is the most important decision we can make as union sisters and brothers, especially on Election Day.
Did you know, during the first presidential election, only 6% of the population were eligible to vote, but only 1.3 percent [38,818 people], cast ballots? Because an agreement for a national standard on voting rights didn’t exist, states were given the power to regulate their own voting laws. In most cases, having the right to vote meant that you had to be a white male who owned land. It wasn’t until 1856 that those who didn’t own land were given the right to cast their vote when North Carolina became the last state to do away with this requirement. That still didn’t mean that you could vote, English language requirements and violent intimidation severely limited access to voting rights for many U.S. citizens.
Even with the passing of the 15th Amendment which forbids the federal or state governments from denying someone the right to vote based on race, many states began to enact measures such as voting taxes and literacy tests that restricted the actual ability of African Americans to register to vote. If you were a non-white male and wanted to exercise your right to vote, you would have been met with violence and other intimidation tactics. Women were not given the right to vote in state and federal elections until 1920.
It wasn’t until 1965 when the passing of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting discriminatory restrictions on who can vote, did positive change start to come about. This legislation was brought forth due to a large grassroots movement that included protests and marches earlier that year. But that didn’t mean violence and intimidation went by the wayside.
The fight for voter rights continues even today. Recently we’ve experienced an initiative to do away with straight party voting and have also experienced the attempt to implement voter I.D. restrictions in various states.
The fight for the right to vote has a long and sometimes violent history. It’s a shame that so many take that right for granted. Being registered and casting your vote at your polling place or by absentee ballot are major responsibilities and for the most part the patriotic duty of every American citizen. Not sure if you’re registered? Check to see at webapps.sos.state.mi.us/MVIC/
Who you vote for will decide your future and the future of your children and grandchildren. Don’t stay home and let someone else make that decision for you, get out and vote this Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
May 2016: Inform yourself for the election
Another important election year is upon us and your participation is needed. The next President of the United States will need to make a crucial decision when appointing someone to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Additionally, there are three current justices who are elderly, making it possible that the next President could fill as many as four seats. Depending on which candidate wins the Presidential race, this appointment will in fact either turn around the injustice done to unions and their members, or cause irreparable damage to the cornerstone of their foundation.
Much of our attention is spent making decisions at the last minute and rightfully so. We wake every morning to our daily routine and proceed to tackle the task at hand. Try as we might to plan our schedules accordingly, sometimes just making plans for the weekend is about as far as we get. Sure, we plan for things like car repairs, unexpected bills and other so called speed bumps in life, but are we giving enough thought to the long term effects from those decisions and whether or not they will be detrimental to our quality of life or the lives of our children and grandchildren?
Even though we don’t have the power a President has to appoint someone to the Supreme Court, collectively we are empowered to influence that decision by electing the candidate who will have our best interest in mind when that appointment is made. Unlike the President, we may not have the luxury of cabinet officials, each having their own specialty, each an expert in his or her own field, who advise us on what to do, but we have all the information available in order to do the right thing.
We have more information available at our fingertips than any other generation before us. “Googling” or “Googled It” have become commonplace terms for finding information on anything you want to know. Type a word or phrase in the subject line, and you will be inundated with hundreds of thousands of results over several pages. Instantaneous results, along with the comment section, weigh heavily on our opinion of the information’s credibility and accuracy.
We have become dependent on the information highway for every aspect of our daily lives. Addresses, business hours, vacation getaways, information on DIY projects and hobby interests are just a few of the items typed into search engines on a regular basis. Statistics show we spend on average 32 hours a month using the internet. A normal internet user spends around 22% of his or her time on line social networking. 21% of our time is spent on internet searches, 20% reading searched content.
As we know from the information above, we spend the second highest percentage of our time on line searching for items of interest. For instance the subject of local, state and national politics may not be something you would think exciting to type into a search engine, but having that information provides you the tools to improve your quality of life and the lives of future generations. It may take a lot of work to ensure the information we gather is the truth, but by doing so our decision making becomes easier because we spent the necessary time to be well informed.
The long term security of our job, 401k plan, healthcare, workplace benefits and the like are all dependent on the decisions we make today, decisions that will undoubtedly affect our quality of life. So in that respect, local, state and national politics, should be some of the many words we place in the subject line.
January 2016: How to keep up the good fight
As we reflect on the past year, it becomes clear we have a lot of work ahead of us. Now is a good time to think about what new strategies we will need to employ in 2016. What worked well the past year? What didn’t work? What do we think we can do better? Business as usual won’t get us to where we want to go. We will need to be innovative and identify new ways to accomplish our goals.
As unionists, our objectives have changed. We have endured a constant bombardment of attacks on our way of life. We have been forced to change the way we do things, and the onset of new rules have left us uncomfortable and full of questions. Not only is our plate full, but new items are being added, leaving us wondering when it will slow down or if it ever is going to stop.
One thing I am sure of is the fight will never stop. The continuing struggle for justice has been ongoing since the first day a group of people stood together for a common cause. Whether it’s standing up to make a difference in our union, or having a desire to reach an important goal in our personal life, we will wander aimlessly if we don’t have a plan of action.
Failure, though, should never be an option. The only way to be sure it isn’t is to have a concrete plan that’s well thought out, but remember the best laid plans don’t always bring us success. So what are we to do?
Start Small. A lot of times we jump in full force with good intentions only to be met with disappointment when it’s more than we thought we could accomplish. Great ideas will never get done this way and discouragement will be the overriding outcome. Taking a small step in the direction we wish to go, and doing it successfully, boosts our enthusiasm and shows others that our plan is worth their time and energy if they were to get involved.
Increase your possibility of success by keeping a log of when you’re going to do something that brings you closer to your goal. I always say “Document everything;” if it’s on your calendar you’re more apt to do it. Documentation also gives you a road map of how far you’ve come and how far you need to go. It will also tell you what is working and what isn’t.
Visualize in detail the actions required to implement your plan. You will be successful if you believe in yourself. Stop using words like “can’t, won’t, sorry, couldn’t, wouldn’t, etc.” See yourself as successful. If your actions didn’t work out, try something different, but don’t dwell on what didn’t work. I knew someone who was about to quit smoking. This person would quit for a while then go back to smoking saying, “I can’t do this.” I would always say, “Don’t think you’ve failed if you start smoking again. As long as you keep trying to quit, think of it as a success by counting up the days you didn’t pick up a cigarette.” Eventually those days got longer, and now it’s gone from days to years.
When the going gets tough, stick to your goal. Don’t let mishaps destroy your plans. Remind yourself that your idea continues to be, just as it has from the beginning, worth the effort it takes to see it through to success.
Find a supporter. We all need to be held accountable but having someone who believes in you is a necessity. Having someone to bounce ideas off of or to lend an encouraging word will get you through times when things seem to be moving slow.
I wish you much success this year. May this be the year you put a check mark next to that one thing you’ve always wanted accomplish.
December 2015: Progress at our Local
2015 has certainly been a busy year. We have been very fortunate here at UAW Local 602 to have such active and hardworking retirees, district reps, appointed reps, standing committees and volunteers. The outreach to our sisters and brothers in the union and to the families in our communities would not be possible if it weren’t for the many hours of hard work and dedication our members are willing to commit, much of it on their own time.
As the year passed by, it was great to see the progress we’ve made. Upgrades to the union hall included new entry doors, WIFI, better audio and video equipment and a new, less expensive floor maintenance process that make our terrazzo floors look like glass. We’ve also shared our good fortunes by giving to many worthwhile organizations in our communities who, in turn, help those in need.
Although we will always be under constant attack from anti-union legislation and shortsighted public opinion, we are committed to press on. Nothing can dampen our spirits or prevent the good work we do as an organization except for ourselves.
We are our own worst enemy. We should always remember that we exist to help each other. If we do not participate in helping one another, then no one will be there when we ourselves need help.
What we do individually speaks volumes about who we are and what we do collectively puts it in perspective.
I wish you a joyous and restful Holiday season. Take time before the year is over to call those you haven’t spoken with in a while, tell those you care about that you love them, and most of all, speak good words about who you are as a union member. Those who don’t know the importance of a union do not know we consistently work hard to insure a future for them and their families, and you may be the only way they find out.
September 2015: Our commitment
Our commitment to the union movement extends beyond the halls of our local union. Our commitment should also resonate within our personal life outside of work. I believe it imperative to continually advocate for the rights of our members by developing strong relationships in the communities where we live and work. Just as important is our participation in political action at all levels of government.
Opportunities exist for involvement at many of our community agencies. From volunteering to work on the political campaigns of candidates who support working families to serving on a board of directors, we can demonstrate the principles of unionism to everyone we come into contact with. Participating in charitable and community based events provide our membership a voice in the community.
As UAW members we all share equally not only the responsibility, but the duty to “conscientiously seek to understand and exemplify by practice the intent and purpose of her/his obligation as a member” as is clearly stated in our UAW International Constitution under Article 41, Section 1.
Article 41, Sections 2 and 3, also define the “Duties of Local Union Members” from rendering aid and assistance to our fellow brothers and sisters to participating in all local, state, provincial and federal elections through registration and balloting. This is not by any means mere suggestion. This section within our UAW Constitution was discussed and voted on during a convention of our delegates. Important enough to reduce to writing to be included in our Constitution simply because of its importance to our survival.
By advocating for the rights of organized labor, we in turn solidify the arguments made by those who have no union voice in their workplace. Building upon the union cause, our participation becomes the cornerstone in an effort to show the value of service and the impact that our Local Union can have in solving problems and making life better for all working families.
May 2015: Looking to the future
Education has consistently been an important staple within the UAW. Be it our history, current economic issues, health and safety or basic workers’ rights, we, as UAW members, need to speak up in order for others to be aware of the reason we exist as a labor movement. We cannot afford to leave this task to someone else.
More and more working people are becoming exposed to gray areas in terms of their employment status. For some, this means being hired as temps, independent contractors, finding themselves underemployed, or working for low wages.
Most, if not all, of these workers become complacent in this environment due to the fact that they have no other history on which to base their current situation.
Unfortunately, the result of the midterm elections has meant fewer prominent voices speaking out for these working families. This is why it is so important that the voice of labor unions is still being heard, making sure we all have representation at work and in our democracy by speaking up for worker rights and social justice.
This voice is comprised of labor union members who teach our children, fight fires, and police our streets. It is the voice of government employees, sanitation workers, nurses, plumbers, carpenters and telecommunication workers. Union members keep our neighborhoods safe and communities strong, often doing jobs that we take for granted.
Some argue that the time for unions has passed. On the contrary, at a time when middle class families are struggling to recover from the Great Recession, and when CEO pay has increased 937 percent since 1978, we need to strengthen unions, not attack them.
The future of labor unions depends on the voices of new leaders. A younger generation of workers is bringing new and sometimes unconventional ideas to the table.
As the veteran workforce ages and a new generation of leaders take the reins, however, we risk losing the decades of knowledge that has helped make our union great.
So it’s imperative that veteran members understand that there are important gains to be made in venturing beyond the traditional union agenda, but if we are to strengthen our unions, we need to stand side-by-side with our new generation of workers to encourage, mentor and educate before passing the torch.
Learning from each other, we can be assured that our voice at the table will be heard.
January 2015: Are you "attractive"?
Our attitudes not only have a direct effect on our life, but they affect the lives of everyone we come into contact with. It’s virtually impossible to get through our day without influencing those around us. What we do and say, either positive or negative will also come back to us in one way or another. Remember the saying “what you sow, you will also reap”?
We all have equal opportunity when leaving a long lasting impression on those around us. When it comes to influencing the lives of others, our status in this world goes out the window. Rich, poor, CEO or stay at home parent, you name it, none of that matters. Some celebrities or famous athletes may have a big influence on certain things in our lives. But as an example, which is more memorable: a celebrity who made you want to buy something, or the person who stood by you when you needed them most?
The UAW is simply all of us standing by each other, fighting for a better future. Those who are not a part of our organization may think the UAW is only beneficial to its membership. We know that the UAW is a social movement. A large part of the needs being met in our communities would suffer if it weren’t for the generosity of our members.
How many of your family and friends know about the good we do as an organization? Do they think we only care about ourselves? Have you talked to them about the issues we are passionate about? Did you let them know it’s because we care about their future too? It’s not just about meeting basic needs, it’s also about educating, fighting anti-worker legislation, women’s issues, veterans issues and protecting civil and human rights. This is why it’s so important that we try to be a positive force that will draw people to us.
It’s not hard to see ourselves being like a magnet. A magnet produces a magnetic field that either attracts or repels other objects having the same makeup as itself. If an object that is attracted to a magnet “sticks” around long enough, that object becomes magnetized and iwill attract other ferromagnetic materials. We as people seem to have the same effect with our “magnetic” field.
The strength of our own magnetic field is in direct correlation to our desire to share issues we believe in. This becomes a driving force as we try our best to make everyone around us believe that our issue should be just as important to them. There is strength in numbers. In order to grow and secure the future of the UAW, we must have the support of those in our communities. In order to get their support they will need to know what we’ve done in supporting them.
Let’s not forget that magnets have two poles. If the poles of two magnets are not aligned they push each other way. In our circle of influence we may need to stop and listen to an opposing view. Listening, patience and compromise go a long way in reaching others who don’t quite see our side. That doesn’t mean we have to change our vision but when we push others away we lose the opportunity to have positive influence in their lives.
Some things won’t stick to a magnet. That’s ok. We try our best but sometimes it’s better to move on and focus our energy elsewhere. Will that focused energy be positive or negative? That’s up to you. People will know us by what’s in our heart. If we are positive we attract those who want to know more about the issues we believe in. If we are negative we only attract attention.
December 2104: Be prepared
We have seen what Rick Snyder’s Koch brothers, Dick DeVos influenced policies have done to working families across our state. We have witnessed the lies that brought us a right to work law meant to break the backs of our union sisters and brothers.
As a Local Union President, I have dealt firsthand with the negative changes in Michigan law that have had a direct influence on the way we conduct business as a Local Union.
I stood outside the Capitol when we were locked out during the right to work protests. I’ve seen firsthand the devastation the pension tax has had on our senior citizens.
We will see more destruction to our middle class and continued ripping apart of our union rights and benefits in the next four years. Be prepared. You should be mad as hell, ready to join together to fight back.
Now more than ever we need each other’s backs. We need each other’s strength, and we need each other’s commitment. Stand with me with your head held high because you are a proud union member.
The only person who can take that right away is you. Hang onto it! If they want it, force them to pry it out of your cold clenched fist on your death bed because this is your claim, your right, and your Solidarity and no one – but no one – can ever take that away from you!
September 2014: Thoughts on our becoming part of UAW Region 1D
During the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention, UAW Region 1-C became part of Region 1-D, covering most of the state of Michigan. UAW Region 1-D Director Gerald Kariem effectively became Director of one of the largest International Regions in the UAW. The news may seem uneventful to some, but as a local union President, I had the privilege of seeing some of the logistics and planning that went into combining the two regions.
The move was one that goes along with the international union’s plan to cut costs. Many decisions have been made since the convention in order to build strength in areas that will ultimately have a positive impact on our future. These are inevitably hard decisions as change is never easy. Many local leaders had numerous questions amid the hustle and bustle of making the move as smooth as possible for our new director and his staff.
At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to ask our new director to express his vision for the future of our region as well as some insight into the direction he will take us.
I was moved by a statement he expressed midway through his presentation, “we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we need to share their pain.”
When he said “share their pain” I sat up in my chair. I wanted to know what he meant, hadn’t we had enough pain already? Who is “their” and what pain are they going through? Furthermore, why should I have to feel it too?
He spoke about a group of UAW members who had recently been out on strike. He emphasized the importance of taking notice and supporting them during their time of need–and wouldn’t we want their support in our time of need? He went on to say how hard it can be sometimes to “connect” with others’ needs if we haven’t experienced the same pain in our life.
His words made me think. If we don’t try to understand, can we truly be able to understand the impact this strike had on their livelihood or the negative ramifications bestowed upon those families? After all, we were not the ones impacted by the loss of wages and the uncertainty of a future. That happened to somebody else.
Before he finished his speaking, I was already evaluating my own sensitivity to those who are fighting the fight. How much emphasis was I putting on their plight as I stayed within my own comfort zone? Can I know exactly what they went through, even when I’ve been there myself? No, every situation is different. Actions speak louder than words. Many times we say, “I know what you’re going through,” when in reality we can never know how that person really feels. So we can’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
One thing is for certain, if we don’t try we will never know the importance of their fight. When we don’t understand the importance to them, we won’t see the importance when that fight comes to us!
As we make our way through the change of becoming the largest region in the UAW, I see the importance of “sharing their pain.” As UAW members we really are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Our circle of friends just became a lot bigger. We need to look beyond our job on the factory floor. We must think about those who we don’t have an immediate connection to. We must stand up to the injustices happening to those we have never met. We are all brothers and sisters in the UAW. An injury to one is an injury to all!
May, 2014: Together, we are the UAW
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the membership of UAW Local 602 for electing me to a second term. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve, and I will continually stand upon my principles of honesty and integrity in all that I do as I represent our membership.
As a union, we have a long history of working together in our pursuit of justice. Looking back we can easily see that the labor movement has been a continual struggle. As we move forward we are certain to face many obstacles in our path, but if anyone is up to the task of meeting challenges head on, it’s the men and women of the UAW.
The UAW has been a driving force in building the middle class. Since its inception, it has changed the lives of working families across the globe and defined what it means to be united.
While considering the values and power behind our great organization, we should never entertain the perspective of standing on the outside looking in. You and I are the UAW. As long as we understand that it starts from within, nothing, not even our own doubts, will defeat us.
Too often, we find ourselves focusing on our own needs, so much so that we forget about the needs of others. It’s not that we don’t care, we just might not know the situations others are facing. The UAW is about us, all of us. Words like union, collective, solidarity and unity portray who we are.
We continue to be successful because we can depend on each other in times of need.
We have faced the impossible countless times, persevered to become strong, and overcome enough adversity to prove we are conquerors.
So join with me on the path we must take to lead us into the future. Let’s move forward together, our strength in numbers, our allegiance to our union, and our faith in God.
March 2014: A way out of the mess
As the economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we still see little progress in the fight against inequality, shrinking middle class and lack of good paying jobs.
In 2013, Union membership was at 11.3% compared to 20.1% in 1983, a drop of 8.8%.
Nearly 50 Million Americans were poor in 2012, including 13 million children.
From 2000 through 2011, median income for working-age households fell 12% as middle class jobs were replaced by low wage jobs, a trend that continues to this day.
As unemployment reaches 7.3 percent, with 50% of Americans living with less than $10,000 dollars in savings, the top 1% continues to receive 95% of ALL U.S. income growth since 2009.
How has Congress responded? Unprecedented obstruction in Congress has led to federal government shutdown in October 2013, costing the economy $24 billion.
Since January 2013, Tea Party Republicans in the Senate blocked legislation 83 times and austerity has cost the U.S. economy 2 million jobs since the recession began.
In December, Congress reached a two-year budget agreement that prevents another shutdown in the near future without cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
Although this measure is necessary, it does not extend emergency unemployment benefits, close corporate tax loopholes, or include new revenue to fund job creation and infrastructure programs.
Our economy grows best from the middle out, not from the top down. We need our representatives to support policies that spur job creation, raise wages, and fight income inequality for workers and future generations.
We need them to extend emergency unemployment benefits for those 1.6 million Americans actively seeking work and have been out of work more than 26 weeks.
We need them to support the raising of the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
We need them to protect our Social Security by strengthening benefits for all. Raise the payroll taxable cap to those making over $110,000 to ensure longevity of the trust and support retirement legislation that will enable our members to plan for the future. Only 1 in 5 Americans have defined pension benefits. Social Security has become the bedrock for retirees and their families.
To protect our domestic auto industry, we need our representatives to say no to Fast Track legislation for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership unless protections are put I place to assure that Japan stops it currency manipulation and other methods used to close its market to free trade.
There are over 11,000 corporate lobbyists in Washington DC alone compared to labor lobbyists who combined could fit inside a small room. Sending our CAP delegates to Washington DC in support of labor has a major impact on legislation impacting working-class America and shows strength in keeping our representatives accountable in doing what’s right in support of American middle-class families.
In 2013 the UAW, through its VCAP campaign had the single most amount of funds raised in support of CAP initiatives. Jobs are being created in the automotive industry and we have organized over 11,000 members in gaming alone.
Through coordinated bargaining in our supplier plants such as Dana and Lear, we have begun to eliminate the second tier.
We have to put our trust in the recommendations of the UAW CAP committees if we are to show strength at the ballot box. We need to support those who support labor if we are to change the direction of our future. Without a strong middle class we cannot have a strong democracy, and you cannot have a strong middle class without unions.
Those who are bent on destroying the work of unions have more money than us and they will continue to pass legislation meant to hurt our cause and weaken our defense—but we have the numbers in votes to silence their voices and to do away with their ability to war against us. But we will need to be in one accord without division, lest we be divided amongst ourselves.
January 2014: A piece of the puzzle
This year marks the 75th anniversary of UAW Local 602. During my President’s report at this month’s general membership meeting, I tried to paint a mental picture of where we will be 75 years from now. I envision a labor movement that would continue to be the cornerstone of the middle class, while setting the standard in a segment of society larger than anyone could ever imagine. I see a membership that not only survives near extinction, but rises above adversity, becoming the largest and most successful driving force behind economic and social justice for all.
I would ask that everyone thinks of what this picture would look like. I imagine it would comprise many pieces just like a puzzle. Each piece a different size, shape, and color. Each interlocking together and integral to completing the picture; if one piece is missing, nothing else is available to fill in the void.
As I looked out upon the membership assembled at the meeting, I clearly saw the diversity that makes up who we are. We are truly a blended family. We are young, old, in between, from many different cultures and backgrounds, reside in many places across the state. If we refuse to realize our importance in the overall picture we become the missing pieces. Just like those pieces of the puzzle, each of us brings to the table uniqueness but we still interlock in the picture we portray as a union membership.
In 75 more years we will overcome, we will be the movers and shakers of the social justice movement. The cornerstone will still be in place and the foundation will be strong enough to support anything that we choose to build. We will be a complete and powerful picture of what can be done when a diverse culture of people come together as one.
In his August 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King spoke of our country’s obligation to live up to the promises made by our founders—that “black men as well as white men would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’” The “I Have a Dream” speech isn’t about being colorblind; it’s about the obligation that had to be paid before our society could move forward together. Each of us have an obligation to do what we can in our lifetime to create a better tomorrow for our future generations. Being a member of a Union gives each of us an opportunity to do just that.
December 2013: The laws that affect unions
Everywhere we turn, we hear that politics are what’s important in winning the fight for union benefits and if we are to survive, we must become involved and informed voters.
These words are expressed by many for good reason. Of the people shouting this from the rooftops, some are the very people who not long ago were unaware of the issues affecting their pocketbook. These same people lost good-paying jobs and benefits due to their own apathy and a belief that “it won’t affect me.”
A lot of what happens around us isn’t important to us until we are forced to confront it face to face. Though we may have “received” the message, too often we don’t “get” the message until it’s too late.
There have been many laws and amendments made that have impacted workers’ rights in the United States, including the Right to Work laws that are again becoming an ever-present platform in politics. Prior to Right to Work, there were two important pieces of legislature that are important to understand; they are the Wagner Act (officially known as the National Labor Relations Act) of 1935 and the Taft-Hartley Act (officially known as the Labor-Management Relations Act) of 1947.
The Wagner Act is considered to be the most important labor legislation ever to be enacted in the United States. It institutes rights of employees to organize and join a union and to participate in collective bargaining through their representatives. It also allows workers to place pressure on employers by means of a strike. The Wagner Act was one of the most dramatic legislative measures of the New Deal and was an indication that the federal government was prepared to move against employers to enforce the rights of labor to unionize and to bargain collectively.
While the Wagner Act worked for the unions, the Taft-Hartley Act did the opposite. Vetoed by President Truman, the legislation was still pushed through to amend much of the Wagner Act. The act sought to weaken the powers of unions and was seen as a means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor’s ability to strike and by prohibiting people who were typically more active in union activities.
The Taft-Hartley Act is still in effect today, although some amendments have been made to it through the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, which sought to prevent union corruption and to guarantee union members that unions will be run democratically. It is the Taft-Hartley Act that paved the way for Right to Work laws in the United States, which many argue are also a form of restricting labor unions in order to weaken their effectiveness to fight for workers.
Proponents of Right to Work laws argue that the law promotes economic growth by attracting business which creates more jobs. They also argue that these laws are not anti-union, but pro-worker, giving workers the right to choose if they want to join in a union or not.
Opponents of Right to Work laws argue the opposite … that the law hurts not only our workers by weakening unions, but also our economy. Job growth may increase; however, wages, benefits and safety standards are historically much lower in Right to Work states. They also argue that it allows for “free loaders,” that is, people who take advantage of all of the benefits from a union contract without having to pay their share of the costs involved in representing their worksite.
Statistics are always capable of being twisted into which side you would like to support with them. While studies show job growth in the South since Right to Work laws were enacted—which is a conservative’s large point—they also show that on average, these workers make $5,500 less a year than those in non-Right to Work states.
As Right to Work becomes more prominent, our society will change. The main goal of these laws is to strain and weaken unions, thus weakening a proven and effective system of giving workers a voice and fair play at livable wages, benefits, and safe working conditions. As big business in our country becomes more concerned with their own profits, rather than our economy or our working class, we need unions to step in and advocate as they have done in the past.
As more states pass these laws, or if the Republican Party succeeds in making Right to Work a federal law, we may see these same declines happen across our country. We are entering into new times where these laws of the past are now becoming our present and future and could have long-lasting negative effects on our economy. We may also see unions go extinct, thus losing a long valued system of workers’ voices and rights.
So where do we go from here? We must understand what will work and what won’t. Getting angry and getting even can go both ways. Both can have positive and negative results. For instance, stopping our dues or voting against our own best interest and the interests of our fellow workers to “prove a point” will do nothing more than accelerate the end to our existence. Standing against adversity with no end in sight requires an enormous amount of faith and dedication, but if we can begin to believe in ourselves and take a stand for just a little while longer, we can and we will make a positive difference. Each one of us who belongs to a union is the union. If we don’t like how something is done, we have the option personally to get involved, but only we have the power, collectively, to change it. Without unions, the best defenses we have are written within the guidelines of The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). I’ll let you do your own research on that one.
September 2013: Resisting anti-unionism
There should be no doubt that unions play a crucial role in society. Workers who belong to unions receive a fair wage and are more likely to receive benefits and pensions.
As we face the reality of right to work legislation here in Michigan, I’ve heard arguments from both organized and non-organized workers as to whether unions will continue to hold power in controlling the future of workers’ rights. The discussion arises because organized labor has and continues to have a direct effect on all workers, both union and non-union.
When one can finally discover the truth behind the smoke and mirror portrayal of right to work legislation, dues money is the golden egg surrounding that debate. Without it, the union loses the capital needed to service the contract and run day-to-day operations imperative to its survival as an organization.
Big business and their lobbyists want you to believe they are pro-workers’ rights. They imply that someone should not be forced to pay union dues in order to have a job. The reality is they want to cut the unions off at the knees and leave them bankrupt, unable to stand up and fight against legislation intended to weaken the middle class and the voice of labor.
Unionized workers who decide to forgo paying dues are still entitled to union-won benefits and the right to fair representation, but someone has to pay the associated costs—i.e., others who pay their dues. When enough of the others decide to essentially “freeload,” who will be left to pay these costs? When this becomes an issue, not only will all workers feel the effects, it will also impact the social infrastructure within our communities. It may at this point be too late to reverse the effects caused by such action.
Many workers might not put a lot of emphasis on these facts, but employers do. As political attacks on working families become the norm, employers are smiling from ear to ear, happy to operate with fewer restraints. Taking account of employees who don’t pay unions dues also gives an employer a measurement of the muscle available within the workforce to fight violations to contract agreements.
Unions have taken a direct hit, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business. Public acceptance of this paradigm shift becomes commonplace, thus pushing the advantage in the companies’ favor, letting them come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employees.
May 2013: Stand up for your rights
How do we gain in an ever increasing world of higher cost of living?
In our quest to enhance our own standard of living, our right to free decision making without government coercion is not without risk. We take for granted every day the rights we have been accustomed to. These rights affect us individually, our families and our communities. More and more we see the struggles of those around us. We know people who have lost their job, their retirement and so on, but because it hasn’t really happened to us, we tend not to put ourselves in their shoes.
As union members we stand together in solidarity. Standing together means just that, we stand together when our sisters and brothers are doing well and when they aren’t doing so well.
To be more specific, we are affected by what happens to those around us, those who are union as well as those who are not. Whether we think so or not, we are walking in someone else’s shoes; it’s only a matter of time before we realize it.
The question becomes, are you going to do what you can to make a difference or not? Either way we must move in a direction, be it positive or negative, as a group of people.
The direction depends on how many are participating in the process. Sometimes bad things happen because only a few negative people got involved, and even fewer positive people got involved or just sat it out waiting to see what the others were going to do.
By now I hope you are getting the point I’m trying to make. By now we should all have seen the negative effect recent legislation has had on our income taxes; some of us have had contracts expire which brought “right-to-work” into our workplace; some of us have seen the devastating effect to our budget because we are now paying for taxes on our pensions. Some of us have fought to stave off these devastating changes to our livelihood; some of us have sat back and let it happen. In the meantime we have been losing the battle to protect the rights of the middle class.
Collective bargaining is one of those rights and can exist only in an environment of political freedom. Every dictator in history either left or right has, as a first step, sought to destroy free trade unions. We are dedicated to freedom politically, economically and through private enterprise. This is what has made America the “Land of the Free.” No matter what side you lean toward in your beliefs and your convictions, freedom for those rights are held with the highest regard and respect. We have shed blood to protect those freedoms, not only for us, but for future generations.
Our collective bargaining rights will be in jeopardy unless we continue to pay our dues.
Collective bargaining is not a means of seeking a voice in management; it exists to protect the interests of the worker. It’s neither right nor left. Where in the past collective bargaining only included wages, hours and safety concerns, it now includes a whole host of items such as medical care, pensions and job security.
Showing our strength in numbers as dues paying-members who won’t back down because of “right-to-work” lets our legislators and our bosses know we stand as one, undivided.
We must think about those who have lost their ability to support their family through no fault of their own. Those who struggle daily to put their kids through school, pay medical bills, or put food on the table. We must put ourselves in their shoes and fight for them, ourselves and future generations of workers. Corporations have enjoyed billions in profits by stripping their workers of a voice, a vote and job security. It is our right, our expression of freedom, to bargain. Let’s not let anyone take these rights away.
If you choose to not pay your dues, not to get involved and basically not care, you send a message not only to the workers and retirees who struggle to get by, but to your legislators as well as your place of work that you’re OK with not having rights. Without unions, we are nothing but “at will” employees who can be let go for no reason. Standing up for our rights and the rights of others sends a strong message, but one that is only as strong as its participants. Stand with me, your co-workers, your family and your community!
January 2013: Speak up!
We spoke, we yelled, we asked, we begged—and yet, our voices fell on deaf ears at the Capitol. Our Governor Rick Snyder went against our pleas and proof, and signed the “right-to-work” legislation. There were over 300 bills signed into law over the lame duck session. Most of them were pushed through without due process, hearings, or comments from the public.
Regardless of your own personal feeling on which party does what, keep in mind that the bills that were pushed through by the Republican Party over the lame duck are extremely hurtful to us, the taxpayer. Our retirees are already taxed on their pensions, more than ever before. Our children suffer in our schools with the lack of necessary tools for learning, and have fewer teachers each year. There are no facets left untouched by the Governor’s swift pen.
Although our hearts may be heavy, and our signs worn, we must continue the vigilant effort to bring justice to our world. Our Michigan is growing weaker by the minute, and it is only going to continue. We must stand up! We must rise and show our solidarity. It does make a difference.
We may not be able to always show our presence at the Capitol, but we can always write a letter, or make a phone call to the elected that are representing us. Call Governor Rick Snyder today at 517-373-3400.
Would you also like to call your State Representative? Or your State Senator? These are the people in power that have the ability to help or hinder you. Make the choice to not sit back and watch. We all need to get, and stay, involved.
Together we bargain. Divided we beg. Please remember that.
December 2012: My take on the holiday season
As you read this letter, the holiday season will be upon us and another year will have just about disappeared. It seems that time continues to pass more quickly with each year. As I write this, the cold of winter has just begun and there are still many things on my list that need to be done before snowfall.
At this time, I’m not sure I will get that list done. The holiday season fills our schedule with the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gifts for our family and friends. A lot of attention goes to making plans for get-togethers, donating time to charities and finishing up all the odds and ends of last minute plans.
This holiday season, let’s urge everyone to shop at their local downtown merchants. Supporting local businesses, whose owners may be our friends, neighbors or relatives, goes a long
way in helping our local economy and besides, where else can you find those unique items or one-of-a-kind handmade gifts?
As we spend precious time with family this Christmas, let’s not forget those who will be away from their loved ones. Let’s give thanks to our veterans for their military service and let’s be sure to wish them and their families a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.
Without their service and sacrifice,
without their defending the freedoms we all enjoy, without the painful separations their families endure on the home front during their service, our lives would be much different.
We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude that can never be adequately
Let us also keep our police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, nurses and 911 dispatchers—most of whom are union brothers and sisters—in our thoughts and prayers. May they all be safe while they are working this holiday season, because emergencies don’t take a holiday.
One of the most important things we can do before the year is over is to help someone less fortunate than ourselves. There are so many ways we can get involved and do something for those who have nothing to look forward to, those who would appreciate a meal, a visit, or even a phone call.
Sometimes the smallest gesture in our eyes is something life changing in someone else’s eyes.
I wish all of you a peaceful and joyful Christmas, and I hope you have a very special time with family and friends. We have much to be thankful for!
September, 2012: Romney just doesn’t get it
“We should have let Detroit go bankrupt”!
Mitt Romney doesn’t get it; it wasn’t a bailout but emergency rescue loans. To qualify for this we as UAW members made deep sacrifices to save the company. We gave up pay increases, overtime pay, holidays, agreeing to a reduced pay and benefit structure for new hires among other concessions.
It was because these sacrifices the auto industry was able to get those loans, saving more than 1.4 million jobs up and down the supply chain.
The emergency loans worked. GM is once again the world’s top carmaker. GM’s profits in 2011 were its largest ever and they have repaid their outstanding loans years ahead of schedule.
The Big Three along with their suppliers have added more than 200,000 jobs in the last two-and-a-half years, and 2011 was the strongest year of industry job growth since 1994. Added shifts and new facilities mean jobs for thousands more workers not only here in Michigan, but in many other states across the country.
Unlike a loan, which must be paid back, Romney’s not opposed to bailouts. Romney supported the bailout of Wall Street and opposes tough new rules that would stop Wall Street excesses from causing another crisis. Romney has his financial interest in Wall Street, not in you or me.
In listening for the GOP’s message of putting people back to work, all we’ve heard about are more attacks on workers’ collective bargaining rights, and this message has been loud and clear.
Mitt Romney promised to take on unions that represent Michigan autoworkers. During his visit to Compatico, an office systems furniture maker in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood, Michigan, Romney boldly stated, “I’ve taken on union bosses
before, and I’m happy to take them on again” and, “I sure won’t give in to the UAW.”
I am happy the company I work for is doing well but we still have a long way to go before my union brothers and sisters are doing well. I’m concerned that any future gains we hope to make will be taken away at the ballot box as we look at the Republican agenda to dissolve unions and take away our rights as working men and women.
When a Republican candidate can support working people, stand behind my UAW brothers and sisters, and stand up to corporations and big business, I’ll vote for them. So far I haven’t found one.
May 2012: A scary future - unless we act!
Thank you for standing in Solidarity and signing the ‘Protect Our Jobs Petition’ which will allow us to vote on an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Michigan. Once passed, this amendment will protect our collective bargaining rights. Please continue to encourage ALL your friends and neighbors to sign this petition. We have GOT to speak up.
Here’s your future and mine: (If we don’t stand together and speak up):
Forward to 2013; Well, as I sit here typing my Lansing Labor News article I can’t help wonder how different things could have been had we just stuck together last year and did what we said we would do. Actions speak louder than words but we depended on others rather than ourselves to go out and fight to win back justice.
My wife now has to work two hours a day for free or lose her job. We have no more bargaining power, so she keeps working what and where she can or we have nothing to eat or a place to stay.
My employer will NOT be held accountable for ANY injuries on the job or poor working conditions, because our Governor will soon mandate that none of them will have to abide.
My prescriptions are pretty expensive, but I just cut down on what I take. This way, I still have enough left over at the end of the week to buy some food and toilet paper. Only 1 in 25 patients react to not taking their medication timely, hope I’m lucky!
I’ve added three new walls to my house—we don’t have a living room anymore, but at least my children and grandchildren have a place to live. We share incomes so we can eat. We’re so glad that the Governor ‘likes’ us and promised to not take sides when it was time for him to vote on our safety and well-being in the state of Michigan.
After the passage of House Bill 4059 that prohibits paying union officials for conducting union business, the Republican-controlled Senate has introduced a similar bill to do the same for private employers. I estimate our local funds will have all but depleted within weeks after this bill gets passed as we continue to ensure our membership is represented.
It’s sad to think of how this country has been turned upside down since the elections. I for one really thought we could get enough signatures on the Protect Our Jobs petition to get collective bargaining on the ballot for Michigan. I also thought we would have enough voters at the polls that understood the importance of workers’ rights and social justice. Our new President’s speech last night didn’t give any indication he would support the rights of the working class in this country and already he has made promises to corporations that will cost the taxpayers dearly, something President Obama would never have done!
Sign the petition! Call your representatives in Lansing and Washington.
January 2012: American Dream is growing more elusive
The destructive erosion of our economy that has reduced the standard of living has become commonplace for families and communities. Ask anyone about the American Dream and they will tell you it has become an elusive hope at best.
State and local budgets have been, and continue to be, negatively impacted by the loss of tax revenue. Cities are forced to look for ways to cut back on services, as we are forced to look at roads in disrepair. As property values continue their decline, homes sit vacant and businesses that once thrived are closing their doors and laying off their employees. The backdrop of our surroundings has slowly desensitized us into thinking that what we are seeing and experiencing is the norm.
There is no way to bring America’s economy back if unemployment is chronically high, wages remain stagnant, and we continue to see a lack of movement on job creation. Without ordinary Americans spending their earnings from good paying jobs, any hope of a meaningful, long-term recovery is doomed.
Beyond that, extreme economic inequality is a recipe for social instability. Families on the low end of the spectrum are losing the already uphill battle of holding things together. These families in question are increasingly finding it an impossibility to find the money needed to pay their rent or mortgage, to fend off bill collectors, to cope with illness and emergencies, and to deal with the daily doses of extreme anxiety.
We must come to terms with ourselves in taking personal “responsibility” for what we have been handed, turning that into personal “accountability” and do our part in moving forward. We all have a duty and an obligation to learn the facts, have active involvement in making a positive difference, and support those who are fighting for our rights and social justice.
There is so much we as common everyday people can do to get the America we love back to the America we remember. For example, writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, calling your elected representatives, registering to vote and most importantly getting out to vote, paying attention to the candidates’ stands on the topics and not the negative ad campaigns. As I’ve said before, learn about the issues that affect you and your family by knowing the facts.
This year will be a challenging one. The Republican leaders have already stated their intent of building upon the 2011 initiative to live off the backs of working families and struggling communities in order to place more money into the pockets of big business. Stand with me in the fight for equality and social justice for all American workers!
December 2011: The new kid on the job
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. At this time of year I like to tell a good story. This isn’t your typical Christmas story, but it talks about the importance of us all working together. Hopefully you’ll have a great holiday season. Be safe and enjoy your time with your family.
There was a new kid at the worksite the past few days and the old timers had just about enough of his antics. Sometimes when we’re the “kid” on the job we think we know it better than the “old timer.” After all we have the latest education, grew up with the technology and may have been the first in our family to go to college. Wouldn’t that make us smarter? This new kid certainly thought so. He was a hard worker no doubt; the older crew members respected him for that. It was his mouth, not his muscles that got him into trouble.
One particular gent had a way with getting the young man’s goat in a joking manner. He admitted to the young man that the newer generation had one or two up on him. After all, he had to have his ten-year-old nephew fix his computer recently. Coming from a large family who farmed, he had never had the chance to go to college. Getting a job and starting a family was the important thing in life when he was a teenager.
The younger worker admitted that if it weren’t for the older guys on the crew, he wouldn’t have learned some of “tricks of the trades” that required a fair amount of skill. He respected the older man he worked with but still believed he could get the job done on his own.
It was a hot summer day as the two of them worked on opposite walls laying the brick for a new building. The young kid would glance over every once in a while to see how the old man was coming along. The older man would glance over every once in a while to see how the young kid was coming along. Both of them forged on and struggled with the bricks until both were so tired and worn out they had to take a break from the heat.
“Look,” said the young kid, “if you need me to help load up the bricks or mortar just ask.”
“If you are having trouble pointing the grout lines I can show you a faster way,” said the older man.
Both of them knew they needed each other to get the work done correctly and with less effort but each went back to work, neither one saying much to the other.
The older man started to feel bad for not helping the kid out. He had a whole list of aches and pains and his hands were calloused and rough from the many years of strenuous work. He looked at the younger man and saw himself when he hired on with the crew many years ago. He remembered “knowing everything” and the “old man” he made fun of who eventually taught him a thing or two, especially about himself. He thought about how it changed his life and made him who he is today. It’s not knowledge he said to himself, it’s wisdom. It’s not strength, its stamina.
He had come to a point where he just wanted to give up on the kid and let him figure it out on his own but he knew deep down it was his responsibility to teach the young man about the trade and how to do it well. This kid needed to carry on the reputation the older crew worked so many years to achieve. He knew this kid would be just like him someday, passing down not only the skills but the life lessons needed to be successful in his career choice. If he didn’t take this kid under his wing, who would, he thought. He had to admit he needed the young man’s skills while getting the kid to admit he needed his as well.
After thinking all of this through, he finally decided he had enough. He yelled over to the young kid and said, “You might be tougher than me, but I bet I can haul something in this wheelbarrow over to that wall you’re working on that you won’t be able to haul back!”
“Oh yeah, I’ll take you up on that one ol’ man,” the kid said with a big grin on his face as he flexed his muscles.
Just then the older worker grabbed both handles of the empty wheelbarrow, stood up straight, looked the kid square in the eye and said “Okay, now get in!”!”
September 2011: Salt on the wound
Already, we have been surrounded by articles and news reports telling us more and more jobs are off to Mexico, China, and others. We are always told it is in everyone’s best interest, even though any of these moves by corporations cost Americans their jobs, their livelihood. And yet, there is little we can do to prevent this from happening. Or is there?
Buying candy for any loved ones in the near future? What brand will you choose? Will you remember to look at the label? Are you counting sugar and calories? What about job impact?
Yes, job impact. If you purchase candy made outside of the US, you are making a direct impact on your community, and in the long run, a negative impact on your family. This isn’t rocket science, folks. Simple process of elimination. Something that the competition (outside of the U.S.) has used for years. The less American the work force, and the less earnings the working Americans make, the more profit a corporation will make.
Too bad it doesn’t really work this easy for any of us. When the middle class keeps shrinking, so does everything else. How does this benefit you? It doesn’t. We are paying now for purchases made by previous generations.
Hershey’s Chocolate Company, Hershey, PA, began in the early 1900’s (1894 was when the founder and creator was toying with making milk chocolate!) by one gentleman with a big dream, and undaunted perseverance. Milton S. Hershey is the one person responsible for the successful locally owned and operated company. For 100 years this was the way Milton ran his company. Local employees, new plants, safe working conditions, prevailing wage. Then Milton passed his legacy to his family.
Recently, and you probably saw this in the news, there are guest workers in our country, who were hired by Heshey’s. This is commonly known as the “Guest Worker” program, and many corporations participate in it. The program allows students from other countries to come into a factory/business and learn how it works, learn different parts of the jobs involved, while at the same time, the students earn a salary. Students must pay upwards of $4,000 to participate in such a program.
Several students were accepted to work at the Hershey, PA plant. Upon arrival, and expecting to see a grand tour of the famous chocolate company, the students were quickly forced into sweatshop conditions and made to do hard labor. They were compensated by Hershey by way of “discounted” fees charged to the students and poor working conditions. After a hard week, most started their weekend between $40 and $140 for the whole week they worked.
Students weren’t counting on being treated completely opposite of what was promised by this International Guest Worker Program. They didn’t sign up to be exploited. It’s up to us, the citizens, to stand up and speak out against wrongs like this. Why not contact Hershey’s today? It’s one phone call, and will help save a teenager from being exploited further. These students do not have a voice. I’m asking you to stand with me, and speak out against this horrible corporate behavior. 800/468-1714 or write them at: The Hershey Co., 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey PA 17033.
We can ignore the pleas from others for help and voice. Soon, our parents and grandparents will be paying even more money to just get their regular medicine. Most of us likely don’t have a clue the amounts of cashed shelled out by our seniors just to survive. In Michigan alone, over 35, 000 children will go hungry, and so will their parents. The newly elected Michigan Administration is dedicated to taking food out of our children’s mouths, and removing financial assistance to those in need, among other atrocities. We need to speak up and continue to speak up. Find out who your State rep is at www.michigan.gov and call their office. Make your voice heard. Don’t let salt get added to the wound!
May 2011: Defend retirees in America
House Budget Chairperson Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has a plan that would reduce federal spending, deficits, and debt. His plan would save money for federal taxpayers. Ryan calls his Medicare idea “premium support” and plans to cut $1 trillion in Medicaid over the next ten years. These costs are clearly placed on the backs of senior citizens to fund the budget proposal. These cuts will bring devastating consequences to the nation’s poor and disabled by repealing President Obama’s health insurance expansion that covers more than 30 million people who now lack insurance.
Critics of Ryan’s premium support plan call it a voucher plan; meaning if it isn’t funded properly future retirees will be impacted by rising costs. In a FOX News interview, Ryan made it clear the budget proposal will target seniors and protect taxpayer subsidies for oil and gas companies making record profits!
Under the plan, Medicaid would be converted into a block grant program that gives each state a lump sum to design its own insurance plans. Because the Medicare benefits package would be more expensive to deliver through private insurers, seniors will pay more or get fewer benefits.
Future retirees would see an increase in the eligibility age, currently at 65, rise by two months each year, starting in 2022 until it reaches 67 in 2033. Essentially, Medicare as it now exists would be abolished. Set in motion, this is a plan to cut benefits and costs.
Another issue hurting not only our seniors, but anyone on a fixed income, is the changes to Michigan’s item pricing law. The item pricing law was mentioned by Goveronor Rick Snyder in last month’s State of the State address as an example of an onerous regulation of business.
If the old law, in effect for three decades, had to be abolished in order for Michigan to retain its economic competitiveness , whose backs is this placed on?
I’m pretty sure we could get an answer from the stock person making minimum wage at the local supermarket, who by the way is no longer needed, or my elderly neighbor who has problems with her memory and was overcharged at the checkout line; or was she?
Because of mobility, financial, or other challenges affecting the elderly, most only do their shopping once a month, buying several items at one time. Now there is no way to be sure consumers were charged correctly without returning with the entire store purchase.
Another issue to consider is the scanner law. This law forced the retailer to pay you the difference of the cost of one item up to a maximum of $5.00 when you were incorrectly charged at the check-out. This law was only enforceable when the item had a price tag on it.
I believe these changes will have far reaching effects on consumers, especially the elderly and most won’t even realize it.
It’s a shame when those we are supposed to look out for, who built the very foundation of the American way of life, are stripped and used to further the advancement of corporate greed.
I’ll be thinking about my neighbor the next time someone comes up with a plan to cut spending. This just isn’t right!
April 2011: We must have a voice
I would like to congratulate Brian Fredline on his appointment to the International. Thank you, Brian, for your leadership and best wishes in your new position on staff.
My name is Bill Reed and I was elected Vice President of Local 602 and now I am serving in the unexpired term of the President.
I want to thank the membership of Local 602. Not just for the opportunity given and the trust afforded me when I was elected Vice President, but for your hard work and perseverance that has brought us through tough times and will sustain us in tough times ahead. YOU are to be commended!
The willingness to serve has played a major role in the building of our UAW locals. Those who have been in leadership before us have enriched our learning experience, motivated us, and have given us the faith to believe not only in ourselves, but to believe in our fellow union brothers and sisters.
They have helped us to recognize our potential, called us to action, and have sacrificed family and leisure to ensure the success of every one of their members. It is to their leadership that I owe much and I will continue to work no less, always respecting the office of the President with honesty, integrity, and self-discipline.
Before I became involved in our union, my greatest fear was that my voice would not be heard. I found it didn’t matter who heard me, what mattered was who listened! We must all have a voice. Not just words. A voice for our arguments, our ideas, and our concerns.
Join with me for the upcoming rallies at the Capitol. Let’s demand our elected officials take notice of our solidarity and unity against the union-busting tactics taking place. Our support of each other can send a message that is immeasurable, overflowing, and overwhelming.
Only by working together can we preserve a strong voice that sets the tone, is to the point, and has a sense of credibility. It’s not an option to give up! We must put our hands to the plow and continue the work of those who never gave up on us! There is pride in Union labor that shows in our hard work, compassion, and solidarity that is second to none!