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On Dec. 16, 2006, UAW President Emeritus Doug Fraser quietly celebrated his 90th birthday. While this is certainly a milestone, it is not in years that we measure the contributions that he has made – and continues to make – to the labor movement and to all workers worldwide. Rather, it is by his enduring and unwavering commitment to the rights of workers.
In the January 2007 issue of Ward’s Auto World, a two-page article paid tribute to the UAW’s 70-year veteran. It references the fact that Doug retired in 1983, but he never stopped working. Today he occupies an office at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library, the home of the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs and the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues.
Doug sent a letter to the delegates at the UAW’s 34th Constitutional Convention last June, which I was privileged to read to the delegation. Doug stated in part that he had attended 26 Constitutional Conventions and numerous Special Conventions and that he enjoyed them all.
He went on to say, “Over the years we have met in conventions in hours of crisis, but we always planned for the future. When we suffered an occasional defeat and got knocked down, there was only one thing to do – get up, brush yourself off and get ready to fight again. That is the spirit of the UAW.”
Doug closed his letter as follows: “Finally, this convention has a responsibility. It is now your turn. Continuity does not come automatically. You must work at it. You must be constantly vigilant. You must embrace it, nurture it, insist on preserving our high ethical and moral standards and continue to keep our commitment to our never-ending struggle for social justice for all people of the world. I’m confident you will meet the challenges and pass on an even stronger UAW to the next generation.”
In his letter Doug was telling us that he was aware of today’s environment and how tough it is, but he was also giving us hope for the future. He was reminding us that our union was built out of struggle and that the challenges we face today would strengthen our union for the next generation, but that we would have to work for it. He was asking all of us to treasure our union and to get involved and make a difference. The delegates were inspired by this letter and responded with a standing ovation.
This is our Doug Fraser at his best. He inspires us and he gives us courage. He is a mentor and teacher to us. He is a sounding board, and with his soft voice he gently encourages us. Doug loves the UAW and we love him.
We are members of your community.
Our wages are spent in your business.
We pay taxes and contribute to charity.
We worship with you, and our children play with yours.
We are patriotic Americans; many are veterans.
We care about the needs of the less fortunate.
We are concerned and involved in the democratic process.
We are opposed to social injustice.
We want American children to have a future, a future where equal opportunity is finally realized, a peaceful future free of extremist paranoia.
We want a future with purpose and promise, a productive, vital and ever-growing economy, a higher standard of working and living.
We love America, but realize that flag-waving and rhetoric won’t solve our problems or keep the peace.
We want to see other nations develop economically.
We don’t want their development to be at the expense of American workers – blue collar or white collar, nonunion or union.
We are concerned about technological displacement.
We want fair access to foreign markets and American-made products.
We are UAW people in your community, your friends, neighbors, relatives.
Looking for the perfect place to get away from it all and renew your spirits as a family and union member?
This summer introduce your family to a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center – a unique facility nestled among the natural wonders of Onaway, Mich., with woods, water and deer so friendly they don't run away at the first hint of a human.
Since the center opened in 1970, thousands of UAW families have participated in the Family Scholarship Program for a weeklong experience that combines education with relaxation.
During the day, parents participate in workshops with lively discussions and interactive exercises while children go to age-appropriate day camps with creative arts, music, games, athletics and swimming. The age groupings are 3-5, 6-7 and 8-11.
Ages 12-15 will enjoy union involvement workshops, golf, swimming and gym games. Young adults ages 16-18 are offered a program to prepare them for the working world.
Evening activities include Karaoke Night, as-you-like-it fun such as the indoor pool or the beach, sports or just a relaxing walk in the woods. Golfers can take advantage of the award-winning Black Lake Golf Club.
The union pays for all lodging, food and program costs. Participants may choose to pay for other things such as group photographs, gift shop items, golf or activities in nearby communities.
To be eligible for a family scholarship, you must be a UAW member in good standing for at least a year and never have attended the scholarship program.
This summer’s three sessions are July 8-13, July 15-21 and July 22-27 (this session is also available in Spanish.)
UAW 101 is an ongoing column by the UAW Education Department on how our union works.
It’s time for our government to step up. That’s the word from UAW Local 1853 member Darrell DeJean when it comes to health care reform.
DeJean was among the 800 delegates and attendees at the UAW International Skilled Trades Conference Feb. 6-8 in Detroit.
Meeting six weeks in advance of the union’s Special Convention on Collective Bargaining, delegates addressed training, new technology, fair trade and other issues of concern to UAW skilled-trades workers. High on the list of priorities is a problem affecting all workers and employers: America’s health care crisis.
“We want to maintain health care for our families and members and not have to give up everything,” said DeJean, an electrical technician at General Motors’ Spring Hill (Tenn.) Manufacturing facility. “It’s time for national health insurance for all Americans.”
Bill Hoosier of UAW Local 2069 in Dublin, Va., couldn’t agree more.
“This country has taken health care the wrong way,” said Hoosier, who works at the Volvo Trucks plant. “We work all our lives for retirement and to have no health care to cover us means we can’t retire. The government has to do something about it.”
The Bush administration’s health care proposal would slap a new tax on those with decent insurance – including many UAW members. The proceeds would be used for tax breaks that supposedly would help those who are uninsured afford health care coverage.
But most analysts agree those who can’t afford coverage now wouldn’t get much help from a modest tax deduction, which would not go very far toward meeting the high cost of private insurance.
The real solution, said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger in his address to skilled-trades delegates, is a universal public health insurance program.
“America’s health care crisis will never be resolved at the bargaining table. It’s a national problem that requires a national solution,” he said. “The most rational and effective solution is a single-payer, universal, comprehensive national health insurance program that covers every man, woman and child in America.
“That, to state it simply, is the difference between the U.S. and the other industrialized countries. That’s also the right direction for America – and for our union.”
DeJean said a key resolution stresses the importance of fighting the threat against good wages and salaries for UAW members.
“If we make decisions to benefit everyone instead of the chosen few, we’ll be a lot better off,” said the 22-year veteran.
Job security is a key issue for Hoosier.
“Volvo has tried to do away with skilled trades,” he said. “If you don’t have the skilled people in these professional jobs, you’re not going to get the professional work. If you bring in someone off the street with no experience, how can that temp do a good job?”
Delegates also debated resolutions dealing with trade policy; overtime; health and safety; subcontracting and outsourcing; organizing; family assistance and child care; pensions; training and retraining, and political action.
With a tough year of bargaining still ahead, Hoosier and DeJean remain optimistic and are counting on the UAW’s strengths – perseverance and solidarity – to see us through.
“If you walk into this room,” says Hoosier, “every local, every region is represented and can voice their opinion. This is an opportunity to be represented.”
Many people have heard of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That’s because it attracts government and business leaders who are the movers and shakers of corporate-driven globalization.
Because of their power and influence, the media hangs on their words.
But that gathering of the economic elite each year in a Swiss ski resort inspired another group of people: progressive social justice and political activists from around the world who are working on a variety of issues to create a World Social Forum (WSF). Their goal is to change the path of globalization to put the interests of workers and citizens ahead of the interests of multinational corporations and political and economic elites.
Since its first meeting in 2001, the WSF has brought together trade unionists, progressive politicians and representatives from a wide range of nongovernmental organizations. They discuss ways to cooperate and coordinate their efforts to turn the possibility of “another world” – a world that respects human and labor rights, ends poverty, and promotes peace and social and economic justice — into a reality.
In January about 50,000 activists from every corner of the world assembled in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first time the WSF has met in Africa.
Wahu Kaara, a Kenyan social activist, talked about political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, urging them not to devise policies that perpetuate global social inequality.
“We refuse unjust trade. We are not going to take aid with conditionality. We are saying the world belongs to all of us,” she said. “We want peace, and we are in Nairobi building peace when they are in Davos building circumstances that threaten peace.”
Over the last seven years, the WSF has convened in Brazil, India, Venezuela and Pakistan. And the forum has had its share of “stars”: four Nobel Peace Prize laureates from South Africa, Kenya, the United States and Iran.
Hundreds of union representatives participated in the 2007 WSF, including some from the International Metalworkers’ Federation and its affiliated unions.
The labor contingent stressed that:
• A decent job is a fundamental human right and the best way out of poverty.
• Women and men in all countries, developing and industrialized alike, have the same right to enjoy fundamental democratic guarantees and protections at work regardless of cultural, economic and social differences.
• Trade, investment and financial policies must focus on the creation and protection of good jobs.
For more information on the WSF, see www.wsf2007.org
Hear “road trip” and you might think of fraternity brothers from “Animal House” turning a mint-condition Cadillac into a demolition derby car or fortune seekers frantically searching California for hidden treasure in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
Well, that’s nothing like the road trip Ecology Center staff members from Ann Arbor, Mich., undertook in January through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
UAW Local 174 members Claudette Juska and Charles Griffith took a brand-spanking-new Saturn VUE Green Line hybrid SUV on a road trip to reveal a treasure many Americans never knew existed: UAW-made fuel-efficient vehicles and new technologies that create jobs and save the environment.
The Green Machines Road Trip kicked off Jan. 19 at the UAW Local 879 hall in St. Paul, Minn., where the Ford Truck plant local was hosting a Labor and Sustainability Conference about global warming and worker-friendly strategies for addressing it.
In Illinois the crew stopped by the DaimlerChrysler Belvidere plant near Chicago, which produces three popular crossover vehicles – Caliber, Nitro and Compass. These new models contain many fuel-saving features, including GEMA engines built by UAW members in Dundee, Mich.
The tour also stopped at UAW Region 4 headquarters in Lincolnshire, Ill., and met with Director Dennis Williams, who has been working closely with policymakers in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota promoting advanced auto technologies and biofuels.
“These are good for our economy. They’re good for the working people in this country because we can produce vehicles that are high-tech, fuel efficient and friendly to the environment,” he said.
In Indiana the road crew watched members of UAW Local 933 at the General Motors Allison Transmission plant build the parallel hybrid system used in the transit buses that serve Indianapolis as well as 46 other North American cities and in places as far away as Shanghai, China, and Dresden, Germany.
Passing through Ohio, they met with UAW Region 2B Director Lloyd Mahaffey who had several innovative ideas of his own to share. He talked about using methane gas burning off a nearby landfill to produce ethanol to fuel vehicles coming off the line at DaimlerChrysler’s Toledo Jeep plant.
Mahaffey also wants to use geothermal or wind energy to help power a plant in Maumee that is scheduled to shut down to make it more desirable for potential investors.
The Green Machines Road Trip ended in Lansing, Mich., where UAW Local 602 members at the new GM Delta Assembly plant build the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.
“They’re the biggest vehicles on the road that achieve 25 mpg, but they seat more people and are $20,000 to $30,000 cheaper,” said Local 602 president Doug Rademacher.
“What more can you ask for?”
For more Road Trip information, go to http://greenmachinestour.typepad.com/
For years, Anthony Crittendon hid his poetry from his family, friends and co-workers at Ford’s Livonia (Mich.) Transmission plant.
Now there’s no hiding. Crittendon’s writing is on bookshelves for all to see.
His book, “Is It Poetry or Is It Rap?” published in 2004, is being sold in Detroit-area bookstores.
“I started writing when I was 15 years old. I would write and then just put it aside,” said Crittendon, a UAW Local 182 member who retired two years ago.
Through broken relationships, family deaths and alcoholism, Crittendon wrote. Some 34 years later, he said, he began letting others read his works, including his mother, who was seeing his poems for the first time. Before he knew it, the poems, which were kept in a spiral binder, were off to the printer, and the UAW member who once sold books from the trunk of his car was appearing for book signings at Barnes & Noble.
The book’s title is deceiving, and is a hook to pull younger readers in.
“Once they get in, I believe they are able to find inspiration and something that hits home with them,” said Crittendon, 53. “If rap was not a part of the title, they would never have picked it up.”
Published by Cane River Media in Southfield, Mich., the book is 68 pages and contains 59 poems written from the 1970s to 2004.
He is especially proud of several that reflect on his experiences at the plant. In the poem, “White Collar,” Crittendon describes himself as “a union collar and a hard-working man.”
In “Baby Ray,” he reflects on the death of a younger brother, and “Nellie May” is a tribute to his mother.
In between, there are poems about love lost and found, about alcohol addiction and, finally, about leaving the past behind for a bright new beginning.
Crittendon, a member of the Detroit Writers Guild, said he has thought about going back to school to become a guidance counselor.
“Now that I am retired, I want to devote time to inspiring others,” he said. “A lot of that comes from the support and encouragement from my co-workers in the plant. After I sold the first 20 books, I no longer had to seek out buyers. They came to me.”
“That kind of acceptance makes me want to give back, especially to young people,” Crittendon added. “I really didn’t do the book for money. I did it to give back to people so they could learn from my experiences and hopefully not make the same mistakes I did.”
Jim Bains’ birthday was Jan. 26. At CC Metal and Alloys in Calvert City, Ky., the plant tradition is to bring in a cake for co-workers when it’s your birthday.
The UAW Local 523 member’s wife, Carolyn, brought in a cake. Fellow electricians placed a cup of coffee by his chair.
And then they all ate cake with his widow.
James Bains was the first UAW worker fatality of 2007. Assigned to change light bulbs at the top of an eight-story electric furnace, on Jan. 16 he fell more than 60 feet while descending on a man-lift conveyor used to travel up and down. He was alone.
The 64-year-old electrician was just 10 days from his 65th birthday, which also just happened to be his retirement date.
“He was looking forward to it and hoped to start fishing in the spring,” said Stanley Burkeen, Local 523 president.
April 28 is Workers Memorial Day. Across the nation, in Canada and Puerto Rico, UAW members and local unions will honor the fallen at rallies, tree-planting ceremonies and other events. In this issue, we pay tribute to Brother Bains and all of our UAW brothers and sisters who were injured or killed on the job in 2006, and we extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.
William “Bill” Neill, 59, UAW Local 228 millwright, Ford Motor Co., Sterling Heights, Mich. Brother Neill was struck by a falling conveyor section while he and a co-worker were unloading a conveyor system and components from a flatbed truck.
Ronald “Ronnie” Rodriguez, 48, UAW Local 38 utility operator, NSK, Ann Arbor, Mich. Brother Rodriguez was driving a forklift that backed through and fell off an unguarded vacant truck well on a shipping and receiving dock.
Michael A. Kruszka, 57, UAW Local 1264 millwright, DaimlerChrysler Sterling Stamping Plant, Sterling Heights, Mich. Brother Kruszka fell from a temporary maintenance platform in a press basement while securing a cushion to a press.
Hector Rivas, 57, UAW Local 1596 bus mechanic, First Student Inc., Boston. While seated in a school bus service vehicle, Brother Rivas was overcome by carbon monoxide coming from an unvented gasoline-powered generator mounted inside the vehicle.
James Palmatier, 59, UAW Local 659 semi-truck driver, Automotive Component Carrier Inc., Flint, Mich. While assisting another driver on the shipping and receiving dock, Brother Palmatier was pinned between the trailer and overhead door jam.
Allen Randleman, 58, UAW Local 1379 maintenance technician,
Mayflower Vehicle Systems (CVG Inc.), Norwalk, Ohio. Brother
Randleman suffered a head injury while he was troubleshooting doors jammed on a vehicle bodyin a sealer-curing oven.
Free trade has gone rampant. Why can’t something be done to alleviate this problem? Personally, I think government control could help, if some tariff could be reinstated or the number of auto imports could be diminished to balance out production.
After World War II, housing and fuel controls were in effect so people could enjoy a comfortable living. Perhaps something similar could be done now.
John Schaefer Sr.
UAW Local 869 retiree
I believe our country does indeed need a single-payer health insurance system. But I don't believe we have to sit and wait for our legislators to wake up.
The UAW has the clout with insurers to convince several of them to work together to be the single-payer for all UAW contracts. This could rank high in all new contracts.
It could even convince other unions to join in, thus leading the way, as the UAW has a history of doing.
UAW Local 6000 retireeJ
Rarely do I read the UAW promoting education or physical fitness in Solidarity magazine. And we hear quite often about the high cost of health care.
What a concept if we could reduce the burden on employers by promoting physical fitness to reduce those costs.
Jon T. Brewer
UAW Local 5285
Mt. Holly, N.C.
If GM would get rid of some expensive options, maybe more people would buy their vehicles. Things are getting too fancy for some people.
Why not suggest some basic equipment? Why do we need heated washer fluid and seats? Most people can't afford all those gadgets.
UAW Local 599 retiree
So the unions are pushing Wal-Mart to unionize. Bad move. You do realize that if Wal-Mart is unionized, they will have to raise prices. And who gets hurt: the poor.
Because of Wal-Mart’s lower prices, life is a bit easier for them.
Unions, stay out of Wal-Mart.
UAW Local 1485
Editor’s note: It’s not about low prices. It’s about Wal-Mart workers having the right to form a union.
I have a simple request: If you can take a few minutes out of your busy day, please send one (or several) cards and a short message of encouragement to our wounded troops who are hospitalized in Washington.
I’m sure it would lift their spirits and let them know they’re appreciated.
Please send your messages to: A recovering American soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20307-5001.
UAW Local 10
I am not a union member, but I consider union members to be my brothers and sisters.
Every day more Americans, especially union members, are watching their jobs evaporate as greedy capitalists export them to reap scandalous profits by exploiting virtual slave labor in foreign countries.
As high-paying industrial jobs are replaced by low-paying service jobs, we are witnessing nothing less than the feudalization of America, engineered by 21st century robber barons with the ignorant cooperation of the American consumer.
It is high time we realize we are at war – an economic war – and start fighting to win it. Buy American and buy union, as if your very life depends on it, because it really does.
Vol. 50, No. 3-4
International Union, UAW
President: Ron Gettelfinger
Secretary-treasurer: Elizabeth Bunn
Vice presidents: General Holiefield, Bob King, Cal Rapson, Jimmy Settles, Terry Thurman
Regional directors: Joseph Peters, 1; Rory Gamble, 1A; Duane Zuckschwerdt, 1C; Don Oetman, 1D; Lloyd Mahaffey, 2B; Maurice Davison, 3; Dennis Williams, 4; Jim Wells, 5; Gary Casteel, 8; Joe Ashton, 9; Bob Madore, 9A
Public Relations and Publications Department
Director: Roger Kerson
Assistant director: Christine Moroski
International representatives: Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Gwynne Marie Cobb, Jennifer John, Vince Piscopo, Sam Stark, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.
Solidarity magazine editor: Jennifer John
Clerical staff: Shelly Restivo, Susan Fisher and Pauline Mitchell, members of OPEIU Local 494.
Solidarity (USPS 0740610) is published bimonthly by International Union, UAW, 8000 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48214, (313) 926-5000, www.uaw.org.
Readers: Send address changes and old label to UAW Circulation Department, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Include old address and numeric identification number (line above the name on the mailing label). For circulation, call (313) 926-5373; for editorial, call (313) 926-5291 or