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Every day, UAW members excel in the workplace, and every year our members at Chrysler Corp. facilities across the country also showcase enormous creativity that flows beyond the shop floor.
Those UAW members are the artists whose works demonstrate talents ranging from pastel drawings and acrylic paintings to digital photography and metal sculpture.
The 2007-2008 Artists at Work competition marks the seventh juried art exhibition sponsored by the UAW-Chrysler Training Center. It’s the only employee art competition of its kind that is jointly sponsored by a major corporation and a labor union.
This year’s exhibit is the largest ever, attracting a record 1,869 entries. Judges from the professional arts community selected 80 artists and 166 pieces of art. They handed out first-, second- and third-place awards and 15 honorable mentions.
Among the participants are 34 UAW members from 20 Chrysler locations throughout the United States, including Christina Haylett of UAW Local 212 in Sterling Heights, Mich., and Terence Malosh from UAW Local 12 in Toledo, Ohio.
Haylett captured first place with her pastel drawing, titled “Courtney Sleeping,” and Malosh placed third for his “Eye of the Chicken” photograph.
“There are so many ways that UAW members express themselves creatively, and every year it is exciting to see the fruits of that labor,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department.
This year’s exhibition also includes an Invited Artists category for top winners from the 2005-2006 show who were not eligible to compete for a top award this year.
The judges for 2007-2008 were: Rebecca Tufts, a 2004 Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate who works at a suburban Detroit art gallery; Kegham Tazian, a professor of painting at Oakland (Mich.) Community College; Carole Harris, a fiber artist and founder of one of Michigan’s top African-American, female-owned interior design firms, and Lisa Konikow, coordinator of the fine arts show at the annual Arts, Beats and Eats in Pontiac, Mich.
First Place: Christina Haylet
Second Place: Terence Malosh
Joe Groller has been fighting for his union brothers and sisters all his life, it seems. He grew up in Pennsylvania in a union family, and was a member of three unions before the UAW: the Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers; Steelworkers, and Teamsters.
In his 17 years as a UAW member Groller’s had his hand in organizing, including the plant where he now works in the department that stores and distributes drugs and pharmaceuticals.
“I’ve been at AmeriCold since 1983. We organized the plant in 1990. There were lots of company takeaways, including part of our medical benefits. The pension plan was poor, and there were policy changes on working conditions. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, ” he said.
When he saw the need to organize he approached the UAW. “It seemed like a better fit for our situation than other unions. I liked the setup of the UAW. I knew the structure from the Mack plant,” Groller said.
The organizing drive took about seven months, start to finish. The company ran the usual anti-union campaign with captive audience meetings, but the workers voted in the UAW.
Then two years ago during negotiations, “we knew we needed engineering standards language in our contract. The company wanted no part of it, so discussions on this one thing alone lasted four months.
“In the end the language saved us,” Groller said.
The language and a tenacious shop chair.
“People have more confidence in the union now,” said Richan. “They saw how hard Joe worked for us. He never stopped.”
The song says it’s funny how time slips away, but nobody in UAW Local 677 was laughing. When the company imposed new production standards on workers at AmeriCold in Fogelsville, Pa., in summer 2006, it seemed that nobody could work fast enough.
Then the suspensions started.
Joe Groller, the unit shop chair, was incredulous. “I was watching some of the best people in the plant being disciplined, so I knew it wasn’t possible to meet these numbers. But I was not able to verify it,” he said.
“The best guys we had were being disciplined. That alone made me know something was wrong.”
Groller was right, and assessments by UAW time study experts verified his suspicions, but meanwhile there were 11 suspensions and two firings.
Groller was told by company officials in July 2006 that new production standards would be implemented the next week.
“Suddenly we were training and trying to get people up to speed,” he said.
The stress on workers was palpable.
“People were scared of losing their jobs. We were working so fast trying to make the numbers that it got unsafe,” said Yaser Richan, a 10-year AmeriCold worker who was among those suspended.
Groller acknowledged there was a marked increase in accidents in September and October. “We had ankle injuries, back injuries. We had to do things at such a fast pace we were hitting each other on forklifts,” he said.
Through it all Groller and Local 677 President Carl Breininger (who has since retired) were talking to the company, trying to make officials see it was impossible to make the numbers, but AmeriCold stood by the standards recommended by Tom Zosel Associates (TZA), based in Long Grove, Ill. It bills itself as “the industry’s leading provider of solutions in distribution, including warehousing and transportation.”
AmeriCold is the largest provider of temperature-controlled food distribution services in the United States. Among its 100 warehouses is the one in Fogelsville, just outside Allentown, where Local 677 members store and distribute frozen foods and pharmaceutical products for major corporations, and ice for FEMA.
TZA came up with times for how long it should take a worker to drive a forklift from point A to point B. “But the standards didn’t take into account things like if you needed to go to the second level of the rack instead of the first. TZA didn’t leave time for that,” Groller said.
Local 677 in southeast Pennsylvania is an amalgamated local union with 2,300 members. Union members work at Mack Trucks Inc. in Harrisburg and in Allentown (where Mack’s international headquarters is right across the street from the union hall) and for the township of Lower Saucon.
And 250 of them work at AmeriCold, where they were furiously trying to resolve the situation.
The union kept talking to the company and tried other things as well.
Region 9 Director Joe Ashton went to New York to meet with board members of Yucaipa Companies, one of the biggest investors in AmeriCold. The Los Angeles-based holding company invests heavily in the supermarket industry and has former President Bill Clinton as one of its advisers.
The union also brought in OSHA that November and learned, among other things, that TZA used average numbers on forklift speeds and some of the lifts being used in Fogelsville simply couldn’t go that fast.
“That was the first time some of the numbers were adjusted,” Groller said. “Then the International came in.”
Vice President Bob King, who directs the UAW’s Competitive Shop/IPS Department, arranged for the union to conduct its own time study.
Trailing behind workers with a stopwatch in different sections of the warehouse for three days, a union-trained efficiency expert determined the numbers set by TZA were 30 percent too high.
TZA’s figures generally were based on products being at ground level, so when they were four high and two deep – four levels high and two racks deep – it obviously took longer. At the end of each day the company prints out a list of times. Its numbers matched those collected by the union. The difference was AmeriCold’s “expected” times, which had no relationship to the actual figures.
UAW time study experts went back two months later for another round of detailed observation. Through it all there were more suspensions “and the company kept hammering at us,” Groller said.
The first firing was in September “and when they chose me, it shocked everybody because I’d been here a long time,” said Bobby Oliver, a 21-year AmeriCold worker.
“From the beginning I felt I was wrongfully fired,” he said. “Some people had numbers below mine and they weren’t fired; they (the company) stopped at suspension. And we knew all the numbers because they posted sheets of everyone’s times.”
It’s not that he wanted someone else to be discharged instead; he just couldn’t make sense of it. Nobody else could either.
“It’s like they were handpicking people to suspend,” said Richan, 35. “They always changed things. One guy was suspended for three days. When he came back they fired him. They suspended somebody for not making their numbers, but somebody else might be lower and they wouldn’t be disciplined.”
There’s a five-step procedure for discipline: oral warning, first written warning, second written warning, three-day suspension and discharge.
Richan was written up because the company said he was taking too long for a job. “I ran out of rack space and needed to make room.
“For instance, you might need to make room for 16 pallets and a rack might have only five pallets, so you move those five somewhere else to make room for the 16. While you’re doing that you aren’t scanning, so they think you aren’t doing anything.”
Groller went with Richan to meet with the company. “They called the foreman in and he told them what I was doing so they threw it out.”
Then the next week he was written up again for the same thing and was called in for another meeting. “I told Joe I just wanted it over with. I was sick of dealing with it. They were going to suspend me no matter what.”
The company suspended him for three days in November.
Bobby Oliver’s co-workers rib him about his “six-month vacation,” but it’s all in jest because it was anything but.
He was fired Sept. 6, two days after Labor Day.
“It was stressful,” he says in a low voice.
“My wife got hurt in a hit-and-run accident right after I got fired so she was out of work too.”
Oliver, 62, is a musician in his off time, playing guitar and bass and doing a little singing with R&B groups in the area. He did a lot of that after September. “The music kept me going.”
It also brought in a little money but not enough. So Bobby and Kim Oliver were thinking about filing for bankruptcy.
He knew his firing was wrong, but as time went on “I had doubts about reinstatement the further away it got.”
Oliver was gone but not forgotten.
The union’s efforts on his behalf – and that of another worker discharged several months after Oliver and the 11 suspended workers – continued.
A meeting was convened in March, for TZA engineers, AmeriCold officials and UAW representatives. They all went to the floor to do observations. Their numbers matched those of the union.
At that meeting, “the company’s regional vice president said he’d do the right thing,” according to Groller. Another person at the meeting quoted a TZA officer saying “it blows me away,” referring to how off-base the standards were.
Oliver was reinstated in March, one month before his arbitration hearing. He and the other disciplined workers received back pay. (The other fired worker has since left AmeriCold.)
The trauma didn’t drop away quickly. “I still felt like a target when I got back,” said Oliver, “but I’m more comfortable now.”
Groller said the company has backed off on standards, though it is trying out a new program at one of its North Carolina facilities which could be brought to Fogelsville.
“Standards are designed to improve productivity and make workers accountable,” said Region 9 Director Ashton. “We are not against the concept, we just want it to be fair.”
Groller echoed that sentiment and added, “Hopefully next time it will start out differently, with everyone on board.”
If you have a computer, please sign up for UAWire at www.uaw.org for a quick link to your representatives in Washington. It gives you a voice on important issues such as the upcoming energy legislation.
The debate on corporate average fuel economy standards – known as CAFE – will most likely take center stage when Congress returns after Labor Day. Unfortunately, there are some in Congress who are pushing much higher CAFE standards as the be-all and end-all answer to limiting greenhouse emissions.
But, it’s much more complicated than that.
For example, during the congressional debate this summer, one proposal eliminated the longstanding requirement that auto manufacturers in the United States meet fuel efficiency standards both for their fleet of cars made in this country and for their fleet of cars built overseas.
The UAW was successful in getting this so-called “two-fleet rule” included in the original CAFE program in order to keep small car production in the United States. The two-fleet rule encourages manufacturers to make small, fuel-efficient cars in the United States to counterbalance the lower fuel efficiency of larger vehicles.
Without it, automakers are almost sure to move small car production overseas, most likely to low-wage countries, eliminating tens of thousands of American jobs.
It begs the question: How does driving away small car production in the United States save our environment?
The UAW position is very simple and straightforward: Protecting and preserving the environment should be the shared responsibility of all industries – not just the auto industry.
Maintaining the two-fleet rule is essential to keep small car production in the United States and to save the tens of thousands of jobs it creates.
In addition, maintaining the CAFE distinction between passenger cars and light trucks is necessary to keep from unfairly burdening those automakers (Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.) who manufacture more trucks. Lumping together cars and trucks for purposes of reaching an average miles-per-gallon CAFE standard could result in job loss at facilities that produce pickups, SUVs and minivans.
Please contact your senators and representatives and let them know that the UAW supports increased CAFE standards that are economically feasible and protect both good jobs and the environment.
The year was 1969,
When I hired on the assembly line.
Just out of the service
With a wife and a kid,
Did I need this job?
You bet I did!
The job was the toughest I’d ever had
But the union was there
And we sure were glad
Great benefits and good pay, too
I was happy to pay my dues.
Many years have come and gone
We all walked picket when things were wrong
The UAW was always there
Fixed the problems
Cleared the air.
I sometimes wonder how things
might have been
If there were no union to help us win
All the struggles, all the strife
The UAW improved our life.
There’s one last thing I’d like to say
To those who labor for low pay
This poem should make you realize
To improve your life, unionize!
Face it, if you’re a woman golfer, you know what it’s like to tee off from “the ladies tees” that often appear to be an after-thought when it comes to course design.
If you’ve played Black Lake Golf Club, you already know it’s a woman-friendly course. And now it’s official: Golf for Women magazine has named it one of the Top 50 Courses for Women.
Factors included golf course design, impeccable conditions and a welcoming atmosphere. Black Lake Golf Club ranked No. 44.
In addition, courses must have at least one set of
tees under 5,300 yards and at least two under 6,000. A minimum of two tees must be rated for women. The course should have few forced carries from the forward tees, be in top condition and present a women-friendly environment.
Here are some women-friendly facts about Black Lake Golf Club:
• Tees (yards): 5,058, 5,831 and 6,401
• Golf professionals: Director of Golf Pam Phipps and Marketing Consultant LPGA Touring Pro Debbie Massey
• Programs: Women-only golf schools are held during the season; also women in golf are celebrated during National Women’s Golf Week when the course hosts a fashion show, a golf tournament and free clinics.
Pam Phipps is director of golf at Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Mich.
For additional information, visit www.blacklakegolf.com. For tee times, fall rates and general golf information, call (989) 733-GOLF (4653). For lodging, call (866) UAW-GOLF.
Bill Piekutowski says if needed, he is ready for just about any emergency.
The UAW Local 163 retiree has a green safety vest, a green hard hat and a bag loaded with necessities such as a blanket, flashlight, bandages, goggles and more. He can wrap wounds, set bones and comfort victims.
“I might not be able to do what a doctor or a trained medical professional would do in an emergency, said Piekutowski, “but with the training I’ve had, I’ll sure be able to help out.”
Piekutowski is one of more than 200 UAW retirees who have completed Community Emergency Response Team Training (CERT) run in Michigan’s Wayne County. He and his wife, Rita, took the class together with about 10 other retirees from the local.
The program, administered by the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security, teaches basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. Participants become certified in community emergency response.
Classroom instruction and mock disaster training prepares them to take an active role in assisting in case of emergencies including flood, fire, hurricane and terrorism.
‘I might not be able to do what a doctor or a trained medical professional would do in an emergency, but with the training I’ve had, I’ll sure be able to help out.’
More than 800 UAW retirees have signed up to take the classes. At some locals, spouses and other family members also get involved.
Piekutowski said when he heard about CERT through his local union, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.
“I never would have known about this if it wasn’t for the UAW,” said Piekutowski, the local’s retiree chairman. “This turned out to be so much more than I expected it to be.”
“I know some things that I didn’t know before,” said Mike Lang of UAW Local 182. “I know not to just run into a building. I know to look around first and to take someone with me,” said Lang, chairman of his local’s retiree chapter.
Lang, who teamed up in CERT training with his wife, Edna, says they were among 22 trainees from Local 182.
“In our group, (age) 13 was the youngest and the oldest was 86,” Lang said. Another bonus, he said was “that I got to see retirees that I had not seen for years.”
Lang, who retired from Ford Motor Co. in 1997, said, “I never even thought about anything like this. It just goes to show you that no matter what age you are, you can always do something to help somebody.”
Nestled southwest of Gettysburg and about three miles above the Mason-Dixon Line, Waynesboro, Pa., is a quiet town with a rich industrial history.
George Frick became part of that history when he started Frick Mfg. in 1853. Back then the company manufactured steam engines, boilers and saw mills. Thirty years later the first Frick ammonia refrigeration unit was installed in Baltimore.
The family-owned business was sold to York International in 1988, and Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) bought it from York in 2005.
More than 150 years after Frick started the company, the JCI facility in south-central Pennsylvania is an industry leader, shipping and installing refrigeration units worldwide.
And the 300 members of UAW Local 1296 are part of that longevity.
You may not be aware of their handiwork: Cooling systems built for the English Chunnel, the tunnel from England to France. Icemakers that drop ice down African diamond mine shafts to cool off workers. Units that cool down oily pellets used to make those ubiquitous plastic patio chairs.
Operating off blueprints and schematics, highly skilled welders build industrial refrigeration units for pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies, to cold storage containers, natural gas production and breweries. These vessels, as they’re known, vary in length and can weigh up to 20 tons.
“I worked on one recently that was 12 feet wide and 23 feet long and weighed 30,000 pounds,” said Roy Shaffer, an assembler-welder for 15 years.
The fabricators weld a wide range of metals, including carbon steel to stainless steel pipe and soldering copper pipe to carbon pipe. Then they lay out, cut and fit the parts to meet product specifications.
“It’s a challenging job,” said Ioan “John” Grigore, a 17-year welder who immigrated to the United States from Romania in 1979. “When you work on one project at a time, it’s a good feeling to finish it and move on to the next one.”
They also pressure-test units for leaks and any necessary repairs, evacuate moisture from inside the units and perform tests to make sure the pump is functional. Once they clean the piping of any contaminants, it’s ready for the paint booth.
With an overhead crane, the journeyman rigs, weighs and moves the unit to the wash and paint booth. When units are ready for shipment, they rig and load them onto flat-bed trucks.
“It’s essential that the journeymen understand the operation of the valves, fittings and controls of the unit,” said Charlie Plank, a veteran 20-year skilled tradesman who builds them and is also Local 1296 president.
Plank said with the recent retirement of two veteran tradesmen — each with more than 40 years of service — it’s important to continue the cycle of learning.
“These are skills that get passed down, and we learn from the senior guys as we come in. They teach us, and we build on that,” he said.
Fortunately, business is booming, and over the next two years Plank said more skilled tradesmen are expected to be hired.
“It takes all of us to make the company a success and keep work here in the United States,” added Plank.
When it comes to health and safety, workers in nonunion manufacturing facilities are covered by federal regulations and their company’s policies.
But sometimes, there are no federal standards, or the standards are outdated, not enforced or resistant to meaningful change due to the lobbying efforts of business groups.
Diesel particulates are an example. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have a standard for an acceptable level of airborne diesel exhaust particulates. Some industries rely on an ineffective standard set by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Diesel particulates can cause cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a chronic bronchitis that leads to emphysema. In the short term, it causes workers severe irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory system.
“It’s not a killer on the spot,” said Mike Longval, the shop chair for Local 1596, which represents bus mechanics at First Student in Boston. “It’s a long-term killer.”
Before they joined the UAW, he and other bus mechanics had little or no protection from diesel particulates. Irritation, headaches and nausea were common when the workers finished their shift. With aid from the union’s Health and Safety Department, they now have a ventilation system that works.
UAW members don’t rely solely on the federal government to safeguard their health in the workplace. Diesel particulates need to be strictly monitored and controlled, and workers with a union contract have the ability to negotiate standards that reduce workplace hazards.
That’s what happened when UAW bargainers won significant improvements in diesel particulate levels at International Truck and Engine in 2004.
The UAW used that requirement as the basis of its contract language on diesel particulates reached at Freightliner in Cleveland, N.C., in May of this year. That contract calls for tracking the “best practice” within the heavy truck industry.
The best practice in the industry? That would be International Truck and Engine. It is expected that the result of the Freightliner contract will lead to a tenfold reduction in airborne diesel particulates.
Another value of having a union is that studies can be made at companies where there is a contract, like the UAW did with Mack Truck in 2004. In that agreement, workers negotiated language that calls on the company to track diesel particulates and seek better ways to ventilate the workplace.
Language in that contract calls for company-funded research on diesel particulates and investigate better ways to vent diesel exhaust.
Longval said a UAW contract is the best way to ensure workers receive adequate protection from diesel particulates, whether it’s through added ventilation equipment, stricter standards, or both.
“What’s the outcome 25 years from now?” he said. “We didn’t start getting answers until we joined the UAW.”
He noted that even with “cleaner” low-sulfur diesel fuel, workers must still fight for strict standards and ventilation because no studies have been done on the effects of the low-sulfur fuel.
If past experience is any indicator, you can bet UAW members will be pushing for a study of this, too.
The latest stories about the tainted toothpaste and other foods made me decide never to purchase any products made in China. Not only does the Chinese government exploit its labor force by paying people low wages and making them work under unsafe conditions, now its food product safety is in question.
The pet food that killed some animals and the counterfeit drugs that have entered our pharmacy system are dangers we face as we continue to import these cheap products.
China is a government that is lacking in ethics, and we should avoid buying these exports until they play by fair international trade rules.
Frank R. Mikler
UAW Local 774 retiree
The Workers’ Words feature in Solidarity (July-August) by Dona Jean Gillespie was so touching and meaningful. Every family should realize the importance of what she conveyed.
I just had a family reunion, and we all shared memories discussing our time together. I’m sending a copy of Dona’s story to my family as a reminder of our family values.
UAW Local 889 retiree
Tumbling Shoals, Ark.
Much has been said and written about former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson entering the race for president.
As a native Tennessean, please let me inject this important thought: If you like Cowboy George and Buckshot Cheney, you’ll absolutely love Fred D. Thompson.
The professional actor and paid Washington lobbyist is lining up the same team of campaign players that helped put our present great Iraq strategists in power nearly seven years ago.
Even a hillbilly like me knows Thompson's labor voting record while in the U.S. Senate (13 percent) isn't in the best interests of working men and women. He needs to be “nipped in the bud,” as Barney Fife from Mayberry used to say, as soon as possible.
UAW Local 737
A few years ago there were radio and TV ads talking up the UAW. I think we need them back to combat all the anti-union talk in the media.
Too many people think union workers are overpaid and lazy.
UAW Local 2280 retiree
It is with great pride that I write this. At our membership meeting, we voted to pass an Executive Board recommendation to purchase a brick honoring Walter Reuther's 100th birthday and to help maintain his memorial.
There are few people of the 20th century whose resume would allow them to share the stage with President Reuther's contributions to working people.
My local celebrated its 50th anniversary, and our charter is signed by Brother Reuther. From our local members, we just wanted to say, “We did it for Walter.”
UAW Local 624
East Syracuse, N.Y.
Whether you agree or disagree with Michael Moore’s bent on health care with his latest movie, “Sicko,” it should be obvious to all that the profit in health care comes out of the care, not the profit.
Improved health should be our goal, not improved profits.
Robert P. Thibodeau
UAW Local 2500
America is imploding from the inside due to jobs being outsourced and the infrastructure collapsing before our very eyes.
Without workers contributing to local, state and government taxes and Social Security, the very fabric of our society is collapsing. Revenue that would normally be generated for the roads, schools and bridges is being outsourced, and we are operating on the cheap.
Big business and shareholders continue to make money on foreign investments, while sacrificing the middle class here at home. Corporate executives continue to rob and pillage companies with large bonuses that are not performance based but entitlement based — all the while leading the companies to virtual ruin.
We cannot tax our way out of this quagmire. It is time to hold corporate America responsible for their actions.
This used to be a government for the people and by the people not for the corporations and by the corporations.
Elections are in 2008. Get involved, read up on the candidates and let’s take our country back.
UAW Local 1248
St. Clair, Mich.
In the July-August issue of Solidarity, we said Daphne Rice was from UAW Local 848. She is from Local 898. Also, congratulations to Sister Rice, who won the national competition for Ms. Galaxy in July and is the first African-American winner.