Latest Solidarity Issue

Inside This Issue...

Features

    Union Front

      Departments

        Jan / Feb  2010

        Jan / Feb 2010

        Vol. 53, No. 1 - 2

        International Union, UAW
        President: Ron Gettelfinger
        Secretary-Treasurer: Elizabeth Bunn
        Vice presidents: General Holiefield, Bob King, Cal Rapson, Jimmy Settles
        Regional directors: Joseph Peters, 1; Rory Gamble, 1A; Duane Zuckschwerdt, 1C; Don Oetman, 1D; Ken Lortz, 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: Gwynne Marie Cobb, Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Vince Piscopo, Joan Silvi and Solidarity editor Jennifer John, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.
        Clerical staff: Susan Fisher, Pauline Mitchell and Shelly Restivo, members of OPEIU Local 494.


        Foxwoods and Aztar workers vote to form their own unions

        Casino Update


        Foxwoods Casino workers in Norwich, Conn., voted to form their own union.

Photo: PEGGY SHOREY
        Foxwoods Casino workers in Norwich, Conn., voted to form their own union. Photo: PEGGY SHOREY

        A year ago Billy Shea would have stepped to the front of the line to vote down the union.

        “I was a company man,” said Shea, a dealer at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Norwich, Conn. “I believed that you went to work, the company took care of you and that was all you needed.”

        Not any more.

        Now Shea is one of about 2,600 Foxwoods dealers who overwhelmingly voted to join the UAW on Nov. 24.

        “We are just ecstatic,” he said. “I never had any idea I would be standing on this side of the fence, but now I know that it’s the only place where you can stand and be counted.”

        Jacqueline Little, a 15-year dealer at Foxwoods, said she and her co-workers “were prepared to do whatever it took using honesty and facts to show that we knew what we wanted.

        “There’s now a sense of empowerment, and even those who didn’t support the union are excited that we have one,” added Little.

        The election follows another organizing success in Evansville, Ind., where 183 dealers and full-time supervisors at Casino Aztar recently voted 106-59 to become part of the UAW.

        “The recent casino election victories in Connecticut and Indiana are part of a movement of dealers for workplace justice,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs organizing for the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.

        “When Foxwoods casino workers decided they wanted a union, nothing was going to stop them,” said Bob Madore, UAW Region 9A director. “They stood their ground and fought with dignity for dignity.”

        Turnaround at Dana

        Workers stand strong


        Union manufacturing jobs are supposed to be an endangered species in the United States. Employers routinely move work away from union facilities and fiercely resist organizing efforts by nonunion workers.

        For 20 years that was the strategy followed by the Dana Corp., a key supplier to U.S. auto plants.

        In the 1980s workers at 25 Dana plants had UAW contracts. By the beginning of 2007 that number was down to nine – with two slated for closure.

        A year later, there’s a turnaround at Dana.

        Since last July workers at 11 Dana facilities in seven U.S. states and Canada – from St. Clair, Mich., to Milwaukee, Wis., and Dry Ridge, Ky., to Barrie, Ontario – have organized their own local unions. The new bargaining units total nearly 2,500 new UAW Dana members.

        There are now 18 Dana plants with UAW contracts, twice as many as a year ago.

        How did the turnaround happen?

        In 2006 the UAW Independents, Parts and Suppliers/Competitive Shops (IPS/CS) Department, headed by UAW Vice President Bob King, and nine UAW Dana locals formed a coalition with United Steelworker (USW) local unions, also representing Dana workers, to confront challenges at the company. A strategic plan was developed to take advantage of this opportunity to boost UAW and USW bargaining strength and to expand the rights of the unorganized.

        In March 2006 Dana Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company asked a federal judge to cancel the company’s labor contracts, and a trial was under way. Union members made it clear that such drastic action could result in a labor dispute.

        The high-stakes bargaining led to a successful outcome.

        Working together, UAW and USW members hammered out the UAW Dana National Framework Agreement, ratified by Dana workers July 24, 2007.

        The four-year national agreement covers wages and health care for active workers, and pensions and health care for retirees. Dana also will contribute more than $750 million to a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust fund to pay health care benefits for current and future UAW and USW Dana retirees.

        In an important and innovative feature of the settlement agreement, the two unions recruited and encouraged Centerbridge Partners LP of New York to invest $500 million and sponsor a reorganization plan to allow Dana to emerge from bankruptcy.

        In addition, to expand the rights of unorganized Dana workers, the union insisted on fair procedures, including card-check recognition, a process where employers agree to recognize a union once a majority of workers indicate their preference by signing union authorization cards.

        In July, with the framework agreement in place, it was time to move forward with the neutrality and card-check agreement. The entire UAW teamed up to assist Dana workers, including the union’s National Organizing Department, directed by UAW Vice President Terry Thurman, the IPS/CS Department and UAW regions.

        When workers at the 11 newly-organized Dana facilities achieved majority status they were not just forming their UAW local unions but also deciding whether to accept the national agreement. All 18 local contracts at UAW-represented Dana facilities will expire June 1, 2011, as will contracts at the Steelworkers locals.

        With a common expiration date, Dana workers from different locals will be united during the negotiations process and will have more power at the bargaining table.

        “Our members at Dana had a clear agenda in negotiations: protect jobs and retirees and correct the mismanagement that led the company into bankruptcy. We also insisted that from now on, Dana must respect workers’ right to organize,” said King. “Dana agreed to our conditions, and they have kept their commitments.”

        “I can’t think of a better illustration of why we need the Employee Free Choice Act,” said Thurman, referring to federal legislation that would require all employers to recognize unions on the basis of a majority card check.

        “It’s the same company, and the same workers who tried to organize for years without success. But with card check and neutrality , all of a sudden, it’s a different story,” Thurman added.

        An active UAW organizing drive continues at Dana’s Danville, Ky., facility.

        Workers' Words

        Rick Jordan, UAW Local 372 retiree, Hollow Rock, Tenn.


        <p>UAW Local 372 retiree Rick Jordan, shown target shooting in April at his son’s home in Onstead, Mich</p>

        UAW Local 372 retiree Rick Jordan, shown target shooting in April at his son’s home in Onstead, Mich

        ‘The UAW’

         

        The UAW fights for social and economic justice for all,
        Active and retired people united and standing tall.
        We are the ripples that build a current
        Which can sweep down a mighty wall.
        We fight for the rights of everyone.
        We stand together and get it done.

        Our retirees paved the way
        For the benefits that working people have today.
        We fight to change things that are wrong,
        And to keep the voice of working and retired
        people strong.
        Retirees show solidarity by carrying signs,
        In Labor Day parades and on the picket lines.

        The battles weren’t easy but victory was sweet.
        The UAW would not accept defeat.
        Ford workers won a pension in 1949.
        The time paid off on the picket line.
        Chrysler workers walked for 104 days in the
        bitter cold,
        And won a funded pension plan in 1950 we are told.

        Autoworkers build cars so people can drive,
        And negotiate for health care to keep families alive.
        Auto companies want to take UAW gains,
        After outsourcing jobs and creating strains.

        Unions are vital to the American way.
        The United Auto Workers is here to stay.
        Unions are under attack by anti-union forces.
        We continue the battle for human resources.
        Join the action and help us win.
        The UAW is America’s friend.

        One on one with...

        Region 9A Director Bob Madore


        Bob Madore
        Bob Madore

        What is your region’s strategy for organizing new members?

        Our organizing focus is on public and private sector worksites, including sister locations of currently organized facilities and competitors to currently organized worksites. We just added 2,600 casino workers, for example, to the UAW’s existing 6,000 in Detroit and Atlantic City when workers at Foxwoods in Connecticut voted by 60 percent for the UAW.

        Organizing also involves strengthening our current membership in negotiating the best contracts possible. This is particularly true in Puerto Rico, where our government employees are struggling with a bankrupt Commonwealth.

        Every Region 9A member is an organizer. Our servicing representatives help workers organize in the geographic areas of their assignments. We also train rank-and-file members to further develop our regional skill base.

        Why has Region 9A placed such a high priority on organizing new members?

        Growing our membership makes our union more powerful, and that helps all of us. It means we carry more strength at the bargaining table and in the political arena.

        It’s been exciting to see how 9A members from all different industries have risen to this challenge. Locals are organizing, identifying workers interested in organizing and sending members for organizing training.

        What are the challenges and advantages of being such a diverse organization?

        Diversity is about a lot more than race. In Region 9A we are made up of older workers and new hires; Latino, African-American, Asian and white workers; immigrants and citizens; independent parts suppliers and dealership workers; LGBT and straight; nonreligious, Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic; machine operators and skilled trades, women and men. If we let our differences divide us, we will never be a united labor movement.

        Celebrating our diversity is vital to our success. It’s not about being politically correct. Simply, we are not as powerful as we could be unless everyone is involved. Every member brings something unique to the labor movement.

        Labor’s motto is, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” If we think “all” only means “people like me,” that hurts our chances for success.

        If we conduct a bargaining survey and only ask day shift workers, we are missing part of the truth. If people talk about CAFE standards with only autoworkers, we are missing part of the truth. If we talk to members who speak one language but not another, we are missing part of the truth.

        The challenges labor faces today are far too great not to be the best we can be. All our members deserve it.

        What is Region 9A doing to prepare for the 2008 elections?

        Political action can’t be something that happens every two to four years. It’s a constant component of our work. When some of us were arrested in Connecticut for sitting in for state universal health care, that was political action, too. Through direct action you can educate the public and push politicians to do the right thing.

        We train leaders and members about issues affecting working families all year round. If you wait until two months before an election to talk to folks, you are too late. You have to talk about keeping manufacturing jobs in America, the right to organize and universal health care all year round.

        Safer work

        Solvent use slows at aircraft plant


        “WE HAD NO IDEA”: The more workers learned about the effects of MEK, the less they wanted to go near the hazardous substance, says Schweizer Aircraft assembler Al Johnson.
        “WE HAD NO IDEA”: The more workers learned about the effects of MEK, the less they wanted to go near the hazardous substance, says Schweizer Aircraft assembler Al Johnson.

        According to the American Chemistry Council, solvents are good because they remove residual chemicals off famous paintings after young boys on school field trips deposit chewing gum on them.

        That’s the upside. The downside to some solvents is they aren’t as kind to workers’ nervous systems, internal organs and skin as they are to artwork.

        Bob Huckle, John Read and Al Johnson, who work at Schweizer Aircraft in Elmira, N.Y., can give you the downside of the solvent story.

        These highly skilled members of UAW Local 1752 and their 422 co-workers build small piston and turbine helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, and will begin soon to outfit Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters.

        “Fifteen years ago, when I got involved in health and safety people were over the top with their use of MEK,” said Huckle, a 35-year veteran loftsman and the local’s president and health and safety chair. “One guy used it to wash his hair with at the end of the work day to get the paint out.”

        The solvent Huckle is referring to, MEK, or methyl ethyl ketone, is widely used throughout industry. At Schweizer, it’s used to clean sealants and epoxies off aluminum aircraft bodies, especially the areas where workers weld, rivet or paint.

        “I would use five gallons a day of that stuff. I was literally bathing in it,” said Johnson, an assembler with 35 years at Schweizer. “Every time I would put in a rivet, I had to clean the area around it with MEK. I couldn’t wear gloves and rivet at the same time because everything was so sticky and messy.”

        “Back when we were younger, we had no idea what this stuff was doing to our bodies,” he said.

        At the time, nobody at Schweizer associated their chronic splitting headaches, asthma, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, and general malaise and fatigue with the solvent they were “bathing in” every day at work.

        Some started to connect the dots, though.

        “I went to the hospital for a CAT scan and an X-ray about something not related to work. That’s when the doctor told me I had scarring of the tissue in my lungs,” recalled Read, a loftsman with 19 years of seniority.

        In 1998, Huckle became more aware of the dangers of MEK while serving as a UAW Health and Safety Local Union Discussion Leader. Reducing its usage or eliminating it altogether became a crusade for him.

        “One of our members had an especially severe exposure problem. She suffered so much nerve damage from working with MEK that it contributed to her becoming more sensitive to every chemical around her, even outside the plant. She would have problems breathing if she was just around other women’s perfumes,” Huckle said.

        This worker left work in 1995 and now is on permanent disability.

        Huckle worked for more than a decade to convince management to use less MEK, gathering information about the hazards of the chemical and possible alternatives. His hard work paid off when Schweizer became a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft in 2004.

        After learning that the Elmira plant ranked high in terms of the amount of chemicals it spewed into the air by a state occupational health and safety agency, Schweizer’s new management agreed to work with Local 1752 to get their numbers down.

        Because MEK was so effective as a solvent and the available substitutes required more “elbow-grease” to do the same job, the previous management had been convinced that MEK was good for productivity.

        But that’s not what Read observed. “You could just see whenever somebody started working with MEK, there would be a parade of people leaving the area because of the effects it was having on them,” he said.

        Even with current management’s cooperation, Huckle still has a problem convincing fellow workers of the risks involved with MEK.

        “I guess it’s human nature, but some people are stashing away MEK because they prefer cleaning with it. We still use some of it in the plant, but it doesn’t come in big containers anymore. People ended up using way too much of it that way,” he said.

        “Now we get MEK in pre-moistened wipes. That cuts down on the amount being inhaled. We went with Skysol as a substitute because it has a lower vapor pressure. That means people won’t be inhaling it as much,” he said.

        Maybe that’ll leave more of the old solvent for artwork.

        From the readers


        Thanks to bargaining teams

        Many thanks to the UAW national bargaining team on reaching the agreement with General Motors.

        I am a surviving spouse and remember the many years of waiting for an agreement to be reached while raising our family, and even more years of waiting alone.

        Again, as in the many years past, the union has been there for all of us.

        Theresa Moore
        Danville, Ill.

        I would just like to take a moment to thank the UAW for the work and success with the new contracts you just negotiated.
        And thanks again for supporting retiree issues.

        Ed Bruce
        UAW Local 626 retiree
        Bristol, Conn.

        I am the widow of a retired Chrysler employee. I want to thank you so much for thinking of the retirees in your recent negotiations. I can’t tell you how much your thoughtfulness is appreciated.

        It’s not always easy to make it on your own, and this money makes a lot of difference.

        Sally Davis
        Ravenna, Ohio

        UAW stands for respect

        I am amazed at the venomous attack directed at the UAW for exercising its right to strike against General Motors during recent contract negotiations.

        Where does this hate originate? Why do Americans gleefully rejoice in denigrating other working Americans? Surely there is more to this resentment than base envy.

        The true problem stems from a fundamental disconnect between belief and reality in this country. The belief, according to the well-entrenched capitalist mantra, is that anyone regardless of origin can pull themselves up the social ladder simply by working diligently.

        Somehow, union members violate those sacred American laws of self-sufficiency and independence. People see them as lazy, overpaid leeches on society.

        The belief that hard work always pays off keeps Americans complacent with their lot and enraged that union members supposedly harbor a sense of entitlement.

        The UAW, as one of the last bastions for decent wages in the blue-collar world, stands as a stark reminder of what all workers deserve yet seldom receive: respect.

        James Bartek
        Georgetown, Ky
        .

        (Editor’s note: Bartek is a history professor at the University of Kentucky. His father, James Bartek Sr., is a UAW Local 1112 member in Lordstown, Ohio.)

        Salute to ‘The Old Soldier’

        The Solidarity, November-December 2007 Workers’ Words poem, “The Old Soldier,” was excellent. It's sad that Veterans Day has become an almost ignored holiday.

        Remember: America is the home of the free because of the brave.

        Jack Tiggleman
        UAW Local 1485
        Zeeland, Mich.

        Irving Bluestone: ‘Passionate fighter’ for all workers

        In Memoriam


        Irving Bluestone believed unionism was the “best antidote to fascism.”
        Irving Bluestone believed unionism was the “best antidote to fascism.”

        Irving Bluestone dreamed of being a teacher.

        After graduating from City College of New York in 1937, he headed for Switzerland to do a year of postgraduate work at the University of Bern, hoping to begin his career as an educator.

        More than 40 years later at age 64, he finally realized his dream, joining the faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit in 1980 as a professor of labor studies.

        But along the way, Bluestone organized, educated and helped improve the lives of generations of workers through the labor movement.

        He joined the UAW, moved up to become vice president of the union’s General Motors Department and became nationally known as a fighter for workers’ rights.

        Bluestone died of heart failure on Nov. 17, 2007, at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 90.

        “Irving Bluestone will be deeply missed by his brothers and sisters in the labor movement as well as by civil rights leaders, health care activists, members of the academic community and progressives everywhere. His contributions to the cause of social justice will be remembered for many years to come,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said. “He was a passionate fighter for working men and women.”

        Bluestone’s 1938 trip to Europe was a turning point in his life. He was in Vienna when Hitler’s troops seized the country. As a Jewish American, he saw firsthand the dangers of the Nazi regime, fled Austria and returned home to the United States.

        At that point, he changed his career plans. He decided to become a unionist because it was the “best antidote to fascism,” his daughter Maura Bluestone said.

        Bluestone was hired at GM’s Hyatt Ball Bearing Division plant in Harrison, N.J., as a grinder operator and repairman in 1942 and quickly became a union activist with UAW Local 511. He served as editor of the local union newspaper and chairman of the education and political action committees, before getting elected as committeeman and then as shop chair.

        In 1945 Bluestone was appointed to the staff of UAW Region 9A, servicing local unions from Philadelphia to Massachusetts. He was named to the union’s GM Department staff in 1947 where he coordinated the umpire section and performed general field service work until 1955.

        In 1955 he was named as administrative assistant to then-Vice President and GM Department Director Leonard Woodcock. From 1955-1961, Bluestone was involved in negotiations and contract administration with GM and aerospace companies.

        Bluestone became UAW President Walter Reuther’s administrative assistant in 1961 until he was named director of the GM Department in 1970, replacing Woodcock, who became UAW president after Reuther’s death in a plane crash.

        Bluestone was elected vice president at the 1972 UAW Constitutional Convention and served in that position until his retirement in 1980.

        Besides participating in every GM contract negotiations from 1948 until 1980, Bluestone was heavily involved in community, state and national activities, including memberships in the National Committee for Full Employment, Work in America Institute, NAACP, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Quality of Work Life Council, Health Care Institute and National Trade Union Council for Human Rights.

        “He was very much concerned about the union as a social movement,” said Alan Reuther, director of the UAW Legislative, Governmental and International Affairs Department in Washington and a nephew of Walter Reuther.

        Bluestone is survived by daughters Maura and Karen Bluestone, son Barry and four grandchildren. His wife, Zelda, died in 2001.

        A memorial service was held in Boston, and another is scheduled for Detroit.

        From the president

        Working together works


        This issue of Solidarity highlights the success of workers at Dana Corp. plants around the country who have chosen to form their own unions as part of the UAW.

        Their story is further proof that when workers are given a choice through a fair process, free of employer intimidation, they will choose a union almost every time.

        The recent successful organizing drives at several casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Norwich, Conn., and Casino Aztar in Evansville, Ind., also show what workers can accomplish when we join together.

        Working together to improve our lives is a basic part of American democracy. In the workplace, the right to collective action is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees the right to organize and requires employers to negotiate with a union chosen by a majority of workers.

        Unfortunately, the intent of the NLRA has been weakened by years of fierce employer resistance. More recently, Bush appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, charged with enforcing the act, have used every opportunity to weaken the rights of workers while strengthening the hand of employers.

        At present, a large majority of American workers — more than 80 percent — work in nonunion workplaces. That means that tens of millions of workers don’t know how much power they can have when they act together. Nor is there any easy way for them to be informed about health and safety laws, workers’ compensation and other laws and regulations that offer protections to working people.

        To close this information gap, our union is not only helping workers organize. We’re also reaching out to our communities and our neighbors, to make sure as many people as possible know what our union has accomplished — and what all workers can accomplish by joining together.

        In December, as featured on the back page of this issue, UAW members began appearing in a unique new interactive advertising campaign. On broadcast and cable TV and the Internet, UAW members are talking about how our union contributes to our communities, and about key issues such as workplace safety and the connection between toxic toys and fair trade standards.

        Using the latest Web-based communication tools, this campaign is designed to be a two-way channel.

        You can join in, help inform your friends and neighbors — and have a little fun — by hitting the Web site www.IamtheUAW.org and submitting a story about your local union, CAP council or retiree chapter and the impact you’ve had in your community and your workplace. The stories selected will highlight the diversity and activity of our union.

        Whether we’re leafleting a plant, canvassing a precinct or posting on a blog, UAW members are true to our union values: We support each other. We solve problems. And we know that working together works.

        Ron Gettelfinger

        Inside This Issue...

        Features

          Union Front

            Departments

              Jan / Feb  2008

              Jan / Feb 2008

              Vol. 51, No. 1-2

              Solidarity

              January-February 2008
              Vol. 51, No. 1-2

              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: Gwynne Marie Cobb, Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Vince Piscopo, Joan Silvi, Sam Stark, and Solidarity editor Jennifer John, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.
              Clerical staff: Susan Fisher, Pauline Mitchell and Shelly Restivo, members of OPEIU Local 494.