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Douglas Andrew Fraser was one of three children and often said his family was so poor that his father, who worked at a brewery, would sometimes fuel the family stove with stolen whiskey.
Doug was born Dec. 18, 1916, in a working-class neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland.
In 1922 Doug’s father, who was named Samuel Douglas but preferred to be called Doug, left Scotland for America. Young Doug was 6 when he, his mother Sarah, younger brother Ken and older sister Sally sailed to New York City aboard the SS Cameronia.
The family left Ellis Island on April 23, 1923, and traveled by train to their new home on Detroit’s west side. Soon after, Doug’s father took a job at a local Studebaker plant.
To celebrate, Doug’s mother dressed the children up in their best clothes for a family portrait.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Doug’s family experienced some hard times when his father, an electrician, was out of work for extensive periods.
Doug would say later that the poverty and social disorder he witnessed early influenced his fight for social and economic justice.
“The greatest lesson in my life, the most valuable experience, was going through the Depression,” Doug told Monthly Detroit magazine in 1979.
“The lesson of the Depression is how an economic system can be so cruel that people are robbed of their rights and their dignity because they have to beg for jobs and grovel for jobs, do favors and bribe for jobs. … In our neighborhood so many people were on welfare. No one had a job. No unemployment compensation. People were really in desperate economic straits.”
His father, who was active in unions and frequently took young Doug to political meetings, also influenced him.
Doug was a tall, skinny, dark-haired kid who loved baseball. He attended Holy Redeemer in southwest Detroit, then Clippert Elementary, Munger Intermediate and Chadsey High School.
Before his senior year, Doug, who had suffered rheumatic fever, dropped out. He was 18 and just shy of graduation.
He would later say he regretted that decision.
Former UAW President Owen Bieber said that while Doug Fraser brought the membership through many difficult battles, he will be remembered for his guidance during the Chrysler bailout and later critical negotiations at Ford and General Motors.
“That (the Chrysler bailout) was a terribly, terribly, terribly tough time for Doug. He handled it well. I don’t know if anyone else would have been successful in an endeavor like that,” Bieber recalled.
Bieber was president of the UAW and a Chrysler board member when Iacocca retired. Most of the Chrysler board heaped praise on him for “saving Chrysler.”
“Unfortunately, Lee Iacocca got all the praise for saving Chrysler. Lee liked praise – no question,” he said. “But every now and then I had to chime in and say, ‘Don’t forget, it was the workers who saved Chrysler – the workers and Doug Fraser’s leadership.
“I owe a great deal of debt to Doug for his help when I needed it,” Bieber added. “The one thing I hope people remember is that while he was a great leader of our union, he was a special individual.”
It is an honor for the UAW to pay special tribute to Doug Fraser and his life in this issue of Solidarity.
We recognize that any attempt to capture the life of such a vibrant individual in a few pages is a grave injustice; however, it is through this forum that we are provided with the opportunity to express our love and appreciation for the sixth president of our union.
Doug’s life epitomized living the American dream. It was because of his background and ethics that he was able to serve the membership of our union in a manner that was above reproach.
Doug never forgot the “sacred trust” that was bestowed on him to serve the best interests of our members and their families. Under Doug’s tenure there was never even a hint of an appearance of a conflict of interest.
It was because of his leadership that the UAW is a stronger and better union, and our membership, active and retired, were well served during his tenure.
In the UAW, among those in organized labor and on the circuit he traveled, all anyone had to say was “Doug,” and that was enough for everyone to know who you were talking about.
You could not help but have a warm feeling at the mention of Doug’s name and a special pride in the fact that he was a perfect representative of the UAW.
His tenure as president of our union ended at the 27th UAW Constitutional Convention in Dallas on May 19, 1983, when he turned the gavel over to President Owen Bieber.
But Doug never walked away from being a representative of the UAW. He went on to live a full life in his role as labor educator, and he was extremely proud to occupy an office at the Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.
In our own minds, each of us has personal reflections and memories of Doug.
He always seemed to be there for our union regardless of the circumstances, and he always reminded us that it was never about any one individual but always about the membership.
In his final speech to the convention as president, Doug said the following:
"This union has been my school and my college and my education. This union has opened the door to worlds that I never dreamed of. I met with presidents and with prime ministers and other leaders of the world, and engaged in important and stimulating meetings."
"It wasn’t me who went through the door; it was you who went through that door. I went through there, because you let me be a leader of this great institution."
We all feel a great void with the death of Doug. Our union family lost a wonderful friend, mentor and a great trade unionist.
This special issue of Solidarity is dedicated to former UAW President Douglas A. Fraser.
Doug, as he was known to most everyone, died Feb. 23, 2008, of complications from a long battle with emphysema.
His influence on the labor movement in general and the UAW in particular could fill volumes. In this issue we pay tribute to Doug by looking back at his early years as a young boy coming to America, his rise through the ranks to union leadership, his years as UAW president and his retirement – if you could call it that – when he taught and lectured at Wayne State and other universities, passing on his wealth of knowledge to future generations.
Doug, we'll miss your easy-going manner and trademark grin. But most of all we'll just miss you.
The UAW extends its deepest sympathy to Doug’s wife, Winifred, and their family.
May - June 2008
Vol. 51, No. 5-6
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.
Parcus Sutherland, a machine repairman from UAW Local 51, watches intently as instructor Mike Crew explains industrial rigging concepts at the Chrysler Technical Training Center (TTC) in Warren, Mich.
Sutherland is in the spacious rigging lab with a small group of other UAW members, eager to hear and understand the concepts Crew is trying to get across. He knows that moving heavy equipment is dangerous work and people have been killed doing it.
"I'm 'old school,' so I’m learning a safer way," the bearded eight-year veteran skilled tradesman said. "Before, we just hooked 'em and moved 'em."
When he returns to the Chrysler LLC's Mack II plant, he knows his weeklong training will give him more confidence to safely and efficiently move a machine.
That's the payoff Chrysler and the UAW are looking for when they send skilled trades, production and salaried bargaining unit members to the TTC.
The UAW bargaining team at Chrysler last year made sure that training would not go by the wayside. After all, training affects health and safety as well as quality, job security and profitability.
The process for applying for additional training is relatively straightforward: See your local technical training representative, fill out a form and submit it. The local leadership submits it to the plant leadership, they discuss it and if the training is needed, it's approved.
So why aren't more UAW members taking advantage of the many varied and critical training programs the center offers?
The answer may simply be that many eligible workers are not aware of 235,000-square-foot facility. Or it may be that some supervisors are reluctant to allow a valued worker off the job because their department is short-staffed due to attrition in the last couple of years.
If that's the case, it’s short-sighted and your local leadership will fight for your right to be trained, said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, director of the union’s Chrysler Department.
"The only way to profitability is through manufacturing quality products," Holiefield said. "The type of training provided jointly by the UAW and Chrysler is how we make sure our members have the necessary skills to safely operate our plants and make world-class vehicles."
For skilled-trades workers, continuous training is also critical because it reduces the company's ability to claim that our workers don't have the necessary skills for a particular project and that it must be outsourced.
The TTC's mission statement is this: "To provide world-class training that will meet or exceed our customer requirements using the latest, state-of-the-art technologies in a cost-effective manner."
Simply put, it tries to meet the training needs of Chrysler plants, including five-week apprenticeship training in 11 trades, skilled-trades refresher training in numerous areas, and various production worker and salaried bargaining unit training courses.
For a list of programs, go online to the training center's Web page at http://www.uaw-chrysler.com/training/ttc.cfm. A course catalog and registration form is available on the right-hand side of the page.
Once a member's class is approved and scheduled, workers find themselves at the TTC for about a week. They eat on-site and are paid a per diem. Housing is at a nearby unionized hotel. There are advantages to having the training at the TTC as opposed to their home plant.
For Sutherland and Ron Huneau, a toolmaker also from Local 51 in the rigging class, they can concentrate on continuous learning. In the plant, they could get called out of a training class for jobs that have to be done immediately.
"You don't have any distractions here," Huneau said.
Crew, the instructor, said many workers have used this equipment before, but have not been properly trained on it. It's a job he relishes because he can keep our members from being hurt on the job.
"Safety is the most important part of my job," Crew added. "I want them to be able to estimate the load and to know the rated capacity of the equipment. It's important that you know how to do things safely."
Whether it is a high-level hazardous materials leak or an incident involving weapons of mass destruction in Puerto Rico, trained UAW members know what to do.
About 25 members of UAW Local 2337 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who work at the Junta de Calidad Ambiental (the Environmental Quality Board) in February completed the UAW's first Hazardous Materials Technician Training there.
At work these UAW members perform different functions. Some conduct environmental sampling of air and water. Others work in laboratories analyzing samples, and some are part of an emergency response team that would respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction or biological disaster in Puerto Rico.
Participants — including those with previous hazardous materials training — learned how to deal with high-level hazardous leaks and how to handle unknown chemicals. They also received instruction on the use of specialized monitoring and personal protection equipment necessary for safe and effective response to various hazardous situations.
Local union discussion leaders (LUDLs) led the 40 hours of instruction mostly in English and translated in Spanish when needed.
"The members were so happy to have the training here," said Yolanda Martinez, Local 2337 president. "They liked the fact that if they needed it, there was someone here who could translate in Spanish."
The class learned to navigate through the Spanish-language Emergency Response Guide book, brushed up on chemical terms and reviewed plans.
"Despite the difference in language between instructors and the group, we achieved effective communication," said participant Luis J. Ruiz, an agronomist, who studies the science of farm management and the production of field crops.
"The design of the course achieves the integration of theory and practice, which is very important for a greater understanding," Ruiz added. "I think that it was a rewarding course that will help me deal with emergencies."
The group learned how to properly put on and take off full-face air purifying respirators and how to don protective suits to prevent chemical exposure. They tackled the challenge of tightening bolts and repairing pipes while wearing heavy gloves.
"I greatly appreciated the opportunity to use and have contact with all the equipment needed for the different levels of emergencies in which we can be exposed," said Britzadia Morales, an engineer in training.
"The field practice was conducted as a team in an organized format," said Ines Rodríguez, an environmental permit officer. "I have taken this type of training before, and this was the best I have attended," she said.
In addition to the technical training, the group learned to work together as a team.
"Working in teams and swapping members each day was a great idea (because) it gave us the opportunity to learn not only from the teachers, but also from our colleagues," said Carilu Aquino, an engineer in training. "The one thing I learned the most in the course was to be safe first and foremost."
Putting is the smallest and simplest of all the strokes taken in golf. But I'm afraid most golfers don't practice this part of the game enough.
Here are some tips to help make you a better putter:
Studies have shown there's a correlation between wrist motion and poor putting. Simply put, the more you use your wrists, the worse you'll putt. Try this: Cock your wrists slightly downward and tuck the putter grip into the lifeline of your hand. This helps create firmness between your forearms and the putter. It also helps produce the connection in a perfect pendulum putting stroke. To help create this feel, take a pencil and slip it up the lifeline of your hand and extend it past your wrist. When you cock your wrist downward, get the pencil parallel to your forearms, the motion of your hand and the pencil becomes restricted. This is exactly what you want to feel.
Hitting the "sweet spot" on your putter consistently will improve your putting. A good way to practice this is to put two rubber bands on the left and right side of the putter's sweet spot. If you feel a click, then you have hit the sweet spot. If you feel a "thud," then you missed it.
Final putting tip: If you think you’re a great putter, you are. And if you think you're a bad putter, you are. Putting is such a mental part of the game, and you must think you’re the best putter IN THE WORLD!
Phipps is director of golf at Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Mich. For additional information, visit blacklakegolf.com. For golf, call 989-733-GOLF; for lodging, call 866-UAW-GOLF.
UAW members at Allison Transmission overwhelmingly ratified a new contract May 2. The agreement is the first for UAW members with Allison since GM sold the company in August 2007. The contract covers 2,200 members of UAW Local 83 in Indianapolis. The new pact gives workers a $5,000 signing bonus, 4 percent lump-sum payments in the first, third and fourth years, and a 5-percent increase in the second year of the contract. It also protects members from wage reductions, cuts in benefits or loss of seniority rights for current workers.
UAW workers at Volvo Trucks overwhelmingly approved a new contract March 15 for hourly and salaried workers at the New River Valley, Va., plant, with 93 percent in favor of ratification. The new three-year pact covers 2,600 members of UAW Local 2069. The agreement also includes a $2,000 lump-sum payout now and 2 percent wage increases in the second and third years of the agreement. In addition, workers won increased vision and hearing benefits, and protected recall rights for UAW members for the life of the agreement.
Also, workers achieved strong and decisive language on cadmium, ergonomics and hazardous fluids. The new contract provides improved sampling protocols for all chemicals and improved ventilation to protect UAW members from welding fume and chemicals that lead to asthma. UAW Local 2069 members, forced out on strike Feb.1, returned to work March 24.
"The members here really stuck together through it all," said Lester Hancock, Local 2069 president. "We all went back to work, put the strike behind us and we're building great trucks."
UAW workers at Chrysler Financial Services Americas LLC voted 98 percent in favor of a new contract for salaried workers in two financial units. The agreement, ratified Feb. 23, covers 341 salaried workers, including accountants, accounting clerks and customer service representatives. It is the first contract with Chrysler Financial Services as a separate company from Chrysler LLC.
The contract includes a $3,000 settlement bonus and a Christmas bonus of up to $600 for eligible workers, who also will receive annual bonuses of 3 percent in 2008 and 4 percent in 2009 and 2010. Pension and health care benefits packages are identical to those in the 2007 UAW Chrysler LLC National Agreement.
Terry Thurman has traded in his work boots for retirement.
The UAW vice president, who has served this union and its members for the last three decades, retired June 30.
Thurman began his UAW career working at the General Motors' Powertrain facility in Bedford, Ind., in 1978, and joined UAW Local 440.
The former UAW Region 3 director was elected vice president at the union's 34th Constitutional Convention in 2006 and assigned to direct the National Organizing Department.
"Terry did an outstanding job as regional director. In 2006 Terry rose to the challenge of being a vice president of our great union. He has put his heart and soul into growing our union and gave great leadership to the organizing department," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.
"All of us on the UAW International Executive Board have enjoyed working with Terry, and we will miss his input, his energy and his dedication to helping others in every way possible. We wish him and his family the very best during his retirement years," Gettelfinger added.
Before going to work for GM, Thurman received a bachelor's degree in political science from Indiana University in 1973.
Eager to make a difference in his local union, Thurman immediately got involved. With just one year's seniority, Thurman was elected alternate committeeman and later elected Local 440 president in 1984.
"I got active because I wanted to articulate UAW positions on a number of issues — at work and in the community. Everything we do, everything we negotiate, is tied to the political process. Politics impacts us in ways members do not even realize, from state grants to train members on new technology to asking representatives to oppose the WTO," said Thurman, 57. "We need to support politicians who support us. Organized labor created America's middle class."
Thurman was appointed to the UAW staff in August 1986 and elected director of Region 3 in 1998. As regional director, Thurman steered some of the union's first groundbreaking card-check and neutrality agreements and earned a reputation for never backing away from tough fights.
When automotive parts supplier Delco Remy America plant refused to pay 350 workers the Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) as provided by the contract in 2003, Thurman led the fight that resulted in the company agreeing in to pay the workers $5.25 million. He also led the nearly eight-year struggle for a first contract for UAW members at Duffy Tool & Stamping in Muncie, Ind.
In addition, Thurman's dedication and commitment to building community is shown through his work in the creation of the Director's Charitable Fund, a nonprofit organization that has helped raise more than $350,000 for the children's charity, Make-A-Wish.
He also started the UAW Region 3 Annual Diversity Dinner and Awards program, which recognizes community members through the James Smith Diversity Award for their commitment to equality, tolerance and human dignity.
Recognized for his community efforts, Thurman has received the Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana's highest honor; Kentucky Colonel; the Indiana Trial Lawyers' Hoosier Freedom Award, and awards from the NAACP, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Though Thurman leaves the UAW leadership, he won't shed his solidarity to his UAW family or his dreams of a better tomorrow for today's workers.
"Time doesn't really alter the goals or the challenges of the labor movement. From the very first craft guilds to the unions of today, workers have always banded together to improve their stations in life and the lives of others," he said, adding:
"As the saying goes, 'Time marches on.' But I can assure you, so do we."