UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
© Copyright 2014 UAW. All Rights Reserved.
Richard Wiecorek went to work for General Motors’ Fisher 1 plant in Flint, Mich., in 1935 when he was 18. A year later he found himself making history as a GM sit-downer, sleeping on car seat cushions, eating bean soup and waiting for the company to blink as he and fellow workers stood strong and fought for a union. Sit-down strikes spread to GM plants throughout the United States and Canada, as children and families picketed in support outside. Wiecorek, who retired in 1986 after 51 years on the job, turned 92 on Dec. 11. Still living in Flint, he has a daughter, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a great-great grandson.
“I can remember what happened all those years ago clear as a bell. … I quit school in seventh grade and grew up on a farm, so I was no stranger to hard work. We didn’t get an allowance back then so I hired in at GM as a ‘trucker’ handling car bodies.”
“I was just a young guy then, taking in what was happening. Unlike GM’s nearby Chevrolet plant, we didn’t have much violence. We ate pretty well – bowls of bean soup that they kept in big milk cans. It was during the Great Depression, you know, and that bean soup tasted very good. We slept on car seat cushions, but I got to go home for a few days when I got real sick with a cold.”
“We sang songs like ‘Turkey in the Straw’ to pass the time. That’s just the way it was.”
“Before the union came in there were no seniority rights, no rights at all really. We gained a lot with that first contract, including higher wages and vacations.”
“One more thing: My strike buddy ended up becoming my brother-in-law on June 28, 1939, when I married his sister, Anna, who was my wife of 50 years.”
“Those few of us who are still here will never forget and never apologize. … If we had to do it again, I for one … would do it again and with even more intensity.”
March 6, 2007, interview
For Dave Moore, the legendary labor icon who died Oct. 26 in Detroit at 97, it was always about justice, about making life better for all workers. Period.
Moore dreamed big.
“When I wake up the day after the election and Obama wins, then I will know that this country has begun to take a turn for the better,” he said a few days before Election Day 2008, adding: “And this is what Obama needs to do: have the people behind him. I believe the key to his campaign lies with the working people.”
A founding member of UAW Local 600 and one of the first African Americans to hold union office, Moore was born April 6, 1912, the sixth of nine children. He and his family left South Carolina and moved to Columbus, Ohio, when he was 13. They moved to Detroit in 1928.
Moore hired in at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., in the 1930s. Like most African-American autoworkers at the time, Moore worked in the foundry, inhaling soot throughout his shift and blowing black residue out of his lungs by day’s end.
It wasn’t long before he joined other activists, including former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young and the Rev. Charles Hill, pushing for African Americans to be on equal terms with white union members.
At the historic Battle of the Overpass in May 1937, Moore saw then-UAW President Walter Reuther and others get beaten by Ford’s thugs. He and other African Americans had been left out of organizing because many of their white colleagues didn’t believe they should get equal pay for equal work. Black workers who had come to Detroit for the $5-a-day offer, felt loyal to powerful owner Henry Ford. But those same workers also wanted better pay and safer working conditions.
Moore became active with the Detroit-area’s Unemployed Councils, which mobilized people to fight hunger and home evictions. “They grew out of desperation: the hunger, the poverty, the suffering, the death, the untold misery that working people were going through, especially black people,” Moore said in a 2007 interview.
On March 7, 1932, Moore helped lead what became known as the Ford Hunger March. Thousands of unemployed workers and their supporters marched to the company’s River Rouge plant for jobs and food, demanding housing relief from the winter’s cold, access to Ford’s hospital for free health care and a shorter workweek to share available jobs.
Tragically, five union members were shot and killed in the march, which was met with tear gas and police. No charges were ever filed.
The workers’ unity overcame racial divisions Ford tried to provoke, and eventually opened the door to the founding of the UAW.
And their deaths had a profound effect on Moore’s life. “Five young people in the bloom of life, in their teens and early 20s, just beginning to see life, were lying dead on Miller Road,” he recalled. “I was a changed man because of what I saw that day. It changed me in my thinking.”
Moore continued to rise in the ranks of Local 600 and was later elected to leadership positions. Dismissed from his elected position in 1951 during McCarthyism’s peak, he was reinstated in 1963 and eventually appointed to the UAW International staff and assigned to the union’s National Ford Department.
Next time you move and use U-Haul boxes to pack up your possessions, thank a UAW Local 2326 member.
The amalgamated New Jersey local represents nearly 2,000 members, comprising more than 30 units with a diverse mix of members who produce corrugated boxes, cosmetics and masking tape, and work in dental insurance offices and at auto parts assemblers.
And they’re determined to keep on growing.
Local 2326 President Patrick Ashton says his local breeds energized union activists, and the membership enjoys getting involved, well, by the busload.
“When somebody asks me what makes me most proud of my local, I like to tell them about the Atlantic City casino worker rallies we’ve participated in. We load five to 10 buses every time with no problem,” said Ashton, adding:
“Even though the AC UAW workers are not a part of our local, we all have one thing in common: We believe in this union and fighting for the good of all workers.”
Jose Sameron, a union business agent for the local’s Cosmetic Essence Inc. units, assists members in negotiating their contracts.
“We try to organize all workers,” said Sameron of the units located in Edison and Holmdale, N.J. “The UAW creates good programs to better prepare its members for furthering their education and becoming more diversified workers.”
More than 350 Local 2326 members work in the cosmetics industry, with a majority of them in production.
Workers at Rock-Tenn, a box corrugating facility, work three shifts making boxes and packaging materials for everyday household items.
“The UAW has branched out into different fields and workforces, and has a good track record negotiating new contracts,” said Eddie Nievez, a union business agent for the Dayton, N.J.-based unit.
“Education, training and having someone who knows the legal dos and don’ts is reassuring because it keeps our members protected. Everybody knows the UAW isn’t going to allow their members to be intimidated or treated unfairly,” he added.
A twice-elected bargaining representative, Nievez is bilingual and respects the UAW’s cultural diversity in membership.
“The UAW has grown culturally,” he said. “As long as the UAW is here, I don’t fear mistreatment.”
Jose Morales knows firsthand the advantages of having a union to lean on. A UAW member since 1988, he’s worked in unrelated industries, including four years at Revlon, which closed in 1992.
With Local 2326’s help for its displaced workers, Morales landed a job at R-Tape, an application and masking tape manufacturer in South Plainfield, N.J.
“Being a union member gives you many advantages. I feel like I have a family behind me,” said Morales. “When I have a problem or an issue, we all work together to solve the problem. You’re not alone.”
“I know a lot of Spanish-only speaking people have no voice and no one to speak for them,” he added. “I just wanted to give back a helping hand, a fighting chance.”
For Ashton, the local’s diversified membership is its strength. By joining together, he says, union members can gain at the bargaining table and during ongoing legislative battles such as health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act.
“When you have the people, you have the power. You have to remember that in negotiations and in everything we do,” said Ashton.
It’s not surprising that 7-year-old Catharine Aboulhouda has the energy of a firecracker.
She was, after all, born on the Fourth of July.
But she was due around Halloween and arrived 16 weeks early, weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces.
Catharine’s eyes were fused shut, and she fought for every breath in her 113 days in intensive care, struggling with a heart defect, bleeding in her brain and jaundice.
Today the Allentown, Pa., child has no lasting consequences of her premature birth, thanks in part to medical advances developed and funded by the March of Dimes.
She loves singing, dancing, reading and swimming with her big brother, Michael.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Ford Motor Co. president and CEO Alan Mulally are the 2010 March for Babies national co-chairs.
“I was honored … to be asked to serve in this role,” said Gettelfinger.
“This year’s campaign will reach nationwide to all men and women of the UAW. We’re focused on bringing people together to make a real difference.”
Catharine’s mother, Susan Aboulhouda, agreed.
“Perhaps one reason Catharine came into the world early,” she said, “is to let people know that even the tiniest babies can make a difference.”
And so does every dime.
Diane Doubrava has been a union worker in Michigan for 25 years. She was at Michigan State University for five years before going to the state of Michigan 20 years ago. She held positions in the state Corrections, Natural Resources and Environmental Quality departments before becoming secretary in 2008 in the LIEN field services section of the Michigan State Police Department. She is chair of the women’s committee, member of the Region 1C Women’s Council, a steward, delegate to the TOP and CAP councils, a health and safety representative, recording secretary of the bylaws and education committees and member of the conservation and recreation committees.
“It was last March and it was the first one since 2001. We wanted to get flags out of closets, to get patriotism back in people’s hearts and to get unionism through everybody’s heads – what it means and why we need it.”
“Yes, the members loved it. They thanked us for telling them what our union is about. The majority had never heard ‘Solidarity Forever.’ I was on the podium and I told them, ‘Hold hands and raise ’em high!’ We had lots of new members and they were thrilled because they never knew they could do things like go to a conference. They used their own leave time to come.”
“For one thing we wouldn’t be where we are jobwise. Life as we know it would cease to exist. We would have no protection. Some people don’t know what right-to-work state means, and we want everybody to be well-versed in right to work because we are the ones they will be asking.”
“A friend called and asked if I wanted to be chief steward and I laughed! It came out of nowhere. I was a fence sitter, so I got off the fence. I see the whole vision of the union with us all working together. Unionism is in my heart and soul. I wish it for other people.”
When Lynn Chess went to work at the New United Motor Manufac-
turing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in 1991, she thought she would finally have lasting security for herself and her family.
And for a long time she did. Chess got her two children off to a good start in life, even putting her daughter through college.
Now the 53-year-old grandmother may have to start over again.
Why? Not because she didn’t work hard every day – along with her 4,500 dedicated co-workers and members of UAW Local 2244 – to build top-quality cars and trucks at the award-winning plant. Toyota has decided to move production from the Fremont, Calif., facility to plants in Texas, Canada and Japan.
“It’s really weird. I always thought this is where I was going to retire from,” she said.
A safety training coordinator at the NUMMI plant, Chess is looking for another job but worries her age and lack of college degree may work against her.
“With the skills I learned going through union and company training, I know I can do the job,” she said of the few openings she’s seen. “But I don’t have the degree and that part worries me – that I won’t be able to make the money I make right now.”
NUMMI began in 1984 as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. The plant makes the Toyota Tacoma pickup and Toyota Corolla sedan. It also produced the Pontiac Vibe. GM’s stake in the company was transferred to the Motor Liquidation Corp. following its decision to discontinue its Pontiac division as part of a corporate restructuring.
“The NUMMI venture has been a success story from day one,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Transnationals Department. “Whether you’re talking about efficiency, quality, labor relations or sales, this plant and its UAW workforce has performed exceedingly well. There’s no reason to close it and move production to nonunion facilities. It’s truly a slap in the face to the workers, to Californians and to all Americans.”
California has been good to Toyota, accounting for the largest share of the company’s North American sales.
“Not only have Californians been exceptionally loyal customers for Toyota, they have also supported the company with their tax dollars that have financed training and provided tax abatements and the federal cash-for-clunkers program,” said UAW Region 5 Director Jim Wells. “The state deserves better from the company it has supported since Toyota first began selling cars here in the mid-1970s.”
California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and most of the state’s congressional delegation agree. They wrote letters to the head of Toyota North America urging him to keep the plant open, and short of that, to ensure the company negotiates with the UAW a fair closing package – one that is comparable with what Toyota and GM have offered to workers at their other facilities during recent layoffs, and that includes health care continuation, severance, retiree health care and retraining assistance.
Up to 50,000 supplier and support jobs in California will be lost if Toyota closes the NUMMI facility.
Chess and 30 co-workers, handed out leaflets and collected petition signatures at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December, along with canvassing Toyota dealerships and other locations.
“We just want to give it our best effort to get Toyota to rethink closing the plant, because it’s going to affect thousands of jobs in California,” said Chess. “Anything’s possible; you just never know.”
One was a past Michigan governor and the other a former adviser to General Motors.
Trustees of the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) for UAW auto company retirees – formally known as the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust – have chosen Stephen J. Girsky and James J. Blanchard to serve on the GM and Chrysler boards of directors, respectively, with the consent of the UAW.
Starting Jan. 1 the Trust assumed responsibility for paying the health-care bills of GM and Chrysler Holding LLC’s retired UAW-represented workers.
Both men will get an independent vote on their respective boards.
With 20 years of automotive experience, Girsky is president of S.J. Girsky and Co., a New York advisory firm. He served as a managing director and senior analyst of Morgan Stanley’s auto research team. Girsky has been an adviser to UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and the International Executive Board. He also previously worked as an adviser to GM.
As a Michigan congressman, Blanchard was a key figure in getting Congress to approve federal loan guarantees for Chrysler Corp. in 1980. After serving as Michigan’s governor from 1983 to 1990, Blanchard was U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Clinton administration. Now a lawyer in Washington, Blanchard has wide experience in the auto industry, international trade and related issues.
Joe Biden calls it “investing in innovation.”
“While some wanted to write off America’s auto industry, we said no. We knew that we needed to do something different, in Delaware and all across the nation,” said the U.S. vice president of plans to breathe new life into the shuttered General Motors assembly plant in Wilmington.
“We understood a new chapter had to be written – a new chapter in which we strengthen American manufacturing by investing in innovation,” added Biden, former Delaware senator.
With the help of UAW lobbying efforts for advanced vehicle manufacturing and federal dollars, the plant will become a production facility for Fisker Automotive, a new American car company that plans to produce 100,000 electric hybrid vehicles per year by 2014.
“The rebirth of this idled plant is a positive and exciting step forward for this industry and a boost for the economy and for skilled automotive workers. We hope to see this happening more and more throughout the country,” said UAW Presi-
dent Ron Gettelfinger. He and Region 8 Director Gary Casteel joined Biden and Fisker executives for the Oct. 27 announcement.
Fisker’s investment in the First State is expected to create thousands of assembly and parts supplier jobs. GM’s former Wilmington assembly plant was selected for its primary global production facility based on its size, production capacity, access to shipping ports and rail lines, and skilled workforce.
Based in southern California, Fisker received a $528.7 million federal loan to help pay for a production plant and refurbishing costs to give new life to the 52-year-old facility. Also, the company says it will help support engineering integration in Michigan and California as it works with U.S. suppliers to complete the first vehicle, design tools and equipment for mass manufacturing, and develop manufacturing processes for the Wilmington plant.
Tom “Pig” Newton, a member of UAW Local 98, doesn’t have that alleged “gold-plated” or “Cadillac” health care plan that opponents of reform love to criticize.
In fact, Newton is among the 47 million Americans who don’t have health care at all. He’s just one of our fellow citizens who lives in constant pain from his medical condition and in constant fear that he’s going to be financially ruined.
The former crank shaft machine operator at Navistar in Indianapolis was laid off in May 2008. The plant closed this summer. He has diabetes that has caused holes in his feet, severe arthritis and psoriasis. He can barely afford his medicine.
But the arthritis medicine, which he discovered also alleviates his psoriasis, costs an unaffordable $1,100 a month for eight shots.
“I’m just going without, and it gets worse every day,” Newton said.
That’s why he and other concerned UAW members in Indiana were on the phones Nov. 5 at UAW Local 226 as part of the National Week of Action on health care. They made their struggles known to Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who like his entire party, is fighting reform of America’s highly inefficient health care system. And they urged their Democratic senator, Evan Bayh, who generally supports health care reform, to back specific elements of reform so it truly helps people like Tom Newton.
“I just want them to know it’s my only ray of hope,” Newton said.
With health care reform passed by five key committees in the House and Senate, the United States is moving closer than ever to quality affordable health care for all.
The House version of the bill, which contains significant health care reform provisions, was passed Nov. 7. But the real test has been in the Senate, where some conservative Democrats have not made up their minds about how far to go with reform.
At press time, the Senate was expected to continue debate over the holidays.
UAW members across the country are joining the effort to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive bill that is fair to working families.
UAW Region 3, for example, had six phone lines working at Local 226 and urged 20,000 UAW members across the Indianapolis area to ramp up the pressure on lawmakers by calling the U.S. Capitol and asking for the senators from their state.
And that’s why Newton and other UAW members had phones jammed up against their ears. Some had lost insurance or had their health care benefits severely reduced when the auto industry went into a tailspin. Many UAW members haven’t seen a wage increase because money for those has been eaten up by dramatic increases in the cost of health care for employers.
“When we go to the bargaining table, the biggest issue is the cost of health care because it’s the most expensive,” said Maurice Davison, director of Region 3, which includes Indiana and Kentucky. “It’s getting to the point where employers can’t afford to pay for health care for their employees.”
And in Indianapolis, and elsewhere throughout our union, there can be no doubt that health care reform is an issue we all care deeply about. Just ask Tom Newton.
The current recession, instigated by Wall Street bankers and titans of the financial services industry, has victimized Main Street and shaken the very foundation of the American economy.
The staggering loss of 7.3 million jobs since the beginning of the recession in December 2007 translates into a national unemployment rate over 10 percent - the highest in 26 years. Including discouraged workers who have given up trying to find employment and those who have been forced to accept part-time jobs or fewer hours, the 17 percent real unemployment rate is staggering.
Tremendous job loss has resulted in a record number of home foreclosures and individual bankruptcies. In 2008 alone, approximately one in 54 homeowners received a foreclosure notice, and more than 850,000 families lost their homes. In addition, there were nearly 700,000 personal bankruptcies in just the first six months of 2009.
It’s hard to imagine the suffering that would have occurred had the Obama administration ignored the recession’s impact on the domestic automobile industry, as some had advocated.
As noted in this financial report, the compound impact of the recession, job loss and accompanying membership loss challenged UAW finances in 2008. While 2009 has brought modest relief, we continue to make difficult but necessary decisions to ensure that we maintain a solid financial structure without compromising our commitment to the membership.
As a UAW member, your monthly dues investment of two hours’ pay not only earns improved pay and working conditions, it secures a foundation for the union to continue advocating on behalf of working families.
As we look forward to the future, we will continue to advocate and mobilize for national health care reform and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. After decades of work, both are within reach. And with passage, our labor movement will be poised to grow in record numbers and to secure justice for the millions of American workers who want a union but have been prevented from being able to secure one.
This financial report provides information about the union’s financial position. Among the highlights:
• The union’s total fund balance at the end of 2008 was $1,168,709,896.89.
•Total income in 2008 was $204 million, while total expenses were $264 million. The difference, $60 million of disbursements in excess of receipts, was due primarily to a significant decline in investment earnings as a result of the near collapse of financial markets, a large increase in the number of members eligible for strike benefits, and lower per capita taxes due to declining membership.
•Approximately 50 percent of all dues collected since June of 2006 went to local unions, 5 percent went to the Strike Assistance Fund, and 45 percent went to the International Union’s General Fund.
•Overall active and retired membership stood at 1,049,388.
•During 2008, our Union won 86 recognition elections, accounting for 8,987 potential new members.
•Approximately 14,880 UAW members went on strike or were locked out in 2008, and they received over $43.3 million from the union’s Strike Assistance Fund, which pays for weekly benefits, medical assistance, and other expenditures.
A link to view/download the summary from UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bun is povided on the left. The full report is available for examination at all local unions.