UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
© Copyright 2013 UAW. All Rights Reserved.
We may thank almighty God for the gift of labor,
Yours, mine, his, hers, friend, foe, neighbor.
For work is the glue that binds us all together,
To crown success upon all that we endeavor.
With labor stationed at the throttle,
We need no genie in a bottle.
Relying on our own rough hands,
We scorn the wealth of other lands.
By honest toil we soon acquire,
Perhaps, not all our hearts desire,
Still, mother is able to cook three meals a day,
With money left over, the plumber and doctor to pay.
The children need books and raincoats and shoes on their feet.
So, what’s left for my sweetheart? Just a kiss on the cheek!
What should be done, can be done, must be done,
To lighten up this stressed-out globe and make it hum?
Rumors fly and remedies abound
From New York City to London Towne.
To calm the fear, reduce the trouble,
Allay the pain and clear the rubble,
It’s work we need, dear friends, and work alone,
To turn a pile of bricks into a home.
We lift together to set this grand Old World aright,
So peace may reign and happiness take flight.
When you’re having a bad day, sometimes it’s hard to count your blessings. But what if your day is so bad that you barely escape it alive? Roy Pierce had one of those days.
One day in October 2009, the 57-year-old UAW Local 9699 member and maintenance technician at Johnson Controls Interior Manufacturing (JCIM) in Port Huron, Mich., was doing his rounds at the plant.
“I was doing preventative maintenance on (an injection molding) machine and checking mercury relays with an amp meter,” said Pierce. “I put the meter down to grab the tag off the machine.”
That’s when his bad day started.
“My right hand hit one of the power sources of the relay. I had grounded myself to the machine with my hand and head, and it completed the circuit. That’s when 240 volts of electricity went through me. A regular household outlet is 120 volts by comparison. I felt the shock going through me for a second or two; my whole body vibrated and shook. Then I passed out,” Pierce said.
He fell, suffered a concussion and got nine staples in his head to close a wound.
Pierce didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t alone.
One of those who rushed to his side was his co-worker of 14 years, Steve Gofton.
The 46-year-old Local 9699 member and JCIM maintenance technician has been part of a Rapid Response team at the company since 1994. The team is a group of workers at the plant who are trained by the local fire department to respond to a variety of emergencies from oil leaks and fires to hazardous materials situations and medical emergencies.
“[When Roy was electrocuted], I was doing my regular maintenance when I heard over the public address system, ‘Action Team, press 23!’ I was only a few presses down,” said Gofton, “so I turned down the aisle and saw everyone running to the press. I leaned over and saw Roy on the floor.”
He performed CPR, including chest compressions, until an ambulance arrived.
“I was just trying to save my friend’s life,” Gofton said.
“All I knew was that Roy was on the floor and we had to help him. I’m just happy my friend is alive.”
So is Pierce.
“I feel lucky that I’m still alive. My nephew is a cop, and he says he’s seen three people electrocuted, and none has lived. So, I guess I feel pretty lucky. It beats being dead,” he said.
Gofton credits the Rapid Response team with playing a major role in saving Pierce.
“Every workplace should have a team,” he said. “In the UAW we’re all working together as a team, and here we’re also a team, one unit.”
At press time Pierce was home recuperating and getting medical treatment for severe headaches, dizziness and exacerbated heart problems.
But he remains grateful for the quick-thinking response of co-workers like Gofton from the Rapid Response team.
“It’s good he was there and knew what to do,” Pierce said. “This is a great thing to have. The more people know how to do things like CPR, the better off everybody is.”
President Ron Gettelfinger’s columns are always right on target, and the November-December 2009 one concerning health care reform was the best yet.
This is one of the most important issues of our time because it relates not only to UAW members, but also to the entire nation.
Thank you for keeping us so well informed.
UAW Local 1863 retiree
Spring Hill, Tenn.
As long as we force employers to provide health insurance to their employees, we are missing the point about true health care reform, which should be a universal, single-payer system.
Businesses have closed because of the existing high costs of providing health insurance. Manufacturing has declined because of high health insurance costs. Companies doing business overseas do not have to pay for health insurance. All other industrialized countries of the world, including Iraq and Cuba, believe health care is a basic human right and provide health care to their residents.
The recent legislation passed in the U.S. House will only perpetuate an already complex medical bureaucracy and allow the insurance companies to profit more than ever.
We need to get the insurance companies out of the picture. It’s wrong and a conflict of interest for them to make so much money off sick people.
We need more health care, not more insurance.
UAW Local 1981
(National Writers Union)
I really enjoyed your cartoon (Solidarity, November-December 2009 “From the readers”) about the middle class.
I’m one of countless college graduates who struggle to enter the middle class. After many months of searching, I was hired by a small grocery that pays minimum wage and doesn’t offer any health benefits. So I pay for health care coverage for my Type 1 diabetes needs.
Please continue your fight for the middle class, economic stability and health care reform.
(Editor’s note: The writer’s parents, Scott Shantz and Marsha Shantz, are members of UAW Locals 900 and 6000, respectively.)
On a recent trip to California I was amazed at the ratio of foreign vehicles to American ones. (I even had trouble finding an American one at the car rental agency.)
I think more has to be done to make the public aware of how many jobs are affected by purchasing and lost by not purchasing an American union-made car.
UAW Local 140 retiree
I don’t understand the GOP. When they were in power, they made a mess out of two wars, gave a lop-sided tax break to the wealthy and wanted to privatize Social Security by having us invest in the stock market.
If the GOP and their cheerleaders at Fox News had their way, I would’ve lost my pension and my health insurance.
At least President Obama cares about workers.
The GOP acts like candle makers who are opposed to electricity.
UAW Local 167 retiree
Comstock Park, Mich.
In 1967 the UAW purchased approximately 750 acres of vacant land in northern Michigan. Walter Reuther’s vision was to create a world-class educational facility for the use of UAW members.
Over the years the union purchased additional nearby land and constructed the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center.
The center has provided a unique educational experience for many thousands of UAW members over the years.
Open for 10 months each year, the center hosts meetings and conferences for thousands of UAW members, including education programs for union activists, regional summer schools, and meetings on health and safety, civil and human rights, political action and other subjects.
In addition, in 2000 the UAW added a public golf course, the Black Lake Golf Club, to the facilities.
With the recession and the contraction of employment in the auto industry and related manufacturing industries, the UAW has been exploring options to reduce costs in all aspects of operations. As part of this review, for the past several years the UAW has been exploring a possible sale of the union’s golf course and other components of the education center in Onaway, Mich.
In order to move this process forward on a broader basis, the UAW has now retained a national real estate firm, CB Richard Ellis, to explore the real estate market for properties such as Black Lake and investigate possible opportunities.
Over the next several months, this firm will be conducting a national search for prospective buyers, and the UAW will continue to evaluate the opportunities as they are developed.
“The Black Lake facility has a unique and legendary role in the history of the UAW and the entire labor movement,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “We regret that current financial conditions require us to explore the possible sale of the property. “At the same time, members of our International Executive Board recognize that the assets of the UAW belongs to the entire membership of our union and that, as good stewards, the UAW must always make sure that it is using those resources wisely and cost-effectively.”
“Educating our membership will always be a core activity for our union,” said Gettelfinger. “Our responsibility now is to plan for the future, so we can bring our members together in the most cost-effective way possible.”
Never underestimate the dedication, talent and toughness of American workers.
That’s the common theme of several stories in this issue of Solidarity, where you’ll read how UAW Local 3303 members in Butler, Pa., are producing steel that Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota buy to put in their vehicles because of its top quality.
In fact, steel made by UAW members is used in every Toyota vehicle manufactured in North America, the very vehicles that have garnered multiple awards for their superior performance.
In Pennsylvania, Toyota is giving UAW-made products the strongest possible endorsement: spending precious corporate cash to buy UAW-made steel for its U.S.-produced vehicles.
But in California, Toyota has chosen to abandon its workers, and state residents, with its decision to close the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) assembly plant in Fremont, Calif.
It’s hard to fathom why Toyota, which is spending $1 billion on marketing in California – its single biggest market in the United States – would want to walk away from a plant that has been so successful in productivity, quality and sales.
UAW members deserve better, and we’re not giving up.
NUMMI workers are circulating a petition to keep their plant open. They’ve already collected more than 30,000 signatures, which they’ll be presenting to Toyota executives in the coming weeks. (See story, Page 7.)
While Toyota turns its back on American workers, a new auto company called Fisker Automotive has made a dramatically different decision.
A new entry in the automotive field, Fisker is planning to refurbish a shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Del., to produce 100,000 electric hybrid vehicles per year by 2014. (See story, Page 6.)
Part of the funding for this vehicles-of-the-future project will come from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentive Program. UAW members successfully lobbied to create and win funds for this program, which gives low-cost loans to companies that build advanced technology vehicles and their key components here in the United States.
Fisker’s investment shows the importance of this effort to transform the U.S. auto industry. The plant is expected to employ 2,000 workers and create more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014. This is the kind of sound economic policy our union has been calling for all along: investing in American manufacturing and American jobs.
Time and again, American workers have proven we have what it takes to make these investments pay off.
That’s what happens when tough, talented and dedicated workers are given a fair chance on a level playing field.
As I write this report, the U.S. economy and the worldwide economy are in terrible condition – threatening to be one of the worst times for workers in our institution’s 73-year-history.
Troubles created by Wall Street and fueled by a staggering increase in income inequality are victimizing those of us who live and work on Main Street.
Approximately one out of four U.S. manufacturing jobs has been lost in the last decade, contributing to increased unemployment, record residential home foreclosures, a record decrease in consumer confidence and a continued loss in membership.
Yet the plight of workers is noticeably absent from recent debates. Although the government has intervened on countless occasions, with hundreds of billions of dollars to save financial institutions, workers receive little assistance. Even with the prospect of massive job loss, the Senate Republican minority put roadblocks in the way of assistance for the domestic auto industry.
One beacon of hope is President Barack Obama’s agenda of change for working families. Notwith-standing the enormous challenges he assumed on Day One, we remain optimistic that the needs of U.S. workers will no longer be ignored. In fact, Obama strongly supports the Employee Free Choice Act, giving workers who want to form a union the ability to do so, without undue obstacles.
In order to navigate our way through these demanding times, we continue to make difficult, but necessary, financial decisions. Our goal is to maintain a solid financial structure without compromising our commitment to our members.
As a UAW member, your monthly dues investment of two hour’s pay not only earns improved pay and working conditions, but secures a foundation for the union to continue advocating on behalf of all working people.
This financial report provides information about the union’s financial position. Among the highlights:
• The union’s total fund balance at the end of 2007 was $1,228,668,562.71.
• Total income in 2007 was $248 million, while total expenses were $245 million.
• 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 1,078,432.
• During 2007, organizing drives brought 48 new bargaining units, accounting for 11,652 potential new members.
• Approximately 91,184 UAW members went on strike or were locked out in 2007, and they received over $22.1 million from the union’s Strike Assistance Fund, which pays for weekly benefits, medical assistance, and other expenditures.
The above is a summary. The full report is available in pdf format by clicking on the link to the right.
Arthur Lowell, 91, a former sit-downer, worked at GM’s Chevrolet Plant 4, literally “down in the hole,” when he was 18. He lives in Clio, Mich., about 15 miles north of Flint. His wife of 69 years died two years ago. He has five children, 18 grandchildren, “30-some” great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
His son, Alan Lowell, a UAW Local 651 retiree, will take his father to the region’s White Shirt Day celebration on Feb. 11.
Arthur talked recently to Solidarity magazine.
“I was just a kid and hadn’t had much excitement in my life up till that time. Not married yet. Working conditions were just terrible. The boss could fire you if he didn’t like your looks. No bathroom breaks during an entire shift. … It was a slave house.”
“It’s still all very vivid in my mind. The cold weather, darkness and no food for the first 24 hours until the women handed us food over the fence. Then they turned the lights back on.”
“We were all happy to get out of there. … They sent police and goons to get us out of there, said we were destroying the plant and that we all had guns. That was all in their imagination. Michigan’s Gov. Murphy put the entire complex under National Guard protection to prevent bloodshed. It was a good thing. He said, ‘You guys don’t look like a bunch of hoodlums. You’re just trying to get a contract.’ He protected us, and if he hadn’t done that, I believe the company goons would’ve killed every one of us and gotten away with it.
“Before the union, there was no middle class. There were the rich and the working poor, and such low wages. As time went on, I was able to afford their products and could buy a new car. The company prospered.”
“It symbolizes the worker is just as good as the foreman and on White Shirt Day the guys in the shop wear a white shirt, too. We’ll eat bean soup and apples. It’s what we ate during the strike.”
Olivia Fowlkes recalled a speech she heard at a UAW meeting long ago, words that still ring true: “Labor is the only thing holding this country together. If labor goes away, then it will be just the rich and the poor, no middle class.”
So the Chrysler retiree didn’t sit quietly during the congressional debates while union opponents questioned whether UAW members have sacrificed enough.
“Yes, they have,” she said, and what’s more, critics just don’t understand how all workers have benefited from the hard work of UAW members.
“While we were fighting for labor, we also fought for people in the community, like for a higher minimum wage for all,” said the 76-year-old grandmother from Detroit.
Fowlkes worked at Chrysler Truck in Warren from 1973 to 1998. In 1975 she became the first woman elected chief steward at UAW Local 140. She is currently Local 140’s retiree chair.
“We worked hard for that money we earned on the line,” she said. “The majority of people in the plant go in to work to do a good job, to get good pay so they can help their families. And they spend that money in their communities.”
She says those who worked hard for years contributed to their communities and now deserve the pensions and health care benefits they receive. They’re not luxuries, they’re the right thing to do when it comes to taking care of workers who have paid their dues.
Fowlkes also said the way Congress treated U.S. automakers and the UAW in the Capitol Hill hearings, compared with how they treated Wall Street when they asked for a bailout, was hypocritical.
“There are some people trying to wipe out the unions,” she said. “That’s why union opponents in Congress fought the loans. But that’s wrong – and I say that not only because I’m getting a pension check.
“Don’t down the union. We’ve been fighting for wage increases for all workers, fighting to help our kids. Congress didn’t do this to the banking industry. And their billions are gone.”