UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
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For nearly 40 years, the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center (FEC) has been a place where UAW members and their families come together for an experience combining education with relaxation.
Nestled among the natural wonders of Onaway, Mich., with woods, water and deer so friendly they don't run away at first sight of a human, the center is a place to learn about your union, unlock ideas and build new friendships with other working families from across the country. This summer, introduce your family to something guaranteed to strengthen your spirit and understanding of your union: the Family Scholarship Program.
The FEC was inspired by the vision of the late UAW President Walter Reuther, who planned and developed the site as a destination where working people could gather to build skills as union activists, discuss and learn about the issues of the day, and make plans for the future. Reuther believed members’ education was a vital function for the union – and an important investment in the UAW’s future.
The center was named for Reuther and his wife, May, after they died in a plane crash on their way to visit the property in May 1970. A month later its first program was held: a global environment conference sponsored by the United Nations.
Since then, tens of thousands of UAW families have participated in the Family Scholarship Program, a weeklong experience combining education with relaxation.
Raul Garza of UAW Local 2346 and his wife, Virginia, attended a session last summer and wished they would have taken their now-grown children there as youngsters.
Garza has been a structural assembler for 20 years at United Launch Alliance in Harlingen, Texas, where workers build rocket components.
"It’s a great program for union families to become informed about the UAW and what it’s all about, especially here in the South where educating workers about unions is so important," said Garza, 47, who is the Local 2346 vice president and lives in San Benito, Texas.
His wife of 25 years agreed. "They made it fun for everybody. Black Lake is a beautiful location, and it was such a memorable experience."
Here’s how the program works:
During the day, parents participate in workshops with lively discussions and interactive exercises while children go to age-appropriate day camps with creative arts, music, games, athletics and swimming. The age groupings are 3-7 and 8-11.
Youngsters age 12-15 will enjoy union involvement workshops, golf, swimming and gym games. And teens age 16-18 are offered a program to prepare them for the working world.
Other afternoon and evening activities include laps at the indoor pool, a walk on the Black Lake beach, various sports, including bocce, and Karaoke Night. In addition, golfers can play the award-winning Black Lake Golf Club, where UAW members receive a 20 percent discount and UAW retirees a 30 percent discount on greens fees.
The UAW pays for all lodging, food and program costs. Participants may choose to pay for other things such as group photographs, gift shop items, golf or activities in nearby communities.
To be eligible for a family scholarship, you must be a UAW member in good standing for at least a year and never have attended the scholarship program. In addition, you must be willing to contribute your time: regular vacation, personal leave or union leave where contracts permit. Eligibility is limited to active and laid-off members.
This summer’s three sessions are July 5-10, July 12-17 and July 19-24 (which also offers a session in Spanish.)
Marcello Malentacchi is fluent in six languages, and he firmly believes the fight for economic and social justice – no matter how you say it – cannot be won without international solidarity.
"Your union has a long and proud tradition of involvement in the international labor community," Malentacchi said at the UAW’s 34th Constitutional Convention in 2006. "It is a tradition based on the universal ideal that the fight for economic and social justice cannot be limited to one nation or one people, and it cannot be achieved without international solidarity."
After 20 years as secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), Malentacchi will retire this spring.
He was born in 1947 near Grosseto, Italy, the son of an agricultural laborer. At 17 he left for Sweden, and was hired on Volvo’s assembly line where he joined the Swedish Metalworkers' Union.
Malentacchi and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger met in January to discuss the IMF’s future and how to more effectively coordinate international efforts in union building and organizing.
"Marcello Malentacchi is a true champion of international labor solidarity, and he will be greatly missed," said Gettelfinger. "With the global economic crisis, union solidarity and coordination across borders is more important than ever."
The IMF has 207 affiliated member unions (including the UAW) in 101 countries, representing nearly 25 million workers in the metalworking industries.
Why did you get into politics?
It has everything to do with being involved with the UAW and seeing what that can do to help a community. It’s another type of serving people. The job I have now is representing people and giving back.
How did your leadership role with Local 95 prepare you to be a state Assembly representative?
My UAW Region 4 Director Dennis Williams’ support through the years has been invaluable. My UAW experience also gave me the ability to deal with all kinds of diverse people and training. I tell people I came through the school of hard knocks, the best training you could have. … I was in Washington, D.C., during the auto loan hearings, and I thanked President Ron Gettelfinger for helping me prepare for what I’m doing now.
What are some of the challenges facing workers in Wisconsin?
Jobs. Our plant is sitting idle right now. One of the biggest challenges is making sure people have family-supporting jobs.
What role should the UAW have regarding jobs in your state?
We have set a standard of living, and as we move forward we have to make sure we keep that standard of living. It goes back to creating and protecting jobs. I’m partnering with my UAW representatives now to make sure we’re working toward creating future products for production at GM’s Janesville plant.
Have you sponsored legislation that’s helped working families?
Yes. The very first bill I introduced in my first legislative session was one that would raise the minimum wage for the first time in seven years. The GOP tried to send it back to committee, but we were able to pressure them through the media and get them to agree. I’m now co-sponsoring a bill to promote buying products produced in Wisconsin and the United States.
|1||Knight Facilities Management, Warren. Mich||Nov 2||Janitorial services for GM Powertrain|
|1||Chrysler LLC, Detroit||Jan 5||Janitorial services for Chrysler/Mack Engine|
|1||Knight Facilities Management, Marysville, Mich.||Nov 3||Janitorial services for Chrysler|
|1||Knight Facilities Management, Sterling Heights, Mich.||Nov 3||Janitorial services for Chrysler/Sterling Heights
|1||Knight Facilities Management, Warren, Mich.||Nov 3||Janitorial services for Chrysler/Warren Truck|
|1||Robinson Solutions Inc., Lansing, Mich.||Nov 24||Janitorial services for General Motors/Pontiac Assembly|
|1||Chrysler LLC, Detroit||Jan 12||Janitorial services for Chrysler/Mack Engine|
|1A||ABM/AAI Janitorial Services, Flat Rock, Mich.||Jan 16||Ford, Flat Rock, Mich.|
|1A||Jones Lang, LaSalle America Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich.||Sept 28||Janitorial services for General Motors/Ypsilanti (Mich.)
Service and Parts Operations
|1C||Caravan-Knight Facilities Management, Flint, Mich.||Dec 8||Janitorial services for GM Powertrain Flint Engine South Plant|
|5||Johnson Controls Inc., Earth City, Mo.||Dec 18||Seats for Chrysler St. Louis North Assembly Plant, Fenton, Mo.|
|8||Caravan-Knight Facilities Management
|Dec 8||Janitorial services for GM Wilmington Assembly Plant|
Lisa Mayberry, a former schoolteacher, didn’t have a clue about organizing and had no interest in being an organizer.
That is, until last fall when she and 39 other UAW members participated in an intense, two-week organizer training program in the field during an actual campaign and at the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center at Black Lake near Onaway, Mich.
"I didn’t know I wanted to be an organizer," said Mayberry, a UAW Local 228 member in Sterling Heights, Mich., and a machine repairperson at Ford Motor Co.’s Sterling Axle Plant. "But I couldn’t help it. I was completely surprised at what companies are willing to put their workers through to keep them from forming a union. That’s what did it for me."
The new program, sponsored by the union’s National Organizing Department, begins with nuts-and-bolts training in each participant’s respective UAW region. They learn everything from forming an organizing committee to all stages of conducting a campaign, along with what to expect when they talk to other workers and information about anti-union tactics.
"I have always thought about organizing, but I didn’t know too much about it," said Irene Poray, a UAW Local 1097 member, who works at Dephi Corp.’s Powertrain Plant in Rochester, N.Y. "What surprised me most is the level of fear in people who want to form a union. Seeing how people are treated would make you think we lived in China, North Korea or Cuba, and not the United States. The experience really changes you."
The next phase: nitty-gritty training in the trenches.
That included one-on-one visits for a week with Denso Mfg. Michigan Inc. workers in Battle Creek, Mich., who produce automotive heating and cooling systems and want to form their own union. The organizer trainees went door to door listening to workers’ concerns and educating them about their workplace rights.
The experience, Mayberry said, turned her into an organizer.
"It was so emotional for me," she said. "You are right there talking with workers and listening to them. You come to understand very deeply why forming a union is so important to them and their families."
"This program gives potential organizers the tools to help workers build their union and to practice using those tools in the field on actual campaigns," said Cindy Estrada, the union’s National Organizing director.
Ask any union organizer and they’re likely to tell you the same thing: It’s hard work. They’ll also tell you there’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you are helping workers find their voice and form their own union.
"We’ve always been proud of our organizers and see this new program as a way of helping potential organizers get critical information and training as early as possible," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.
Casino workers in Connecticut and Indiana are calling it "exactly what we’ve been working for" and "a great start."
And thanks to UAW representation, they’re continuing to make progress at their workplaces.
At Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn., the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise and UAW workers there reached a historic agreement in October to negotiate a union contract under Tribal Law.
"This is a very important agreement and the first step toward achieving a first contract for workers at Foxwoods," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs organizing for the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.
"Everyone at work is very excited," said Bonnie Forman, a 7-year dealer at Foxwoods. "This is exactly what we have been working for."
Another site of progress toward worker representation in casinos is Casino Aztar in Evansville, Ind. In December, UAW members at Casino Aztar reached an agreement with management to begin bargaining for a first contract for more than 200 casino dealers.
"We are happy to start negotiations with Casino Aztar and expect that this is the beginning of a cooperative and productive relationship," said Bunn. "Working together, employers and workers can ensure that Casino Aztar continues to be a vital and thriving part of the Evansville community."
"This is a great start, and we're happy to be moving forward to the bargaining table," said Salli Rackley, a dealer at Casino Aztar since it opened in December 1995 and chair of the bargaining committee.
Local support in Evansville played a key role in the agreement, said Maurice Davison, director of UAW Region 3, which includes Indiana and Kentucky.
"We applaud the encouragement that Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel offered to the parties to resolve our differences," said Davison. "And we are looking forward to assisting workers at Casino Aztar in winning what they have long deserved: a first contract, which will improve their jobs and improve their workplace."
In October 2007, Casino Aztar dealers voted to form a union and seek UAW representation. But casino management appealed the election results, which delayed bargaining until an agreement was announced in December.
While Casino Aztar agreed to recognize the election results and bargain with the UAW, the union agreed to stop pursuing unfair labor practice charges against the casino with the National Labor Relations Board. The UAW charged casino managers with making unilateral changes to health insurance coverage for dealers.
Casino Aztar has since agreed to reimburse workers for the amount of increased health insurance costs created by the unilateral management changes.
In Atlantic City, nearly 4,000 casino workers continue to stand united in their fight for first contracts at Bally's, Caesars, Tropicana and Trump Plaza. The situation in Atlantic City – where workers voted for union representation well over a year ago but have met stiff resistance in beginning bargaining – is another example of why we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It would enable real penalties for companies that violate labor law and allow workers to seek arbitration for first contracts after four months of negotiations.
The newly redesigned Ford F-150 pickup includes two box side steps that spring out so people can more readily access the bed, and a step and handle on the tailgate so people can safely climb into the bed.
No doubt Ford Motor Co. vigorously tested the new options. But just in case they were unsure, they could have asked UAW members who were on the floor at the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January.
Those options underwent some serious consumer testing as show-goers, already impressed with the NAIAS 2009 North American Truck of the Year, climbed up and down seemingly thousands of times a day.
For UAW Local 600’s Haywood Allen and Marilyn Robinson, the more the merrier. The Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant workers were more than happy to show prospective customers the ways Ford has tried to make its No. 1-selling vehicle in America more user-friendly.
"I say this is the time to test it," Allen said as he demonstrated the side step, which allows people to access the truck bed from the side without climbing in. "I think they are impressed by how much weight it holds."
Just as important as the auto show award were the positive comments Allen and Robinson received not only from the usual "gear heads" and older guys with ball caps and flannel shirts, but also from women, older folks with mobility issues and people with families. The pickup even has grocery hooks.
"Young people to older people really like it," added Robinson. "I’m getting women who are really interested because they see the things they have done to this pickup truck to accommodate them."
One of the recurrent themes at the auto show this year, of course, is fuel economy and alternative fuels.
All three U.S. automakers have made giant strides at improving fuel economy. Domestic manufacturers are now offering consumers various ways to conserve fuel and save money, including a dozen models of hybrid cars and trucks, flex-fuel vehicles, advanced energy-saving transmissions, and clean diesel technologies.
In fact, General Motors Corp. has 20 different vehicles that surpass 30 mpg, and the Chevrolet Malibu exceeds the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in fuel efficiency. GM is set to build the Chevrolet Volt next year and proudly displayed the battery for it at the show.
At Chrysler LLC there are 11 flex-fuel vehicles in the lineup and it is a leader in electric neighborhood vehicles.
And it was Ford that introduced the first-ever hybrid SUV, the Escape.
Al Stevens, a UAW Local 602 member from Lansing, Mich., was marveling at the hybrid Malibu that was on display at the GM section of the show. The material handler noted that the Malibu, the 2008 NAIAS Car of the Year, has lived up to its star billing according to two drivers he personally knows: his parents.
"They love it. So far they’re getting a little better than 30 miles per gallon so they’re very happy," Stevens said of the reported 32 mpg for the 2008 hybrid Malibu.
Stevens, who was on layoff while attending the show but was expected to return in early February, said it was ironic that the entire auto industry was going through such hard times because of the economy, while domestic automakers were producing some of their best vehicles ever.
"I think our future is still good. We build good stuff," he added. "We’re as good as or better than foreign automakers. People don’t always believe that."
Justin Trotter was examining Chrysler’s latest offerings with friend, Nick Jaslly, who recently was discharged from the Marine Corps after serving in Iraq and other duty stations.
"I’ve always had a Jeep," Trotter said, adding that his current four-wheel ride has a lot of miles but runs fine.
But if he did want to sell it and buy a new one, odds are he would do fairly well: The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon won the 2009 Best Resale Award from Kelly Blue Book in the SUV category.
It has also racked up other recent awards, such as the Popular Mechanics magazine’s Automotive Excellence Award for Off-Road Ability and the Detroit News’ 2008 award for Most Awesome Off-Road Vehicle.
It also received the U.S. government’s highest rating for frontal-impact crash testing: five stars.
"I’d have a hard time giving up my current Jeep to buy another one," he said. "I’ll probably buy them until the day I die."
Buying one right now is a little difficult for the laid-off U.S. Steel employee, but he hopes that those in the market will consider a quality vehicle from U.S.-based manufacturers as a way to support our economy.
"Personally, I’m not very quiet on my opinion about the matter," Trotter said.
Today so many American families are struggling to make ends meet, yet many don’t know there are benefits available during tax time to help them.
One is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable, federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families.
With job losses through layoffs and outsourcing, families who may have not been eligible in the past, may now qualify. And while you may not be eligible, a friend or family member could be.
Congress approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.
To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return to the Internal Revenue Service.
The EITC has no effect on certain other public assistance benefits. In most cases, EITC payments will not be used to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, low-income housing or most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments.
When you file your 2008 Income Tax Return, you must also file form EIC with your 1040 or 1040A form.
The 2008 eligibility rates and allowed credits are as follows:
• For a family with one child and earnings less than $33,995 for a single individual, and $36,995 for a married couple, the credit is $2,917.
• For families with two or more children and earnings less than $38,646 for a single individual and $41,646 for a married couple, the credit is $4,824.
• For workers without children who earn less than $12,880 for a single individual and $15,880 for a married couple, the credit is $438.
• Military personnel may also be eligible, particularly reservists and National Guard members who have been called to active duty and are raising children with a reduced income.
• Free tax preparation services are also available to those who qualify for the credit through Volunteer Income Assistance (VITA).
"If you qualify for assistance, you should take advantage of it," said Earl Henry, a UAW Local 598 retiree living in Elmira, Mich., who has been doing volunteer tax preparation under the VITA program for eight years.
A member of the UAW Region 1D Retirees Advisory Council, Henry recalled the story of a UAW retiree who paid $96 to get his taxes prepared by an outside firm but received only a $98 tax refund. That’s a whopping $2 gain.
"You can get it done for free or go somewhere else and pay big bucks," he said.
Bonnie Reffitt is an international representative in the UAW Community Services Department. Sandra Davis contributed to this story.
For more, call the UAW Community Services Department, (313) 926-5513, or the IRS, (800) 829-1040.
The Employee Free Choice Act is simply that – giving workers the freedom to decide whether to form their own union. Here’s why it’s important: The method of union sign-up known as "card check" is already recognized under current labor law – but only when the employer approves it. EFCA would remove the ability of employers to withhold recognition and insist on a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election.
Since the boss gets to decide when an election will be held, he/she often wages an intimidation campaign in the meantime. So EFCA legislation would toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights in that way.
Under EFCA, workers would still have the right to vote in a NLRB secret ballot election if 30 percent of the workforce signs cards, just as they do now.
Here’s more research from the American Rights at Work, a nonprofit workers rights’ organization:
|25%||Companies that illegally fire at least one worker for union activity during organizing campaigns||1 in 6||Chance that an active union supporter will be illegally fired for union activity during an organizing campaign|
|92%||Companies that force employees to attend mandatory closed-door meetings against the union||75%||Companies that hire consultants or union-busters to help them fight union organizing drives|
|78%||Companies that force employers to attend
one-on-one meetings against the union with their own supervisors
|52%||Companies that threaten to call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during organizing drives that include undocumented employees|
|51%||Companies that threaten to close the plant if the union wins the election||1%||Companies that actually close their plants after a successful union election|
|29,559||Workers in FY 2007 who received back pay in cases alleging company violations of workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act||44%||Percentage of cases in which companies do not agree to a contract after workers form a union under the NLRB process|
|78%||Portion of public that supports workers’ freedom to bargain for better wages and benefits||47%||Portion of public that knows companies routinely resist unionization efforts by their employees|
Last year Solidarity reported on a young Michigan couple who chose to cover their 5-month-old son, Kaedin, under a state-run health insurance program called MiChild, the state’s version of SCHIP.
Josh Clements, Kaedin’s father, was a nonunion contract worker at General Motors’ Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich.
Kaedin’s mother, Sara Gorton, was a full-time nursing student at the University of Michigan-Flint.
They chose MiChild because Clements’ employer-provided benefits package would have cost him "a good chunk of change" to cover every family member.
What a difference a year makes.
Clements was laid off last October.
Gorton is a full-time registered nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Flint.
Luckily, Hurley provides health care for her and Kaedin, who turns 2 in July.
"It was a blessing," said Berteen Ewles, UAW Local 18 president, who is Clements’ mother and Kaedin’s grandmother, of Gorton’s new job with health benefits.
Head of the amalgamated Flint local, Ewles worked hard to get SCHIP passed on behalf of all children in need of health care, even though her grandson no longer needed the state-run program. "We have to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire," she said.
Clements is a full-time student at Flint’s Mott Community College studying radiation therapy and will transfer to UM-Flint to complete the four-year program.
He receives health insurance through a Genesee County resident plan. It’s free and includes basic preventative care, such as office visits, but doesn’t cover emergency room care or diagnostic testing.
"It’s better than nothing, and I’m trying to keep myself healthy," said Clements, 27, who recently underwent an endoscopy for an acid reflux problem and needed X-rays after a sports injury. "Those tests weren’t covered, and medical bills racked up quickly."
Clements believes the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP just may lead to universal health care for all Americans.
"I hope so, because having health care shouldn’t just come down to luck," he said.