Jose Morales, above, and Eddie Nievez reflect not only the rich diversity of UAW Local 2326 but the members’ commitment to each other. “Being a union member gives you many advantages. I feel like I have a family behind me,” said Morales.
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.