Division has infiltrated almost everything in our lives. Much of the fuel that fires those passions that causes such splits are being carefully manipulated and fanned into a white hot inferno that destroys families, friendships, churches, as well as erosion to all three branches of our democracy.
The same forces have also had an effect on American Organized Labor. All unions derive their power from the cohesive solidarity of its membership. This is why corporations spend millions to fight unions and even more to lobby for “right-to-work” laws to weaken and destroy unions.
On a national level, you can take your pick among a multitude of topics from abortion to xenophobia, and anything in between. Social media has opened up avenues of communication that weren’t previously unavailable, or even imagined Whatever platform you subscribe to allows you international exposure to air whatever grievance, opinion, or idea that may occur to you. You would think with the increase in interactions that it would lead to a more well informed society.
All these options have only served as avenues for misinformation, bigotry, misogyny, and plain old stupidity to spread, infect, and flourish. This isn’t meant to offend anyone reading this, but if it does, then that’s too bad. An apology is not forthcoming.
The facts are that our power plant is ripe to be bought or sold. Still, UWUA Local 304 is actively shopping for better healthcare coverage for our members, are constantly pursuing our members grievances, and working to protect our members. We have fought against policies and rules aimed at negating your sick time and time off. We’ve fought to keep your personal medical information private and YOURS. We’ve fought when overtime was lost or not properly paid. We’ve fought to allow our members the right to transfer to other departments instead of being “silo’ed” into a “Career Path”. It serves no purpose for your union to boast it’s accomplishments, but they are covered in our regular meetings.
We have, in our union, members who were long time members in other unions who are now dropping dues, thanks to the law that conveys NO RIGHTS, nor creates ANY WORK. We have other members who grew up in union families and it was union wages that paid for everything that sustained those families. They are basi
cally cutting the throats of of their fellow coworkers, and handing leverage over to the company at a time when there are only TWO plants left.
There are plenty of excuses. Some cite personality clashes with various union officers, some accuse the union of reckless spending in securing a union hall for the union to do business out of, some point out a specific minor point like not announcing vote counts or complaining about work schedules. On the other side are those who claimed they would’ve come to meetings if we weren’t having them in a ‘bar” atmosphere. The excuses don’t matter; either you’re UNION or not.
Most of these people are the very same ones that you NEVER see at a union meeting, they offer nothing for the good and welfare of the local or membership, refuse to serve as an officer or on a committee, and won’t even defend the union among their own coworkers. Yet they are quick to spew about everything that’s WRONG with 304, yet they have no participation or ideas to further a cause that is in EVERYBODY’S best interest.
Unions are not perfect. They are the purest form of democracy, which is in itself imperfect. Your union is the only organization that is on your side if something catastrophic happens at work that threatens your ability to support yourself and your family. There in nobody else, as imperfect as 304 may be, who will bring all the available resources to your defense.
UWUA Local 304 was organized and certified because of a lack of trust employees had in the unknown entity that was First Energy. Over the past decade, the employees have changed throughout the plant, as well as the company, but, nothing has happened to prove those initial organizers conclusions wrong; quite the opposite, if you pay attention to the news.
There are things that can only be done by the union that cannot be effectively done by an individual employee on their own. Whether it’s testifying before Congress, as our first President did, or before the State Public Service Commission, or other public and private entities. Don’t believe it? Call the National Labor Relations Board and tell them you want to file a complaint against your employer. The first question that they will ask you is, “are you represented by a union…”
Yet, there are those among willing to sell their souls to the devil and place their full faith and trust in those who would sacrifice them on the altar of position and power without a second thought. One of organized labor’s favorite axioms is, “the boss is not your friend.”
While we cannot discriminate against those who opt out, but neither do we have to treat them as friends. Letting someone politely know you disapprove of their choice to not pay dues is fine, if you can do so in a non-confrontational manner.
The cruel fact of Right-To-Work is that it acts as an escape hatch for those who are all about themselves despite the cost to anybody else. That’s why the excuses don’t matter. Our dues are dirt cheap when compared to those paid by union members in the trade unions. That’s because belonging to the Utility Workers of America, and Local 304, isn’t about the money. It’s about the dignity and respect for those who do the work and collective action to improve those lives that we have the honor of representing.
There are departments at our plant who are recognizing the full benefits of being union. Through solidarity and trust in each other, these departments have built a true brotherhood in their areas. They trust each other, look out for each other, and stick together when any one of them are threatened. The ironic thing is that some of those work centers were true and faithful pockets of anti-union influence in previous union drives.
The cure to inoculate yourself from peer pressure and a charm campaign of a supervisor is to take the time and read your Collective Bargaining Agreement, and if there is even ONE thing in there you wouldn’t want to lose, you may want to re-examine your allegiances and actions at work and in your union.
We, as a union, could have the same conditions throughout the plant, and make UWUA Local 304 unassailable by any local or corporate management. The choice has always been with the membership because members run this union.