Any union local’s primary mission is to keep the memberships wages, benefits, and working conditions moving forward. And protect these things that make work pay.
As we celebrate Labor Day 2019, a pall hangs over all workers in our beloved home in ‘Almost Heaven’ West Virginia. This dark cloud is the work of huge out of state influences, coupled with a ruthless political and judicial coup that have dealt West Virginia workers their most serious losses in rights and benefits since those rights were won almost a hundred years ago.
Right To Work (for nothing), the repeal of the prevailing wage, the systematic attack on or state’s educators all add up to a situation that should serve as a wake-up call to ALL West Virginians who work, but even more so to organized labor who are on the front lines fighting for all who work.
In our own plant, we have those who are emboldened by these events and using this climate to undermine our local’s bargaining power with our employer. They unknowingly, or naively, hurt the very organization that fights for them at every turn, protecting their wages, pensions, and fending off the implementation of unreasonable work rules and policies.
They are rats, lurking in dark corners and slowing chewing away support and cohesion of the union membership. Workers have gotten too use to being sold out by our political representatives that they’ve come to accept it, but when it’s a co-worker, who has the same amount to lose as you and everybody else, it’s hard not to take it personally.
They have an ally. The National Right To Work Foundation is a covertly funded group of lawyers whose sole job, 24/7- 365, is union-busting. They will not list their donors, nor share any information on the inner workings of the group, but will be glad to “help” you dump your union.
The thing is, your union is there for you when you need it, but the supporters of Right To Work are done with you the moment they talk you into betraying yourself, your coworkers and your union.
Our union is at a disadvantage in the workplace. When we do have successes, and even small victories but you probably don’t hear about them. Management will never tell you, and unless you attend union meetings or visit our union’s social media pages or website then chances are you will never know all they have done for you.
This is a problem in itself because it allows the rats to sew division within the membership by saying false, and frankly stupid, things like, “this union is for the Maintenance Department,” or, “I trust management more than my union.”
Ask anyone who was on the negotiating committee for our contracts and you’ll learn what our employer would like to do, if it wasn’t for the union. Every department would be on 12 hour shift work, you would have PTO instead of sick time, and you could forget about bidding on jobs outside your “career path”.
Most importantly, our bosses would again have absolute power over us while we’re at work. This includes the power to play favorites, to promote and demote, and even the power to terminate your employment without just cause. All their favorite little games they loved playing that are now denied to them because we are union.
Who’s going to fight for you when the company declares you unfit for duty if, God forbid, you get hurt at work?
Being union gives you legal status and the right to exercise your rights as an American freely and without the threat of harassment or termination. All you have to do is have the guts to take advantage of this fact.
Unfortunately, some of our best and most loyal supporters are those who have had issues with management or our employer, something nobody wishes or wants. Your union hasn’t always won, but we always fight. This is a fact mot lost on those who have been through the grievance and arbitration process.
Your union does more than police issues on the plant floor. They also work with the National UWUA and other unions to safeguard workplace safety, fend off anti-worker legislation, and to cast scrutiny and expose those who want to pass laws that makes it easier for companies to slough off their responsibilities and obligations to workers.
A union is built on the premise that we, as working people, have more in common with each other than we do with well connected and moneyed corporate masters. Regardless of our differences in religion or politics, we still collectively have the same goals and impediments facing us at work.
This upcoming meeting will be the fourth time we will nominate those among us who will lead our union in the next term. 2020 will mark our first decade as a union. You are urged to participate in this most democratic of processes and help keep our union truly representative of all Harrison employees.