Disgruntled Autoworker
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Observations #9
March 2001

Want Ads

Union positions available: President, Shop Chairperson, Zone Committeeperson, Committeepersons and Alternate Committeepersons. Serious, dedicated, self-motivated individuals with a gift of gab and the ability to communicate with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Knowledge of union contract and by-laws preferred, but not necessary.

Requirements: Applicants must be members in good standing with a desire to learn local and national contract. You must attend all union meetings and learn how to prevent senior officials from hijacking our meetings, railroading members and generally being a nuisance by not allowing the members to air their concerns. In other words learn to prevent them from manipulating and controlling our meetings. Self-serving individuals need not apply.


The above want ads are bogus, or are they? Rumor around the plant is that if we held our executive board elections today, every last one of our Good Old Boys would be replaced, because they are as responsible as the man who put his family and friends above the membership. Our EX may have got away with walking all over our trust, but the rest of our Boys will not, that is unless they retire before our next election.

Our elected officials have put themselves, and their family and friends on a pedestal while they treat the members in much the same way their company counterparts do. There may not be anything we can do about how the company treats us, especially without adequate representation, but we can do something about how we're treated by our officials.

The recent election of our new Recording Secretary, Ann German, is proof we want change. She will be sworn in at our March 11th meeting. Her election delivered the message again, just in case our Good Old Boys thought the new VP's election was a fluke. Now there is no doubt in anyone's mind. There's a new majority in the house and our union's clique is about to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Thankfully federal law states local union elections must be held every three years, otherwise our officials would have made their positions lifetime positions. Its unfortunate federal laws donŐt apply to the length of our contracts. Today or a year from now, our election results will be the same. Our elected officials have under-estimated the membership for the last time. Changes are coming.

Which brings me to the bogus want ads. Some members are already forming caucuses, so the ads aren't all that bogus. A couple of members I've spoken to that expressed an interest in running for an office have over thirty years seniority. I would rather elect someone with less than thirty years, but if senior candidates make it a priority to deal with the appointment issue that our current officials avoided and our overworked jobs, then I'm all for them.

In the long run though, I think we need candidates with less seniority so that if we're not satisfied with their performance we can vote them out in our next elections and send them back on the line. As it is now, most of our elected officials have enough time to retire, there's no incentive for them to do a good job. If we vote them out, for selling us out or for whatever reason, we don't get to send them back on the line because they retire or fall back to an appointed position. That sort of thing has to stop.

I think everyone knows what I mean by, "Knowledge of union contracts and by-laws preferred but not necessary". There are Committeepersons who don't know squat about interpreting the local or national contracts. I know a member who witnessed their Committeeperson calling labor relations for assistance with interpreting a paragraph in the contract, and another member who said their Committeeperson called in the department coordinator for help with a problem they were having. Excuse me; management is the last place to get honest answerers about the contract. Committeepersons should be able to get answers from someone within our union, if not then they should call the International. The desire to learn the contracts is "Definitely" a must.

There are benefits that come with electing new officials every few years. For instance, an ever-changing union administration forces the company to keep changing its strategy in how they deal with new officials. It also makes it harder for both sides to form long lasting relationships that result in collusion on things such as lifetime contracts, like the one we have.

Another benefit to members is with a new administration we get new appointees. There are 55 appointed positions, counting Allison. Of course not all of them need replacing, because some are irreplaceable and we know who they are. We also know that at least half of our appointees were appointed because of family or they're best buds of one of our officials and then there are those who brown nosed their way into a position, we get to send them back on the line.

So, in a nutshell that's roughly10 elected positions and about 35 or so appointed positions that will become available in a little over a year. Now is a good time to join or form a caucus to challenge our incumbents, especially new hires. And it's also a good time to work on a resume for an appointed position.

This is your union, get involved.

What we do need to keep in mind is that even if we have all new candidates in office we can't relax and let everything take care of itself, far from it. A word of advice to all new hires, don't become complacent like the generation before you. We screwed up big time, after we elected our officials, we forgot about them. We thought, once they were in office they would do right by us.

BIG mistake. Somewhere along the line they noticed we weren't watching and they became selfish, greedy and self-serving. After a few years of unwatched selfishness and greed, they lost sight of why we elected them and started acting for themselves. Which is why we're in the situation we're in now, stuck with a contract that doesn't expire and working our butts off while their family and friends have all the good jobs.

For the sake of an argument, new hires are members with less than ten years, considering the average seniority around here is about 25 years. This is your union, don't make the same mistake we did, get involved and stay involved by attending meetings and learn just what it is our elected officials do. Unfortunately with quarterly meetings you'll be limited to about five meetings before the next elections, that's not much time to learn.

To increase your learning experience, I recommend you submit a proposal that our meetings be held monthly, that way you'll have at least fourteen meetings to observe our Good Old Boys in action. You may be lucky enough to see them put your proposal through a meat grinder like they did with Ms. Birds, its not a pretty sight, but it's a learning experience you'll not forget.

Something to remember when submitting a proposal that our Good Old Boys may not approve of is to inform as many members as possible, and insist they come to the meeting. That way when your proposal comes up for a vote you'll have the necessary people to carry it. Otherwise the vote goes in whatever direction our Good Old Boys want because of all the committee members, appointees and suckups in attendance. Ms. Bird's proposal for posting appointed positions is a good example, Sheep 72, freethinking Wolves 56.

Quarterly meetings wouldn't be a problem if we had faith in our leaders. However in the last couple years they have pulled so much crap on us and ducked their responsibilities by hiding behind these quarterly meetings that their not practical anymore. We could always change them back at a later date, once we have officials we feel comfortable with. In the meantime we're short changing ourselves and our members on lay off by leaving them the way they are.

Our union officials are well aware of the unrest in the plant and they know the future of their positions is uncertain. They would have to be blind not to see the signs. You can bet that between now and our elections they are going to bend over backwards for us to improve their image. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the company helped them by setting up a few bogus situations so our Boys come out looking more like union officials instead of management clones. The next few months might be a good time to write up your over-worked job or fight for that vacation week the boss says you can't have or whatever. Put them to work for you, the sky's the limit.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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