A Biker with a Purpose

“I just fell in love with the feel of a Harley,” Local 3094 member David Williams said, but he doesn’t just ride his motorcycle to experience the feel of the bike; he also rides with the purpose of providing ministry to others. David has been riding motorcycles most of his life. In 2012, David and his wife Suzanne, joined The Priesthood Motorcycle Ministry.

“The Priesthood was founded by two Vietnam Veterans,” David said. He added that the Priesthood has criteria that each member must meet in order to be a member of the club. Members may not use tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Furthermore, members must belong to a church and be committed to their religious beliefs.
“You have to be “all in” when it comes to Christianity,” David said. “The Priesthood is equal parts motorcycle club and ministry. The camaraderie really is something special.”

In early 2012, David’s wife saw a Priesthood member give a testimonial in Zwolle and was excited about the club. Also, while at a hospital for blood work, David saw some members of the Priesthood doing outreach and had a conversation with a member. He and his wife then attended a rally and officially joined the club later in 2012.

“One of our founders received a vision of our patch in his sleep,” David explained. That founding member, Frank Haven, would record that vision, and it became the patch all members wear on their vests. Haven is now deceased, but Garland Thomas, of Tahlequah, OK, is still active in leading the club as the National President. He is in the process of traveling to America with the purpose of placing a stake in each state.

“The Lord put it on his heart to go to each state and put a stake in the ground,” David said. “It is to remind us of the sacrifice our Lord made.”

The Priesthood Motorcycle Ministry was founded in 2002, by Haven and Thomas for “religious, charitable, and educational purposes.” The purposes are explained on the club’s website as follows: “to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to motorcyclists”; “training of believers in methods of evangelism to reach motorcyclists with the Gospel”; and “providing opportunities for fellowship and spiritual encouragement for motorcyclists.” The club also seeks to provide its members with opportunities for “fellowship and spiritual encouragement.”

The Priesthood is very active in various communities and has a strong commitment to charity, especially those that support our Veterans. The club raises money for food pantries and for the sick and homeless. They also attend the funerals of Veterans, carrying flags and offering comfort to the fallen hero’s family, as part of the Patriot Guard. The Priesthood also gives donations and raises money for Operation Homefront, which helps Veterans get critical assistance in the form of food, shelter, money for unexpected expenses, and other necessities.

David belongs to the Nak-a-Tosh Chapter of the Priesthood which holds a Rally every April, where veterans are celebrated for their service. “This year we honored the oldest living female World War Two veteran,” David said. She was 102 years old.

The map to David’s motorcycle enthusiasm is drawn by his faith. He travels more than an hour to his church, Living Word Mansfield, from his home in Florien, Louisiana. With the Priesthood, he also interacts a great deal with other motorcycle clubs with the purpose of spreading the Gospel.

David is also dedicated to using his faith to improve the lives of those who don’t ride motorcycles. “I just feel like everybody should be treated the same,” David said. “It helps to have faith and to pray. There is always someone who needs to hear something encouraging.”

For David, his faith also gives him a unique perspective as a union member, especially when he sees a fellow union member in need. “I can offer a ministerial effect,” he said. “It lets me be more of a brother than someone you just work with. It gives me a religious and spiritual perspective a lot of organizers don’t have.”

Whether he is working the line on the floor division at Boise-Cascade, riding with his brothers and sisters in the Priesthood Motorcycle Ministry, attending his church, or giving thoughtful council to a co-worker or friend, David Williams is guided by his faith and a higher power. As it states on the Priesthood website, the member see themselves as “biker-soldiers” and “prayer warriors,” which are principles David takes to heart in his dedication to his fellow human beings.

David put it best by stating, “I believe we serve a God of miracles.”

Beware the Alley Kat at the Top of the Hill

Catherine Jackson has a request. Don’t call her Catherine, call her Kat.

Since she’s playing nice at the moment, she’ll let you think it was a request.

Whether she’s working the relief shift at her job, engaging in protected concerted activity, cheering on her children, or skating for her roller derby team, Kat gives her fervor to everything she does.

“I’m passionate about being a member of something,” she stated.

Born and raised in Coquille, Oregon, Kat has been working in the town’s plywood factory for nearly two years. After the recording secretary for Local 2784 went back to school, Kat volunteered for the role. Her father is a Local 2784 retiree, so Kat sees a tradition in the union and her family. She is also a shop steward.

She currently works the relief shift, which allows her to be involved in her children’s lives, attending sports practices and games. She has two boys and one girl all of whom are engaged in various sports.

Kat is no stranger to sports herself. After seeing an ad for a roller derby team, Kat signed up.

“I was at a point in my life that I needed to do something for myself,” she explains. She also states that she is much taller than the average roller derby player, who are typically about five and a half feet tall or shorter. After a few practices, Kat states she “fell in love” with roller derby.

Her team plays for the Adventure Coast Roller Derby league, and their team name is the Star Stompers. When she puts on her skates, she goes by the name Alley Kat. The team practices three times a week, but due to the hours required for the relief shift Kat can usually only make one of them.

When the roller derby is skating it is referred to as a bout. Kat’s team travels as much as two and a half hours to skate in their bouts. The roller derby league skates year round, only taking a break in July. Kat’s team is young, and they have played in about eight bouts. They recently score their first win after two years of skating.
Carrying that energy from her bouts, Kat also shows dedication to her union local. Not only does she serve as recording secretary, but she has been able to get people to the “top of the hill” to participate in protected concerted activity.

“Our contract ended in June, and the company had some changes we weren’t going to stand for with our hours, insurance, and our pensions,” she states.

As she explained, for many of the younger members of the local longer shifts and a reduction in benefits may have sent as serious a message to the younger workers, as it did to her. She is in her mid-thirties and raising a family.

“For a 19-year-old, it may not seem like such a big deal,” she states. “When you lose something it is hard to get it back. I just wanted there to be a fair contract.”

The mill where Kat works is located at the bottom of a hill, and is only accessible by one way streets. In other words, there is one way in and one way out. Her mother owns a business on the “top of the hill,” so management would see she and her colleagues engaging in protected concerted activity when they entered and exited the mill. Also, the location placed the mill workers close to the highway where drivers could witness their activity and honk and wave in support.

Through her strong team and leadership skills, she was able to get a strong showing at the top of the hill, influencing the contract negotiations.

Kat Jackson plays a mean game. Whether she is rallying her local brothers and sisters to fight for their contract, setting a remarkable example for her children, or donning her Alley Kat moniker and skating hard in a bout, Kat sets a great example for the Millennials to follow showing them what it means to be dedicated to her union, her family, and herself.

“I get to go to my kid’s practices and be involved in a way that makes me happy,” she stated. “I really enjoy what I am doing.”

Always On Demand

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Do you want extra money? Great. We all do. Having a side gig to line our pockets with a little extra cash is a time-honored tradition. The modern era allows us to combine technology with our desire for supplementary income.

There is no need to scour the newspaper or store shop windows in order to find that second job. One need only download an application on their smartphone and follow the steps that company requires to make one’s self eligible and available for work. For example, there are two major companies that coordinate a driving service, whereby drivers can use their personal vehicles as if they were a taxi. We all know what services are being referenced here.

Second jobs used to require a second job schedule. Workers had to punch the clock at their second job they way they did at their first. This is not the case with this “on-demand” employment. If a worker is in the mood to drive people around and make money doing it, he or she need only tap the screen on their smartphone. The application will send them alerts when they are needed.

They make money, the customer gets where they need to go, and everyone is happy.

These services have the part-time worker listed as a contractor. This lets the employer skip out on paying or providing any sort of benefits to the workers. The worker’s performance is also subject to review from the “customer.” That may not sound like a bad thing, until the worker gives a ride to someone who is just in a bad mood and looking to take that aggression out on someone.

But what if that becomes the model for all employment?

What if current regulations are weakened to allow this sort of business model to become the only business model for workers? What if it is your employer who can decide on a daily basis whether or not a person gets to go to work and earn money on daily basis? What if a decade or two from now, workers have to stare at a tiny glowing screen waiting for the call to come to work?

There have long been day laborers in this country that have worked in this sort of fashion, and none of those workers have achieved the prosperity we all dream of. The purpose here is not to be Chicken Little on every innovation or change in the marketplace, but rather to recommend people consider their actions and purchases. All things have repercussions. Furthermore, it is about workers paying attention to market trends when it comes to labor.

Making extra money is great. Sometimes the extra income earned can be the thing that makes sure college tuition is paid, orthodontic braces are on teeth, or vacations are taken. It is, however, necessary for workers to remain vigilant so they may ensure a business model that is uber-convenient to corporations is just as fair and supportive for workers.

Congratulations, You’re Fired – then came FMLA

Imagine These Scenarios

You find out you’re pregnant. You and your significant other are excited by the news.

You have an illness that has complicated your life, and you need to deal with it.

You have to have a surgery, and it will mean you have to be off your feet for a few months.

Your child is sick and needs to stay home and receive medical care.

All of these situations are complicated. Some of them could be good news: a health condition is curable or a baby is going to be born. Others are bad: a serious illness has jeopardized someone’s health or a family member is in need. They all have something in common, though, before 1993, they could all lead to job loss.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993. Prior to its implementation, workers had no protection against job loss when it came to illness, be it themselves or someone in their family who was sick. Individual employers may have a policy in place to allow a worker to take an extended leave due to illness, but many employers chose to terminate employment rather than work with the employee.

Furthermore, there was no protection for women who may become pregnant. Prior to the passing of the FMLA, pregnancy – more often than not – led to the woman losing her job. Pregnancy was even seen as a valid reason for an employer to terminate a woman’s employment.

The Family Medical and Leave Act established twelve weeks of unpaid leave for workers enduring an illness or growing their families. It secured their employment and guaranteed they could return to their job or a comparable one, upon the end of their leave.

Know Your Rights

As with most things, it is essential that workers know their rights. If you find yourself in a situation that necessitates you use your protections provided by the FMLA, you need to be aware of your rights. Remember, FMLA does not guarantee your pay during your leave; it only secures your job.

If you feel your employer is not complying with the FLMA, you need to pick up the phone and call your steward immediately.

New Year, New You, New Union

As we all know, the beginning of a new year can be a time for personal reflection and change. Many people decide it is time to get their finances in order, get in shape, and/or get their life going in the direction they would like it to go. These resolutions rarely last till spring, and – in truth – few survive to the end of January.

There is a resolution that many union members should consider: getting involved in their locals.

Here’s why:

The Kentucky House of Representatives was the last congressional house in the south to retain a Democratic majority. Razor thin as that majority was, it was able to hold back the agenda of the newly elected governor, who sought to do away with prevailing wage and enact so-called right to work legislation, though the term “right to not work” is more fitting, since RTW has proven itself to destroy job markets rather than improve them.

The election of last November saw an end to the Democratic majority that had held control of the state house for nearly a century. The new, Republican-controlled Kentucky congress started the session on Tuesday, January 3rd. On January 7th, the governor signed RTW legislation into Kentucky law. The new RTW law will take effect on Monday, January 9th.

The repeal of prevailing wage is in its last stages before it is also signed into law. They say elections have consequences. Apathy has consequences too.

Members of all unions operating in Kentucky protested at the state capital. Many were locked out of meetings. Though the governor did have a heated (and now viral) exchange with union members, he spent much time in his office or in chambers with armed police guards posted.

The union members and all the protestors who fought the anti-worker agenda being pushed have earned our respect, and we should commend them.

With all that said, there is still a way to get involved. The union local is a flurry of activity carried out by the eBoard in order to see to the business of the local. Often when a change is implemented within a local, members will ask questions. They may say, “Hey, why didn’t I now about this?”

The truth is this: the “change” was probably discussed at length at the last stated meeting.

Attend.

Get active.

If ever there was a time you were needed, it is now. Make the commitment and make sure it lasts all year.

Remembering Matewan: The Battle of Blair Mountain

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Part 3:

In the days following the Matewan Massacre, the forces of both sides began to amass in the area surrounding Matewan and throughout Logan County, W. Va. Miners, many of whom had witnessed the massacre, began to militarize into guards and patrolled the areas where the miners were staying. Acting as a security force for the miners, they even disarmed state troopers who arrived with orders to disband the units. The troopers were not harmed but were sent to report miners had no intention of giving up.

Skirmishes and fire fights between miners, company men, and non-union miners had persisted. Numerous pro-union minors were arrested. To thwart the clashes, a temporary truce was reached; however, martial law was imposed on the community.

The miners, now represented by the UMW, traveled to Charlestown to present their demands to the West Virginia Governor. The governor immediately rejected the miners’ demands and further discussion of the conflict ended. The frustrated miners formed a march on Logan County, though West Virginia government had implemented martial law in the county and such a march would not be well received.

The miners were even cautioned by the legendary Mother Jones not to proceed with the march. The miners did not heed her advice and proceeded to move towards. They stated they intended to free the miners who had previously been jailed. They further stated the time for negotiation had come to an end: all efforts to contain the unfolding events were skewed in one direction, in their eyes, and the company and government seemed to be united against them.

The fighting began and soon the battle ensued as more and more miners came to the fight. Alerted to the conflict, President Warren G Harding threatened to bomb the miners if the conflict did not end.

Another agreement to disband was made. The miners left, but found the agreement had not been made in good faith, as many pro-labor miners were ambushed and killed. For the next several days the fighting between the miners and the government and private forces would continue. It all culminated on August 29th, 1920, when the company men took the high ground and were able to gain the upper hand. Furthermore, the threat of bombs being dropped on American citizens came true, as makeshift bombs were dropped on the miners from private planes.

Further federal forces were dispatched, and the miners were outnumbered. They retreated home, hiding their weapons and ammunition in the woods they all knew so well.

The uprising was quelled.

In the days and months following the uprising, the miners and union leaders were arrested. Indictments were handed down, convictions issued, and prison terms imposed.

The miners of Logan County, including Matewan, would not be unionized until the New Deal implementation under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

No one who witnessed the Matewan Massacre or the Battle of Blair Mountain is still thought to be living. The conflict was ninety-six years ago and nearly any and every one born at this time has passed. The bones of the miners who rose up and organized are long in the ground.

There are many who knew them who are still alive.

Many of those miners’ children and grandchildren still live in the communities where their ancestors’ blood seeped into the ground. Many others sat at the feet of these miners as children and heard their fathers or grandfathers tell the tale of what happened during those violent days in 1920.

The days when companies could align themselves with the government to openly suppress workers in a hostile fashion is not that far removed. As we remember Matewan, it is key to understand that the miners were not the first to violence. They stood up for their families, their freedom, and their pursuit of an honest living. The Stone Mountain Coal Company fought for greed and profits.

It took the hard reality of the Great Depression to bring a period of time where a miner in West Virginia, and all of Appalachia for that matter, could trust in an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

What is Prevailing Wage?

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When we talk about legislation and how it can have a detrimental effect on workers, the most common topic is that of Right to Work. Right to work is bad for workers, there is no doubt, but it is not the only threat against workers. As workers must be aware of the RTW threat, they must also know there are other aspects that must be protected. One example of this is Prevailing Wage.

Prevailing Wage (PW) is an often-used termed, but many workers are not aware of exactly what PW is and how it is beneficial to them.

So what is Prevailing Wage and what does it do?

Many trades will work with governments, whether it is on roads, bridges, or other infrastructure projects. Also, trades will construct buildings, maintain parks, and a whole host of other projects.
Whenever a company, trade, or any entity engages to do work on a government contract, they do so under a Prevailing Wage. Prevailing Wage sets the hourly wage, benefits, and overtime paid to most workers within a particular area, when contracting with the government.

Many date Prevailing Wage in America back to the reconstruction and growth experienced after the end of the civil war. Back then, workers were paid by the day, rather than the hour. It was common for employers to try to squeeze more and more hours out of workers for their day’s labor. Congress would pass the National Eight Hour Day law. At this time, the US government had no ability to regulate private markets. This act allowed them to structure the daily wage around eight hours of work.

When a Prevailing Wage is set within an area, the wages of all workers tends to line up and be protected. In other words, a worker on a government contract and a worker in a private contract will be making similar if not exact money due to the presence of a Prevailing Wage.

As with many wage and hour issues with America, much of the legislation is left to state representatives. Just as Right to Work is state level so is Prevailing Wage. When anti-worker legislatures are able to get rid of Prevailing Wage, all wages tend to drop.

Prevailing Wage tends to boosts worker earnings. Loss of Prevailing Wage in an area will invariably lead to a drop in pay for all workers.

Shop American, Shop Union

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The holiday season is approaching. During this time of year people from all walks of life come together, whether they are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, or some other holiday. Whatever it is that brings them together, the important thing is that they come together, put aside their differences, and extend kindness and warm tidings to one another. They sit around tables and break bread together, giving thanks for what they have. They say prayers and give their warmest thoughts in the hope those who are less fortunate will find a better life. It is a wonderful time of year, during which individuals become a community and they allow themselves to appreciate and enjoy life.
They also shop.

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the largest shopping day of the year, and the month that follows the busiest month for retailers. It is also one of the best times of year to support unions and American workers.

As shoppers enter stores and open their favorite shopping apps on their phones, they have an easy ability to make responsible purchases. The country of origin is listed on the packaging for products. Products made in the United States will have the “Made in USA” logo on them. Also, this product information will be available on most, if not all, on-line retailers; it may just require the on-line shopper to do a little extra navigating.

Since most shoppers will have their smart phone with them, they can easily do a quick internet search when purchasing products to see if they are buying union made.

Another key aspect of shopping on-line to consider is who will be delivering the product. Will the person who places your purchases at your front door be protected by a union contract? Most on-line retailers make public which delivery companies they use. Take the time to see whether or not that company is a union company.

Once the turkey leftovers are in the refrigerator, the shopping season starts in full sway. Modern consumers have more information at their fingertips than shoppers ever have before. As union members, use today’s technology to ensure you are making purchases that both American Made and Union Proud.

No Free Lunch!

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It happens too often — a conversation turns into discipline.

It happened to Leura Collins in 1972. She worked in sales for J. Weingarten, Inc, and she was accused of taking a box of chicken without paying full price. Weingarten sold four pieces of chicken for one dollar. Ms. Collins made the purchase of four pieces of chicken. The one dollar purchases were supposed to go into a specific box. The counter was out of these boxes that day, so Ms. Collins placed her purchase into a bigger box.

This was witnessed by a company investigator, and Ms. Collins was called into the office with the investigator and a manager. It seems they believed she had taken three dollars’ worth of chicken, but only paid one dollar.

This was not the case; she just used a different box.

During the conversation, Ms. Collins requested her union steward be present several times.  All her requests were denied. Management continued to berate her until she broke out into tears.

During her frustration, Ms. Collins stated the only thing she ever took from the company was her free lunch. The conversation shifted. The investigator and manager realized she had paid the appropriate price for her chicken. Now they were concerned she had broken a different company policy.

  1. Weingarten Inc. had two kinds of retail models: one with lunch counters and one that sold food in building lobbies. At the stores with lunch counters, employees were permitted to receive a free lunch. At the lobby shops, employees were not permitted to take free food.

Ms. Collins had worked for Weingarten for years at both types of company establishments. At the time she was accosted by management in 1972, she worked at a lobby shop. As she was interrogated, it became evident that she, nor any other employee, had been advised of the company policy against lobby shop employees being barred from free lunches. It seemed most of the employees were led to believe they were permitted to have free lunch.

Management admitted to taking the free lunch as well.

At the end of the conversation, an exhausted and tearful Collins was told to keep the conversation quiet. Management did not want the other employees to know what they had put Ms. Collins through. Disregarding the manager’s demand, she told her shop steward what happened.

An unfair labor practice grievance began, and it would ultimately lead to the Supreme Court ruling of NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. in 1975.

The meat of the ruling is this: since all conversations can lead to discipline, union members have the right to have a steward present during investigative conversations.

Ms. Collins suffered so others would not have to.  Let’s not forget her hard work and selflessness.

If union members are asked to engage in conversations with management, they must remember those conversations can turn disciplinary. As a result of Ms. Collins standing up, union members can utilize their Weingarten Rights and demand a steward be present to advise them during all conversations.

It’s up to the union members to know this. Management is not going to tell you.

If you get called in for a conversation, bring your steward. Period.

Exercise your rights; do not sacrifice them.

 

Remembering Matewan: Of Scrip and Other Evils

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Part Two: Of Scrip and Other Evils

Before they signed their union cards, the miners in Matewan and other Appalachian communities existed in an indentured hiatus from true citizenship.

For generations before coal mining, the ancestors of the miners had lived in the hills of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and the rest of Appalachia. The families worked the land and lived in close-knit communities with a unique culture.

There was an awareness that the area was rich with timber and coal, but the area was yet to be exploited for is resources. The mining companies and other corporations wishing to harvest the assets of the region were able to gain political favor with local and state politicians, increasing the corporate influence in the area and diminishing the rights of the people who had lived in the area for close to two centuries.

Though the families of Appalachia, including the people of Matewan, owned the land that contained the coal, the law was manipulated. The mineral rights of the land became separate from the land itself. The family who had occupied the land for ages may own the land, but they did not own the coal.

The coal companies were given a specific brand of imminent domain. They were permitted to enter into the old communities. They would construct tenement, shotgun-style houses. The locals became the employees of the companies.

Rather than pay the citizens of Matewan, the coal company issued compensation in the form of scrip: a coinage minted by the company itself and own redeemable at stores and shops owned by the company.

In other words, the miners weren’t paid.

The products sold at the company stores were retailed at highly inflated prices. Most often, the meager scrip was not enough to cover the basic necessities the miner and his family required. Items not sold in the store but needed by the family were ordered from a catalog at an even higher mark-up. This malicious system caused the already unpaid miner to go into immense debt to the company. As the song goes, the miner owed his “soul to the company store.”

The miners’ homes were owned by the coal company too. His payment was a counterfeit allowed by a corrupt government and issued by an even more corrupt company. Every aspect of their lives and their families’ lives was tethered to the company and the miner was not able to break the bond, until the union men arrived in Matewan.

The Matewan miners watching the interaction between the Baldwin-Felts men and the sheriff with his deputies had long suffered under this system of scrip and other evils. They were aware that their fellow miners had been evicted that very day for opposing this deplorable system implemented by the coal company.

One can only wonder if the rifles in the miners’ hands that day were purchased at the company store with the scrip the company issued.

Nonetheless, the union men had proposed a new life to the people of Matewan. In many ways, the union offered them a chance to not only gain dignity in their workplace, but to reclaim the land and the culture that had been their heritage.