The Ghost of May Day Past

Another May Day has come and gone.

Time to take down the May Day decorations and throw out that last container of May Day dinner leftovers. Take a deep breath and sigh that the kids have already stopped playing with their May Day presents. There is nothing left to do, but sit back and reflect on the true meaning of May Day, and that is this: people literally died for the privileges many workers take for granted today.

May Day, as it is celebrated today, originated in 1886. It is in direct reference to an event commonly known as the Haymarket Affair. At the beginning of May 1886, a national labor protest was occurring across the country to fight for the eight-hour work day.

Most of these protests were peaceful. This was not the case in Chicago. When a group of scabs under armed protections exited a workplace that was the center of one of the Chicago protests, shots were fired and people were killed.

The details are not going to be discussed at length here. There are many resources that provide information about all of the events of the Haymarket Affair. The truth and most salient point to be made, however, is the events of the Haymarket Affair led to a holiday that is still celebrated around the world.

In some locations, it is marked with parades and feasts to honor working people. In others, it is honored with peaceful protests. In some places, it is all but ignored.

It is an important day in the history of the labor movement. It is a day all union brothers and sisters should remember and keep with them.

Just as Mr. Scrooge was encouraged to keep the spirit of Christmas with him all year long in his dealings with his fellow human beings, perhaps we should keep the spirit of May Day with us in the work that we do and in the way we treat our fellow union members.

TGIF: See You at Work Tomorrow

It is often stated that if you are enjoying your weekend, you should thank a labor union. We see this sentiment displayed all over social media these days, especially around Labor Day. Of course, the history of the weekend and the 40-hour work week is also subject to debate. Many anti-labor voices want to take credit away from Unions when discussing weekend, the 40-hour work week, paid holidays, and other rights and protections enjoyed by today’s workers; however, the truth remains: if not for the persistence, lobbying, and diligence of Labor Unions, many things modern workers take for granted would not exist, such as the weekend.

Labor Unions were fighting for the eight-hour work day and the 40-hour work week as early as the late 1800’s. Before their efforts, most workers could expect a six-day work week. Furthermore, workers were lucky if their shift was ten hours long. Most workers could expect their work day to be at least twelve hours or longer.

It is true that Henry Ford did implement the 40-hour work week and the eight-hour work day for his employees. He did this to attract and keep workers and to ensure the quality of the products they produced. He did so in a very public fashion, but he was not the first employer to implement these practices.

Also, the protections provided by Ford were at his pleasure and not a guarantee for workers. In other words, it was not law.

Labor Unions continued their efforts to bring these protections to workers for decades before it was finally signed into law. That law that ultimately resulted was the Fair Labor Standards Act, which provides protections to workers to this day.

This act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and it established the 40-hour work week and the eight hour days as the standard for all American workers. It also asserted time and a half for overtime, the minimum wage, and a plethora of other protections.

The push for this type of legislation took decades to pass. Though a few employers, such as Ford, had implemented similar practices for their workers, it was the Labor Movement that kept the fire burning for works resulting in actual legislation that governs all workers in America.

Let us remain steadfast to prevent these rights and protections from becoming a thing of the past.

Members of Local 1155 Manufacturing Car Seats in the USA

It is often said that the union members of today are protecting the union of tomorrow. This is definitely the case at the Dorel Juvenile plant in Columbus, Indiana, where the brothers and sisters of the Local 1155 are manufacturing child safety seats and working to educate the public on the proper use of child restraints.

“Our people are our strength.” States Kenny DeBord, who works in management for Dorel Juvenile.

Continuous Improvement Manager Gabe Revell with Dorel Juvenile, concurred with the quality of workers provided by the Local 1155, “We can attribute all our successes to our people.”

The 1155 members take their work very seriously and ensure all child safety seats they make are of the highest quality. Furthermore, the local members and management work together to make sure each seat passes in-house tests that are more rigorous than what the government requires.

Workers at the plant produce up to twenty thousand seats per day, which are distributed all over the world. This includes exports to China. These brothers and sisters dedicate themselves to quality work and duty that has made unions the driving force for superior labor in America.

“We’re making car seats,” states 1155 Local Vice President Levi Ritz. “If we make a mistake a child could die. You need dedicated workers who care about their jobs. It just wouldn’t work the same if you had new employees from a temp service walking through the door every day.”

This point was furthered by Local President Rick Seeley, “We have a lot of people who have been here many years. That helps, because they have seen it all.”

The company and the local also uphold a level of civic responsibility by maintaining a zero landfill facility.

The products produced by the 1155 Local must pass thorough and repeated testing. The members of the local perform the tests with management, keeping record of every single test performed. Each product is crash tested and the seat’s performance during the simulated crash is documented, measured, and studied.

“Everything about our products is regulated,” states Dorel Juvenile Director of Quality Assurance Terry Emerson.

There are two things Local 1155 members and Dorel Juvenile want all consumers to know. First, if a seat has been involved in an accident, it should never be reused. Second, don’t purchase used seats, since it is impossible to know if the seat has been involved in an accident which may have compromised its structural integrity.

Union members have long seen themselves as a family serving each other and their communities. The brothers and sisters of the Local 1155 take this responsibility into their hands every day, seeing to the safety of children all over the world with a level of care and diligence they would extend to their own families.

“The brotherhood is a family,” states Vernon Braxton, Warden for the 1155 local, “The idea is when that car seat touches your hands you should feel responsibility for its safety and confident enough to put your own children in it. If you take pride in that, then every car seat you touch should be good as gold.”

Thanks to the brothers and sisters of the 1155 Carpenters local, products that are not only Union Proud, but also made in the USA are available to all consumers. These products represent the best available, giving peace of mind to consumers that the child in the union built car seat, if properly restrained, is the safest occupant of the automobile.

These products are sold under the brands Cosco, Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi, Quinny, and Tiny Love.

Local 3101 Member Brings Smiles to Children’s Faces

“Let me tell you something,” Joseph Giroir states. “The most spirited children I have been around are crippled children. They have more spirit towards life. They have more spirit towards everything.”

Every clown has a serious side, as is evident in the above statement. Joseph Giroir works at Boise-Cascade in Oakdale, Louisiana as a line operator in the plywood division. He also serves as the recording secretary for Local 3101 and has served as a shop steward during his more than five years with the union. Outside of work, Joseph is very active in the Shiners.

“I’m a buffoon,” Joseph says, referring to his work as a hobo clown. Joseph fulfills his role as a clown, making people smile in nineteen different parades across Louisiana. He says the best part of being a hobo is watching people laugh.

“People look at you funny, and you make them laugh. Laughter is the best medicine on earth. If you make a children laugh, you win their heart,” Joseph says.

One of his favorite ways to bring a smile to a child’s face as a clown is with an imaginary dog, which he does by leading a dog collar around on a firm, bent wire.

Joseph’s interaction with the Shriners began long before he was old enough to be a member. His brother was treated at a Shriners’ hospital, after being burned as a teenager. His brother is now forty, with no visible burn scars, thanks to the treatment he received at the Shriners Hospital. Also, Joseph’s daughter, who recently turned eighteen, was a Shriners Kid.

“Being a Mason and serving in the military is a tradition in my family,” Joseph states.

Joseph belongs to the Shriners Temple in Shreveport that is two and a half hours drive from his home. Despite the distance, Joseph is an active member and keenly involved in fundraising for the Shriner’s hospitals.

“It takes two million dollars a day to run a hospital,” Joseph states. “When I talk to people, I make it very clear I am going to ask for money. They see this man in a funny looking hat, and, the next thing you know, they are giving me a donation.”

Joseph explained that the Shriner’s hospitals always benefit children to the fullest. He has been associated with the Shriner’s Hospitals far longer than he has been an actual Shriner. He has been associated with the hospital for more than fifteen years.

The Shriners extend the assistance to the families of the children seeking care in the hospitals as well.

“Our goal is to help these parents take care of these children as best they can,” Joseph says. He further explained that the Shriners assist the parents and families of the children acquire food and shelter while the kids are receiving treatment at the hospitals.

When he visits the Shriners hospital, he is dressed as his clown character. He visits the children receiving treatment giving them stuffed animals and entertaining them.

“Every child is a gift from God,” Joseph says. “I’m reminded of that every time I go into a hospital room and see a smile on a sick child’s face.”

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.