Local 249 launches member education classes

By Erica Eckart

Local 249 is celebrating the successful re-launch of the membership education classes. The general purpose of the education classes range from topics regarding rights within the workplace to your role as a union member and everything in between.

President Jason Starr and Bargaining Chairman Jim Fisher, along with the Executive Board of UAW Local 249, recognized the need for members to move past the service mentality of union members and engage and encourage our members to understand their role as union activists.

“The classes give an honest assessment of where we are in the labor movement and how the workers of Kansas City, especially the UAW, have played a major part in our own creation but more importantly how to maintain our place as Union members’’ says Gary Thomas, Chairman of the Education Committee and Local 249 Guide.

“The 8,000 members of Local 249 build the best in class trucks and vans, yet we routinely give up our power to the bosses, hot button politicians and the convenience of short term gains. The Education Committee is dedicated to showing our members that class identity is one of the most powerful weapons we have”.

These education classes are taught by Gary Thomas and Robin Taylor (Chairwoman of the Women’s Committee). The general structure consists of education, member engagement, and surveys, followed by over an hour of open Q&A during a discussion session with Local 249 President Jason Starr and our Bargaining Committee.

According to survey feedback from previous classes, the consensus is that people learn more than they expect to from these classes. Most participants state that they did not understand the power they had as members, how much more they could be doing to contribute to our future and our successes, and how much the union does for them. Many shared that they learn how a lot of facts about plant issues often get misconstrued on the shop floor and blown out of proportion by the rumor mills.

One example of misconstrued topics would be about our VCAP donations. VCAP funds are not used for the hot button issues popularized by social media. The Voluntary Community Action Program was designed and built to promote and protect the interest of UAW members, our families and our communities.

These monetary donations are used to promote cancer awareness and research, scholarships for our children. They also support community programs, local schools and donations to organizations that support our membership, and so much more. Most importantly they help elect policy makers who represent the interests of unions and working class labor.

Oftentimes these discussions are filled with incorrect information fueled by biased or personal feelings that have no basis for truth and tend to divide the membership. These classes give members an opportunity to get clarification on the facts, express their thoughts and feelings, and ask any questions that come to mind.

One of the incredible and unique parts of these classes is that those in attendance select those who will attend the next class. This allows these members to return the investment the local has put into them by helping build the next set of attendees all while also taking the information they have learned back to the floor. Whether it is by donating to VCAP, joining a standing committee or agreeing to be an activist in their work area each member is asked to commit themselves to being a positive force of change for the local moving forward.

If you are interested in attending these classes, please submit your request to your district committeeman.