UAW Region 4 trains committee members

By Cecelia Davis

On April 5th, our Local 249 standing committee members were privileged to travel to Ottawa, Illinois (the home of Region 4 and the Pat Greathouse Center) for a week to learn the building blocks of a strong union. There are 17 states in Region 4 that the UAW serves. While there, Local 249 got the chance to meet our other UAW brothers and sisters within classes that were split into groups. We combined and collaborated on what makes a powerful union and the benefits of having one. It was a family reunion of members who care about our union’s future.

For over 80 years, our union has constructed core values. Those important core values are: Bargaining, a mandate to build, protect, and maintain high standards. Equality, all people are equal. Solidarity, we fight for everyone, not just ourselves, and Voting, the notion that political activism is essential to promote, protect, and maintain the joint interests of the membership.

These core values are shared and honored through action by our standing committees. What’s the point of having standing committees, you may ask? Standing committees help build solidarity throughout the membership, to help see us not only as an individual but as a unit of one to provide a powerful labor movement. Standing committees help keep members active in their communities and help to exchange information on issues that are concerns within the plant and the working families.

Local 249 currently has twelve different standing committees. The Civil and Human Rights, Education, Union Label, Veterans, Women’s, Community Action Program (CAP), Conservation and Recreation, Consumer affairs, Motorcycle Committee, Member to Member, Chaplaincy, and Community Services Committee.

The UAW Education department created a packet that explains each committee. The Civil and Human Rights Committee works toward the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, the community, and the nation.

Education Committee builds the power of the labor movement through educating and training our members. Union Label committee informs and educates members about the products we buy as consumers, and the importance to support union-made items. The Veterans Committee represents the interest of all active and retired UAW veterans and their families. The Women’s Committee works to further the gains of women in the workplace and society. Community Action Program (CAP) Committee is the political-legislative arm of the local union and the vital workplace political activator. The Conservation and Recreation Committee combats stress with quality family and individual leisure-time activities and the committee also explores environmental issues.

The Consumer Affairs Committee monitors companies’ social conscience and performance to provide safe and honest products and services. The Motorcycle Committee is dedicated to solidarity within our union and helps support the surrounding community.

The Member to Member Committee is a network of communication within our local union that enables us to transmit information effectively and accurately from the source to the membership. The Chaplaincy Committee provides spiritual relief in the moment of crisis throughout the membership. The Community Service Committee performs the critical task of helping members and their families in times of need.

There were many of our members that were first timers in attending a standing committee conference. Like Jill Johnson, who just joined the Union Label Committee, “This conference was amazing, and I learned so many lessons and rich history. Being a part of this experience has changed my complete mind set. It was nice to meet many other UAW members not only from different locals but also from the local I belong to. Thank you, Local 249, for an amazing experience.”

Like Jill, a lot of members who were attending for the first time realized just how strong our local is, in comparison to many smaller locals in the UAW.

For instance, Caterpillar is so strict that the president of their local must get permission from the company to go to any department within the plant that they work in. That they would have supervisors stand outside their union meetings to count and see how many attended just so they could seek revenge on those that were there.

“We are all soldiers in the same fight to win fairness and representation. It is our International Union that helps facilitate that fight with us joining behind them,” said David Winkler, who has been a member of our local for almost 9 years. He has been on multiple committees but currently takes part as a member of the Election and the CAP Committee. “I enjoyed meeting members from my own local that I may not interact with daily. I also enjoyed meeting members from other locals. It gave me the chance to ask questions about what products they make, how their plants run, and how they deal with similar situations. And to spitball ideas back and forth to see what might work better within each of the other locals,” said Winkler.

“I enjoyed going over some new topics, like how to grow our committees and roles of a newly appointed standing committee member. There is always more to learn about our new upcoming political fights because the companies always try to find new tactics and areas where they think they can easily attack not only our union, but EVERY union. Last, I enjoyed the camaraderie that is built and how all of our members are bound, whether you are Ford, John Deere, or Champion Spark Plugs.”

The locals were fortunate to have directors just as passionate to teach such a promising class. To uplift every member and remind them why our union is what it has become today, sensational, and ever growing. Not only are they the teachers, but they also continue to grow and adapt to the ever-changing conditions and challenges we face as a family.

 “If we look back through history, we see that it often repeats itself and that we also must overcome the same struggles today, that we have in generations passed. I believe it now more than ever, that education is still the key to unlocking the barriers of our differences that divide us, so we can open our minds and focus on all the many values and beliefs that we all share as working-class people.

“As union members, we need to always remember the importance of being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and continue to arm each other with the tools to protect our livelihoods so we can keep growing together as a unified force to counter the attacks by corporate greed and anti-labor agendas. That’s what our education conferences are all about, and that’s to make an investment into all our futures as well as the world we leave for our children,” said Travis Brock, Local 2250 Region 4 Local Union Discussion Leader.

It’s important to get involved. The fight to maintain a strong union is bigger than just you and me. It’s not only an honor to be a part of history, but to be a helping hand in the future. There are multiple ways to get involved, join a committee, donate to VCAP or simply be an activist on the plant floor. We are the United Auto Workers, solidarity forever!