Submitted by Stan Wylie
Whoo Hooo… 2012 is here and we made it through 2011. Last month my report was a bit long and I talked a lot about other unionists who have helped me along the way to becoming President of the Local and thanking the current board and those that choose to step back from the board but still are there when needed. I’ll take one more moment to thank them again. Thanks!
Moving into this year we will have several challenges MV Transportation is constantly changing things, the “rules” or operating procedures seem different to most of the management team depending on the day or issue at hand. It is rather frustrating at times. Unfortunately for years, we have expressed this concern and yet it still happens. I am not terribly hopeful this will change moving forward, so we will continue to challenge decisions we think are not what we had previously agreed to.
We are still negotiating a contract for a small group of employees at one employer; we will be starting negotiations with another company this week and will have another smaller company to negotiate in May. We have reached a tentative agreement with another company and will be getting the members to vote on that agreement in the coming weeks.
At CenturyLink we are still kind of in a post-merger cycle that was the same as pre-merger even though the merger happened in April. The company at least in my opinion has not made clear moving forward what it intends to do in regards to headcount or organizational structures. While it certainly has made numerous changes in the Network side of the house and there are still a lot of lingering issues. Construction routinely has techs loaned to Mass Markets and construction is increasing the contracting at the same time.
It will be very interesting to see how they approach bargaining which will be another challenge for the year. I know for months I have said, it will be very important for everyone to get involved, I do mean that, and it will be. We can see from what the company did to the retiree’s regarding healthcare premiums this year (that is still being argued at the district level) why it will be so important in negotiating it this year. We will need folks to volunteer for our Local Bargaining Committee and our Mobilization and Strike Prep Committees. More information will follow. But let’s be honest here, this truly affects every employee at CenturyLink. This is not something that anyone should choose to sit out on and watch. The more participation the better.
We also have National elections coming up in November. If anyone has watched any news whatsoever in the last 12 months then you couldn’t have missed the reports of the problems in Washington D.C. -what is going on there is pathetic. The President can only do so much and as long as the House is run by a bunch of (you can fill in the adjective) Legislators who don’t seem to care about the middle class and the Senate continues to have its ridiculous procedure rules (that the Republicans like to exercise at any time to prevent legislating) we are in for a difficult road ahead. We need to change that and the only way to do that is to vote. So we will be working hard in the upcoming months on election issues and again I will say we need your support and assistance.
Organizing and growing the local will be another priority. The assault on labor for the last decade has been nonstop. The Conservatives continue to try and take away from organized workers and they simply won’t stop. The reason is simple, organized workers have a voice. We all are enjoying that voice and the benefits it brings. Granted it is not perfect and we certainly have suffered losses but we have also had gains. In order to beat the attacks on Labor we must continue to make labor stronger and the only way to do that is to organize. How many of you have a spouse, sibling, child, or friend that work for a nonunion company that continually get messed with where they have no voice? No healthcare? No job protections? Is it really so bad to have these things in the workplace? I don’t think so. So the next time you hear one of those folks talk about their working conditions and being taken advantage of, ask them, have you considered organizing? It’s a simple question. Then you can tell them about the benefits you enjoy as a represented worker, get their contact info and pass it on to the local. We can reach out to them and see if we can help. We will do so discretely and privately.
So the items listed above will be the pressing issues as we move through the year. Then we can see what 2013 will bring.
It’s worth saying that the Local belongs to everyone. While I may be President, it is your local. The local works for the benefit and at the direction of the membership, we need the members to communicate with us and participate with us to be a truly effective organization. As President I want to ensure that happens. As the President I want every steward and committee member to be a conduit of information for the membership. I know we try to communicate with the membership via our bulletin boards, work site visits, newsletter, website, and Facebook accounts but we still hear that folks are not hearing from us. We will have to do better. Any suggestions? It seems site visits seem to be most useful in that regard so we will have to try and increase the visits as time and money permits. I would encourage you all though to bookmark our website as a favorite and like us on Facebook.
I would like to set some goals for the local to achieve in the coming months. I will be asking the Executive Board, the Stewards, Committee members, and the membership to step up a bit and do more. This will include me of course but we all should consider a bit a sacrifice for a greater good. It’s how this country was founded, it’s how we earned the rights as citizens and the rights we have in regards to being a union member. We should all be proud of our union because we are all the union. It’s time to give back just a bit more then we have been and given the times it will be the only way we continue to successful. Let’s not forget the scores of folks who gave their lives fighting for their union and their rights. Let’s not forget the sacrifices that people make when they chose to go on strike for principle. Let’s not forget what was done to make sure everyone was treated fairly in this country. Children no longer work in terrible conditions; women and minorities also under the law are to be treated equally.
Unfortunately there are still problems in this country and a singular voice may never be heard but thousands of voices saying the same message can and will be heard. Currently this is happening across the country in regards to the 99%. They are sending a message. I know I have talked about this before but please bear with me. Some of the big banks were going to start charging a fee to have access to an ATM the people said no and they backed off. Last week I signed a petition for a large phone company that was going to start charging people who choose to pay their bill online. A petition was started over 100,000 people signed it and today on the news I heard the company backed away and won’t be doing that now. I signed the petition but I am not a customer of that company.
So working with others and working together does make a difference. Are these small gains? Yes they are but in principle they are huge. It’s this type of effort that we will need to tap into and use resources of others to help in our goals.
Speaking of goals… below is a list that I would like to see the local accomplish in the coming months.
1. Representation. This in my opinion always has to be first. The local has to be able to effectively represent the membership above anything else.
2. Education. We have to continue to train our stewards and volunteers in order to be successful. The entire board will be attending training the 3rd week of January and we have new stewards training scheduled for February and an all stewards meeting in February as well.
3. Committee building. Our committees are currently not close to where they will have to be in the coming months, if we want to be successful we are going to have to focus on building these committees: Organizing, Legislative, Bargaining, Mobilization, Strike Prep, these are going to be a requirement but we also could use help in Community Services, Equity, and Education.
4. Organizing. I mentioned above the need and purpose of this and I do want to reiterate organizing while great for a local it is also essential in helping fight back the attacks on the working class.
The goals will change as we move forward but for now I believe these need to be the focus in the immediate future and we can address how to sustain growth and accomplishments to continue to be a strong local within a strong union.
I know the year will be full of challenges and a lot of hard work is coming. I look forward to working with the Executive Board, the Committees, and the membership in the coming months to become a strong presence with a loud and clear message to our employers and our elected officials that they need to be doing the right thing. We can do this!!!