CWA Local 7800

August 2014

I have always tried to approach things either in my personal life or my work life with some optimism. Find the good in a difficult situation. I have done that over the years, as I have represented folks within the Local. I try to find some common ground with the employers and negotiate something that benefits the members I represent. I feel good about my work and things I have accomplished over the years, although there of course have been several disappointments as well.

In Labor we have ups and downs; we have great struggles and great accomplishments. What is not going away anytime soon is the struggle. It is getting tougher, there is no doubt about that which is why it is so critical now that we don’t give up. Not only do we have corporations and politicians attacking labor standards, we have special interest groups out there basically lying about everything and distorting the truth about so many things. They have patriotic sounding names but their goal is anything but patriotic when you get down to it. It is exactly the opposite. They use hate and lies to manipulate facts, stir up controversy when there is none. The real effect of this is we now have a more divided country; it seems less and less people are open to simple conversation on solutions but more about who can sling more mud. It is disappointing.

I talk about this because it is in our own union, and our Local. I am just going to throw it out there. There is no place for Tea Party politics in this union. Many of our members belong to the Tea Party and I certainly don’t want to tell them what political party they should affiliate with but at the same time I will say there is nothing the Tea Party has to offer that is beneficial to the working people or to the members of this union. I tend to agree with “Taxed Enough Already” but I think that should apply to working people and not corporations. I also think that immigration reform needs to happen and again corporations exploiting people should be held accountable. I think America is very fond of their right to bear arms although I wish people would be more cognizant of what was really meant by the founding fathers. Gun control needs to happen, background checks should be mandatory. I also believe in the separation of church and state and religion should have no place in politics. We are all free to choose our religion and to choose to participate or not to participate and that is great, but religions, especially those with specific beliefs, should not have any input whatsoever in our political process or laws that are created in our country.

I write this because frankly I wanted to get this off my chest. We have many members who are members of the Tea Party and again that is fine but I want to be clear- we have different objectives, we have different approaches to achieve them but mainly Tea Party politics is not compatible with actually improving working conditions, wages, and benefits for the working class. We as a Local should not promote or engage in any Tea party politics whatsoever.

As everyone knows we will have officer elections coming up and I encourage folks to get involved but I also want people to know that beyond representing members in the workplace, we have other goals. We need to work with our coalition partners on things that benefit the working people inside and outside of the corporations of the members we represent. We need members who will run for office and are willing to go to meetings on nights and weekends with our partners, be willing to knock on doors to campaign politicians who have the same vision for America as we do. Folks willing to support our other brothers and sisters in differing unions as they face their struggles with their employers as they have come to support us when called upon. We should still be active in volunteerism for the community.

As you all know my department is closing and about 150 people are at risk at losing their jobs. There are currently very few opportunities in Seattle for occupational jobs and those positions are rather competitive. Last week the company forced employees with a deadline for the 2nd STLA even though the company had not looked at those wanting to do a job swap (EVSPP). I argued with the company for days to extend the deadline for STLA out at least a week or until Staffing had done the matches. The company flat out refused. My last correspondence to them was -what will it hurt the company to do this? I have yet to get a reply and the bottom line is it would not have hurt the company to move that date, but what it did was force others to make a decision to leave the business and drop out of the ESVPP process. Kind of sad.

For me as I have mentioned before I applied for a position last May that might or might not happen for me. I am still in contention for the position but at this point I have no idea when or if they will move forward to actually fill the position and then of course not sure which candidate will be chosen. I also put in for the ESVPP but to be honest while I felt I had a very good chance at actually getting a match here in Seattle I don’t have a lot of faith in Staffing to do the right thing…. I was offered a job in Boise which isn’t necessarily ideal ,it was a guarantee and since it is a down grade I will be free to use the post and bid system immediately. It is also commutable sort of, as it is just over 500 miles away on an easy plane ride or an 8 hour drive on long weekends. I was given a hard date to accept or decline the offer so as of 5P M on 8-11-14 I accepted the position in Boise. The drawback is that I have to report on 8-18-14.

Getting back to my opening paragraph about being an optimist, I like to think I am, but I am also a realist… I am reasonably close to a pension and not quite ready to walk away from it. Boise has a lot to offer and I am looking forward to checking it out, maybe buy a place to fix up and sell it when I return to Seattle. I will be returning, just not sure when. My family will be staying here and I hope to make it home at least once a month. As far as the Local goes obviously I will have to step down as President and Michael Lynch will fill the remainder of my term. In October we will have nominations for elections at the membership meeting (see newsletter for more information about date, time and location). Hopefully we will have many qualified, ambitious candidates.

At the E-board meeting we passed a motion to move the Local to the FTINW building on the South Seattle Community College campus near Georgetown. I hope the membership passes the motion as well. It is a beautiful space with great ties to Labor and presents itself with numerous opportunities for the Local. It will be a great place for the new elected board to resume the business of the Local to represent our members and pursue the goal of improving working conditions and opportunities for working people.

I have enjoyed my time as part of this Local for close to 15 years. I have really enjoyed the successes of winning grievances and participating in arbitrations when employees win. I’ve learned from the losses as well and those lessons will go with me as I move on. I want to thank the membership for their support over the years. I know sometimes decisions I have made have been met with joy and other times disappointment. I do know that I always made decisions based on what I thought was best for the members. Remember, it’s about the greater good.

I have worked with so many great people over the years and I learned so much from many of them that helped me be successful in my positions as a union representative. Freda McGrath was a great leader and I loved her passion for putting it on the table as blunt as she could be. I loved her stories about the old “Bell days” in New York. Her passing was a great loss for working people and our community. Brenda Roberts was President when I was first elected to the Board. She is also a great leader and mentor. Yesterday I received in the mail a letter that she is running for the District 7 Vice President.

I encourage this Local to support her. We won’t have a better advocate and she is still a member of this Local. Again I strongly encourage this Local to support her and cast all their votes during that election in support of her. Not only was she always available with an answer to a hard question she also held me accountable and routinely I would hear “well what does the contract say?”… Her intent was to ensure I would be looking at it before simply providing an answer. I also want to thank Rick Sorensen and Susie Mcallister our Staff Reps. Rick has done an outstanding job over the years in arbitrations for the Local (and the District) and Susie is quickly proving to be following in his footsteps. Debbie Stevens was also a great advocate for this Local. She took over as Secretary Treasurer when the Local was basically broke and led it to one of the more financially secure locals in the District. She also has a great wealth of knowledge on the history of the Local that nobody can match. Craig Dameron took over when she retired and I will say the Secretary Treasurer position really is the most difficult position in the Local and the most crucial to be able to do it effectively and accurately, even more so then my current position as President.

I have enjoyed working with the other CWA Presidents in the state. It is always nice to be able to pick up the phone and have a conversation and get a different perspective sometimes. We have also lost recently several folks who have served this local over the years, their contributions were noticed and appreciated - Karen Thompson, Candi Scaiola, Avis Mailey, Gayleen Jennings, JJ Zimmel, Jeannine Maury, and the countless Stewards as well. I am sure I have missed several who have given above and beyond.

The local Secretary Cathy Chicquette has been invaluable over the years and moving forward will also be very important for the new board as they get settled in. I want to thank her for her years of service to the Local and wish her the best of luck moving forward.

We were able to establish a good Local retiree charter and I want to thank John Hamilton for everything he is doing to keep lines of communications open to the retirees and I hope moving forward we will have many more members. Jerri Wood is constantly out there advocating for retirees, she seems to be quite the work horse and will probably still be advocating in the decades to come.

Almost done… I worked hard at building relationships among the community and hope the Local continues to do so. A special thanks goes out to the Washington State Labor Council Jeff Johnson and Lynne Dodson for making sure we had support for many of our efforts of recent years and the same goes out to the Martin Luther King County Labor Council as they have also been very supportive to us over the years.

So to wrap this up I really hope we get some great folks who step up in the coming election, maybe some younger members too. And people who know that sometimes you will have to sacrifice for the greater good people who are willing to learn new things and take on new challenges. I know this local will survive the current downsizing. I believe the local will be in a good place to continue the advocacy work we do.

Like I said my goal is to be back in Seattle at least once a month, I will also continue to seek employment in this great city, who knows I could be back in time for the October membership meeting. I do hope the membership approves the move of the Local and I look forward to seeing it all set up. I am disappointed I could not get the company to extend my reporting date so I could participate in the move but I will certainly visit.

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