President's Corner

 

September 2019 Unions Give Back On and Off the Job

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President’s Corner

In the 90 years that Local 150 has been in existence, what has set us apart from many other unions is our dedication to going above and beyond. Our work is never done, and it never will be. If we successfully negotiate a good contract for our members, then it is time to get out and organize. While we organize a company, we are looking around for the next company. The same goes for industries, which we have demonstrated with our work in the equipment rental and repair, material testing, drilling, landscaping, and public works industries, among so many others.

America needs unions more than ever right now. We need them for better wages and benefits, certainly, but our job is so much bigger. We exist primarily to protect and provide for our members, but we can never lose sight of our ability to inspire positive change around us.

When people see that they don’t just have to surrender to pay cuts and benefit reductions, they join the fight. When they see us win, they believe they can too, and they get moving. It is something I’ve been blessed to see throughout my career, and it always fuels me to push even harder. Especially right now, when American approval of unions is at the highest level in almost 20 years, we have an opportunity to make the kind of change we’ve fought for throughout our history as a labor movement.

At Local 150, we’ve led the industry with wages and benefits that are rarely matched. Our contract language is as strong as steel, and even more importantly, we have the staff and the resources to enforce it. Anyone who has tested us or tried to take us on over the years can tell you that the day you pick a fight with us will not be an easy day.

In the spirit of going above and beyond, we’ve taken great strides to carry on our mission to the public over the past few years. The growing public support we see around the country is well-deserved, but it can be even better. Folks who see strikes work out successfully recognize that we are a force for good, but not everybody’s eyes are open, so we have to take the message to them.

Through the Fight Back campaign, we’ve made even larger gains with the public in our jurisdiction by reminding them exactly who we are and what we are fighting for. We’re continuing to introduce more specific messaging in our ads, and it is working. But there is more we can do.

We can simply remind the world that we are good neighbors and good people who they can trust to do the right thing. That is something all of you do each and every day, and something that we can aspire to as an organization.

On August 19, we hosted the Sweeney Classic, an industry golf event where we’ve raised money for the Navy SEAL Family Foundation over the past four years. Money managers, contractors, other unions, law firms, and everybody in between sponsors and participates to support the cause. This year was the biggest event yet, with almost 600 golfers, and we raised $900,000 for the SEAL Family Foundation, which brings our total over four years to $2.2 million.

The money we’ve raised for these families will cover childhood tutoring, counseling, community-building programs, emergency assistance, and memorial costs for the families of warriors who are training, deployed, and who too often don’t make it home. We don’t do this for the credit. We do it because it is the right thing to do for the people who have given us so much, and it has been an immense source of personal pride for me over the past few years.

Only weeks earlier, we participated in the Bud Billiken Parade on the South Side of Chicago, which serves to get kids in some severely underserved neighborhoods ready to go back to school again. This was something a little bit new for Local 150, but we were able to make a big difference.

Now, as many of you know, we were one of the unions who stepped in to save the Chicago Sun-Times and preserve Chicago as a two-newspaper town, and I serve on the Sun- Times’ board. Last year, we ran a program to forward letters to Santa from kids in impoverished neighborhoods to volunteers who had a little extra to give. I participated, and the child I got was an eight-year-old girl who was only asking Santa for school supplies. It reminded me of the struggles that we often forget, but other people are forced to confront every day.

Working with a bulk supply company, we were able to provide thousands of school supplies to kids at the parade who otherwise would have returned to school with little or nothing. The supplies came in Local 150 bags, and not only did people who had never heard of us come by to show their appreciation, but folks who had a bad impression of unions saw firsthand what kind of people we are, and they walked away feeling differently about us. The members who volunteered worked their tails off on a hot day to make this happen, but it helped show these neighborhoods what Local 150 is, and the responses I got were humbling, to say the least.

None of this should come as a surprise to our membership. Again, this is who we are, both on the job and off. When a neighbor needs a hand, we are there to help.

When there wasn’t enough money to finish Rotary Park in LaSalle, Illinois, our members and contractors donated equipment and time to step in and finish it for the community, and it now hosts an annual art festival that is a local highlight.

When tornadoes rip through our jurisdiction almost every year, our members are some of the first people running out of their basements to help clear debris and rescue people, pets, and property.

Earlier this year, when the Mississippi River rose to catastrophic flooding levels in the Quad Cities, Local 150 staff and members joined Treasurer Marshall Douglas filling sand bags for the City of Davenport, even as their own homes were threatened.

Local 150 is more than just a union. We do more than negotiate contracts. We fight for people who, far too often, nobody is fighting for. We are just one union that is part of a movement. Things are happening in this country that have left working people looking for leadership, and we have never shied away from that.

All of this happens because of you. Take pride in what we have done together, and never stop thinking about what more we can do. Our work is never done, and as long as we keep an eye toward the future, we can inspire the world with what we accomplish.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.