Brothers and Sisters,
Over the course of this year, union power has been on display across the country. It seems that whenever something that feels unprecedented happens – whether it was Teamsters at UPS getting a huge deal by showing their willingness to strike or the entertainment industry shutting Hollywood down for more than half of a year and holding tough the entire time – another thing happens shortly thereafter that takes the labor movement to an even higher level.
When it comes to the labor movement, I am a member, a supporter, a student, and as big a fan as you will ever meet. Workers finding the strength to fight and win gets me out of bed in the morning, puts a smile on my face, and gets my adrenaline pumping.
We’re winning, brothers and sisters. We. Are. Winning.
We have no way of knowing how long this momentum will continue, but I know that it won’t last forever, so I’ll be damned if I am not going to enjoy every minute of this, and I hope you do too. When truck drivers win, celebrate. When baristas organize, toast to them. When sitcom writers hit the streets with picket signs, go with them. When the people who catalog artifacts at the Field Museum form a union, throw a fist in the air. This is a time we have all waited for.
You can imagine the roar I let out when I saw that the settlement of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against Stellantis will not only strengthen existing jobs and bring back jobs at the shuttered Belvidere plant, but create even more at a new battery facility.
Unions are making history by rewriting the narrative. When people think of unions on strike, they think of us fighting to hold on to something; fighting not to lose. Strikes are now creating jobs. Reopening factories. Building new ones. This is a gamechanger.
There are a lot of people who I wish were here to see this. People who spent their lives fighting so we might be able to kick ass like this one day. Bill Dugan, Marty Sweeney, and thousands of other members I have known whose hearts pounded when they were in the thick of things.
We have people calling the hall looking for jobs. People who have never been in a union or operated equipment. They are inspired and want to be a part of something, and I’ve heard similar things from around the labor movement in Chicago. Don’t ever lose sight of how special a union is. Our hard work and dedication as union members makes a difference in our lives and those around us. We hold strong on a picket line, and a group of workers get a better life. We turn down a bad contract offer, and a group of workers get a more comfortable retirement. Most people push papers around on a desk and don’t even know what their bosses do all day. We are lucky to get to do this. To get to be a part of this.
The outcome of the UAW strike is a huge deal, and it can serve as a model in the future. Earlier this year, Stellantis shut down the plant in Belvidere, which put an enormous hurt on the town and left its employees without much of a backup plan. When the United Auto Workers went out of strike against the big three automakers, critics said it could be a jobkiller, that it could hurt the economy. The UAW members had given up enough in tough times to know that they weren’t going to shoulder blame from the sidelines and that it was time that they be made whole during good times for their earlier sacrifices. They gave up their pension plan in 2007 to help the industry stay afloat, and when record profits started to roll in, automakers got fat. They paid their executives, they bought back stock, and they jacked up the prices on their cars. When workers asked for their pension plan back, the automakers laughed. Called them greedy and unrealistic. That’s one way to unite your workers against you.
In the end, to settle its strike with the UAW, Stellantis agreed to not only reopen to Belvidere plant to manufacture a new vehicle, but to build a battery plant for its growing production of electric vehicles. All on top of a record economic package.
This came about as a direct result of the strike. I call that a win. The UAW not only fought for a contract, but it fought for its laid off members and workers who would hope to one day be members.
After my internal celebration, I began to wonder, “Where are we going to find all the members for these battery plants?”
We have this battery plant coming in Belvidere, on top of a $3 billion battery plant about to get rolling in New Carlisle, Indiana. We should be getting confirmation of a multi-billion hydrogen hub near the Illinois-Indiana state line shortly.
I feel like I dedicate a good chunk of every article to celebrating the amount of work we have today and what is coming up, and that picture just keeps getting brighter. Work just keeps coming, unions are getting stronger, and the fragile situation in D.C. hasn’t stopped the federal government from hiring more pro-labor attorneys and adopting more pro-labor policies across the agencies that set federal wages and enforce labor laws.
Things are good, and the weather will keep up for long enough to keep you all working a while longer. As things start to wind down for the seasons, we’ll be hitting Thanksgiving. I hope that you’re able to join your families, friends, and the people you hold dear to reflect back on all the good fortune we have had this year. And don’t forget to look around once in a while, because everywhere you look, there are signs of a labor movement unlike anything we’ve seen in at least a generation. Things are good, and we need to be ready to keep that going.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall.