More and more, I am consumed with thoughts of tomorrow, and scary "what if?" questions like: What if our pension plan falls below 60%? What if they take our Defined Benefit pension away? What if we lose our case against the new Disciplinary Matrix in arbitration? What if WMATA refuses to start discussing the healthcare for those hired after January 2010? What if we begin having a difficult time keeping healthcare for retirees period? What if the healthcare rates keep going up? What if HR starts hiring train operators off the street because enough bus operators won't apply? What if they privatize the bus system in DC? What if our members never understand that management sees us as a whole and we will only be strong in their eyes if we are united? My list goes on and on.
Now that I have said that, let me back up because last month was the culmination of several hot button events and purposeful actions.
In addition to our community outreach, we felt we needed to do member outreach. We understood that we needed face to face contact; we needed real conversations with real members! We decided to do six "Speakeasy's" throughout the month and continue them throughout the year in an effort to reach members that don't typically make the union meetings. Our first "Speakeasy's" were at Shady Grove and Four Mile Run on Sept. 10th; the next day we spoke to members at Southern Avenue and Shepherds Parkway. On Sept. 15th we rode buses in Anacostia during pm rush hour; we visited West Ox and West Falls Church on Sept 17th. On Sept 22 we rode the rails and talked to station managers and we finally finished on Sept. 24th at Greenbelt where we spent a wonderful day talking to maintenance and operations members at length.
If that wasn't good enough, we had classes every Saturday during the month. We kicked off on September 6th with an Organizing training taught by the Industrial Areas Foundation. We kicked off with this training because organizing is the lifeblood of unions and the only way to pump blood into our union. The next Saturday was a Shop Stewards training that was open to the whole membership. On Sept 20th, we invited managers from Bus Transportation, Bus Maintenance, Rail Transportation, Rail Maintenance, and Transit Police to participate in our "What's On Your Mind" Discussion. Officers and several members from 922 participated as well. Our final class, Contract Camp, took place on the 27th. We used the day to go over specific sections of our contract that are commonly misinterpreted, keeping in mind that this spring we will begin to put out the call for proposals from members for the next round of negotiations.
YES it was a long month! But throughout it we had positive proactive conversations that were meant to inform, engage and bring us together!
Unfortunately, in every union there are those who would like to mislead and dissuade members from participating. There are those that do not want this administration viewed positively! In September they decided they would meet me, or members of my administration, at the various locations we were visiting. They decided to disrupt the Speakeasy's with the same obstructionist behavior that they have brought to the union meetings in the past year. They showed up at Four Mile Run and Shepherds Parkway Bus Divisions. Without going into too many details, I would like to say that this behavior has got to stop!
As a president I have always prided myself with running a good union meeting, following the bylaws, officiating over a well run meeting with, believe it or not, very few disruptions! But lately it's gotten crazier and crazier! These members will not participate in any union activity, except to attend and watch. When we have issues that need to be resolved they start arguments instead of debates; they give any member that will listen untruthful information about topics of discussion.
For every positive action that we accomplish, this type of behavior sets us back. For every disruption of the union's business meeting, we fail to be productive. More importantly, as a union we need to recognize that management is the true opponent. Very simply put, we are playing checkers, and management is playing chess. Now I know that they are no smarter but they are more productive because this is not behavior that they display, even if they feel it. If we want to have any kind of strength when we go to the bargaining table we must stand UNITED and stop all of this nonsense.
Our local will be 99 years old in January 2015, and during this century I am sure that the obstacles faced by our union members 50 years ago were just as important to them as the obstacles we face today are to us. Those that came before us encountered the same problems daily and they still paved the way so that our lives could be better. Take a second to think about that. THEY WANTED OUR LIVES TO BE BETTER. Sweet thought, but what are we doing to keep that sentiment alive? What are we doing to add growth or productivity to our 689 family? To our future generations? More importantly, what are YOU doing to promote that thought? It can't just be the responsibility of those elected to protect our way of life. Unionism does not come down to the dues we pay. We are not just paying for a service! Unionism means that each and every one of us is responsible for our fate. Union is in the heart, not the checkbook.
Looking at the present state of 689, I worry about our future. All across America, labor is under attack in every industry. We will not prevail if we continue to tear ourselves apart. We CANNOT do their work for them. Just as our predecessors thought about us, we need to think about what we leave for the generations of 689 members we have yet to meet. What is our legacy? What will we be remembered and celebrated for? And more importantly, who will remember us? If we continue down this path I can guarantee you there will be nobody left. Every member plays a part. This is a democracy and your voice is the most important. What will you do with it?