From: "Mike Griffin" email@example.com
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005
Dear Brother and Sisters,
I want to share a typical experience for working Millwrights on a union job. While I am not surprised by this experience I am deeply saddened by how low safety has become. In reality, union jobs are now more unsafe than non-union ones because of the cozy relationship between our business union misleaders and the employers. Even sadder is the way our so-called union representation conducts themselves at our worksites but their actions are in keeping with the training the UBC provides them.
The job was in an Indiana GM auto plant. We were supposed to get a couple of weeks plus but that was just to get us there. From day one workers were mysteriously being laid off and fresh meat was brought in daily. The steward met us when we showed up at the plant. For most of the first shift we worked we thought he was the project superintendent. After first break on our shift each day he conducted a safety meeting during which you had to sign an attendance sheet or lose your pay for the day. "Hard hats, safety glasses, and 100% tie off, you know the drill", he would say. The rest of the meeting was spent telling us about their dissatisfaction with events on the job, nothing to do with safety. At the end of each meeting he would ask, anybody got any safety concerns. A millwright next to me uttered under his breath, "Just watch, anybody speaks up gets laid off ". After a few days it appeared as if he was right.
The contractor provided two pre-apprentice Millwrights for fire watches to cove a huge area with dozens of Millwrights burning and welding overhead. Hot metal and slag were constantly showering the work area below. Any piece could have put someone's eye out of caused a serious injury. Loads were hoisted without roping off the area below with scores of workers crossing back and forth. Had OSHA visited the site there would have and should have been dozens of citations issued. Hard hats and safety glasses, 100% tie off, you know the drill. This was one of the most unsafe worksites I have ever worked on. This is typical from "our good union contractors" since their profitability became more important than our safety to UBC leadership. Since we no longer have a voice in our union, no democracy and since current leaders have betrayed every fundamental union value that those who came before us sacrificed for.
During the week, several groups of workers drug up after being frustrated by our treatment and the lack of tools and manpower provided. I asked for a layoff a few days before the job was done because of the bullshit and the lack of concern for safety.
At several safety meetings, workers asked for addresses to transfer their benefits to their local halls. Most of the workers were boomers as many of the local hands drug up. The steward could easily handle the whims of the employer but could not find the time to get this important information or help a traveler out but notifying him of a pending lay-off so he could clear out of his or her hotel. The last night was the real kicker for me. When the steward came into the break area I asked for the transfer information. He responded that he hadn't been able to get it, apparently too busy representing the contractor. I told him his job as steward was to help his fellow members first. He replied, "I have to wear two hats". I wondered if he had two faces but I didn't bother to ask. He then lead toward me and two other Millwrights, covered one side of his mouth as if telling a dire secret and said, "I'm really for the men but I can't let it show". I nearly fell of the bench. I asked him if he was aware of the National Labor Relations Act and his Duty to Fair Representation. "What's that", he asked. I told him that means he was supposed to be for the men and the contractors concerns came dead last. He looked a little sheepish and made a quick exit. It was good that I had already requested a layoff.
I turned to the other three Millwrights I had spent three days educating on the importance of democracy and representation, but I had to say no more. This steward, a nice guy but seriously in capable, drove the point home for me. As sad as the experience was, it was a great opportunity to organize for change.
Local 1051 Decatur IL