Sunday, March 05, 2006

Labor in the News

You know, I love it when Republicans make the news and the word “mistake,” “approval rating,” or “scandal” is included in the headline as well. It does my heart good for them to have to eat crow every once in a while, since they keep trying to force it on Democrats. A Daily Progress blog posting on March 3, 2006, points out potential problems for Republicans in upcoming legislative races if they don’t confirm Danny LeBlanc as Secretary of the Commonwealth. A former Virginia Labor boss, LeBlanc’s supporters would quickly begin protesting if his nomination is axed by Republicans, according to reporter/blogger Bob Gibson. Hey, bring on the protest! I’m sure our 5th District candidates would be glad to have a few more volunteers around the campaign office.

Speaking of labor, also in the news recently was information about the National Education Association (NEA) and the AFL-CIO working on a Solidarity Partnership Agreement. The agreement would allow local NEA organizations to join the AFL-CIO at both the local and state levels—providing them with the same rights as any other AFL-CIO affiliate. As a local association president, I’m going to have to talk to my Virginia Education Association (VEA) UniServ representative in Charlottesville to see what the status of this agreement is in Virginia and its impact on my co-workers and me as teachers. While we may not be able to strike in Virginia, there are other benefits from belonging to a union, as I’ve seen first hand over the years.

Almost all of my life (and I’m pretty old, according to my children) I’ve been hearing about unions. My dad was a member of both the Carpenter’s and Electrician’s locals for many years, as well as the United Mine Workers (UMW) for a couple of years before that. [He retired last year on disability and his pensions are helping pay the medical bills now. So I have a special affinity for unions since they support their workers even after retirement.] As a teenager I read every magazine coming into the house—including the ones that told union members which companies to avoid because they hired “scabs.” I can imagine many children in union families thought of crusted over wounds when they first heard their parents talking about non-union workers. But being a teenager I quickly made the connection. I also got insight into other new terms, as local plants in the Big Bend area of the Ohio River Valley faced strikes and union-busters (also scabs). Jack-rocks, picketers and Molotov cocktails were ones that I remember from newspaper articles during my youth. Luckily enough, my dad had left the UMW by then and didn’t work for Kaiser Aluminum, so our family wasn’t hit hard financially as were some families in the area.

After graduating from West Virginia University, moving to Virginia to work, getting married and having children, I didn’t always hear about “real” unions anymore. Dad worked mostly for the Carpenter’s local then and attended meetings on Friday nights. During this time, my conversations with my parents centered around what the boys were doing and when I was coming home for a visit. But after my divorce I met someone who was even more of a union supporter than I had been. Like me, his dad was a long-time union man and a carpenter as well. I quickly found out what unions across the country had been doing and what they had been contending with during my preoccupation with my family. Because of him, I even found out about Wal-Mart’s union-busting and small-company-closing activities in all parts of the country. And, although it was hard in this rural area, I have now cut my visits to about once every two to three months instead of every week or so. My visits to Sam’s Club are now about one or two a year. And others are joining this fight as well.

So, I’m a union girl from way back—and the idea of being a part of the AFL-CIO is really kind of intriguing. I can’t wait to find out more about the recent NEA/AFL-CIO agreement. I think I’ll call John tomorrow and ask him what he knows.

And, since I’m getting ready to post this, I am also wondering if Al Weed and Bern Ewert have ever dealt with unions and union workers. If so, I’m sure I can find something about it online. Off to research!

Have a great evening!


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