June ’12 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

I am very fortunate to have this space every month to write about the issues I feel are important for the local, international and union movement in general.

I know people that have had, through various situations, negative experiences with unions.  It is not that hard to imagine…

A probationary gets let go through no fault of their own because of internal company issues.  When they turn to the BA he has to explain that since he is a probationary there is not much he can do to help.

A brother takes out his journeyman’s card and that becomes his last day in the trade.  His name is on the out of work list, he attends meetings religiously but keeps getting passed over as work picks up.  The business agent tries to keep his hopes up but the realities of being out of work for such an extended period takes its toll on him personally and professionally and he takes a withdrawal card.

An employer runs right up to the edge of the line drawn in the contract and as a result a seasoned veteran is sidelined in another role.  The International says that as long as the company is paying his wage and benefits there is not much it can do to help.

What do these three brothers have in common?  No matter what their status they are still part of our family.

What do you mean ‘still part of our family?’  Aren’t two of them out of the trade and the third in another role?

Let’s look at the brother in a different role.  Whatever the company’s reasoning for removing him from the field he is still part of our local and must be backed by our union brothers.  That is a no brainer.  The withdrawn journeyman and laid-off probationary require a little different consideration.  Is their status any reason to not acknowledge them in the street?  Is it any reason not to extend a helping hand by referring them to a career counselor or act as a reference?  Does it prohibit us from buying them a cup of coffee at a favorite diner?

We, as a union and more importantly as thinking, knowing and caring humans, must always remember that there but for the grace of God go I.  What kept us from being in their shoes could have been a phone call, friendly reminder of a procedure or just smiling to someone at the right time.  You never know what can make the difference.

On March 29th I celebrated my thirteenth year in the elevator trade.  During that time I have experienced the highest of highs the trade can offer as well as been as low as I could possibly be.  As I look back at my rollercoaster of a career I recognize where those I encountered showed me the meaning of true unionism is to always look out for your brother, no matter what their status.  They are still part of our family.

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen.  His current album, Wrecking Ball, has a song title that sums up everything…

We take care of our own.

Do not forget to mark on your calendar for July 13th and Local 17s first Car and Bike Night being held in conjunction with the union meeting.  No matter what you drive or ride:  pony cars, LBCs, classic or late-model Detroit muscle or Milwaukee’s rolling thunder all are welcome.  There will be food, refreshments and of course a lot of talk about our rides.

Till next month…

Work safe, work smart and slow down for safety.

 

Don

dknapik@windstream.net