Latest Solidarity Issue

Safer work

Reinstated worker helps win new safety protections at ZF

"Your blood pressure is back to normal. Did you finally
win that union election?
"Your blood pressure is back to normal. Did you finally win that union election?

Lisa Tierce, an assembler at ZF Lemforder in Tuscaloosa, Ala., went through two shoulder surgeries within two years.

She tore her rotator cuff on the job, creating nerve damage in her shoulder so severe she could not make a fist.

Adding insult to injury, management at ZF – which is a supplier to the Mercedes plant in Vance, Ala. – terminated Tierce in 1999, using the excuse that they didn’t want to injure her any further.

In fact, Tierce was targeted by the company because of her strong support for her co-workers during a union organizing drive. With assistance from the UAW, Tierce filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and she returned to work in 2000. By that time ZF workers had won union recognition, and Tierce now serves as a first-shift steward.

“The injury rate was so high back then and they just kept sending people back to work without even trying to adjust the work areas or jobs,” said Tierce.

“After people ended up so broken down that they couldn’t do the jobs anymore, management would tell us that maybe we needed to find another line of work.”

When workers organized a union at ZF and sat down for first contract negotiations, health and safety was a critical issue. The company continued to use an outside consulting firm to evaluate the workplace, but union bargainers demanded better and safer work standards.

A breakthrough finally came after the latest round of negotiations in 2006. A joint ergonomics committee was established, and now there’s language to protect ZF workers.

Listening to line workers

“Who knows these jobs better than us? They finally listened to our arguments,” said Tierce. “I didn’t want my injury to happen to anyone else.

“Before we had a union, they just cursed at people when they couldn’t keep up. We changed the way they treat us.”

The joint ergonomics committee now has input from the workers on the shop floor as well as managers.

Jobs are now routinely evaluated for safety and ergonomics to reduce stress on the body. Some jobs that once were done by only one person are now done by two.

“Having the union showed people that the company couldn’t get away with what they did to me. That made a lot of difference to a lot of people,” said Tierce.

“Things are better now – and they’re going to keep getting better.”

From the readers

If money’s your God

When does a newspaper cease to be an impartial reporter of a labor strike? When said newspaper accepts money for want ads to hire strike-breaking scabs and prolongs the suffering of those on strike.

Some time ago the York Sunday News quoted a woman who said she felt bad crossing a “friend’s” picket line. I have news for her: She has no friends on the line. I have seen life-long friendships dissolved because of people crossing the lines at Grinnell and Caterpillar.

If money is your God, then by all means cross. However, if you value your reputation and friendships, leave. There are other jobs. Some are listed in the same paper that published the scab ads.

Thomas J. “Tip” Larkin
UAW Local 786
York, Pa.

Beware of electronic voting

As a relative of someone receiving Solidarity, I have something to contribute. Two issues need a spotlight in order for our vote to count and if we want to change the current state of affairs.

Electronic voting machines are the death knell of the voting process. As computer specialists know, computer technology allows manipulation. Ballots that you fill out and are hand counted sound unfamiliar to us, but having observers and counters who exchange roles with the process videotaped and results publicly posted at each polling place is what we need to ensure the process.

Voting activists around the country are now saying they do not trust their vote to an electronic machine. Even the touted solution of a voter-verified paper trail won’t ensure your vote is tallied correctly.

Media control has slid into the hands of four or five corporations holding 85 percent to 90 percent of the media, TV, radio, newspapers and Internet news services. The destruction to these foundations of our country is greater than many realize.

What to do? Do more to question news coverage as to slant. And protect the vote process before you vote – if you really want change, that is.

Helena Kosorek
Greenville, N.Y.

‘Daddy’s people’

Apparently I wear the UAW logo enough that people are used to seeing me in it. I have been kidded by friends when I go to a party or poker game: “Hey, where’s your union shirt?”

One day we were driving past a UAW local. Sitting in his car seat, my 2-year-old son started saying “Daddy’s people” over and over. I didn’t give it much thought until we reached our destination, a restaurant. As we were being seated, I hung my coat over the back of my chair and turned to help my son into his high chair. He pointed at the UAW logo on back of my jacket and said again, “Daddy’s people.”

I swear I had tears of pride in this father’s eyes. I said, “Yes, you’re right! Those are ‘my people.’ Which one are you?” He pointed to one of the child figures. I said, “Well, then this must be me, and this must be mommy.” He agreed and always points to the same area every time he looks for “us” on the UAW logo.

All is not lost. Our future is paying attention. We just have to listen for it.

Chris Szabo
UAW Local 845, CAP chair
Wayne, Mich.

‘A social cause’

Don Johns (Local 22 member, September-October 2006 Solidarity) said it correctly when he hoped every red-blooded patriot in the union ranks would vote to throw the Republicans out. I hear it at my plant, too, about gun control and abortions – issues that are brought up at election time to sway votes on a single issue.

After having read “Putting the World Together, My Father Walter Reuther: The Liberal Warrior,” by Elisabeth Reuther Dickmeyer, and “Our Endangered Moral Values,” by Jimmy Carter, one fully understands the union is not just wages and benefits but, most importantly, a social cause.

Walter Reuther built the middle class in this country, and I take his advice that the ballot box is directly connected to the bread box. I am not swayed by issues brought up whose sole purpose is to sway voters from voting for candidates who support the union cause and the middle class.

Carolyn S. Lewis
UAW Local 735
Ypsilanti, Mich.

Inside This Issue...


    Union Front


        Jan / Feb  2007

        Jan / Feb 2007

        Vol. 50, No. 1-2

        International Union, UAW
        President: Ron Gettelfinger
        Secretary-treasurer: Elizabeth Bunn
        Vice presidents: General Holiefield, Bob King, Cal Rapson, Jimmy Settles, Terry Thurman

        Regional directors: Joseph Peters, 1; Rory Gamble, 1A; Duane Zuckschwerdt, 1C; Don Oetman, 1D; Lloyd Mahaffey, 2B; Maurice Davison, 3; Dennis Williams, 4; Jim Wells, 5; Gary Casteel, 8; Joe Ashton, 9; Bob Madore, 9A

        Public Relations and Publications Department
        Director: Roger Kerson
        Assistant director: Christine Moroski

        International representatives: Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Gwynne Marie Cobb, Jennifer John, Vince Piscopo, Sam Stark, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.

        Solidarity magazine editor: Jennifer John

        Clerical staff: Shelly Restivo, Susan Fisher and Pauline Mitchell, members of OPEIU Local 494.

        Solidarity (USPS 0740610) is published bimonthly by International Union, UAW, 8000 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48214, (313) 926-5000,

        Readers: Send address changes and old label to UAW Circulation Department, or e-mail Include old address and numeric identification number (line above the name on the mailing label). For circulation, call (313) 926-5373; for editorial, call (313) 926-5291 or

        Buy a brick, own a piece of history


        <p>Photo: John Davis, Local 2195 Retired</p>

        Photo: John Davis, Local 2195 Retired

        It was at the Reuther family home on Wetzel Street in Wheeling, W.Va., that Walter, Victor and Roy learned how to debate.

        Every Sunday their father Valentine, a staunch union activist, would assign the boys a subject. The future leaders of the UAW would do research at the local library, preparing whichever side they were given.

        “You cannot effectively argue your own view on an issue unless you understand the viewpoint of those who oppose you,” their father said.

        Once nestled against a hill near an old mine shaft, the Reuther family home has since made way for West Virginia Route 2.

        Luckily, UAW members and local unions can own a piece of history and help maintain the Walter Reuther Memorial, dedicated in Wheeling in October.

        For a $300 donation, you’ll receive a sidewalk paving brick from the home at 3640 Wetzel. Each brick, which is engraved with the UAW logo and an original “I Did It For Walter” button, is numbered and comes with a letter of authenticity.

        Donations will help preserve the larger-than-life statue of Reuther in shirtsleeves, gesturing as if speaking to a crowd.

        A list of brick purchases will be archived at Wayne State University in Detroit.

        National food drive is May 12

        Letter carriers across America will deliver much more than mail May 12.

        The second Saturday in May marks the 15th annual National Association of Letter Carrier’s Food Drive, the nation’s largest one-day drive.

        About 30 million people face hunger each day in America, including more than 12 million children.

        Last year 70.5 million pounds of food was collected by the 300,000 members of the NALC and delivered to local community food banks, pantries and shelters. NALC members work in partnership with the AFL-CIO Community Services network, America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s food bank network, and United Way of America.

        How you can help

        Place boxes or cans of nonperishable food next to your mailbox before your letter carrier delivers mail May 12. The carrier does the rest and will take food back to the postal station. It’s then delivered by union volunteers to area food banks for needy families.

        Awards recognize excellence in labor journalism, Web sites

        At times they are the unsung heroes of the local union — the folks who put out the newspapers and maintain the Web sites to keep their brothers and sisters informed.

        They have little time to put it all together, but because of their dedication to their local and the labor movement in general, they make the time and the job gets done.

        The 2006 UAW Local Union Press Association (LUPA) Excellence in Journalism and Web Sites Contests recognizes the best of a truly committed group of labor journalists and webmasters.

        “There’s a tremendous amount of quality journalism being done by local UAW editors and webmasters,” said Larry Vellequette, a LUPA judge and member of the Toledo Newspaper Guild Local 34043.

        “The dedication of these labor activists is evident in the work they do to educate and inspire other UAW members.”

        This year’s contest is now under way and winners will be announced at the 2007 LUPA Communications Conference at the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center in Onaway, Mich., April 15-20.

        For more information on the contest or conference, e-mail Joan Silvi at

        2006 LUPA winners

        General Excellence

        Division I: Local 1950,
        The Flame.

        Division II: Local 2244, Labor News, and Local 2166, Truckin' News (tie).

        Division III: Local 598, Eye Opener.

        Division IV: Local 3000, Guide.

        Division V: Region 1A Retiree News.

        Best Web Site
        Local 1590

        Transplant program has special place in UAW family's heart

        <p>Julia Evans, second from right, with her sister, Lily; grandfather, Jim Stark, and mom, Lisa Nicholson. Photo: VINCE PISCOPO</p>

        Julia Evans, second from right, with her sister, Lily; grandfather, Jim Stark, and mom, Lisa Nicholson. Photo: VINCE PISCOPO

        In 2001 UAW Local 14 member Jim Stark watched his 8-month-old granddaughter go from what they thought was a common cold to six weeks on life support medications waiting for a heart transplant.

        “It was quite an ordeal,” he says.

        Today Julia Evans is a kindergartner who “loves school, takes tap and jazz, and wants to be an artist,” says her mom, Lisa Nicholson of Toledo.

        Julia had cardiomyopathy, where the heart becomes too enlarged to pump effectively. She got her new heart at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on June 23, 2001, which the family celebrates each year as her heart day.

        She’s as aware as a 6-year-old can be of what happened. “When she was 2, she was putting new hearts in her dolls when they got sick,” says Nicholson, an ICU nurse at University of Michigan Hospital.

        She is a member of the Michigan Nurses Association, which is a partner with the UAW in the HealthCare Workplace Alliance.

        April is Organ Donation Awareness Month, and while many people think they may have become organ donors by signing the backs of their driver’s licenses, that’s not necessarily the case.

        “Just because your driver’s license may say you want to be an organ donor, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” according to Nicholson.

        States have different laws and in many, the family’s wishes prevail, so “educate your family on what you want.”

        You could tell them what Jim Stark says: “You are giving a life to someone else.”

        Contact the International Association for Organ Donation, P.O. Box 545, Dearborn, MI 48121,

        Delegates bringing priorities to Detroit

        LaTonya Baker
        LaTonya Baker

        Third-generation UAW member LaTonya Baker is recording secretary for Local 235 at American Axle in Hamtramck, Mich. But she’ll have an additional role soon: delegate to the union’s Special Convention on Collective Bargaining, March 27-28 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.

        Baker is looking forward to the convention, which determines the UAW’s bargaining program for the entire union. Delegates will focus on a wide range of issues sent in by local unions, covering the diverse industries and occupations where UAW members work.

        Topics include protecting workers in employer restructurings and union organizing activities, concerns about outsourcing and privatization, temporary workers and workplace closings issues, standard-of-living protections and improvements; workplace equality, and making employers more socially responsible.

        Delegates also will discuss resolutions on dealing with the nation’s health care crisis and its impact on our members.

        “The UAW has long advocated single-payer national health insurance as the fairest and most cost-efficient way to provide affordable, quality, comprehensive health care to every American regardless of income,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

        Baker agrees.

        “And I hope to see a resolution that urges the federal government to regulate what health care providers can charge for services. Those fees should not be based on income or employer coverage,” she said, adding: “Does health care have to be that expensive?”

        Vincent Bach on boycott list

        There’s another company name on the AFL-CIO’s National List of Endorsed Boycotts: Vincent Bach.

        In February the UAW requested a national boycott of Vincent Bach, part of Conn-Selmer Inc.’s Band Division, the leading manufacturer and distributor of band and orchestral instruments for professional, amateur and student use.

        More than 200 UAW Local 364 members have been on strike since last April at the musical instrument factory in Elkhart, Ind.

        These highly skilled makers of trumpets, saxophones and other instruments went on strike after Conn-Selmer demanded a reduction in wages, job security and health care benefits – and added replacement workers who crossed union picket lines to take their jobs.

        The company threatened to outsource work to an unspecified Asian country, presumably China, where instruments could be manufactured at less than half of current production costs.

        Conn-Selmer manufactures and distributes products under a variety of well-known names, including Vincent Bach brass, Selmer USA woodwinds and C.G. Conn brass, among many others.

        Sheriff's dept. workers lock up first contract


        Members of the bargaining committee for the Lucas County Sheriff's
Department unit include, from left, Aaron Nolan, Melba Martin, Joe Gorney, Matt
Luettke, chairman, Jason Schneider and Rick Keesecker. Not pictured are Sam Mysinger
and Chris Mullins.
        Members of the bargaining committee for the Lucas County Sheriff's Department unit include, from left, Aaron Nolan, Melba Martin, Joe Gorney, Matt Luettke, chairman, Jason Schneider and Rick Keesecker. Not pictured are Sam Mysinger and Chris Mullins.

        Deputies, corrections officers and other workers for Lucas County (Ohio) voted in 2006 to become members of the UAW after a previous affiliation with another union.

        What they wanted from the UAW was the strength in numbers that a large labor union provides, but also some personal attention when negotiating contracts or handling grievances.

        A first-ever UAW-negotiated contract validated the choice made by the 450 deputies, corrections officers, dispatchers, counselors, clerks, and courthouse and maintenance employees within the department, which is headquartered in Toledo.

        Their new three-year contract, which was ratified Feb. 2, provides a 3 percent wage increase in each year, maintains health care with minimal changes, and greatly improves health and safety.

        The agreement, which expires Dec. 31, 2008, and includes a 3 percent retroactive raise they had sought for 2006, was ratified by a 95 percent majority vote.

        For dispatcher Melba Martin, a member of the bargaining committee, a spirit of cooperation existed between the UAW and the county. It could be because the UAW also represents the department’s command officers and was familiar with how the UAW approaches negotiations.

        “There was respect on both sides of the table,” Martin said.

        The dispatcher added that having union representatives that were responsive to the bargaining committee’s needs helped make the contract negotiation a success.

        “If I can’t get (my union representative) or anyone else, they are right back to you,” she said. “It’s a good situation, and it makes you feel good that you are important enough that they will get back to you.”

        Health and safety issues were critical, said deputy Matt Luettke, bargaining committee chair. Union negotiators won a joint health and safety committee and will soon have a trained and properly equipped extraction team. Bargainers also negotiated shotgun racks for patrol cars and shank vests for corrections workers.

        “Getting these issues worked on was one of our major concerns. We talked about protective issues and protective equipment,” Luettke said. “We’ve had a lot of incidents. It doesn’t take much to sharpen anything. An inmate with a pencil can do damage.”

        The bargaining committee also won an “Inequity Account” where workers can appeal to a joint committee for additional compensation if they feel their job responsibilities have outgrown their current pay.