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Proud to buy union made

By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President

(Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the Fall 2012 Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Journal.)

CLEVELAND, January 14 — As this edition of the Journal goes to press, we approach the end of what has been a very busy year for the union movement. 2012 has been a mixed bag for union members; although anti- worker/anti-union politicians were held at bay in Washington D.C., anti-worker initiatives pushed at the State level have put many working class Americans in a position where they are certain to work for less. Statistics prove that right to work legislation, such as was recently adopted in Michigan under the guise of “worker choice,” leads to lower wages and inferior benefits for working class Americans. Those statistics aren’t based upon philosophy; they are driven by the hard cold math of right to work laws.

What should concern us even more about these state initiatives is that they are part of a bigger movement to dismantle the union movement in this country. That anti-union movement — funded by corporate benefactors and implemented by politicians beholden to these corporate benefactors — has one goal in mind: increasing their own personal wealth at the expense of the workers who produce a company’s revenue. Less for workers and more for CEOs is what the right to work movement should really be called. Labor Unions are the only thing standing in the way of this money grab, yet many working class Americans have fallen for the shiny slogans like “worker choice” and, in doing so, have fallen for what must be called 2012’s biggest con job.

I don’t share these disturbing facts to wallow in misery. To the contrary, I share them so that we are all aware of what we are confronted with as working class union members. The only way we will stop these attacks is to know exactly who the attackers are, what their motives are, and then understand just how hard they are working to turn Americans against unions. As I have said time and time again, labor unions did not cause the financial problems that our great nation faces, labor unions are what helped build the middle class that at its strongest, made our country the undisputed economic powerhouse in the world.

But talk is cheap and it will take action on the part of all working class Americans if we are to survive this war on workers. That is why BLET started its “Proud to be Union, Proud to be American” campaign almost a year ago. I know that this campaign in and of itself will not deter attacks on working class Americans, but what it can do is to rekindle the internal unity that is so crucial to the union movement. How can we expect non-union working class Americans to support our movement if we do not first support it ourselves? We will only accomplish this when we lead by example and show all Americans that we are proud to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and that we are united as union members. I don’t just mean unity within BLET or IBT; I mean unity with all unions across all spectrums of the work force.

There are many ways that we can show this unity, but one of the most important is with our pocketbooks and how we make major purchases. To that end, I would like to share a personal story that brought the pro-union movement home to me.

I recently found myself buying tires for my personal automobile. With 85,000 miles on it, my union-made 2002 Ford needed new tires and my options were many. As part of my online research, I went to the United Steelworkers of America website, where I found an article on buying union-made tires. My thanks to USWA International President Leo Gerard for sharing this information in a way that made it possible for me to determine if the tires I was looking at were union made. Once I settled on three possible tires, I called the three involved vendors, Goodyear, Firestone/ Bridgestone and Costco and asked each store to check the DOT codes as shown in the USWA article so I could determine where each tire was manufactured. I can tell you that the employees working at all three stores seemed surprised that I would ask for this information, but once I shared with them that I intended to buy union-made tires, they understood and one even asked for a copy of the USWA article so he would know which tires were union-made and which ones were not.

Having settled on a union-made Goodyear product, I then went to the Union Plus website, which was established by the AFL-CIO. The Union Plus site not only assisted me in finding union-made products all across the country, it also provided me with a printable discount coupon for union members to use when buying union-made tires from Goodyear. In the end, I printed the discount coupon and presented it at the local Goodyear store along with my BLET membership card when I went to purchase four union-made tires for my Ford truck.

I share this story for this reason. Our “Proud to be Union, Proud to be American” campaign started as a way to build internal solidarity, but it’s time now to take that solidarity to the next level. It’s time that we all make an effort to show our support for the union movement when and where we can; buying union-made in America is just one way to do that. If we are to succeed as a middle class, we must support the union movement across the board. Even more important, we must stop buying from companies that use their corporate profits to fund the demise of labor unions and the middle class of our great country.

In the coming New Year, we will be providing additional information through our publications that will make it easier for our membership to buy products that are union-made in America. Join me in this next step in our “Proud to be Union, Proud to be American” campaign.

Monday, January 14, 2013
bentley@ble-t.org

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