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Texas hasn’t voted for a Democrat for President since Jimmy Carter won the White House in 1976. But as Pam Dorsey sees it, 2016 could be the year that the state with the second-most electoral votes goes “blue.”
“All we need to do is get everybody on board,” Dorsey said, referring to the large number of unregistered voters in her state. “Eventually people here are not going to go for these extreme views.”
Dorsey, a member of USW Local 13-208 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a customer service representative with Express Scripts, a pharmaceutical service, has worked hard to get everyone “on board” in her workplace and across the Lone Star State. That activism won her the title of PAC member of the quarter.
For Dorsey, the key is making sure her co-workers and her fellow Texans realize how much everyday political decisions directly affect their lives, and that if they stay active and contribute to PAC, they can make politicians answer to workers rather than to big business.
“We’ve had so many recent examples of politicians trying to turn back the clock,” she said, citing Republican efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood, repeal health care reform and unfairly target immigrants. “People think these things happen automatically and that there’s no work involved.”
Dorsey said that participation in PAC rose last year during the Presidential campaign, with a calendar filled with canvassing, candidate forums, raffles and rallies.
The key to keeping members engaged in politics is “encouraging people to become part of the process and giving them the resources to make sure they can.”
Federal rules prohibit the use of union dues for political purposes, so the USW must rely on voluntary contributions from members for political action.
One of the most important aspects of the USW’s PAC program, Dorsey said, is that it helps to foster greater activism among women and minorities.
“We have a lot of talent. I feel like women need to be more involved in the process,” she said. “There’s an assault on women as well as on minorities.”
With a broad spectrum of involvement, it’s only a matter of time before Texas returns to its roots as a stronghold for pro-labor Democrats, Dorsey said. “The seed has been planted, and we continue to nourish it.
USW Celebrates PAC Members of the Quarter
January 29, 2013
To Mark Sakon and Frank Pokrywczynski, training coordinators for Locals 1014 and 1066 at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works, participating in American politics is as basic as the phrase “we the people”—and every bit as essential for democracy.
Their passion for union political activism and success in signing up new members for PAC at the massive steel plant in Gary, Ind., have earned them the title co-PAC members of the quarter from District 7 Director Jim Robinson and International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver.
Lessons in union history such as the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre at Republic Steel in South Chicago form the backbone of their message, but Sakon said he also shows his trainees that there’s still a fight going on.
Now, he stresses, the battlefield is a political one where money and influence go hand in hand.
“With this past election, it’s no secret to anybody how much was spent,” said Sakon, noting that this uncomfortable reality helped to galvanize new hires. “It’s easy to show new members how money represents the interests of corporations.”
Both Sakon and Pokrywczynski use this idea to sign up new members at their orientation meetings. By demonstrating ways in which corporations manipulate the political process, they reinforce the necessity for USW members to contribute to PAC.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit using union dues for political purposes, so the USW relies on voluntary contributions to its PAC fund to engage in political action.
Both Pokrywczynski and Sakon said they’ve been very successful in signing up new members. They usually get at least 90 percent of the new members they train, and often, the whole group.
Both see political assertion of corporate interests as an attack on unions, a relentless chipping away of worker rights. The only counter to this trend, both agree, is that unions must also be willing to engage in political action and supporting issues and candidates that benefit working families.
“Union means a lot to me,” said Pokrywczynski, who’s been a USW member for nearly 40 years. “It has helped me raise all my children, and given us healthcare, benefits.”
But he said the stakes are higher than individual security. Union membership and the benefits it provides are essential for a healthy economy.
“Higher wages mean money that is then spent in our community,” he said, “People have money to buy things. That’s the biggest part of it.”
October 05, 2012
Fairfield Works Locals Honored for Supporting PAC
David Clarke, Robert Irvin and Donnie Ferrell are the presidents of three separate locals at U.S. Steel’s sprawling Fairfield Works in Fairfield, Ala., but they see themselves as members of one team.
They wear each other’s local union shirts and work together every day on the wide variety of issues affecting the 1,850 members at Fairfield, starting with a morning meeting at the Local 1013 hall.
But perhaps nothing they do is more important than their pledge to protect jobs by participating together in the American political process and educating their members on trade and other issues that affect the steel industry.
“These guys understand that to be successful, to have good paying jobs, we’ve got to be able to make steel. For that we’ve got to be able to compete, and to do that we’ve got to have a level playing field, and that all depends on the political process,” said District 9 Director Daniel Flippo. “They understand that it’s going to take all three of them pulling in the same direction to get things done. These guys get it.”
Jobs and trade Trade is the single biggest issue that motivates their members to take action, the three presidents said. All three locals are vulnerable when it comes to foreign producers who benefit from illegal government subsidies and by dumping products at below fair market value in the United States.
The huge mill, which once employed 12,000 people, shut down in 1982 as a result of predatory trade and “that memory is still fresh for a lot of people,” said Ferrell, the president of Local 2210, which represents office and technical workers.
A massive layoff in 2009, just after the three men took office, also helped to galvanize the locals.
“When you’re on the street like that you have a tendency to be more involved,” said Irvin, the president of Local 2122, which represents workers in the metal producing and tubular operations. “You read more, you find out what happened and what happened was the steel industry tanked.”
The only thing that has saved the plant over the years, Irvin said, was that the USW has continually fought for tariffs and anti-dumping regulations to restrict the amount of foreign steel sold unfairly in the United States.
Right after taking office, the three presidents were notified by the company that the plant was shutting down. It didn’t close completely, but more than 1,000 of 1,700 employees were idled – a devastating situation for a small town of 11,000 people, where nearly everyone is connected in some way to the plant.
All three had been politically active before taking office, but the fallout from the shutdown and a subsequent fight for extended unemployment benefits crystalized for them what they were up against and reinforced the need to be relentless in advocating on behalf of their members.
On a trip to the state capital of Montgomery to lobby for unemployment benefit extensions, Clark said the three local leaders were met with doors slammed in their faces.
“No one wanted to talk to us. No one wanted to see us,” said Clark, who is president of Local 1013, which represents the plant’s flat rolled operations. “They were not going to extend those unemployment benefits. The attitude was ‘these guys don’t have a job, hey, so what.’”
Organizing the organized Federal Election Commission rules prohibit using union dues for political purposes, so the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC) accepts voluntary contributions from members to support politicians who support working families.
But PAC is about more than money, Ferrell said. “We’re just trying to get everybody educated on which politicians are friendly and who’s not,” he said. “My favorite expression is ‘organizing the organized.’”
When signing up members for PAC contributions, Clarke, Irvin, and Ferrell have been using the opportunity to share information on key political issues with their members. It all starts at their joint new member orientation, but it’s an ongoing process.
Irvin also keeps a stack of PAC cards and pens in his locker so that he’s always ready to sign people up. He believes that one of the biggest obstacles they face is a widespread lack of a basic knowledge about political issues.
When they sign new members up for PAC contributions, Clarke, Irvin, and Ferrell also distribute fliers listing the tariffs that have been levied and the trade cases the union has filed so that people can see exactly what’s at stake and where their money is going.
They have also found that signing up new members for PAC leads to wider interest in political activism. New members tell established members what they’ve learned about trade policies and the politicians who advocate on their behalf, and so “now you’ve got an older person who has learned something from a younger person,” Clarke said.
“If you educate people on what the money is for, they’re willing to give because they know it actually is tied to their future and their jobs,” Ferrell said.
Voting and Politics Matter to District 2's Mike Pyne
July 06, 2012
No one works harder than Mike Pyne when it comes to raising volunteer funds for the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC) in Michigan and Wisconsin.
“He lives and breathes politics and PAC,” USW PAC Director Mike Scarver said of Pyne, the soon-to-retire political and PAC coordinator for District 2.
Pyne is known for running PAC fund raisers at district conferences that Scarver said typically bring in $15,000 to $35,000 for the cause of electing politicians who support the USW and its members.
“If John the Baptist had a conversation with Mike, the conversation wouldn’t end without Mike trying to sell a raffle ticket for PAC,” Scarver said. “No one hustles harder.”
Pyne was nominated for PAC member of the 2012 third quarter by District 2 Director Mike Bolton and International Vice President Jon Geenen, who oversees the union’s paper industry sector.
New ideas for PAC Pyne, who intends to retire after the November general election, is the district’s most successful PAC coordinator, Bolton said, adding: “He’s always coming up with new ideas to raise money.”
Pyne, however, said the district has more to do to convince members to participate in PAC check-offs and local fundraisers. “I don’t want to leave any impression that we are satisfied,’’ he said in an interview. “We need to do more.”
Pyne began his career as a member of Allied Industrial Workers (AIW) Local 182 at Motor Wheel Corp. in Lansing, Mich., in 1972, and began working on political campaigns almost immediately. He was elected president of the local in 1977 after holding various other offices.
In 1984, he joined the COPE Department of the Michigan AFL-CIO and four years later became an organizer with the AIW, which ultimately became part of the USW.
Pyne transferred to Wisconsin in 1994 and continued to organize for the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU), which in 1999 merged with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) to form the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE). PACE merged with the USW in 2005.
Cornerstone of USW activism Geenen called Pyne a cornerstone of USW activism.
“He’s really a lifelong political activist and brought an awful lot to UPIU and to PACE and continues to this day to bring a lot to our own political program,” Geenen said.
“And it’s not just PAC funding, although he is an expert at that. If you are going to compete against corporate America, you have to put some skin in the game, and money isn’t the whole picture. The rest is getting boots on the ground and working your tail off.”
Political Director Tim Waters jokingly said that Pyne has worn out a lot of shoes on the sidewalks of small-town Wisconsin doing political canvassing during his career.
“He’s one of those guys who has immeasurable patience in working with union volunteers and activists,’’ Waters said. “He’s made an impact on a lot of people’s lives, that’s for sure.”
Door knocking Over the decades, Pyne has knocked on doors of more union households than he could ever count. He said he goes election canvassing every time he is asked to do so.
“We have to be involved in politics. It’s the only way we can serve our membership effectively,” Pyne said. “Everything we do, not only as a union but as human beings, is controlled by politicians in this wonderful experiment called democracy.”
Pyne calls voting “the epitome of freedom. It’s our last best chance,” he said, “to have a voice in what’s going on, the affairs of our government.”
After all these years, Pyne said he is still personally hurt when a union member he meets while leafleting at a plant gate says he has given up on politics and will no longer vote.
“I just can’t accept that,’’ he said. “That is precisely what they want you to do, what our enemies in politics, the people who would have slaves, serfs and kings, that’s exactly what they want. That’s their goal.”
Kentucky Local Recognized for PAC
January 06, 2012
To Richard Haas, president of Local 9443 in Lewisport, Ky., supporting the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC) is a way to participate in the fight to preserve America’s middle class.
“PAC is one of the most important tools we have,” said Haas, whose local represents maintenance and production workers at the Aleris Aluminum Co. rolling mill in Lewisport.
Member contributions to the USW’s PAC are voluntary by federal law and are used to support labor-friendly candidates on the local, state and national stages.
International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver, who nominated Haas to be the PAC member of the 2012 first quarter, said each dollar raised is used to help elect political candidates who will stand up for working people.
New urgency PAC contributions and member mobilization take on new urgency in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent “Citizens United” decision that permits corporations to spend endlessly on politics, Scarver added.
“It is more important now than ever for us to engage our members in the political process,” Scarver said. “It is our only way of fighting back and trying to level the playing field.
Corporations routinely outspend labor in election campaigns and have their own well-funded PACs to push their causes in Washington, D.C. and at the state and local levels. Corporate interests typically outspend labor by close to l9-to-one in dollar-for-dollar comparisons and the gap has been growing.
“It takes money to get our message out. We as union members have got to be able to raise money,’’ said Haas. “There is no way for us to match the money corporations and the rich have but as a mobilized group just giving some contribution can go a long way to help in our struggle against corporate America and help protect the middle class.”
New-hire orientation With the recession, layoffs and a large number of retirees, Haas said PAC participation in the local has dropped off somewhat from 2006 when meetings were held in the plant.
Even so, the local discusses the importance of PAC with new members during new-hire orientations. It also uses the Rapid Response program to let members know about the value of PAC and political issues of importance to them and other workers.
Local 9443 discovered the importance of political mobilization when labor unions in the state in 2006 successfully fought Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s attempt to pass right-to-work (for less) legislation. Labor then helped elect Democrat Steve Beshear, who pledged to oppose the legislation for as long as he is governor.
“If not for the labor unions standing together and getting involved, this right-to-work for less law would have been put into place,” Haas said.
Negative Trade Impact Helps Local 351L for PAC Participation
October 24, 2011
Local 351L Honored for PAC Participation
USW members who work in a tire industry pummeled by unfairly traded Chinese imports know better than many Americans how politics can affect their jobs.
Trade and its negative impact on manufacturing is one reason why recently retired Local 351L President Jimmy Price was able to persuade many of the members at the B.F. Goodrich Tire plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to participate in the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC).
“It’s the only way members and working families can successfully lobby legislative issues important to them,’’ Price said of the union’s PAC program.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit the use of union dues money for political purposes, making it important that USW members voluntarily support local PAC fund raising efforts.
Political involvement matters
Nearly everything that the USW does from negotiating labor agreements to fighting for worker-friendly legislation and employment issues on the national, state and local levels can be affected by politics.
International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver said Price got Local 351L members involved in PAC while educating them on how various trade agreements could hurt their jobs.
“Jimmy has felt that in Alabama, being a Red state, a very large portion of his members were voting against their economic interests, and the best way to have a conversation with them was through PAC solicitation,” Scarver said.
“He did and it resulted in getting two thirds of his membership to sign up for PAC,’’ said Scarver, who, along with District 9 Director Daniel Flippo, nominated Price as the PAC member of the 2011 fourth quarter. “It takes a great leader to pull off something like this in Alabama.”
New employees are introduced to the PAC program during union orientation. Overall, Price said, participation has remained somewhat constant in spite of the long-lasting economic downturn.
Local 351L was first chartered as United Rubber Workers Local 351 in 1947 and started with 225 members. Now USW, the local represents 1,365 workers at B.F. Goodrich.
“Members of our Political Action Committee are encouraged to promote participation, educate themselves and members on legislative issues and the importance of continued support,’ Price said.
The committee, he said, is very involved with the regional Central Labor Council and has been involved with local politics since its inception.
“Political candidates from all parties’ value input from our members, officers and our committee,” Price said. “I feel overall we have played a major part in electing labor friendly candidates – from the governor of Alabama to the best city council Tuscaloosa has ever had.”
Local 7686 Recognized for PAC Contributions
July 11, 2011
For most of the past 40 years, the Political Action Committee (PAC) of Local 7686 in Southeast Missouri was like many others – running on near empty. That is until local President Stan Ivie figured it was time to make some positive changes.
The 825-member local donated about $8 a month to the PAC before Ivie started a campaign in August, 2010, to boost participation. That was such a small amount of money that the local’s major employer, Noranda Aluminum, asked to process the payroll deduction once a year instead of once a month.
“I told them we are fixing to change that,’’ Ivie said.
Change did come. Today, the local collects about $35,000 a year, a little less than $3,000 a month – enough to be nominated by International PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver as the top PAC contributor in District 11 and number four for the union overall.
“I have to give special thanks to our Chief Steward Dallas Snider, Rapid Response Coordinator Mike Milam and all the workers for giving up their hard-earned money to try to make a difference,’’ Ivie said.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit the use of union dues money for political purposes, making it important that USW members voluntarily support local PAC fund-raising efforts, Scarver notes.
“Nearly everything that the USW does for its members, from negotiating labor agreements to fighting for worker-friendly legislation and employment issues on the national, state and local levels can be affected by politics,’’ Scarver said.
Ivie was motivated to act in part by the wave of anti-union legislation sweeping state governments across the country, including a move by Republican state senators to make Missouri a “Right to Work” state.
“I’ve got a little saying I like to use. ‘You can sit back and complain and watch the big bull gore you to death or you can grab him by the horns and hope the rest will join in and take him down.’ Our strength is in numbers,” Ivie said.
Missouri’s new senate leader, President pro Tem Rob Mayer, has made a priority of passing legislation that would bar the negotiation of contracts with union security clauses. Such clauses require union dues or an equivalent fee to cover collective bargaining costs.
Ivie attended a District 11 meeting and heard Scarver, the PAC coordinator, give a presentation on PAC and how to hold fund-raising events featuring a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Ivie contacted Scarver, who agreed to help get the ball rolling at Local 7686.
The local laid out a plan to ask everyone at the Noranda plant to participate in the program and manned the gate during shift changes in the mornings and evenings for several long weeks. Riceland, the smaller of the local’s two employers, refused the local’s request to set up payroll deduction.
The motorcycle fund raiser is scheduled for July 14.
“This event has helped to bring some solidarity and excitement to our local,’’ Ivie said. “We need all the locals to make this commitment to gather the resources, so we can help the International take these big bulls down before it’s too late!”
Local 338 PAC Contributors Honored
April 05, 2011
For roughly a decade, the 1,000-member Local 338 in Spokane, Wash., made no contributions to the USW Political Action Committee (PAC).
That changed in 2006, and the amalgamated local has since grown to become a major PAC contributor, collectively donating more than $30,000 last year.
Local President Dan Wilson gives the credit where it’s due – to the Local 338 members who voluntarily donate to the cause with every paycheck.
“I wish I could take credit for what we are doing at the local, but there are others who really deserve it more: our Local 338 members who faithfully donate their hard-earned dollars each week to make life better for the working class, who truly are the backbone of this country,” he said.
Wilson also acknowledged the work of International PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver, who nominated Wilson to be the PAC member of the quarter.
Contributions are voluntary “He really connected with our guys here. He was very instrumental in this,’’ Wilson said of Scarver, who often says that politics impact everything that the union does for its members.
Corporations routinely outspend labor in election campaigns and have their own well-funded PACs to push their causes in Washington, D.C., and at the state and local levels. Corporate interests typically outspend labor by close to 19-to-one in dollar-for-dollar comparisons, and the gap has been growing.
Member contributions to the USW’s PAC are voluntary by federal law and are used to support labor-friendly candidates and their initiatives.
“Each dollar raised is used to help elect political candidates who will stand up for working men and women no matter their party,” Scarver said.
Wilson, a member of the USW for 27 years, said the local didn’t promote the program well from 1996 to 2006, partly because of disagreements over political issues unrelated to labor.
“We found ways to get our guys who are pretty conservative on board as well as the guys who are progressive,” Wilson said. “We’re able to sell it as being all about labor. We don’t get involved in all those other issues.”
Support working people Through programs such as PAC and Rapid Response, Wilson said his members have become more educated and involved on issues that affect workers and their families.
“Our members understand that their PAC contributions will be used in a non-partisan way to help elect legislators who will support working people. They also know that their PAC dollars will be used to support labor friendly legislation.
Local 338 is an amalgamated local with bargaining units at Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Alutek (rolling and drawing) and L.B. Foster’s pre-cast and railroad tie division.
“Our members work in private sector heavy industrial manufacturing jobs,” Wilson said. “Because Washington State is ranked fourth in the nation for union density, I tell people we aren’t just pro-labor, we’re labor pro-activists.
PAC is Important in the Political Arena
October 03, 2010
Raynard Adams, financial secretary of Local 5702 at the Noranda Alumina refinery in Gramercy, La., supports the USW Political Action Committee because he knows how important it is for organized labor to be active in government.
“It’s hard to get the money, but it is important in the political arena,’’ said Adams, who was nominated to be the PAC supporter of the quarter by PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver.
PACs and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW’s ongoing activities on behalf of the union’s members and their families. Contributions are voluntary and are used to support labor-friendly candidates and initiatives.
Local 5702 is the top producing PAC local in District 13, according to Scarver.. Adams has spearheaded the local’s PAC drive for several years.
Under his direction, the PAC program held a fund-raising about four years ago at Local 5702. And Scarver said he continues to sign up new members for PAC contributions when they get hired.
“He makes sure all new hires get a PAC card when they have orientation,” Scarver added.
Local 5702 represents about 350 employees of Noranda in Louisiana. Last October, the local ratified a five-year agreement with the company.
In 2009, Noranda became the sole owner of the Gramercy location. It had previously owned the refinery in a 50-50 partnership with Century Aluminum.
Local 850's Carol Vetter PAC Member of the Quarter
June 21, 2010
Carol Vetter, president of Local 850 at the Regal Ware cookware factory in Kewaskum, Wis., supports the USW Political Action Committee (PAC) because she knows how important it is for organized labor to be active in government.
"If we don't elect labor-friendly people, we don't have a chance," she said. "It's worth every effort we make. When we get labor-friendly people in office, we can effect change. It may not come quickly, but we can get it done."
Vetter uses her personality and good humor to help persuade USW members to voluntarily participate in the PAC efforts on both the local and District 2 levels, said staff representative Michael Pyne.
The district set a record in PAC collections this year thanks in part to Vetter's persuasive skills, which she employs selling raffle tickets at the check-in table during District Council meetings.
"It's not easy pulling money out of people when they are not getting increases in wages and enduring temporary shutdowns,'' she said. "But I truly believe this is a very important program for all workers, not just Steelworkers. I know it in my heart."
In recognition of Vetter's devotion to the District 2 PAC program, delegates honored her with a plaque at the most recent council meeting, where $12,000 was raised. District 2 Director Michael Bolton also nominated her as the PAC member of the quarter.
"We could never fully recognize sister Carol Vetter for what she has done to support District 2's overall efforts, especially her lifetime support of our PAC program," Bolton said. "She's our best, our very best."
PACs and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW's ongoing activities on behalf of working people and their families, said USW PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver. Contributions are voluntary and are used to support labor-friendly candidates and initiatives.
"Politics has an effect on everything that this union does for our members," Scarver said, noting that most corporations have well-funded PACs to push their cause in Washington, D.C., and at the local and state government levels.
Vetter's PAC involvement dates back to the Allied Industrial Workers of America (AIW), which represented Regal Ware employees until it merged with the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU) on Jan. 1, 1994.
The UPIU merged in 1999 with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) to form the 320,000-member Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers lnternational Union (PACE). PACE and the United Steelworkers of America merged into the USW in 2005.
Vetter began her career in 1976 at Regal Ware, a privately-held cookware maker that was founded in Kewaskum in 1945. It purchased its competitor, The West Bend Co., from Illinois Tools Works Inc. in 2002.
Soon after her hiring, Vetter was named a department steward and took responsibility for first and second step grievance handling. She successfully ran for local vice president in 1983 and for years kept both jobs. She was elected president of the local in 1987, a position she has held since then.
Local 135’s Mark Kurkowski is PAC Member of the Quarter
April 05, 2010
The United Steelworkers has a well-deserved reputation as an activist union whose members turn out to participate in rallies, protests, election campaigns and lobbying efforts to support issues important to working people and their families.
But our activism on the streets is not always enough. We must also work to strengthen our Political Action Committee (PAC) to compete with those who would through legislative activities destroy the opportunities working people have to make a better future for ourselves, our families and neighbors.
District 4 Director Bill Pienta and USW PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver has selected Mark Kurkowski, acting president of Local 135 in Buffalo, N.Y., as the PAC Member of the Quarter to highlight the importance of PAC support and contributions.
Local 135, which represents some 900 employees of the Goodyear Dunlop tire plant in the Town of Towanda, N.Y., contributes about $220 a week to the PAC, Scarver said. The local is part of District 4. The keys to being successful with PAC fund raising are perseverance and joint effort, according to Kurkowski, who said he makes sure the union membership is aware of why PACs are important.
“Having a voice in the political system and in government is crucial,’’ Kurkowski said. In the tire industry, for example, the USW was successful last year in petitioning the government for tariffs against unfairly priced and traded tires made in China.
Other issues at stake include “jobs being shipped overseas, tax cuts, Buy American legislation, protecting Social Security and rewarding companies that create jobs in America,” he added.
Local members are asked to contribute at least one dollar a week to the PAC. Check-off cards are presented to new members as part of new-hire orientation. PAC committee member Mark Cullins, a former local secretary, promotes raffle ticket sales throughout the plant.
As a result of those efforts, Kurkowski was able to pull two local members away from their jobs to work for union issues and candidates during the 2009 presidential election campaign. Hailing from District 4 and our Local 135, captains Denny Mitchell and Dave Evans actively campaigned throughout New York to insure the right candidates got elected.
“In today’s times the union is more important than ever to our members and to the economy of the United States,” Scarver said. “We need good family supportive jobs to get this economy growing and out of the doldrums.”
Politics, Scarver notes, affects nearly everything the union does for our members, from negotiating labor agreements to fighting for worker-friendly legislation and issues on the national, state and local levels.
Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for American workers to freely organize unions, remains high on labor’s agenda. So is proposed legislation that would improve how workers are treated under corporate bankruptcy reorganization.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit the use of union dues money for political purposes, making it imperative that USW members voluntarily support local PAC efforts.
“Like it or not,” Scarver said, “we have to give money to politicians to help them get elected so they will be on our side on the issues.”
Local Union 1899's Dennis Barker is PAC member of the quarter
January 05, 2010
USW Local 1899 member Dennis Barker is the Political Action Committee member of the quarter for the first quarter of 2010.
Local 1899 is an amalgamated local representing members at the U.S. Steel Corp. plant in Granite City, Ill., as well as members at four other units in the Granite City area. In 2003, Local 1899 was formed from the merger of Locals 16, 30, and 67 - all locals with proud histories of political action.
With the able leadership of Barker and the support of the Officers and members of Local 1899, this tradition has continued. In addition to his duties as an Officer of Local 1899 and as a full-time in-plant Safety representative for the USW, Barker chairs the local’s PAC.
Committee members can frequently be seen at the plant gates with petitions in hand or flyers to distribute urging USW members to act in support of issues important to working people.
In addition, for many years, Barker has tirelessly worked to raise voluntary membership contributions to the USW Political Action Fund. Last year, these efforts resulted in more than $23,000 being raised from membership contributions.
“Membership check-off is the key to a successful local union fund-raising program," Barker explains. “We have approached our members for many years about the importance of check-off and our members have always enthusiastically responded. We work hard to keep this tradition going by always talking to newly-hired members during their orientation session at USS and signing up people (for voluntary check-off).”
Barker also can be found at Local 1899 meetings with 50-50 raffle tickets to raise additional voluntary contributions. A political action report is on the agenda of every Local 1899 meeting and articles about political activities of importance to the membership can be found in every issue of the “Mettle Post,” the award-winning Local 1899 newsletter.
Barker is the first person to point out that it is not his efforts alone that result in the successful political action fund-raising efforts of his local union.
“I am just one person in a committee of members that works hard to continue a long-standing, strong tradition of political action in our plant that we are very proud of. We want to keep that going,” he said.
The bottom line for the local’s success, Barker explains, is the support of the membership.
“It is our members who deserve all the credit for what we are able to do raising voluntary contributions and engaging in political action. They understand that what happens in the political arena affects their work life and their families’ standard of living. They always come though when the union sends out a call for action," he said.
Local 831L’s Brenda Miles PAC Member of the Quarter
October 01, 2009
Brenda Miles, the recording secretary of Local Union 831L, believes in the power of the USW’s political activism and the Political Action Committees that help to fund that work.
That makes it easy for her to ask members new and old at the Goodyear tire factory in Danville, Va., to support the local’s PAC with a contribution of $1 a week or more. The approximately 1,600-member Local 831L is the number one PAC contributor in District 8. The Goodyear Danville plant, one of the region’s largest and highest-paying employers, builds truck and other commercial tires.
“Brenda truly gets it,’’ said International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver, who chose Miles as the PAC member of the quarter in recognition of her efforts.
“She understands the importance of PAC contributions and politics and the role they play in our ability to negotiate contracts and provide the services for our members that they expect to receive,” Scarver said.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit the use of union dues money for political purposes. PAC contributions are strictly non-partisan and voluntary.
“Each dollar raised is used to help elect political candidates who will stand up for working men and women no matter their party,” Scarver said.
Local 831L conducted its first PAC drive in January 2003. Local President Danny Barber signed the first card and about 85 members followed suit.
The numbers of PAC participants grew significantly two months later when contributions were solicited during a strike vote. A PAC contributions table manned by the local’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) was set up so members could stop there after voting and picking up a solidarity T-shirt. By day’s end, an additional 927 members had signed up for PAC.
“We did very well signing up our members for that drive,’’ Miles recalled.
A few years later, Miles noticed that participation in the program was flagging. So, she volunteered to pitch for PACs during new-hire presentations made by the union.
“It was falling through the cracks and wasn’t being done. So, I took it. I made it my responsibility,’’ Miles said. “I did it because I believe in what the PAC does. It came easy for me.” Miles, who has donated $2 a week since the program started, initially thought new hires would be a hard sell for PAC contributions because their starting wages are lower than what veterans make. Her fears were unfounded.
“I tell them that the money that goes to this campaign is bi-partisan. It goes to politicians who support us as working people. And I tell them one thing for sure, what we’ve done in the past – nothing – definitely does not work.
For those who think they can’t afford to contribute, Miles asks, “Is a dollar a week worth saving you job? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
And for those who claim to not be political, Miles tells them: “I used to say stuff like that too. You are political whether you know it or not. Your job, your life, is tied to politics and legislation.”
Miles followed her father, John Miles, a union member, into the Goodyear plant at Danville where he had worked for more than 31 years.
“I grew up hearing my father talk about the union and that the union was good for workers,’’ Miles said. “So, when I came to Goodyear it was a no-brainer.”
Miles worked in the plant for nearly 10 years until 1998 when she decided to run for local office as recording secretary, and “they’ve had me ever since.”
USW Local 7655’s William E. Jones is PAC Member of the Quarter
July 02, 2009
USW Local 7655 President William E. Jones knows how important it is for labor to be active in politics and he puts his money where it matters.
“Having labor-friendly candidates means a lot to the future and the very existence of organized labor from our local city and county officials all the way to the president of the United States,’’ Jones said.
Local 7655, which represents employees at the Carrier Air Conditioning plant in Collierville, Tenn., urges members to get involved in local, state and federal elections and participate in payroll check-off for the Steelworkers’ Political Action Fund.
PACs and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW’s ongoing activism on behalf of working people and their families. USW PAC Coordinator Michael Scarver notes that most corporations have well-funded PACs to push their causes in Washington, D.C., and at state and local governments.
“Politics has an effect on everything that this union does for our members from negotiating labor agreements to fighting for issues that pertain to the running of the facilities where our members work,’’ Scarver said.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit the use of union dues money for political purposes, making it imperative that members voluntarily support PAC.
Scarver said it is easier than you might think to get a PAC started in your local and arrange for the company to allow payroll check off. “Once we take that first step and talk to our members, it becomes pretty easy,’’ he said.
Members at Local 7655 are asked to support the fund through voluntary donations of at least $1 a week or $52 a year. This year’s drive was conducted by local Chairperson Debra Daniel.
“This local has been very active in the political arena, particularly in the 2006 Senate race here in Tennessee and, of course, the presidential race last year,’’ Jones said.
"I know PAC is important because it gives labor an opportunity to develop resources to help get pro-labor candidates elected. Corporations outspend labor many times over, but thanks to PAC we were able to pull members out of the local to get the job done.”
Because of its consistent activism in politics, Scarver honored the local by naming Jones the PAC Member of the Quarter.
“They are one of the top contributors in District 9,” Scarver said of the local’s members. “They are at the forefront of every important election that can impact employees at that plant.”
Jones, 34, started working at Carrier when he was 19 and quickly joined the union once his probationary period ended. He has been actively involved since 1997, serving as shop steward and chief steward before being elected president of the local in 2006, when he was 31.
He has served on the locals’ Rapid Response, organizing and bargaining committees as well as the Tennessee Labor Management Foundation, the executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party and the United Way Advisory Committee representing labor.
“There is always room for improvement. We as working people should always hold our elected officials accountable and true to their word,’’ Jones said. “There is nothing better for a working person than a union and PAC is a major contributor to the very existence of organized labor.”
USW Local 10-1's Jim Savage is PAC Member of the Quarter
April 03, 2009
For USW Local 10-1 President Jim Savage, the unknown was holding him back.
The long-time union leader knew full well how important politics are to the lives of working families. But he thought getting his company to allow payroll check-off for the Steelworkers' Political Action Fund would be too difficult.
"Our local never donated to PAC. No one ever did it. I was a little uneducated on it to tell you the truth, and I thought I'd have to get it in contract negotiations. I always thought it was important, but I didn't want the company to be able to go to the members and say, ‘You could have had this but your union wanted your PAC money.'"
Enter Mike Scarver, the USW's PAC Coordinator. Savage attended a workshop presented by Scarver and learned that not only was it easy to get the company to allow check-off, but it was necessary.
PACs and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW's ongoing activism on behalf of working people and their families. Most corporations have well-funded PACs to push their causes in Washington, D.C., and at state and local governments.
"I found out that the company had a PAC, and all we needed to get started was to get a letter to company," Savage recalls. "The company said they wanted to wait until negotiations but I of course said, ‘No. We want to do this now.' We couldn't afford to let the company have a say in decisions that impact our lives and our jobs. We had to get in the game."
Savage said he spoke about the importance of PAC at a local membership meeting and asked shop stewards to show leadership by contributing. The local union leaders got educated about the issues and answered questions from many of the local's 650 members.
"We did pretty good. We asked everybody for a dollar a week and most people were OK with it," Savage said.
More than a third of the local's members are now contributing to PAC.
"It made a big statement to the company when we took in that big stack of cards," Savage said. "It showed that our union is active and involved."
Savage said the local's leaders were able to show most members that PAC is the right thing to do.
"A lot of people were leery of it at first because some said we shouldn't get involved in politics. Our local's leaders said, ‘What do you mean we shouldn't be involved in politics? You're getting screwed every day by politics. We could never compete with these big corporations with the amount of money they donate but we should support the people who support us,'" Savage said.
‘Believe in what you're doing'
Savage said the results have been about more than money for the local, which represents Sunoco Philadelphia refinery workers.
"Most people are giving a dollar or two dollars a week and they feel like they're involved. We were able to talk to every single member of the local and have some important discussions," he said. "The whole thing was a positive experience for us."
Savage said that he encourages all local union leaders to get involved with PAC.
"The main piece of advice I'd give is that you shouldn't be afraid to speak to your members. Most people, if you know what you're talking about and you're willing to answer questions, most people are OK with having the conversation," he said. "If you approach it as a conversation then something good comes out of it, even if you don't get their dollar a week."
"If every local had their members give $1 a week, we'd raise a whole lot more money to compete with these big corporations," he said.
Savage's other piece of advice: "Believe in what you're doing and what we stand for. You can't sell it if you don't believe it."
For more information about how you can get involved in PAC, contact Mike Scarver at 412-562-2342 or email@example.com.
Wayne Holland Jr of Utah is PAC Member of the Quarter
January 05, 2009
Wayne Holland Jr., a USW staff representative for Utah and northern Nevada, has a stellar track record in recruiting for Political Action Committees. How does he do it?
Knowing that PACs and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW’s ongoing activism on behalf of working people and their families, Holland asks members to sign up at the one occasion where he knows the attendance will be good - contract ratification meetings.
“It’s the only time I get the vast majority of members together. It’s an opportunity you can’t pass up,’’ said Holland, a third generation copper miner and political activist.
Politics, bargaining mesh
Contract ratification meetings are a good place to explain how the political and bargaining environments often mesh since the members expect to hear about the bargaining obstacles faced during the negotiations.
“Steelworker members never fail to step up to the plate and engage in the battle once they have a clear challenge and understand that the bargaining environment is directly affected by the political environment,” Holland said.
Health care is a prime example. Maintaining affordable coverage is a constant struggle as employers push for workers to pay more of the costs and move work to other countries to avoid the expense.
“We can’t solve that at the bargaining table,’’ said Mike Scarver, the USW’s PAC Coordinator. “The only way we’re going to be able to fix the health care mess is through the legislative process. If we can get the right people elected, we can make the problem go away.”
Holland was involved in five separate contract negotiations last year and said he was able to improve PAC participation at every one of those locations. On two different occasions, Holland said more members signed PAC cards than actually voted to ratify the proposed agreements, although in both cases the agreements were approved by comfortable margins.
In Holland’s view, it is a disservice to members to not use ratification meetings to discuss how bargaining successes and political successes intertwine.
“Asking members to be part of the solution so they are not part of the problem should be a natural part of every ratification meeting,” Holland said.
Stepping up at Dugway
At the Dugway Proving Ground, a U.S. Army facility 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, USW members negotiated PAC check-off language for the first time and agreed overwhelmingly to participate in the political fundraising.
PAC sign-up cards were distributed along with contract ratification ballots, Holland said, and 68 out of 78 members agreed to participate by pledging at least $1 a week. Seven members pledged $120 a year.
There are often fears that discussing PAC contributions at the contract ratification will have a negative impact. But Holland said those worries are usually unfounded.
“I still find staff reluctance,” he said. “But the ratification vote is going to go the way it is. You can’t pass up the opportunity to encourage the membership.”
Working family roots
Holland, 50, was born into a working family and raised in a mining community where most of the residents on his street worked for the Kennecott Copper Mine. He joined the union 30 years ago while working for Kennecott during summer breaks from college.
He was interested in politics at an early age. By age 6, he was helping his father, a union miner, put up political signs at intersections where workers would pass.
“I remember governor’s races and U.S. Senate races, putting signs in my dad’s old 58 Chevy pickup,” he said. “I’d hold them while they pounded.”
At 10, he was painting banners for Democrat Hubert Humphrey, and at 23, he was named the western director of Frontlash, an outreach program for young Americans that was funded by the AFL-CIO.
He then worked as a regional community relations director for the AFL-CIO before joining the USW as a staff representative in 1995.
“I guess looking back, it’s always been in my blood,’’ he said.
For more information about how you can get involved in PAC, contact Mike Scarver at 412-562-2342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Martin of Malvern, Arkansas is PAC Member of the Quarter
August 26, 2008
Political Action Committees and the funds they raise play a key role in the USW's ongoing activism on behalf of working people and their families.
Several districts and locals have been singled out for their exemplary participation by International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver.
Leaders like Mike Martin, president of Local 602 in Malvern, Ark. Martin and the local's other officers decided to lead by example and contribute $20 a week each to their local's PAC.
"They understand that the main competition for the product they make is China and that issue can only be resolved through the legislative process,'' Scarver said.
For more information about how you can get involved in PAC, contact Mike Scarver at 412-562-2342 or email@example.com.
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