Written by Charlie Gebhardt, Investigator
Summer is ending. Kids are back to school. The football season is about to begin. Baseball teams are lining up for the World Series. Leaves will soon be changing color. Another Labor Day weekend has come and gone. As a railroader, a member of the labor work force, did you feel a part of Labor Day or was it simply a reason to get in one last picnic?
A LITTLE LABOR DAY HISTORY
Back in the 19th century, men like Matthew McGuire, a member of the Central Labor Union in New York and one of the gentlemen credited with starting Labor Day, thought there should be a day to recognize and appreciate the efforts of laborers in making this country great,
"…who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
Laborers are the backbone of America. They haven't always received credit where credit is due. They haven't always had the best work conditions or the best pay. Over the years improvements have been seen, though, because of laborers uniting together. Railroad unions are known as brotherhoods. Within the union brotherhood, we unite and share with each other knowledge of our work experiences within the forum of your union meetings.
DON'T MISS YOUR OPPORTUNITY
I attend several union meetings every month. Whether it is a 40 man or a 140 man unit, the norm is from under quorum to six or eight members. In other words, it's usually the officers, or as I like to refer to them as - "the choir,” who show up for the meetings.
It's understood not everyone has the time off to attend a meeting. And when you do have off, sometime things need to be done around your home or other circumstances pop-up. The problem is, when you miss a union meeting you miss an opportunity to hear about important issues concerning all facets of your job. You miss an opportunity to be involved in discussions regarding safety concerns not being addressed or harassment issues on your property. You miss an opportunity to provide your input. And in a brotherhood, everyone's input – including yours - is necessary.
When I speak at a union meeting, too often I really have something important to pass on concerning injuries or the FELA law that would be excellent advice to members. When I look around the room, however, all I see is the "choir.” The officers do their best to try to pass on this information to the members. And the officers hear some of your expressions out on the property and try to relay them at the meetings. But it's not the same. Things come across much better when they're discussed first hand.
When you attend a meeting, what you have to share might help a fellow railroader also attending the meeting and vise versa. When you attend your union meetings, you leave fortified with the information gathered there knowing what to do in the various instances of your employment complexities.
EVEN HONEST ABE UNDERSTOOD
President Abraham Lincoln once said,
"There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other."
With another Labor Day having just past, take a moment to realize you are a part of the labor work force. Know that your work matters and your voice matters. Support your union. Attend your union meetings. I look forward to speaking with you at your next union meeting.