Jobs with Justice pitched in with one of our members, United Aerospace Workers Local 848, on a "Save Our Jobs" campaign that began on Monday, August 20. The Brownfields Corporation was buying the land underneath the Jefferson Street plant of Triumph Aerostructures Vought Division. This is usually called the LTV plant, after one of its former owners, and was more recently called the Vought plant.
Management at Triumph released a public statement saying that the new buyer was insisting on raising rent so much that it would double their operating costs and cause them to "seek other options" rather than keeping the plant open. Thousands of jobs in and around Grand Prairie were at stake; consequently the union had no choice but to fight back. Now, four days later, it is possible to summarize some of the activities that the union, assisted in a small way by Jobs with Justice, generated.
Through its network of shop committeemen and stewards, the union let the membership know every detail about the sale that had been discovered so far. Petitions went out in the plant. Members signed them and took extra copies for their families, neighbors, friends, and local merchants. The membership was invited to the union hall on the afternoon of August 21 at 4 PM, just after some of the first shift workers at the Jefferson plant were released. President Romeo Munoz and Triumph Chairman Russell Strowd explained everything in detail. They put forth their thought-out opinion that the Governor of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (appointed by the Governor) could rectify the problem and save the jobs. They also led a rigorous question and answer session.
The members responded immediately. They started signing petitions and making phone calls to the Governor of Texas. They turned out in astounding numbers to find out what was going on and to volunteer to help. It was easy to see that members were extremely concerned.
Invitations to the August 21 meeting were extended to area newspersons,. and they responded. At least four television stations, at least three newspapers, and such small but influential bloggers as Bucky Fuller and Byron Montgomery, both from Occupy Dallas, attended. Byron streamed the entire meeting live on the internet. Bucky's video coverage begins at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1lyd2a5tkw&feature=plcp.
My own short version is on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/gene.lantz.7. From 7 to 8 AM on Friday, August 24, Local 848 Committeeman Kyle Dubberke appeared on my radio show, "Workers Beat" on KNON, 89.3 FM and www.knon.org.
The media outreach was a big success. The Associated Press apparently picked it up. We were all over the internet. The Dallas newspaper ran articles for each of the next three days. The Tuesday crowd, which overflowed the union hall, was addressed by City Councilman Tony Shotwell, School Board member Terry Brooks, and State Representative Roberto Alonzo. By Thursday afternoon, both U.S. Senators from Texas were answering newspersons' questions about the problem.
Who would get hurt, besides about 2,400 employees, if a big plant shutdown and layoff took place? If you think about it for a minute, the list of stakeholders gets pretty big. Here are a few
UAW Local 848 leaders and Jobs with Justice recognized these stakeholders and moved to include them in the solution. Other unions were contacted by phone and asked to take petitions. The union's newspaper, web site, and Facebook page swung into action. Members took extra copies of the paper petitions, and Jobs with Justice put up an on-line petition at http://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4023/c/206/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4818. Within 3 days, over 700 petitions had come on-line, and thousands of signatures were collected on paper. On Friday, August 24, President Romeo Munoz took the petitions to the Governor of Texas in Austin. The Texas AFL-CIO, headquartered near the Governor's Mansion, helped Munoz with another news conference there.
One of Local 848's most enterprising members, Brian Caldwell, suggested at the Tuesday meeting that the union ask local merchants to sign our petitions and put supportive placards in their windows. The union leaders approved. The next afternoon, on his way home from work, Caldwell gathered forty signatures from Grand Prairie merchants. The next day, Wednesday, he filled seven pages with signatures. All but three merchants agreed with Brian. One had to delay her response because she had to check with higher-ups. One politely said "no," and another, Grand Prairie Ford, used the occasion to rant against the union movement. The general manager there told Caldwell, ""I don't give a G**D** if any of your F**ing employees buys another car from me again!"
On the other hand, the owner at Graff Chevrolet on Main Street told Caldwell that he had told his employees, "Any union member, any Vought employee that comes over here for vehicle repair or to buy something, you jump through your a** and you take care of them!" The dealership owner told Caldwell to go directly into the dealership and "get every employee to sign that petition!" Brian Caldwell signed up the general manager and everybody else on the site!
The General Manager at the Chevrolet Dealership, Frederick Kirk, put a placard in his window. Brian Caldwell took a photo of it because he intends to make sure that Local 848 members know about it! Caldwell will also prepare a list of cooperating merchants for the union's Facebook page and union's web site.
A lot of the commercial media coverage of the situation has focused on problems between Triumph management and the buyers, American Brownfields Corporation. Apparently, they are arguing and negotiating, sometimes very publicly, about how much rent the new owner might charge. The old owners, the U.S. Navy, had cooperated with the aerospace company just as government and aerospace companies have cooperated since World War II. Newspersons would like to draw the union into their argument, but Local 848 leaders have carefully avoided any such confusion. Their position is that they want to keep good jobs right where they are, and they intend to fight anybody who would take those jobs away.
So far, it would seem, they're doing a pretty good job!