About 150 leaders of North Texas Auto Workers (UAW) local unions gathered at Local 276 hall in Grand Prairie on October 6th. They had to deal with two major crises:
Longtime leader of the 17-state Region 5, Jim Wells, died of a heart attack the week before. Wells had been working on raising funds for the union's political effort right up to his death. Even though Region 5 is the largest in territory, it is not the largest region in membership. And yet, the region has distinguished itself as the perennial winner of the race to raise the most political money. Unions are prohibited by law from using dues money for candidates, but they can hold bake sales and other events to raise political money. Region 5 raised over $847,000 in 2011 despite losing a number of locals to outsourcing and downsizing in the auto, aerospace, and agricultural implement industries.
Although all manner of ingenious fund raisers are carried out, the most money comes directly from voluntary pledges of the members to the union's Voluntary Community Action Program (V-CAP). Those who give $300/year or more are inducted into the "Director's Club," while those who donate more than $100 are in the "Century Club." Most locals have negotiated for payroll deduction of their pledges. Even retirees volunteer to have regular deductions from their company pension plans. Virtually all of the auto locals and one aerospace local (848 in Grand Prairie) have negotiated pension deductions for their retirees. Educational rep Rosie Salinas gave out pertinent literature and statistics concerning the election effort. She pointed out that the consequences of November 6 will be of the utmost importance for America's working people.
Political leader Danny Trull urged the October 6 participants to raise their contributions. He said, "With your help and your assistance, Region 5 will continue to lead the UAW."
After the meeting was adjourned, President Mike Cartwright of UAW 276 asked people to stay if they wanted to be part of the union's volunteer Administrative Caucus. He then opened nominations for a new Region 5 Director. President Romeo Munoz, a political leader of the Southwestern states and President of UAW 848, nominated the current Assistant Director, Gary Jones. Cartwright asked for other nominations but there were none, and Jones was nominated by the group by acclamation. The decision was a popular one and drew an extended standing ovation.
Gary Jones (pictured at center in blue shirt with UAW 848 supporters) then addressed the group very briefly. He expressed his thanks for the nomination and laid out the serious challenges before the region. He said, "We have to continue to fight for workers rights and lead the UAW in V-CAP!"
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