What Does Being Union Mean To You? — By Ray Pickup
My earliest memory I can remember is my family talking about the “UNION” — a monolithic entity that everyone in my South Boston neighborhood seemed to be involved in. I knew my family members were glaziers, but didn’t understand that each trade had their own separate organizations. The late Congressman Joe Moakley summed it up best: “Everyone I knew growing up in South Boston was baptized, issued a union card, and enrolled in the Democratic Party.”
As I am now going on my 15th year as a member of Local 1044, my understanding of being UNION has changed. The UNION is not an organization that we merely belong to, WE are the UNION, for, the members are the true life blood of the UNION. We are the ones on the frontlines against corporate greed and a livable wage with benefits. WE earn each and every raise that we get, WE earn each spot, and WE have to fight for everything WE deserve.
UNION members going on strike is never easy. It creates hardships that are often tough to navigate. Strikes are becoming increasingly common as company profits are far outweighing what UNION members deserve. While corporate profits are at an all-time high, the compensation doesn’t match. Therefore, there will be a time when WE may see another strike in our area within our jurisdiction. In recent years, Verizon Locals with IBEW, National Grid Locals 12003 and 12012, the teamsters, Dedham teachers, and UFCW have all gone on strike, as did the employees at Market Basket, although they are not union. These are just a few in Massachusetts, but across the United States, there have been dozens, union and non-union alike. People are starting to see through the misrepresentations of the common worker they have been fed, because an all-time stock market does not equate to people getting ahead. Our workers shouldn’t have to choose between purchasing prescription drugs or putting food on the table for their families.
It’s important to understand that UNION members are not better than non-union members. WE are all in this fight together. Our struggle is their struggle. The hightide will raise all ships. WE need to educate our neighbors and fellow tradespeople on WHY being a UNION member is vital for the survival of the working middle class. Edzo Kelly, IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer, said at the Verizon Union strike rally in July of 2015, “Anything worth having is worth fighting for. This fight might be about a contract, but it’s a hell of a lot more than that. It’s about dignity, it’s about respect, it’s about the right to fight for the American Dream.”
When you go out on strike–and trust me–it’s going to get hard-you question yourself. Remember, people are watching you, especially the younger generation, your children. And you need to teach them to “live on their feet, not on their knees.” Those words have always stuck with me since I heard Edzo Kelly say them. For, WE are the UNION and being UNION is a lifestyle not a convenience to take advantage of. Will you be ready to fight when the time comes? We are stronger together and when WE fight, WE win! So now I ask you again, what does being UNION mean to YOU?