UTU Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson knows the value of the UTU PAC in electing labor friendly lawmakers. He knows how to share those facts, also.

UTU Local 1075 Secretary-Treasurer John Purcell says he and other members of his Trenton, Mich., local had “no clue of what the UTU PAC was. No one had ever explained how it worked” until Gibson showed up at a union local meeting.

Purcell credits Gibson with educating the local’s members “on how PAC funds are used and the benefits the PAC provides. I started contributing myself immediately and began to encourage others to do the same,” Purcell said in a recent e-mail he sent Gibson.

“The value of the UTU PAC was further driven home after my attendance at the regional meetings where I learned what was being done in Washington D.C., and the impact of our PAC funds there,” Purcell said.

More recently, Purcell said the UTU’s get-out-the vote drive for the Nov. 2 elections was a success. Post cards sent members through a project of the National Legislative Office “reached the members’ homes and several contacted me and asked questions,” Purcell said.

“I provided information which included that the UTU PAC is not a partisan program and that it supports candidates that support us regardless of party affiliation,” Purcell said. “I used the information provided, which listed successful legislation that has improved safety and benefits.

“All of this resulted in 12 members either increasing their UTU PAC donation or becoming new donors all together,” Purcell said.

Purcell said he now writes a check to the UTU PAC in the amount of $265 per month, and 44 percent of Local 1075’s members now donate. He said his goal is to gain PAC contributions from 75 percent of Local 1075’s members.

By UTU Assistant President Arty Martin

Early in our lives, we learn that success — whether it be graduation, being selected for a church choir, earning a spot on a sports team, or being hired to drive a bus, fly a plane or switch rail cars — requires preparation, following rules, and attention to the job.

Our union is structured to assure each of us the opportunity and right to guide our future under our collective bargaining agreements. Our responsibility is to understand our agreements, and learn to document carrier violations.

This is because we cannot expect the local chairperson, general chairperson or an International officer to know everything that is happening on a daily basis at each location.

Local officers, upon learning of your problems, have the responsibility to inform the general chairperson and/or state legislative director (the latter where safety issues are concerned). These officers then have the option, if necessary, of seeking assistance from the International.

The UTU constitution is very strong in preserving the autonomy of each local, with succeeding levels (general committees, state legislative boards and the International) prepared to assist in ensuring you obtain proper pay, benefits and working conditions as provided by your agreements.

At the International, we have one of the strongest and most successful law departments among labor organizations. History shows that the UTU does not hesitate to go to the court house on your behalf to enforce agreements.

We also work to build coalitions with other labor organizations, and often through the AFL-CIO, which carries the banner for almost 12 million working families.

The UTU’s membership in AFL-CIO — along with the UTU PAC — is a powerful tool for electing a labor-friendly candidates and influencing the passage of labor-friendly laws. I take pride that UTU International President Mike Futhey was just elected a vice president of the AFL-CIO, and named to its ruling Executive Committee.

I am reminded of the famous Norman Rockwell paintings of four basic freedoms: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

These freedoms are the soul of union brotherhood and sisterhood, as working men and women from diverse backgrounds and cultures come together to fight for individual and collective respect and workplace rights.

I also recall reading a famous speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he proposed a Second Bill of Rights to guarantee a job with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition and monopolies, a home, medical care, education and recreation.

Much progress has been made, but more must be achieved. Together, through preparation and hard work, we must continue — with fire in the belly — the fight for what is right.

At the local level, members have the responsibility to fight for these rights also, beginning with identifying and properly documenting situations that hinder our very basic rights to a safe workplace, free of intimidation and harassment.