Younger members are our future

August 24, 2010

By Assistant President Arty Martin

For more than 40 years, the UTU has been instrumental in improving job security, wages, benefits and safe working conditions.

To achieve that success, the UTU has always relied on the membership to step forward to rebuild elected officers’ ranks — from the local through the UTU International president.

Every aspect of our society — from neighborhood associations, local school boards, Congress and the White House — relies on the same process to ensure our society continues to thrive, grow and be successful. We can neither forget this nor let “the rebuild from within” concept die, or we will lose control of our futures.

When President John F. Kennedy took his oath of office in 1961 — at age 43, succeeding 70-year-old Dwight Eisenhower — Kennedy noted, “The torch has been passed to a new generation.”

JFK and his new generation of leaders were prepared to lead because of mentoring they received early in their careers.

Each of today’s UTU leaders has a moral obligation to identify and mentor talented younger members, beginning with assisting them in running for local office. Not all will be successful. But this is the process by which we identify those who, in the future, will lead general committees, state legislative boards and the UTU International.

I’m not suggesting older leaders head for the exits. I’m among the oldest, and I assure you I have no intention of departing anytime soon. But depart I will at some date, and my duty — and the duty of our other higher ranking UTU officers — is to identify and mentor qualified successors.

Each of our UTU International officers can trace their rise to the day they took an oath of office at their local —  and each can name a mentor who helped bring them along. Representing our brothers and sisters can be some of the hardest work we perform — and certainly the most rewarding when we realize our efforts help to improve wages, benefits, job security and safe working conditions.

Successful officers at the local level demonstrate early whether they have the internal compass and fortitude to do right by their members, whether it is taking on an inexperienced trainmaster with an outsized ego or processing a difficult grievance against an aggressive carrier officer.

The future of the UTU — and more important, the future job and financial security of our members — rests with a seamless process that assures members continue to receive excellent representation when new officers succeed those who retire or move up in the organization.

Because new technology is evolving so quickly, special new challenges await tomorrow’s leaders. Most of us began our careers when a caboose trailed every train and computers were something we read about in Mechanix Illustrated. Tomorrow’s railroads and tomorrow’s buses will be chock-a-block with computer technology tied to orbiting satellites.

I urge each of our senior officers at the International, general committees and state legislative boards to ramp-up the process of identifying and mentoring younger members with potential to become successful officers. The future of the UTU depends on it.