Retiree Chairperson’s Report – March 2018
After our last meeting, I was saying to myself that I think I am doing the right thing every month by talking about trying to make things better for the future for those people that are retired and for the members that are in the plant that can retire, going forward.When I became involved in Local 199, I was just 25 years old. The reason I got involved was because I could see how much better it was for a worker who was working in a unionized factory. It was a better place to work then because the older workers working with you took care of you. They did this so that I did not get in trouble and because they were strong union workers.
I started at GM in 1963. Two years later, I was working as a tow motor driver. In 1965, I was at the bottom of the seniority list. The highest seniority driver had 52 years of service. He had started working for McKinnon Industries when he was 13 years old and he had to work till he was 65 years old. His name was Art Packwood. He was a great man. Art sold 1967 centennial coins for people to keep. He said they would be worth more someday. I still have those coins I got off Art.Art also told me, ‘Fred, if you stick with the union things will get better and you can be part of making them get better.’ He said, ‘no worker should have to work till they are 65 years old to get a pension.’ When Art retired at 65 years old, he already had problems with cancer. Art was dead six months later. So here I am, 55 years later, still talking about making things better now for Unifor Local 199 retirees. Yet, I hear the naysayers telling us that we cannot fix that and you are beating a dead horse. We will not get our COLA back. We cannot fix our underfunded benefits because they are locked in.
In 1964, I met my first naysayer. I was 18 years old at the time and I was on strike for the first time against McKinnon Industries. At that time, a worker in back of me, at a meeting about the strike told the guy up at the front of the union hall that we were crazy for going on strike. He said, every time we get a 10 cent raise an hour the price of bread goes up a dime. The guy at the front of the hall was Ken Brisbois. Ken was on the Executive Board of UAW Local 199. Ken told him he may be right about the price of bread. It may go up a dime. You do not eat a loaf of bread every hour but you will get another dime every hour and you can do a lot with all the other dimes.
That made a lot of sense to me and from that day onwards the UAW had me in their corner. So to the naysayers, I did not listen to them in 1964 and in 2018 I want to let you retirees know that I will fight till death to get back that COLA we lost and to fix some of the benefits we also lost and I believe when the union thinks the time is right and we retirees keep hammering them, they will make the changes needed. So to naysayers and to anyone saying I am beating a dead horse, I say go to hell, I will meet you there when I win my fight. I want to make it clear that I am the guy that makes noise and lots of it and anytime I can I will talk about retirees and their needs and what we have lost.
Also, there was a Pharmacare meeting on March 1, 2018 at ‘Club Capri’ in Thorold. Even with the inclement weather there was still 50 people at the meeting and a lot of them were Local 199 retirees. Thank you for coming out to the meeting in the bad weather. It was a very informative meeting with three speakers including Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer, Marie Clark Walker. This event was one of about 30 events that are happening in cities across Canada in order to build support for a long overdue National Pharmacare program. The liberals are trying to down play Pharmacare and to limit the numbers of people that it would cover. We need to keep fighting, that everyone in Canada would be covered under a National Pharmacare Program.
Chairperson, Retiree Chapter, Unifor Local 199