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Fight for union democracy

By Lee Sustar | March 29, 2002 | Page 10

KALAMAZOO, Mich.--More than 100 union members and retirees met here March 24 in a town hall-style meeting on union democracy.

Most were members of the United Auto Workers, but a number of members of other unions attended as well, including the Electricians, Laborers, Carpenters and Teamsters. About 40 were members of the retirees' group UAW Concern.

The meeting was initiated by activists in the UAW Solidarity Coalition, including Gregg Shotwell of Local 2151 in Cooperstown, Mich.; Jan Austin and Gene Austin of Local 594 in Pontiac, Mich.; and Billy Robinson, former president of Local 2036 in Henderson, Ky., which represents locked-out Accuride workers. Many of those in attendance had met through efforts to build support for Local 2036.

Some speakers, such as Jim McGough of Laborers for Justice, argued that the FBI and Department of Justice could be used to fight union corruption. Others argued that the feds promised to help--but covered up for union leaders for political reasons.

Another speaker cited the example of former Teamsters President Ron Carey. Carey was removed from office by the government but was later cleared in federal court of all wrongdoing.

The meeting ended with a commitment to build on the connections made that day. "As a union member, your responsibility is to get solidarity working," Billy Robinson said. "Because without solidarity, none of our unions are going to survive."

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