Sent: Friday, December 23, 2005
WHAT IS SOLIDARITY?
AT CATERPILLAR WHEN I transferred over to the assembly area in December of 1969 I had already served UAW Local 751 as steward, chief-steward, and plant grievance/bargaining committeeman. Moving over to the assembly area I was rank-and-file again. After working there for a while many workers were asking me a lot of union questions. So the foreman and general foreman decided they were going to move me back against the east wall and have me work by myself. I told a few people about this and word got around. When the foreman and general foreman come for me to move me we were at the foremanıs desk when workers started showing up and eventually completely encircling us, and the general foreman became extremely nervous and afraid. The general foreman told me that I would not be moved and to go back to work. That's Solidarity..
In 1972 while I was a chief-steward my foreman interfered in the grievance procedure and demanded that I stand while I was discussing and writing a grievance for an aggrieved steward. I demanded that he leave this area because he was interfering in the grievance procedure. He told me if I do not stand that I will be discharged. I told him that I would not stand. He then fired me and many grievances were filed in my behalf. My case was arbitrated and I was awarded full back-pay. The support I was shown by most of the plant helped the union win my case.That's Solidarity..
In 1973 while I was a plant grievance/bargaining committeeman I got a proper pass and went to another area to investigate a grievance for the final step of the grievance procedure. The foreman in the area would not honor my pass and ordered me back to my own area. I asked him what was wrong with my pass but he would give no answer. I told him I was here to investigate a grievance that came out of his area. He told me to go back to my own area. I told him that I was here to investigate a grievance and that is what I intend to do. He fired me on the spot and ordered me to leave the plant. I told him I was not going to leave the plant because I have a legitimate pass to be here. He called the plant guards down to where I was and I told the guards to stand off to the side until I got the superintendent and explained what this foreman had done. After I explained the situation to the superintendent, I left the plant. Word spread throughout the plant that I was fired, so the company quickly spread the word that I refused to remove my wedding ring in a work area. This was to prevent a walk out that day. After the workers heard the truth they set up a picket line at 10:50 pm on June 29, 1973. A weekly collection was taken up to support me and my family. The case was arbitrated and I received all my credited service and other benefits but no back-pay because the arbitrator said I should have left the plant after I was fired and ordered to leave. But with all the support I was shown the arbitrator had to give that some consideration. That's Solidarity..
In 1997 a safety committeeman called me at home and told me that he had heard the company was going to fire him. I asked him, ³what are they alleging you have done². He said they are saying I was disrespectful to a security officer. The security officer was supposed to have the Building ³D² gate unlocked when we got off work. When we got to the gate to leave it was locked and it was raining. Everyone was lining up and the line kept getting longer and no one was going through the gate. I went back in the building and called plant security and told them we were locked in and could not go home. They immediately sent someone to unlock the gate and I asked the officer why the gate was not unlocked. He told me he had to do other things. I told him that was his responsibility to have the gate unlocked and we would not be expecting this to happen again. Several others hearing that were close by agreed with me, but I think it hurt his feelings. So I think he has convinced someone that I should be disciplined. I told him that he was just doing his job as a safety committeeman and did not believe they would do anything to him. But I told him that if they did try to discipline you to please call me in the plant at my work location. Early that morning I got a call from Andy and he told me he was being called to a hearing and he thought they were going to fire him. I thanked him for calling me. I got on a battery operated cart and sped to the main building and gave it to a close union brother who was there operating his machine and told him to notify our strong union brothers that we may be walking out in a few minutes. He took off spreading the word as I went to the labor relations office and the chairman of the bargaining committee was already talking to the company labor rep. I opened the door and went in and told them both that if Andy received any disciplinary action for what happened on the Building ³D² gate, then we were going to shut the plant down. I said that we know we will not get everybody out but would get enough to shut the plant down. I went back out in the plant to see how our support was doing and in a short while a plant grievance committeeman came out and told me that nothing was going to happen to Andy, and that he was going back to work. I was glad that Camron got to witness all this because he was in the main building when all this was going on. That's Solidarity..
In each of the situations above I was completely helpless on my own, but with the input of a large number of union brothers and sisters, my situations were given some credence and the company could not say it was just another event from a hothead. When you receive such a large outpouring of support it certainly humbles you and makes you realize that we should love our brothers and sisters and our neighbors as ourselves.
I have more faults than the rest of you and as I work to hide them you will eventually find me out anyway. Many things could be said about me and it would be the truth, but it would hurt me but I would get over it and eventually would not carry a grudge. The dynamics of a new organization carries with it the diversity of the people in it. If there is not a lot of tolerance, then there is a lot of slicing away that keeps the organization whittled down to nothing. Today, the bottom line is that workers are getting beat up. I have learned from first-hand experience that whether you have any strategy or not, if you have solidarity you have power and there is fear in the hearts of your oppressors. Iım not saying we should not have a strategy. If we did not have a name and did not have a strategy, but had a solidarity list with 25 thousand names on it, we would be feared by those who make a good living raiding the standards of living of good working class people. I believe Solidarity Now must be structured but not micro-managed, and yet general enough to allow all the oppressed to enter our doors. That's Solidarity..
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. Larry G. Solomon