Here are excerpts from Steve VanSlooten’s report to the Convention.
Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. Thank you for stepping forward to be leaders of your local unions and taking on the challenges our members face very day. You are in the trenches, fighting the good fight, addressing the concerns of our membership.
Yesterday, the names of members who passed away since our last convention were shown on the convention hall screens. We owe them, and all the members and officers that came before them, for what we have and enjoy today.
Today, we continue to meet the challenges our members face head on. I know that with the leadership of the Executive Board, Delegates, and officers of local unions, we are well prepared for the challenges ahead.
Here is a brief overview of some of my activities since the last convention.
President Langford appointed me as a trustee of the UWUA Deferred Compensation Fund, a 401(k) fund. We have 370 members participating in this fund. When I took over as chair, the fund’s investments were governed by an investment policy created by the trustees. Members had no say in how their money was invested.
I heard from members and local officers who were concerned about this and, after a lot of discussion with the fund trustees, the policy has been changed and participants can now direct how their money is invested.
President Langford also appointed me to serve as a trustee on the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund. This fund includes HRAs, VEBAs, and a fully insured plan. The HRA has 4,003 members and includes eight employers. The VEBA has 2,831 members. In addition, 370 members get their health coverage through the fund’s fully insured health plan. The total equity of this fund is very healthy, with over $54 million.
You can negotiate for your local to participate in these funds. If you organize a small group and they need health are, the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund can make that happen. If you have to do different things within your Collective Bargaining Agreement to help defer costs, HRAs and VEBAs are a great way to do it.
President Langford also appointed me to the P4A Training Trust Fund. The trust’s training programs are a huge success.
Local 18007 launched the P4A’s Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP) with Peoples Gas in Chicago in April 2012. Since then, UMAP has trained over 200 veterans who are now union members enjoying the benefits of a family sustaining job. If we can put 200 veterans to work with one employer, how many other veterans across this country can we put to work? There is no better way to say “thank you” to veterans who are coming home than providing a living wage, family sustaining, union job.
The P4A program in Potterville, Michigan, started as a pilot training program with Consumers Energy in the fall of 2012. And in August 2013, P4A signed a 5-year agreement to perform gas distribution and gas servicing training for the company.
We partnered with the Michigan State Utility Workers Council and converted the council’s 10,000 square foot warehouse into a first rate training facility at a cost of over $800,000 of P4A Training Trust Fund dollars. From September of 2013, through June 30, 2015, the P4A has trained 873 members for Consumers Energy.
We’ve already outgrown that facility and are breaking ground to expand to more classroom space and a full welding training facility to train gas and power plant welders. The trustees have approved an additional $600,000 for the expansion.
Get involved with training
I encourage everybody, whether it’s during negotiations, or a mid-term contract agreement, to get involved with the training of their future and current members. We can custom build these kinds of programs anywhere across the country. Whether it is UMAP, or a training facility where we train new and/or incumbent workers, we can do this. We are putting out a great product in training, our members are appreciative of it, and it works.
In closing, let me say, we’ve had a lot of fights since the last convention. Some of our employers are cooperative in the collective bargaining process. Some employers went so far as to lock out our members, denying them of their dignity, their benefits, and everything they’ve bargained for.
When we have employers like that, we get off our asses, we get on our feet, we get out the door, and we hit the street!
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