EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Steven VanSlooten – Executive Vice President
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you
As you read this, I am preparing for retirement. After 38 years as a UWUA member, I believe it’s time to pass the reins on to the next generation of leaders.
Those of you who know me, know that I’m a man of few words and I don’t like to blow my own horn. I’ll let the record of my achievements speak for itself.
There are a few things I would like you to know about me, why I got involved in the union and how I truly feel about the UWUA.
I’m a millwright by trade. I was hired by Consumers Energy at the Campbell generating complex in West Olive, Michigan, Consumers’ largest coal plant.
The transforming power of unions
What made me become involved as more than an interested rank-and-file union member was, back in the early 80’s I would go to union meetings regularly. One time when I missed a meeting, I asked my steward the next morning what went on at the meeting the night before. His response was, “If you needed to know I’d tell you,” and then he just walked away. I didn’t think that was the right way to represent or treat fellow members. I thought, as a steward, or any officer for that matter, you had to be respectful of the people you were representing, let them know what was going on, and include them in things that affected them at work. So I decided to run for steward, and won.
The UWUA has meant many things to me over the last 38 years. I can’t describe them all. Having a union job has provided stability for me and my family, without having to worry about where my next paycheck was coming from. I knew what my wages were and what my opportunities would be. Whenever I needed something, the union was there. The security of knowing that there was an organization that had my back was important.
I have been transformed, and I have seen others transformed, by union membership. I see that in the eyes of new members who have never been in a union workplace before. When they realize for the first time that they have a voice, a right to speak up, a right to ask questions, a right to seek justice if they think they’ve been wronged, they feel like they have a whole new lease on life.
Getting our fair share
Of the many things I enjoyed about being a union officer, I enjoyed the relationships I made and the challenges of contract negotiations the most. I’ve been involved in a lot of contract negotiations over the years and I find it very rewarding. To try to preserve what those who came before us fought for, to expand and improve the contracts as the work evolved was a challenge that I enjoyed.
Utilities are regulated monopolies. As long as our members received their share of what the company received out of a rate case I didn’t worry about what the company was making. I never wanted to go to a rate case to bankrupt the company because I believe that for the members and the union to prosper the company has to prosper and vice versa. I used whatever leverage I could to make sure our members got their fair share of what our companies received in rate cases.
I will always be proud to be able to say that from my first job out of high school until the day I retired, I was a union member. For 38 years I have never had to worry about being able to speak up if I thought something was right or wrong. I’m very proud to be union!
It’s been a real honor and a privilege to serve the membership of this great union. At the end of the day, I hope I’ve made a difference in making our members’ lives better. That’s what it’s all about and that’s how I really feel.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you.