Each stands alone and has its own independent meaning. When joined together, their meaning is magnified exponentially. Union families are a big deal, a big American deal that has built the American middle class.
A union is a group of organized workers who want safe employment, a say in how they work, and compensation sufficient to support their families into the future. Workers have work in common with one another. A family is devoted to each other and sharing all the love, all the milestones, all the dreams, all the hopes for the future, and all the human life events that lift our hearts and our spirits. Family members have life in common with each other.
A union brings the two concepts together to be more than the sum of the parts. A union family is a safe, supportive, caring bunch of hard-working families of all types and descriptions who want the best for themselves, their families and each other.
It’s not enough for one worker to come home safe after every work shift to a family with a positive future; union families want every worker to have that opportunity. Union families cooperate together and as a unified force, work on and off the job to make a better life for their families.
Workers at ADF, the huge metal fabrication plant just north of Great Falls, very recently have voted nearly three-to-one to unionize, to join the union family. They did so not from greed, not from any desire to harm ADF or its business potential, and certainly not from some wild pointless errant thought. They did so to try to make their families’ lives better.
They want to ensure their work provides their spouses and children more opportunity. They unionized to have a positive say in their work — it is in everyone’s interest to work safe, work smart, produce quality products and to work creatively. The more successful and competitive ADF can be, all the better for ADF workers. This is a step forward, not a step back.
As ADF workers met prior to their union vote, the meeting rooms were full of not only welders, pipefitters and fabricators who talked shop; the room resounded with children’s laughter, the reports of soccer game scores, the discussion of what tire to put on the old 4x4 (truck).
The meeting was of a union family getting together to share, together, the hopes for a better tomorrow.
Unity made America, unity made Montana, and unity makes our families stronger. Union families have a stake in tomorrow — they are tomorrow.
Jerry Rukavina is president of the Central Montana Central Labor Council and a field representative for the Montana Education Association and Montana Federation of Teachers. He also is an auto-racing enthusiast and a retired school teacher.