Thursday, May 2, 2013

Into The Hollers(working title) excerpt

Hey everyone,

The following is a rough draft excerpt from the book I'm working on that recounts my year as an organizer in West Virginia and Kentucky with SEIU/District 1199 WV/KY/OH.

This section talks about my first day on the job. All feedback would be helpful and encouraged.

Day One

Shit. I mumbled to myself as I sat up along the side of the bed in the darkness of my room at the Ramada Inn situated right off Interstate 64 in Huntington, WEst Virginia. Still groggy from my six hour drive through the mountains from Brunswick, Maryland the night before, I stumbled over to the window and drew the shades. The morning sky was dreary, and it was still raining. As the cars passed along the interstate, I joked to myself, "We'll, can't beat the view."

I got myself together and climbed into my 1999 Volvo station wagon - an unconventional vehicle choice for a union organizer. I soon discovered that most organizers drive either a small four cylinder car because of the amount of miles they drive, or an SUV. This is handy for hauling union supplies around, but it is useful mainly for dragging members to events.

The HR coordinator had informed me that rather than spending my first day filling out paperwork during a traditional orientation, I would be traveling in a three hour caravan from Huntington to Columbus, Ohio for a rally against Ohio Senate Bill 5. S.B. 5 proposed the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. Aside from the general importance of showing solidarity with our union sisters and brothers, this would affect about 7,000 members of our Local, approximately a third of the total membership of our Local.

I was more than a little excited about the reality that I was now getting paid to attend a rally that I usually would have showed up to for free. I met with a few of our members at the union office across town, where we piled into a fifteen passenger van in preparation for our three hour journey. After a few minutes of pleasantries and being welcomed to the union, I struck up a conversation with a woman whom I thought was one of my members. After we shared a very in depth discussion on our respective philosophies regarding the labor movement, including a very frank assessment of the internal struggle going on in California with NUHW, I discovered that the woman I had been speaking to was in fact the Executive Vice-President of the entire Local.

As I sat internally kicking myself for being so open about my opinion regarding SEIU's undemocratic direction, Kathy assured me that they did things differently, and that due to 1199's merger agreement, they could never be placed under trusteeship. This time, I kept my trap shut on not sharing her opinion on this point. I decided to play it safe and stick to non-work related topics for the remainder of the trip.

When we arrived at the main office in Columbus, the building was overflowing with staff and members who were being herded onto charter buses that would ferry us downtown to the statehouse. There had been rumors that the governor would have the state police lock the doors, and sure enough, about five minutes after we gained access, we were informed that once we left the building, we would not be permitted to re-enter the facility. The building was filled to the brim with union members. I was struck by the diversity of the labor community I could see around me. There were truck drivers talking to librarians, firemen chanting with nurses, plumbers alongside prison guards. Every combination you could imagine was represented.

For the next several hours, we sang, chanted, and raised all sorts of hell while the Republican controlled Senate did their best to ignore us. There were visits from former governor Ted Strickland, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who were both greeted by cheers from the crowd. F

After returning to the union office, we made the drive back to Huntington. By the time I made it back to the hotel, it was around 10:30pm. I rolled into bed, thoroughly exhausted, but with a huge smile on my face. "This could be good," I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

As I mentioned, this is a rough draft and I'm open to any feedback. More to come.

In Solidarity,


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