“ It’s Time To Step It Up A Notch...”
Region 8 Director Gary Casteel Tells Florida Delegates

Report by : Paul Highbarger, Local # 171- Hagerstown,Maryland

Emphasizing International President Ron Gettelfinger’s plan, “10 Steps for a Stronger America”, Region 8 Director Gary Casteel’s opening remarks set the tone for three days of intense, informational strategy planning for Region 8 Leadership at Treasure Island, Florida; April 1-3, 2003. Encouraging the leadership to set the pace towards the future and not follow the mistakes of the past, he said, “ We’ve become too complacent. Region 8 needs to take the lead, not follow. We have three solid objectives that this region will meet,” said Director Casteel. They are:

1. Organizing- For Our Strength and Survival
2. Political Involvement- We All Need To Make A Difference
3. Voter Registration- Our members, Families, Friends and Neighbors Must Vote

“ Organizing must link to bargaining,” said Casteel. “ We need to create activism in our ranks. Public officials should be begging for more unions; helping, not fighting us...we bring good into the communities we live in....higher wages, a higher tax base for better schools, roads, etc., a higher standard of living .....we supply those dollars. We created and we are middle-class America! We’ve got to step it up a notch! I’m pushing my staff hard in getting this job done,” added Director Casteel.

International Staff members were bought in to conduct workshops on the following:

1. Organizing- We need more members, now, not tomorrow. Also, Card Check/Neutrality Clauses need to be part of every contract. Start in your own plant organizing the unorganized...(Trucking firms, suppliers, uniform companies, etc.)

2. UAW Training Centers- Are you utilizing the resources available to you?

3. Bookkeeping/Accounting- Presentation by Ken Roberts of Robert’s Custom Software. UAW approved vendor that focuses entirely on UAW clients to help your local “bean-counters” and make life easier for them.

4. Civil Rights- Ron Hughes, Director of International Civil Rights Department and his staff explained benefits of diversity training.

5. Parliamentary Procedure- Theresa Bullock presented tips to keep your meetings in order and on track.

6. V-CAP- National Director Dick Long gave a moving presentation on attempts by Big Business to take away our gains by using political influence, and their successes.

7. Legal Issues- Attorney Carlos Bermudez, our newest lawyer on staff, presented the legal ins and outs of how the law affects us all, and important issues to be aware of even at the local level, to avoid litigation or criminal charges.

8. Education- Everything we do is done to promote education of the Labor Movement.
Educate our members on the importance of voting and getting involved in issues that affect us all, and especially them individually.

In an especially moving example of Solidarity and Brotherhood, (Chrysler) Local #1413 from Huntsville, Alabama presented a check in the amount of $5,000 to (Peterbilt) Local # 1832 from Madison, Tennessee who have been locked-out by management since September 3, 2002. Delegates at the conference emptied their pockets and added another $748 to the cause.

In the words of delegate Kevin Fuller from Local #435, Wilmington, Delaware, who has been out of work for a long time, “This conference was much more intense than past conferences. It is apparent that the International union of our members, and especially Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, are drawing the battle lines in this fight for America’s middle-class and poor. Our union is a social movement to right what is wrong in this country. We are all concerned about the war in Iraq and getting our troops home, but we sometimes forget that we are fighting a war right here in America !!”

In his closing remarks, Director Gary Casteel said, “Summer school is going to be completely different this year. Make sure your local is there. Union membership has fallen from a high of 35-40% of the work force to 11%. This has to change... VOTE!...We need to get our members to register and vote....We’ve got the votes to change, we just need to get the members out to vote. Get politically involved! We’ve only got 19 months to defeat George Bush. Be leaders in your communities! It should be your collective goal to make this world a better place than it is!! I can’t do this for you, we can help, but all locals need to step it up a notch and take care of the business at hand.”


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