Director Casteel Addresses Local 2195 Retiree Chapter
by John Davis

Each year the Local 2195 Retiree Chapter in Athens, Alabama hold a fish fry at the Local 2195 Union Hall. This year’s event was held Monday, September 08, 2003. A large crowd was on hand to take part in the consumption of a lot of catfish and hushpuppies. The meeting also featured an address from special guest UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel. The following remarks are paraphrased from Director Casteel’s address.

“Last year Region 8 led the way in organizing, adding more new members than any other region. Organizing the unorganized must be a priority for us. There are many working Americans who labor under each day with no one to represent them. They need our help and we need them. There is strength in numbers and we must stand together.

Currently, we have a number of organizing drives going on around the region and I am asking all members for their help. This especially applies to our retirees. You know the benefits of a good union pension and you can tell others. I am asking our members and retirees to let your family members and friends who work at locations with drives underway know the benefits of being a union member.

We must also begin to speak out about the things that are happening in this country. When we are together we will speak our mind about legislation that is hurting working families. However, when we get in other groups such as community meetings or at church, we do not stand up for working rights. This country’s economy is in bad shape and we have a President that is adding making it worse. For example, the second largest distribution of wealth that every occurred happened after the Great Depression when wealth was redistributed to the working class. The greatest redistribution of wealth took place in the past 18 months. President Bush’s tax cuts have been instrumental in moving wealth back to the rich, while penalizing workers.

If we don’t do something during this next election cycle, it will be had for the working class to survive. Middle class Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water. All studies show that the average family is working a minimum of two jobs, with the number of hours they spend on the job increasing every year. As families continue to struggle to make ends meet, the economy is only going to get worse. Trades deals such as NAFTA have been devastating to working Americans. Now, President Bush wants to extend it to 34 more South American countries under the Free Trade Area for the Americas agreement. If the President gets his way, we will see millions of other jobs move out of this country.
It is time we begin holding our elected officials accountable. Working Americans must rise up and begin voting for candidates that are sympathetic to our issues. Many of us don’t stand up for working rights in some circles because we don’t want to rock the boat. The UAW is currently at the bargaining table with the Big 3, trying to maintain the gains that have been won through years of hard work. We are afraid to speak up because we do not want to get out of our comfort zone. Let them legislate away the things we have won at the bargaining table, and see how comfortable we are. I urge you to stand up and speak out in the community, at school and at church. Many of the people who think that President Bush is doing a good job are unaware of much of this legislation that is being passed. Don’t hesitate in telling them the entire story.

There are candidates out there who will listen to our issues in both parties. We must support those who support us.”

“It was a really great day,” stated Local 2195 Retiree Chair Chuck McDonald. “We appreciate everyone who helped and would like to extend a special thanks to Region 8 Director Gary Casteel for taking the time to come and visit with us. Also we would like to thank Lynn Layton Chevrolet for sponsoring the fish fry.”







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