On August 5th, 2003 the Region 8 Skilled Trades Conference convened in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. The conference is an annual event that brings together brothers and sisters from local unions in region 8, who represent their respective skilled trades departments as elected delegates, fraternal delegates, journeyman card committee members, sub-council officers and Region 8 council officers.

Region 8 staff personnel, members of the education department and special guest speakers were also in attendance.

The states that make up Region 8 are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

During the conference check-in, members were given a letter of welcome from Region Director Gary Casteel. The following is a summary of the letter:

Director Casteel thanked the Local Unions and or Councils “for making the investment into our great union by authorizing

Director Casteel went on to say that recent events in our country have brought us economic recession, higher unemployment, bankruptcies, the loss of health benefits, pensions and a loss of personal freedoms. Americans have few places to turn for help other than organized labor. “We need to rebuild America’s middle class by strengthening our Union, the labor movement and our political clout”. “Our objective in this conference is to ignite your spirit to take your personal role as activist seriously and help build the necessary strength and power to build a better tomorrow”.

Delegates introduced themselves and stated their objectives.

A welcoming address from Director Casteel was presented that stressed the importance of each local comparing their situations and ideas so we can prepare strategies to accomplish our goals.

“The conferences will be more content loaded”, referring to special classes and programs that would be presented over the next few days.

Guest Speaker Bill Peterson, Administrative Assistant to Cal Rapson of the Skilled Trades Department. Brother Peterson expressed greetings from Cal Rapson. Brother Peterson summarized that we can take no shortcuts when it comes to Health and Safety. We must take time to be safe in our work place and in our homes.

Referring to downsizing, Brother Peterson commented that we must downsize the outside Contractors not our union brothers and sisters. We must step up and be accountable as good trades people, we cannot set back and watch our work go out the door.

Organizing efforts in Region 8 proved to be more successful than any other region. Brother Peterson was encouraged by the number of our Union Brothers and Sisters who are volunteering to help in organizing.

Organizing difficulties continue because of jobs going out of the U.S. Lately there has been an increase of jobs specifically to India and Canada. However we have been successful in organizing the Blue Cross, Blue Shield hospital maintenance workers in Detroit, the Detroit Metro Mechanics and U.S. Manufacturing.

Politics in organizing were evident when President Bush did not re-appoint UAW Representatives to the Federal Committee on Apprentices for the first time ever. Instead the President appointed Management people, which eliminates our base.

Following Brother Peterson’s report, a film showing several of the Democratic Candidates presenting their political platform was shown. A straw poll was then conducted of the membership. The results will be used to help determine what candidate will be endorsed by the UAW.

The afternoon session covered Effective Lobbying Techniques. There were actual scenarios practiced in the presentation of issues to our representatives in congress. These exercises were invaluable to increasing the knowledge and confidence of our conference members. The remainder of Day 1 was spent utilizing the techniques of effective lobbying through hands on practice.


National and Regional Skilled Trades Report by Ken Lauber of the Skilled Trades Department. Brother Lauber went over the new appeal procedure for Journeyman Cards. Brother Lauber explained the status of cards and procedures for investigating classifications and reclassifications.

Echoing the sentiments of Brother Peterson, Brother Lauber asked that everyone make an effort to work safer. We must correct each other not wait for management to do it. Three Journeymen were killed from falls in 2003.

The Department has approved Journeymen cards for Wastewater Treatment Operators.

Region 8 Skilled Trades Report by Don Cordell, Coordinator for Region 8 Skilled Trades. Brother Cordell welcomed the membership and explained the creation of the Sub-councils that now make up Region 8. “It will create a better means of communications and understanding of our collective problems as well as those that are unique to a particular facility”. “Additionally, the smaller locals that cannot afford to travel a long distance to the larger meetings can attend the Sub-councils in there area.

Brother Cordell reviewed the Region 8 Journeymen Card processing for the year.

In closing Brother Cordell emphasized that together we can continue to educate ourselves through these meetings that will enable us to bring better standards to the working class of America.

Reports from Local Unions revealed that most every work place has some common problems, which are: Lay offs, Sub-Contracting, Lines of Demarcation, Health and Safety, fighting to hold on to health benefits. Several plants were being threatened with closings if they didn’t make major concessions.

Chairman Lind Farley gave the Council report for Region 8. He noted that the sub-councils have enabled us to better educate people in the local, and give a voice to the smaller locals. These smaller meetings get right to the grass roots of issues and ideas that enable us to initiate better resolutions for improvement in our agreements. The visitors from the International Union and Tradesmen from other plants that share educational views of Safety, Organizing and other important subjects are appreciated and very helpful.

Skilled Trades Advisory Council Report was given by Jimmy Higgins, Chairman. One of the most staggering statistics shared by Brother Higgins was that the Aerospace industry has 93,000 people laid off. This number is the largest since World War II. Brother Higgins went on to give breakdowns of Journeymen Card Holders in the big three.

Safety Lockout and Confined Space breakout sessions presented by Sherrod Elledge and Luis Vazquez from the Health and Safety Dept. were conducted for the remainder of the day. Attendees were instructed in the proper procedures as outlined by OSHA and the various company policies. All were encouraged to return to their plants and step up to safety.


National CAP Report by Jim Rogers was given on behalf of Dick Long Director of the National CAP Department. Brother Rogers insisted that we must do better on the political front to secure our future and that the must do better in our V-CAP Check Off program. “Political action is everyone’s job.

We have declared sixteen battle ground states that are essential. We need people to step up and go out in the communities and actively seek support for the candidates that support us. The more we seek support the more we get.

Our political contributions cannot match that of other organizations. That is why we must emphasize to our members the importance of V-CAP.

“The GOP is out to destroy us because we are the last to support the workers”. “Congress is working on health plans for people in Iraq while people in this country go without.

Through the efforts of many in organized labor the Comp. Time Bill has been pulled. This bill would have caused major problems for us.
In closing Brother Rogers expressed the importance of using all forms of communication to reach people, such as: Webster, Data Bases, Telephone, meetings, worker to worker. We need you to be foot soldiers.

Director Casteel’s conference wrap-up focused on the problems we have as a result of the foreign companies building plants in this country. There are now 16 manufacturers beside the big 3. They control 52% of the market. They do not have to deal with retirement funding and they do not have the same health benefit structure that we do. As a result their profits are three times that of ours per vehicle.

The next Presidential Election is crucial for us.

Upon conclusion Director Casteel wished everyone a safe trip home.

Conference adjourned.







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