Region 8 Goes to Summer School
By Jim Adams
Photos by Joe McClure

The thunder, fury and excitement of a Volunteers game came early to The University of Tennessee, July 13th through 18th, as 266 representatives of UAW Locals across Region 8 met in Knoxville and converged upon the U.T. Campus for UAW Region 8 Summer School. Mixed with a large group of Retiree’s from across the Region, the students learned ways to better serve their Memberships, while being paid a large dose of Solidarity and Brotherhood. “I’ve had a rebirth of the Union sprit,” claimed one Sister who attended Summer School, her sentiments echoed by all who participated.

Region 8 Director Gary Casteel opened the Summer School with a call to Social Activism. Participants were challenged to organize and rebuild the ranks of a declining United Auto Workers organization. He showed students that Region 8 has done more organizing in the past few years than the entire UAW across the Nation. Yet, our ranks have still faced a decline of nearly 20,000 Members. He spoke of the struggles facing Union Members and organizers in states suffering the burden of “Right to Work” Legislation Casteel persuaded Summer School Students to become Political Activists pointing to egregious and loathsome legislation introduced during the current Bush Administration. Legislation designed to lower the American standard of living and destroy our middle class. Casteel stated: “The Comp Time Legislation that you defeated through your grass roots efforts is a call to wake up and smell the coffee that is brewing in this Nation.” Casteel closed by mobilizing Summer School students to take the education they would receive this week, back to their locals and to carry their torch of knowledge to enlighten to their Sisters and Brothers.

Region 8 Summer School Students were honored with a lecture by UAW International Vice President, Bob King. King, who directs the Union’s National Organizing Department, shared with students the need to rebuild Union Density. Pointing to specific facts, King showed students how America is losing 69,000 jobs per month under the current Bush Administration. He educated Summer School Students on the vast decline of the American Middle Class and the loss of political power that Unions are facing. Vice-President King mentored Summer School Students to, “think outside the box,” and challenged Students to develop creative strategies to rebuild the number of members we have lost. King praised the efforts of brilliant UAW leaders paying individual honor to UAW Local 1853 Chairman Mike Herron and Local 1853 President Rick Martinez, who negotiated first hire rights for laid-off Amalgamate Members. “Our Union needs the brilliant minds of men like these, who aren’t afraid to take bold steps and use their genius to benefit others,” King exalted.

Summer School Students were treated to an overabundance of knowledge as every Student was offered a curriculum of 11 courses. Each course hammered epiphany after epiphany and inflamed the students to become organizers, social and political activists. Roy Thomas, teaching a class titled: “Building the UAW’s Influence Through CAP,” informed Students that, “Region 8 will elect the next President of the United States. I am often told that Members can’t afford to contribute to CAP. To them I reply, you can’t afford not to contribute,” Roy enlightened his students. In a course titled: “Taking Back the Chairs,” Joe Rypkowski demonstrated the loss of wealth in America for working people and how the average CEO earns 479 times the income of their workers.

In a “Families in Change” class, Students were given awareness of the need to negotiate Elder-Care and were awakened to the fact that if every American would refund Bush’s $300.00 tax break, America could afford to give every Senior Citizen free prescription drugs for the rest of their lives. Students learned the frustration faced by people of color in America in, “Building Solidarity through Diversity.” They learned how to use the, “Worker to Worker” program to build Solidarity in their Memberships. They studied their rights under the Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. They learned to handle Grievances and Civil Rights Complaints. They deliberated the importance of Standing Committees, Retired Worker’s Issues and Effective Lobbying Techniques.

As each Summer School Student attended each class, they learned facts not taught in the curriculum. They learned that they came from 12 states from across Region 8, yet they shared the same struggles and obstacles. They learned that whether their Locals numbered in the thousands or less than a few dozen that they faced common enemies, common foe and were preparing to fight similar battles. Somewhere in Summer School amongst the facts and figures, amongst the epiphanies and debates they learned the concept of Solidarity and as the Sister said: “The rebirth of the Union sprit,” began.

Congratulations to Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, Assistant Region 8 Director Donnie Bevis and all who worked so hard to make the 2003 Region 8 Summer School a success. This year saw a bold format change that facilitated an ease of learning for all Summer School Students. On behalf of all who attended this year's Summer School we thank each instructor and each person who participated behind the scene to make this a rich, rewarding and eye-opening experience.




New Photos




Contact Region 8
Webmaster John Davis

All information contained with the Region 8 Web Site is copyrighted© by UAW Region 8.
It cannot be reused or printed without written consent from UAW Region 8.