August 22, 1989
Dear Officers and Members:
I have served as President of IFPTE Local 12 for about the last 4.5 years. During that time many changes in labor law and in the relationship of the Union and Shipyard have taken place. I am sorry to say that for the most part the trend has been unfavorable to the Union and the rights of employees.
Part of these changes have been the result of changes in law, but, to a large part our current state is the result of self inflected wounds. These wounds, I feel, are the result of the pervasive apathy of the Unit employees and especially among the majority of the officers of the Local who were always content to let someone else handle any problems and do all the work. Just don't get them involved.
I have been battling this attitude for as long as I can remember. I am sorry, I have failed.
The long hours I have put in every evening and on the weekends just to do a minimal job of fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities of the Union have taken their toll on my personal and family life. This in conjunction with my own personality which by nature is adverse to confrontational conflict has finally led to this decision to resign as president of Local 12.
As some of you know, I did not wish to run for office again, but unfortunately I allowed myself to be talked into it. That was a mistake.
I perceive Local 12 to be in a very precarious position. Its survival is in no way assured. Our membership is pitifully low; the amount of reserves in the treasury are uncomfortably low, primarily because of the membership position and because we have been forced to spend money hiring professional consultants to do the things the officers should have been doing.
We have heard from the Shipyard Commander and other high level managers like Mr. Knowles (Code 150) state that they want to initiate a new relationship of cooperation. Being one who thinks actions speak louder than words, so far my perception of their idea of cooperation is to make the Union impotent and just do things their way without any interference.
Even before Jim Sommerhauser left to become International President, management started to try and exert more control over the Local. After Jim left, Code 160 (specifically Norm Hill and Jim Rich) saw Local 12 as being very weak and have been trying to control all aspects of both our internal business functions and our direct dealings with them. If one looks over their actions over the past year and a half, they all fit this contention.
A few words of advice: Local 12, to survive in my opinion, must do the following:
1. The officers and members MUST start to believe that under the law they are equals with management. They must start to think and act that way in all their relationships with management. The notion that we are subservient to management has probably been the most damaging to the employees as a whole. Of course, management will do everything they can to perpetuate this notion of superiority. We cannot let that continue.
2. The individuals who are officers and area representatives must get knowledgeable about labor law. Then they must start asserting the Union's and employee's rights and responsibilities whenever a legitimate occasion or issue arises. Conversely they must be knowledgeable enough to tell a legitimate and frivolous issue apart and handle it humanely.
3. We must organize. We must find some way to get the message to the non-members that there is a definite benefit to belonging to the Union. That by being part of the Union carries some control over their work lives; that they have some power; that they cannot be treated and used like a disposable diaper; that they are part of the group if they are a member rather than the other way around; and, that they have an opportunity to formulate the direction and positions the Union takes both by expressing their opinion and voting at meetings.
4. The elected officers of the Local must become active and knowledgeable about the issues being brought to the Union and those being developed by the Union. They must be active in formulating the position the Union will take on issues. They must be involved in the business of the Local. They must be involved communicators with their constituents. To bring their concerns to the Local and the Local's concerns to the members.
5. We must look to ways of increasing the strength of the Local both from a business point of view and in a representational sense. Since so much of our work involves the administrative legal system, the two are hopelessly intertwined. In a very real sense, the Local is a business and has to be managed as such to survive and provide the services it takes to represent the members. In this light, bigger is generally better.
I have initiated a letter to our sister Local 17 in Seattle to see if they may be interested in entering a dialog about joining our two Locals in some fashion. Two weeks ago we receive a call from
Mike Waske, the business manager of Local 17, stating they are very interested in discussing the issue with us and is confident that some kind of arrangement can be worked out to join our two locals.
Personally, I think, unless some outrageous demands are made in negotiations, that a total merger with Local 17 is the best thing that we could do for our Unit members at this time. Local 17 is a huge organization, comparatively, with over 5000 members and an operating budget of over 1.1 million. I feel they would bring the muscle both in professional expertise and money that we can only dream of to represent our members. Since they also represent thousands of technical people similar to our Unit, I think it would greatly aid and add to our prestige with the employees and management. It would also greatly help organizing to say you belong to an organization speaking with a voice of 5000 rather than a weak organization of 250 voices.
I would urge my successor and the Executive Board to proceed with and conclude these discussions expeditiously.
To conclude this letter, which turned out to be much lengthier than I intended, I want to say my resignation is effective with the General Membership meeting on August 23, 1989.
I would like to thank those of you. I won't name names for fear of leaving someone out by oversight, whose hard work and efforts have kept the organization functioning. But, I want to especially thank Gary Lewis who has been an excellent Chief Area Representative, and has done more work for the Local than any organization has a right to expect.
To those of you who are involved, keep it up. To those of you who are sitting on the sideline, get involved if even a little bit.
CURTIS A. LOEBS