Clear Communication

The results from the triennial election held April 27th are old news by now, but I want to thank all who ran for their respective offices, regardless of the outcome. This is one of the great aspects of our union. Like our country, the members decide who they want to represent them. Additionally, members also let the leadership know what they think about proposals from the company when it comes to bargaining. This is clear communication. Plenty of people at the break table or in the community have varying opinions about all aspects of our Local and/or the International Union, but there is a huge difference between talking about a subject and doing something about it. So again, thanks to all the candidates.

I also want to thank everyone who came out to vote on a day when it might have been easier to stay home. Your commitment to your fellow members and the local union speaks volumes about who you are and how important you believe it is for your voice to be heard. Those who did not bother to vote allowed those of us who did to choose for them. One good question to ask any of the “experts” spouting off about the union is, “did you vote on April 27th?”

Do you remember the “Bridegate” scandal involving Chris Christie? The short story is that someone in the New Jersey governor’s office allegedly orchestrated (with or without Christie’s knowledge) a traffic jam of epic proportion in a town whose mayor did not support Governor Christie. Governor Christie says he did not even remember the mayor, much less go to the trouble to seek revenge for the perceived slight.

So right about now you might be asking yourself, “What does this story  have to do with the members of Local 974”? Well, I was reading an article about the Dangers of Giving In to Impulse for Revenge ( ). I will show you…, when you read the italicized text below, substitute “Caterpillar” when you see “a politician” and “workers” every time you see “opponents”. This is a perfect, yet maddening description of what is happening in many cases when our members are hurt at work or involved in Near Miss incidents. I guess I need to read Picker’s book.

…As Randal Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and co-author of “Game Theory and the Law,” explained to me this week, “If you are a politician with a desire to punish opponents and get away with it, you want to work in the world of observable but not verifiable actions. That would mean that your opponents would understand what you are doing, which is important if you actually want them to obey upfront so that you don’t have to punish them later, but also you want to use a punishment where a third party can’t be sure that you have acted for illegitimate reasons. That way you can get away with it and not pay a legal price for it.”

As infuriating as it is, one does not need to look far examples similar to those in the article here in the Peoria area. Caterpillar is very clear when communicating with us.

At our Southernmost outpost, our Skilled Trades personnel were given a large task to perform. Instead of going through the tasks with the tradespeople and identifying the hazards and controlling exposures, the workers were told that if anyone got hurt during this project, the work would be outsourced. So, if our members were injured on the job and reported injuries, as required by our employer, their jobs could potentially be at risk. What was the message that was sent and what was the message received? Subtlety is obviously not a strong suit of management at that facility.

Deep in the bowels of the tractor factory, a worker on the second day of training was injured while preforming his new job tasks. He was sent to First Aid. What do you think was the first thing his supervisor told him to do when he returned to the line? Read the Safe Job Procedure (SJP) and Standard Work! When the worker was disciplined, what do you think it was for? You’re right if you guessed that it was for not following the SJP or Standard Work. What was the message that was sent and what was the message received?

Why didn’t the supervisor bother to tell the worker to read the documents first, before the training if they were so important? Was the supervisor really concerned that the documents had not been reviewed before the injury or was he just covering his ass? I believe you know the answer.

At another facility, four Lockout devices were pried open and removed. The tag attached to one of the devices said, “DO NOT REMOVE THIS LOCK!!! TO DO SO WITHOUT PERMISSION WILL MEAN IMMEDIATE DISCHARGE! As OSHA requires, Caterpillar has specific, detailed procedures for having locks removed by someone other than the person who applied them. This particular facility has disciplined workers in the past for minor violations of the LOTO policy, but the manager present when the defeated locks were discovered was not interested in pursuing an explanation of what happened or why. I wonder why? What was the message that was sent and what was the message received?

We need to communicate clearly that our safety is important to us and not only when there is an incident. Your employer is responsible for your safety and health. You are responsible for following rules. If you get hurt and have violated a work rule, don’t be surprised if you get disciplined, even if your boss knows the rules are not followed day to day. Your supervisor may take responsibility for you not following the rule or he/she may throw you under the bus.

Thoroughly read each SJP and the Standard Work for the jobs you do, because you will be held accountable for every word in those documents. Ask for copies of anything you have to sign, because the document you sign might not match the one provided in the event of a grievance.

Point out all hazards on your job to your supervisor, not a Team Leader. Jot down the day and date as a reminder to you. Ask your supervisor for your UAW Safety Representative if you are not satisfied with every aspect of how the problem is addressed. Your UAW Rep is your advocate and the Safety Complaint Procedure outlined in 8.3 of the contract works.

Lastly, speak well of your union because it is a reflection of you. Our union, like our country, can only be as good as the people who support it.