Monday, February 23, 2015

Dispatch From West Virginia: Feb. 21-Feb. 22

Our Teamster on the Ground reports on his weekend fighting right to work in West Virginia:
Saturday, Feb. 21 
West Virginians are possibly the nicest, hardest working people I've ever met. West Virginia workers are riled, passionate and dedicated to the cause. Each day this past week, they fought to prevent their Legislature from enacting a right-to-work bill. Each day, more workers joined the fight. Each day, we became more hopeful that we will prevail.
Workers at the West Virginia state capital.
Some people are saying politicians are not ready for a fight over right to work and it will die in committee. Others are saying they will continue to try to push it through. But no one is going to take a chance on optimism.
Inside a legislative committee room in West Virginia.
Johnny Sawyer and Luke Farley of Local 175 on the far right
 and Kenny Perdue, West Virginia AFL-CIO President, on the left wearing the red tie.
I spent an afternoon helping stuff envelopes with Local 175's Administrative Assistant Malisa Deweese. We sent out over 3,000-plus postcards to members. I even got to answer the phone a few times -- "Teamsters Local 175, how may I help you?" 
Sunday, Feb. 22 
Today the wet snow kept me from driving long distances to videotape workers talking about what their union means to them. 
West Virginia's wet snow.
So I took a short drive to the nearest Kroger's to try to speak with UFCW members. 
I went to the counter where three workers were gathered. They told me they were proud union members, but they graciously declined to be videotaped. I asked if they had co-workers willing to be interviewed, and if it would be OK to come back and tape them. They deferred to their manager, who stood nearby. I walked over, introduced myself as the "Teamster on the Ground" and asked. 
The store manager stood behind her employees and their union. She'd be happy to let us interview them. "Good luck finding someone who wants to be on camera." I told her I'd be back.