12 hours a day; MANDATORY. 7 days a week; MANDATORY. Less than 24 hours notice of shift change. Wage discrimination. Get sick, get laid off. Complain, GET FIRED. NO SENIORITY RIGHTS!!!

Does this sound like something from the early 20th century; or something from some "third-world" country? That's what I thought too, when I first started hearing these stories. Unfortunately, it isn't. It's happening right here, right now in IPS shops all over our country. The good news is, we can do something about it. We have the power to fix it. The bad news is, we're running out of time.

"Veteran" organizers led Deb Muncy, myself and about 20 other "first-timers" through the task of helping these workers form their Union. Being new at this, we spent about a day and a half in workshops learning the process before we set out to talk to the workers. The next 5 days were spent listening to their stories and trying to determine if they had the support to come together. The stories we heard were almost enough to make you forget that this is the United States in the year 2002. These people have no voice in their workplace. Forced overtime and no shift preference are just the tip of the iceberg. I talked to people who got fired because they got sick and went to a doctor. People with high seniority who were laid off because they make too much money. One woman told me a story about a screw machine that runs right next to an assembly line. This screw machine has a tendency to catch on fire. Just small internal fires, the boss says, nothing to worry about, it won't spread; keep on working. That's right, keep on working. The people on the assembly line right next to it are expected to continue punching screws. Don't shut this line down, don't evacuate the department, KEEP WORKING!! What choice do these people have? Call their Health & Safety Rep. No, they don't have one. Call a committee person. No, they don't have one. Just keep working; because if you don't you can just take yourself right out the door and we'll pluck somebody else off the street to do it. That's just the way it's done. These people have no rights, no protections, no voice.

The bright side is, the people in this shop have had enough. They're fed up and they're not going to take it anymore. They contacted the UAW and they're ready to stand together and fight back. We spoke with almost half the workers in this shop. The organizing department set up an informational meeting to gauge support. More than 50% of the workers we talked to came to the meeting to stand together and make positive changes in their workplace. That's just the first step. These folks have a long, tough fight ahead of them. Hopefully, they will remember what brought them here; hopefully they will continue to find the strength to fight back. But, they can't do it alone. Organized labor must stand with them. We must fight with them. It means our survival as much as theirs. Organized labor makes up only about 10% of the workforce in the United States today. We can no longer take for granted what we have; we lose ground every day. Our shops aren't perfect; our Union isn't perfect; but the alternative is much, much worse. We must remember where we came from and continue the fight of those who came before us. We must remember, we have everything to gain, and we have everything to lose.

In Solidarity,
Kim Tindall