I regret that I must speak against the decision by my Local 4034 officers to sell the Grand Rapids union hall and offices. In my years of unioning and absent a financial emergency, I have never seen a Local dispose of the members’ hall “because taxes and maybe a new roof soon” and “nobody hardly shows up anyway.” (As stated by the Local officers at the January 7 Grand Rapids meeting.) At the same meeting, Local president and Secretary/Treasurer assured the members that there was no financial emergency.
Selling any Labor Hall for those BS reasons is bad enough; obviously rent includes the landlord’s taxes and every place needs a roof replaced normally. Selling ours is a goddamned disgrace. Unions work for years, as ours did, to build a place where its members can gather to freely discuss the issues they hold in common. CWA Local 4034 members long ago voted to voluntarily increase our dues by 45 minutes per month to, first; build our mighty union hall; and then, to build our mighty Local. Mighty enough, fierce enough that when management drove past our hall and saw the parking lot full they knew, and I mean they were certain, that hell was coming the next day from Local 4034. Our parking lot was full because our leaders came and encouraged us to come together at our Hall.
Our Grand Rapids Hall is actually named the Suzanne C. Wilson Labor Hall. Sue Wilson was a CWA Local 4034 Vice-President who worked tirelessly to not only build our Hall, but our Local as well. She is only known on Google now by these words, once they are published. But, as long as we have our hall there is an engraved plaque on the wall of the entryway that memorializes her. First thing you see. That woman, that unionist, died too soon of an aneurysm doing union work for her sisters and brothers and our union cared enough about that, and her, and our Labor Hall that we named it after her. I learned this from past 4034 officers Kim and Jay Egan, who told of her dedication many times; always with a tear in their eye because they were there working with her when she passed, working for the members. That is the Hall I learned my craft in.
When challenged on the need for the sale, the president supposed that he could “..limp it along for the next four years without a new roof or a new parking lot and then hand it off to the next guy..” This cavalier attitude towards the members’ property is a problem. It’s almost like normal upkeep is being put off to preserve full-time officers. The members deserve to have the hall that they paid for, and continue to pay for, where their leadership is installed so they can drop in during business hours and hold their leadership accountable. The Grand Rapids Hall, like our Lansing Hall, is paid for and generates income and is capable of continuing to do so. It only needs to be stewarded properly by the Local officers. Local 4034 officers are full-time; this must be sufficient to balance and maintain all assets or full-time officers must become part-time officers so that the Local can retain permanent assets such as property.
What will happen to the money from the sale?
At the Grand Rapids meeting, it was disclosed that the Hall might be worth $600k-800k. Then, the Local president would need to rent offices and a union hall in Grand Rapids to replace the offices and the union hall that we owned free and clear. The money would presumably go towards “representation.” But, there was not a real answer to that. (I’ve been getting calls; that’s a whole ‘nother post.)
Do the members get a say?
Well..no. Not according to the Prez. He says he makes the call and if you don’t like it you can come take his job. When pressed at the Grand Rapids membership meeting by my Wifey, though, he admitted that the Executive Board, made up of the elected lead stewards, can over-rule him. So, I guess that’s our say: You need to get your lead steward to make your wishes clear to the officers before the next time they meet, on February 1st.