The Growth of a Local Union

            Growth of a local union can be measured in many ways, the size of a membership list, education and dedication to workers political issues, or the want and need to give back to the community.

            This is a story of growth, devastation, and re-birth. When the lay-offs hit UAW Local 5286 in 2007 it had a thriving community presence in its Women's/Community Service committee and the Civil and Human Rights committee. Blood drives, Adopt-a-Highway, Habitat for Humanity, and Adopt-a-Platoon sending supplies and care packages to troops in Iraq were part of a long list of volunteer projects for the employees at the Gastonia Components and Logistics plant in Gastonia, NC. As part of the Daimler Trucks North America group they make parts and assemblies for Freightliner and Western Star trucks.

            With the lay-offs and economic hard times came the loss of committee members and the locals presence in the community dwindled as a result. Through the economic recovery that followed the Civil and Human Rights committee continued to support worker issues and union activist activities with UAW International but had lost sight of its local community activities.

            Alfred Hill has been the Civil and Human Rights committee chairman since the early days of Local 5286. His determination and dedication have been a driving force in this committees continued movement. At a monthly committee meeting they chose to adopt a Title 1 school here in Gastonia and to help them with a drive to get school supplies at the beginning of the year. Forest Heights Elementary needed kleenex, hand sanitizer, paper, pencils and highlighters to name a portion of the list. Alfred's wife is a teacher's assistant at the school and after discussions with some of the teaching staff they discovered the need for a shoe drive. The membership of local 5286 stepped up to the plate and donated over 150 pairs of shoes for the children. It was at this point the committee made it official and voted to adopt Forest Heights Elementary as their school.

            It was quickly approaching the Christmas holidays and the committee decided to have a toy drive, there were several boxes of toys donated by the membership and taken to the school for distribution. During these visits to deliver toys Alfred noticed the school grounds could use some lawn care and brought it before the committee to do some beautification projects. Alfred has a landscaping business and volunteered the use of his equipment for the projects. The Civil and Human Rights committee members cut grass, trimmed bushes, pruned trees, and raked leaves among other things during numerous work days at the school. The local membership approved the purchase of flowers and mulch to help the committee in their efforts to instill pride in the children who attend Forest Heights. Most recently members of the committee volunteered as helpers during the EOG ( tests given at the school to assist teachers. Over forty individuals have donated countless hours of their time to projects of the committee and the growth is continuing. The school has recognized the committee for their efforts and is very proud to call them a part of the Forest Heights Elementary School family.

            There are several community outreach projects carried out during the year at the Gastonia Components and Logistics plant that are jointly sponsored by the local and management, these projects are very successful. Backpacking for the community collects and donates school supplies, Food Tree collects canned food for the holidays just to name a few and these are wonderful and successful projects. The members of the Civil and Human Rights committee use "no charge - no pay" time, vacation or PTO (Personal Time Off) to cover the time working on their community projects. It is the basic foundation of labor unions and the UAW to negotiate our labor with the companies we work for. The standing committees of the local that carry that foundation back into the community are the backbone of our organization. There is no greater satisfaction than that our labor be used to better our community.

Written by: Greg Suggs