Brothers and Sisters:
The membership of our union spoke through their delegates last August and chose a new team to lead us forward in these challenging times for labor unions.
We accept that challenge and pledge today — as we pledged in August — to move the United Transportation Union forward with the sole objective of protecting member jobs and improving wages, benefits and working conditions.
We pledge also to make this union all-inclusive, which means encouraging full and open debate and respecting all viewpoints as we strive for consensus decision making.
We take office during an especially difficult time. Strong anti-union forces exist in the White House and control many of the regulatory agencies that make rulings affecting workplace issues.
Similarly strong anti-union forces retain influence in Congress, where our friends have only a razor-thin majority in the Senate. The carriers have been emboldened by these forces, which makes contract negotiation and grievance resolution time-consuming and extremely difficult.
Within our union, we face a difficult task related to a merger with the Sheet Metal Workers, whose implementation was temporarily halted by a federal court on the grounds that crucial information was withheld from the UTU membership.
That merger was a shotgun wedding, and regardless of what was said or done in previous months, the fact is — as validated by a federal court — that members did not have sufficient information to make an informed decision. In fact, it was revealed that some of the representations made to the membership were incorrect or distorted.
Shotgun weddings make for good movie comedy, but have no place in the real world of union mergers. As Dear Abby has always counseled, “If a marriage is right for the right reasons, and is one that can and will endure, the marriage can wait until next week, next month or next year.”
It is time for the UTU membership to determine if we want and need a merger. Any merger proposed should be governed by conditions acceptable and beneficial to our members, as well as to the other union and its members.
To do this, it is appropriate to hold old-fashioned shoot-outs that bring the principals of all potential partners to various locations and allow the membership to question them. A union merger should not be negotiated in secret and sprung on the membership with a ballot attached.
So let’s catch our breath.
The UTU is financially solvent, and changes are underway to improve further our financial stability.
Moreover, we possess one of the most loyal, hardworking, diverse and union-knowledgeable memberships in North America, which means we have a lot to offer a potential partner. That partner similarly should have a lot to offer the UTU.
We will have more to say about this in the weeks ahead, and urge you to stay informed by going to www.utu.org on a daily basis, and signing up on the Web site for e-mail alerts.
We take very seriously your confidence in our ability to lead. We also take very seriously any advice you choose to offer, because a successful trade union requires checks and balances in the same manner as government and private-sector firms.
Let us hear from you, and thank you again for the confidence you have placed in our leadership abilities, as well as the confidence you exhibited in all the UTU officers you elected during the August 2007 convention.
Mike Futhey, International President
Arty Martin , Assistant President
Kim Thompson, General Secretary & Treasurer