Local 898-- serving the Ford Rawsonville Plant

Confessions of an Old Guy: Being There

So there it is. Right up front and in living color: I am an old guy. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but one day I was graduating from high school, the next here I sit ten years retired wondering where the years have gone. I have seen war, raised a family, studied at several excellent universities, witnessed, participated in and written about social, economic and political events and issues most people only see on the nightly news. I have walked behind Martin Luther King, stood beside Bob King, been called a friend by Cesar Chavez and served my union brothers and sisters as a skilled trades committee person and a benefits representative. It has been quite a ride, and it ain’t over yet.
In 1966 I was a 24 year old GI Bill student at EMU with a family to support and a couple of Ford plants in the neighborhood. Hiring in was a bit different then. No resume was required and there was no orientation process. You stood in line outside gate 1 and waited for someone to come out and count off the lucky few. Five or ten were then ushered inside and the rest, often fifty or more of them, were sent away to try again somewhere else. Once inside you were given a literacy test, had a quick physical exam and sat down with someone from labor relations to complete paperwork.
The folks in labor relations spoke glowingly about direct compensation, indirect compensation and deferred compensation. Direct compensation was the jingle in my pocket. Indirect compensation was the health insurance and other benefits that ensured a decent lifestyle for my family. Deferred compensation was the retirement plan. They explained that the indirect and deferred portions of my income were based on the same kind of actuarial information used by life insurance companies. The neat part of it, according to them, was that the indirect and deferred portions of my income were nontaxable and the cost to the company was taken off their corporate taxes. That way workers were able to make a decent living and corporations kept their tax costs down.
I am told that things have changed since then. I guess I’ll just have to take your word for a lot of it, but I’m not quite sure how much has changed and how much has just been shouted and screamed at us until people have become too exhausted to argue. I don’t have a lot of answers or even a lot of advice for you. What I do have is 69 years of living memories and a lot of questions to go along with them. There are, however, three things I know beyond doubt. First, we might not be where we would like to be but we are here. Second, no matter what anyone in or out of power says you control where we go next. And three, just as sure as death and taxes I will be back soon.

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