VIDEO: Mike on the election: http://youtu.be/6KZxkNvoHoE
Chances are that those 18-wheel Volvos you’ve seen drive up and down Interstate 81 were built by members of United Auto Workers Local 2069 in Dublin, Virginia.
“We’re the only plant in North America for Volvo and we are the largest plant per production,” Local 2069 Vice President Mike Spraker proudly proclaims. “We produce more trucks in this plant than any Volvo manufacturer in the world. And we have plants all over the world.”
Mike joined Local 2069 his first week of work at the New River Valley Plant of Volvo Trucks North America, Inc., located in Dublin. But Mike says he wasn’t really a union member until he was asked to become a strike leader. It was then that Mike understood “how important it is to be a part of the union, not just be a union member but to take part, to join committees.” And he adds: “It takes a lot of people to make this union—and any other union—operate.”
More than 700 members of Local 2069 sit on one or more committees devoted to community service, women’s issues, and military veterans, this last one being the most active of them all. “This is because many members are veterans, and many others are active duty,” Mike says.
As Mike puts it, “It’s a very community-driven organization, the entire UAW.”
Thanks to the union-negotiated contract in place at the Dublin heavy truck plant, when Local 2069 members are deployed six months or a year at a time, their job is never threatened, Mike says. The company takes care of them and the veterans’ committee looks after their families if they need anything. And during the holidays, the committee will send care packages to service members deployed abroad. A large annual event the committee participates in is the POW/MIA Rolling Thunder motorcycle Run to the Wall. About 400 motorcyclists will gather at the local’s yard to make the trip to Washington, D.C.
In 2008, the U.S. auto industry was in “deep trouble,” as Mike puts it. “A lot of people had given up on Detroit,” Mike says, “but our president, he had some tremendous insight and he stepped up and he saved our industry.”
And he adds: “Not only did President Obama save our industry, he saved a million jobs. If the auto industry had gone bankrupt, there could have been a tremendous amount of pension plans gone down the tubes, too.”
When it comes to the upcoming elections in November, for Mike the choice is clear:
The Republicans have just flat come out and said they don’t like unions. They’re gonna do all they can to whittle away at what we have. They’re gonna whittle away at our bargaining rights. They’re gonna whittle away at our insurance. They’re gonna whittle away at our retirement.
So what are union members to do? Stand idly by and watch it happen? Not while Mike is around.
“We have to work harder,” Mike says. “We have to continue to talk to people” about what’s at stake for union members in these elections.