Solidarity runs in Rick Howell’s blood. As a child, he would attend his father’s United Rubber Workers meetings in Bedford, which left a lasting imprint of working-class concerns on his mind.
“I knew even then that what they were doing was important for them and their families,” Rick says. “I’ve never forgotten that lesson.”
Rick’s father worked for the Rubatex Corp. in Bedford for 42 years and was a member of URW Local 240, which is now United Steelworkers Local 240.
A former radio announcer and journalist, Rick now works for Kroger and is a proud member of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Rick’s union membership, like his father’s, stems from a commitment to social and economic justice. Or put plainly, it stems from a deep-rooted commitment to fairness in America.
On a more personal level, for Rick union membership is also about looking after each other as coworkers and adopted family.
“When you work with people every day and you’re with them every day they really do become your family also,” Rick points out, adding that his local tries “to look out for all of us” and “make sure that when we help ourselves we’re also helping each other.”
“I believe that’s what unions do,” he says.
On his free time, Rick regularly volunteers to call Virginia voters to encourage them to support President Barack Obama. And two subjects in particular keep coming up in his phone conversations with seniors: retirement and our country’s social safety net, and what Republican elected officials will do about them.
“They [Virginia seniors] worry what a Paul Ryan would do with that budget of his,” Rick shares.
For Rick, however, the Republican stance on these issues is clear:
President Barack Obama was the first president to really get something done in this area and to really extend health insurance over the next few years. And the Republicans have just acted like this is the end of the world. They’ve acted like it’s a Soviet takeover, and we got to get the truth out to people that that’s not the case.
So Rick reminds people that it’s their taxes which pay for programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Or as he says, replying to those who argue about entitlements: “So if they’re entitled to anything, it’s to the money they put into it in the first place.”