By Paul Gorski
Organized labor has been critical to the Rockford-area economy for decades. Families, local businesses and the local economy have all benefited from living-wage jobs in a variety of areas: education, government, building trades and manufacturing, just to name a few.
Before the union-naysayers start rebelling: if we didn’t have living-wage jobs, we wouldn’t have the variety of stores and businesses we have. Retail follows the money — it follows disposable income.
Furthermore, local unions contribute to a variety of local charitable organizations, supporting the community and furthering the missions of nonprofit groups.
So, when Chrysler adds a new car to its line-up or UTC Aerospace Systems gets a new government contract, we benefit locally from that good fortune. Good wages, put back into the local economy, have ripple effects that have direct and indirect benefits for all of us.
The jobs that come with manufacturing and engineering industries are key to revitalizing our current economy. That’s my focus here.
UAW Local 592 represents nearly 1,000 active and retired members. Many of 592’s retirees worked for the former Sundstrand Corp., but through a series of mergers, Sundstrand became Hamilton Sundstrand and in 2012 became United Technology Corporation Aerospace Systems (UTAS). UTAS is, as was Sundstrand, a major aerospace technology supplier.
UTAS Actuation, Electric and Space system units now occupy the former Sundstrand facility at 4747 Harrison, Rockford, with an Engines and Control Systems facility at 2412 11th St., Rockford.
I drive by the UTAS facility on Harrison nearly every day; its large parking lots don’t seem as full as they once were. Despite the loss of some jobs, the future for these high-tech jobs is bright. Mike Roth, president of Local 592, sees an “uptick in the aerospace industry” with projects like Boeing’s 787 airplane being very important to the local economy.
The Belvidere Assembly plant in Boone County has been extremely important to the regional economy since 1965, and is represented by two UAW locals.
UAW Local 1268 is an amalgamated local consisting of 10 units, representing 10,000 active and retired members, mostly production and maintenance employees. UAW Local 1761 represents Engineering, Office and Clerical employees.
George Welitschinsky, president of UAW Local 1268, is proud that members of 1268 have manufactured Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles in Belvidere for decades and have had a significant financial impact on the region through the buying power of 10,000 members.
Looking forward, Chrysler chose the Belvidere plant to manufacture the new Dodge Dart (http://www.dodge.com/en/2013/dart/), the first Darts coming off the production line in 2012, continuing the long tradition of auto manufacturing in the region.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t had a friend, family member or customer who had been a member of one of the unions mentioned here. If you think times are tough now, imagine a Rockford region without these important jobs. There would be a vast hole in the local economy.
I truly believe unions are an extension of our individual rights, as outlined in: “Meet John Doe: Unions are an extension of your rights of free speech, freedom to assemble (Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue). You might consider reading that article this Labor Day weekend, too, at: http://rockrivertimes.com/2012/08/01/meet-john-doe-unions-are-an-extension-of-your-rights-of-free-speech-freedom-to-assemble/.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2013, issue