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Passion and maturity

The president called – my local president.

“Will you come to our 100th Anniversary Dinner next year?”

“Of course I will, Danny…”

Next thing I know I’m sandbagged – I’ve been made a “guest of honor.”

This is not my thing; I mean the dinner is – but I don’t like being the “guest of honor” anywhere.

So, I went. What a great time I had seeing 700 friends and brothers and sisters at Local 726 on Staten Island who I worked side by side with for over two decades.

My Local was way rougher than yours

It was a refresher course in how important a union can be. This is a Local that had many internal battles, grudges, fistfights and other disruptions. So, here’s a shout out to our Locals with internal fights – my Local in the 1970s and ’80s was way rougher than yours is today – trust me.

But the thing I’ve learned, and the lesson for all our members is this: The people who are most passionate in internal union fights – yes, even the ones you disagree with – usually care deeply about the union.

I have written about this before, about the internal bickering that prevents Local Unions from functioning. We sometimes look like a Republican presidential debate!

Couldn’t find any old grudges

But, back at Local 726, looking around the room I couldn’t find any of the old grudges left. We, as a generation of members had matured. We had realized that what separated us was much less important than what brought us together. We are after all, union.

The union, an old friend told me, is nothing but an idea. It’s not our buildings or our banners – our contracts or our or our connections or even our strikes. It’s the idea that we are better off together than on our own.

That power grows when you share it. That (you young folks have to trust me on this) twenty years from now when you look back on your life in the union, you will feel differently about that jerk who ran against you, or about the guy who made the crass remark about you at the union meeting. You won’t remember the guy who wrote about you in the rest room.

You’ll look around at what you achieved together, even while you were at each other’s throats with different opinions. You’ll chuckle about how old your friends look and how much hair they are losing.

You’ll either say, “we overcame our differences and made the world a better place,” or “I’m glad I got even with that guy!”

Think about the opportunity you have

So, think today about the opportunity you have in your hands, simply because you have a union to improve the lives of your family, your children and your community. I know that looking back on the last 30 of Local 726’s first hundred years, our members knew at our celebration that we had done some great things, we built a rock solid Local, only because we found a way through a democratic union to be strong together, in solidarity. And the “guest of honor” part? It was an honor to sit there among the officers and members of a spirited local union, starting its’ second century of service to working people.


On the cover:

Local 726 member Jim Marsh, after 30 years of driving a bus and his union involvement, you might think Jim needs help. But he and fellow 726ers grew together, helped each other and built a stronger Local Union.