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Officer training, friendships strengthen ATU

One evening earlier this month I met and welcomed another group of new ATU officers who will soon commence contract negotiations back home. The group of 29 was attending our contract costing class at the Maritime Center in Baltimore.

New officers are excited from the twists and turns of their election campaigns; they are rightly elated by their victory. But then what?

There is a 1972 movie entitled “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford.  The movie begins with Redford, a young good-looking attorney and principled advocate fighting for farm workers’ rights and other progressive causes. There is an upcoming Senate race for a seat occupied by a powerful, entrenched incumbent. All the likely challengers have melted away in the face of the incumbent’s poll numbers and perceived power.  What is the party to do?

Politically savvy handlers see in Redford a telegenic candidate who could win.  Redford’s father, now retired, is a former governor of the state who could lend a helping hand.  Redford is reluctant to seek his father’s help.  He has a love-hate relationship with his father who was a master of the kind of political schemes he finds repugnant; schemes that are at odds with the principles he holds dear.

What do we do now?

But, the savvy handlers win out.  They convince Redford that winning the Senate seat is the most effective way he can promote his agenda and change the “status quo.”  Bit-by-bit, as the campaign unfolds, under pressure from his political handlers, the candidate modifies his principled positions ever so slightly to give him enough wiggle room by fudging an answer here or a commitment there.   And with his father’s last minute help, he wins.

As the movie nears its end Redford is at his best, leaning slightly around the podium to make eye contact with supporters, running his hand through his hair and then strategically bringing his fist to mouth as he clears his throat to speak.  At the end of the speech Redford runs down a hotel service hallway, and grabs his chief political advisor, telling him, “We need to talk.”

They duck into a vacant room with the camera narrowing in on Redford’s face, which is now one of uncertainty. Realizing that the campaign is done and he has no plan on how to govern, he asks, “What do we do now?”

Newly elected officers can get caught up in the allure of their new position’s fleeting power, and the seemingly endless line of well-wishers on election night. But then with the morning comes the question, “What do I do now?”

Training doesn’t stop at classroom door

Unlike the situation “The Candidate,” found himself in, our local officers are provided ongoing classroom training to assist them in their day-to-day challenges. But training does not stop at the classroom door.  The informal time officers share with their counterparts from across Canada and the United States provides opportunities for shared discussions, ideas swapped and debated, experiences shared and expounded upon.

All serve to enhance the classroom work and helps to mold a better officer and a stronger ATU.  I enjoy our discussions and look forward to many more.  The life long friendships made in this setting strengthen ATU.