|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2001|
|September 2001 is a
month that none of us will ever forget. The tragic events of September
11 have shaken our nation to its very core. We are transfixed by media
coverage of destruction and terror that still seems beyond belief.
Yet, in our hearts, we all know that we are facing a new reality -- a
reality that will forever change our country as we know it.
This new reality has stemmed from an intense feeling of vulnerability. We have always been - and will always be - a strong and proud nation. But we were attacked. And we must pull together and respond.
I have no doubt that we will unite and be stronger for it. Just look around. The nation has already come together…flags flying from front porches; people donating money - and blood - in record numbers; children selling lemonade and washing cars. In a time of great sadness, we see the hope that has made our nation the strongest in the world.
As union members, we should be proud of the extraordinary efforts taken by our union brothers and sisters to help the victims of this national tragedy. We salute the firefighters and police officers who risked and gave their lives in the line of duty. They filled our hearts with pride and admiration.
In the wake of September 11, it has been difficult - and sometimes awkward - to focus on other personal or professional issues. But focus we must. We cannot ignore the issues that are part of our daily lives. If for nothing else, it will mean that the terrorists have won. And we must not let that happen.
So, it is in this vein that I venture to discuss what happened at BMWE during September. As you are aware, members of the BMWE voted by a relatively slim margin to reject a merger with the Boilermakers union. While we are discouraged by the outcome, we respect the fact that our members have spoken. We will regroup and move ahead.
As part of our efforts to regroup, we must continue to recognize the fact that maintaining the status quo is not an option. Our membership has declined, resulting in a financial loss of more than one million dollars in dues income, not to forget the economic downturn in interest rates and that the stock market is an important source of income to the BMWE. This loss translates plain and simple to a decline in services. Not only can’t we do more with less, we cannot even hold the line with less. We will need to tighten our belts - and deal with the reality of less clout in Congress and at the bargaining table.
The rejection of a merger also comes at a time of great economic instability as a nation. Unemployment lines grow and the economy continues its downward spiral. In a head spinning period of time, we have watched our brothers and sisters in the airline industry face massive layoffs and the very real possibility that customers will not come back anytime soon. And we have already begun to see the trickle effect with layoffs occurring across the entire economy.
We have gone from a nation reveling in a bountiful budget surplus, to a nation recognizing that a declining economy, combined with the September 11 attacks, has made that surplus practically obsolete. Not only must we rightfully help the cities and citizens affected by the tragedy, we must also deal with the fact that we are heading into a long and difficult global war on terrorism. This will undoubtedly leave less money for critical domestic priorities that are important to BMWE members and all working people.
If the BMWE is to weather the troubled economic times we face as a union and as a nation, we must not give up our search for a potential merger partner. There is only so much belt tightening that we can do. If we are to maintain and enhance services and strengthen our political, legislative and collective bargaining strength, we must join together with another union. We simply cannot do it alone forever.
I remain inspired by the strength of our members during these difficult times. While our membership levels decline, our spirit does not. And as the nation grapples with the challenges facing a new reality, we at the BMWE must do so as well at our own smaller, but important level. This means fighting for better and more aggressive transportation safety measures, joining the entire labor movement to deal with the massive worker dislocations in our economy since September 11, and ensuring Amtrak can meet its new security challenges and the soaring demand for passenger rail service.
Down the road, a new reality for us means pursuing changes that we may not want to face. But we must remember that they are changes that will make us stronger.
So I ask my BMWE brothers and sisters to remain open to change. And to work with us as we endeavor to move the BMWE forward.