Local 715 Union Pioneer
Looks to Past
Local 715 officers recently congratulated Jim Vandevoorde,
one of the local union’s founders, on the occasion of his retirement. Jim
began work at the small Edon plant of Simpson Industries in 1962.
Three years later, the plant still employed only around 30
workers, and people were not happy with how they were treated and compensated.
"The guys all got together and decided that the compensation wasn’t
very good, the vacation plan wasn’t very good," Jim recalls. "Some
guys were getting a nickel raise every time you turned around and other guys
weren’t getting nothing. They were hiring people right off the street and
paying them more than we were getting.
"It don’t take too much of that before people start
thinking, ‘Hey, there’s got to be a different way.’" With help from
the independent National Industrial Workers Union, Simpson workers organized,
signed union cards, and won an NLRB election. "It passed by one or two
votes," remembers Jim. The new union was Local 615 of the NIWU.
Jim Vandevoorde served as a union officer and helped negotiate
the first few contracts. "I pretty much wrote them myself," he
AFFILIATION WITH UE
In 1993, attracted by the increased help and resources they
could gain in UE while retaining local rank-and-file control, Simpson workers
voted to affiliate with UE, and became, along with the rest of the NIWU,
amalgamated Local 793. In 1996 Simpson workers voted nearly unanimously to
form their own local affiliated directly with UE, and became UE Local 715.
Local 715’s membership is now around 240 and growing. The
Edon plant is hiring new employees, gaining new business as a "first
tier" producer of parts for the major auto companies, and was recently
recognized by Simpson Industries as its best performing plant. As the local
prepares to negotiate a new contract over the next few weeks, Jim Vandevoorde
offered some advice to his fellow workers.
"Always look to the future. The economy may be good right
now, but there will be a time when things get slow. Be prepared for that. Don’t
spend everything you’ve got today, and when you negotiate, don’t put
everything into wages. You’re going to need it somewhere else. Think about
your retirement, and insurance. Your insurance can kill you if you have a
major catastrophe and your insurance doesn’t adequately cover it."
Jim Vandevoorde’s parting words to UE members: "Good
luck to everybody. Think real hard about your contract, and stick
UE News - 02/00