Armando Robies, leader of the Republic Window strike, and Robin Harrison of LiUNA 231.
Robin Harrison, Laborers Local 231, was the steward who helped lead the 2009-2010 strike at PAL Heatlh Technologies, Inc., in Pekin, Illinois. This past spring she attended the Regina V. Pok Women's Labor Leadership Conference, annually led by the University of Illinois' Labor Education Program. Here's Robin's reflections on that program:
What I learned at Regina V. Polk Women's Labor Leadership conference
I was lucky enough to be accepted with a scholarship to this year's annual conference! They wanted to know our story at Pal Health technologies with our four-month strike and how were we successful. What I didn't realize is what I was about to learn from them. It was very enlightening to get to see the birthplace and learn about the History of Chicago Labor and how it effects our daily lives -- from the story of George Pullman and his famous Pullman railroad cars and the town that he built for his workers to be "kept" just the way he wanted them, to the Union Stockyards and the horrible battle the Meatpackers went through. We visited the site of the Republic steel Massacre and the Steel workers Battle! We went on to the Haymarket Massacre and the fight for the 8-hour day. These workers were gunned down and hung for fighting their and our rights, even the women fought beside them.
Then they took us on tours of battles of the present that we weren’t even aware of, we joined a picket at the Congress Hotel on Michigan Ave where workers from HERE Local 1 have been on Strike since 2003! WE visited Teamster City " the home of the UPS workers and seen the beautiful mural IBT 705 put on their auditorium after their successful Strike. The location that hit closest to home for me was visiting Republic Windows and Doors, members of UE Local 1110. I felt such a connection with their president Armando Robles after hearing their story, their members, like us at PAL, didn't have time to make a decision, only time to react to what was happing to them! They were ordinary workers like us some good, some bad, not all loyal Union members, but when they were backed in the corner, they stuck together! In December of 2008 their employer notified them their plant was closing and they were jobless, but even worse, Bank Of America would not extend a credit line to pay the workers wages owed to them. this is after our government had bailed them out. The workers simply refused to leave the building, they occupied the plant for 5 days! The media attention, and Union backing they received got Bank of America to work out an agreement with their wages and medical insurance and even a new Buyer for the company. It is amazing the power of Unity!
After experiencing these tours through our Labor History and how we got where we are today I feel blessed to live in the United States, and in Illinois, and to be a Union Laborer!