Tomorrow will mark the day I signed the paperwork to have my Union dues deducted from my pay check. I didn’t officially become a member of Branch 458 NALC until the Regular Branch Meeting in February of 1966. But having a grandfather who had been a Union Organizer and who had actually met, worked with and heard the Legendary Mother Jones speak I was ready a long time before I was able to join.

My Mother too had been a member of a Union and at the time I joined the NALC she was in fact a Union Member at the Boy Scout Pants Factory where she worked at the time and had lead a wildcat strike of her section when a problem with the cutting room at the factory developed and left those in my Mom’s section (who sewed right fly on the pants) unable to meet they quota which figured into the amount of money they could earn.

The section head refused to do anything about so my Mother being who she was said, “Either fix it or I quit. I will not continue unless this problem is corrected.” And she promptly stopped sewing, within ten minutes all the rest of the ladies in her section stopped work as well and prepared to walk out of the factory. The shop steward came by told them to go back to work but my Mother said no way and all the others agreed.

So the Shop Steward and the section head went to the forelady’s office to talk to her. She came out spoke with my Mother and then headed to the cutting room with several pairs of pants that my Mother said were not cut right. In about fifteen minutes she came back and told my Mother and the others that the cutting room had agreed to fix the problem and that if when they sent out other pants not properly cut to set them aside and not try to stitch them. The section was not docked for the time they spent on strike and they never had that problem again while my Mother worked there.

My Mother had occasion many years later to speak at the forelady’s funeral after she had been a Judge for a number of years. She related that incident to those assembled. When my Mother knew she was in the right she would never back down from a fight or a dispute with management. Many lawyers who had occasion to come before her court always told me that my mother was a straight arrow and that had better get it right or she would toss out their case. She always stood for what was right and was Union through and through.

In February I will have reached 49 years as a Union Member. I have been an officer in my Local every year since 1972 except for 3 years. I still hold two positions with my local – that of Branch Scribe and Assistant Health Benefits Director. I have been Secretary of my State Association for 8 years and was Vice-President of the State Association for 18 years.

I am and will always be a PROUD UNION MEMBER. Next year I will receive my UNION GOLD CARD which will mean I will not have to pay dues anymore. The Union has been very good to me and my family and has helped provide me with a meaningful and fulfilling job and purpose for most of my adult life. Thanks to my Union I had a living wage job for 33 years with great benefits and a great retirement. That’s what Unions do for their members along with protecting them in the workplace.

It doesn’t get any better than that!

Bob Bearden


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