October 10, 2023 • The Communicator Oct -Nov – Dec 2023 • By Kurt Freeman, PPPWU President
VIVA LAS VEGAS, MAYBE, BUT “VIVA THE PPPWU,” FOR SURE.
The first convention of our new union was a winner.
Delegates worked hard and did their due diligence.
The result was a smooth process establishing the Printing Packaging & Production Workers Union of North America as a resilient, autonomous, forward-looking labor organization resolved to decide its own future, resist outside pressure and continue securing the best contracts in our industry. Scanning the rows of attendees from around the United States and Canada, I felt enormous pride and gratitude for our organization and its dedicated leaders and members.
In committee meetings, private discussions and comments from the convention floor, delegates showed themselves to be informed, resourceful and unbowed by recent events. Yes, the GCC/IBT-Teamster dispute demanded time and energy but we came through – all of us – while demonstrating grit and dignity at every turn.
With a history tracing back more than 100 years, our union is at an unprecedented moment. In a sense, we are starting over after nearly two decades of partnership with a large labor organization that has seen fit to sever that relationship.
So be it.
The mood in Las Vegas was one of undiminished optimism. There was little bitterness. We don’t have time for resentment or petty politics.
We are going in only one direction – forward. We will honor the power and wisdom inherited from our past but we will not look back. It is a time for a renewed sense of mission – to assert again the importance of every individual whether in the rank-and-file or at the leadership level. From one another, we draw energy and strength.
While we are charting a new course for the PPPWU, our principles remain the same.
We will fight for fair contracts, affordable health care, reliable pensions and workplace safety. We will demand that our members have a voice in the workplace. We will deal fairly with employers, but from a position of strength.
Those objectives will never change.
As I told delegates and guests in Las Vegas, the convention was a momentous occasion – a new chapter in the annals of an illustrious labor organization. We came together as custodians of a precious past and protectors of a common future. That was the message of our three days in Las Vegas. We left strong, united and ready to get to work. But, for personal reasons, I departed with mixed feelings. After a long union career in Philadelphia and Washington – the last four as president – I am going to retire.
It’s time to spend more time with my wife, Terry, and our family – and get out the spackle and paint rollers at our home in New Jersey.
Stepping into the leadership role will be secretary-treasurer/vice president Steve Nobles, among the most able union professionals I have known. The PPPWU is in good hands.
It has been the honor of my life to serve this great labor organization. I will miss colleagues, our incredible staff, and friends around the nation. The challenges of the last year have only made me more confident of our union’s promise and indomitable spirit. Keep the faith. Keep moving forward. Though at a distance, I’m with you every step of the way.