Kelsey Gibson, 21, daughter of Michigan State Legislative Jerry Gibson and his wife Carmella, was seriously injured the morning of Jan. 29 in an automobile accident.
Kelsey, a student at Grand Valley State University and recently engaged to be married, was driving a Ford Escape when she was broadsided by a pickup truck in heavy fog. She remains hospitalized and in a coma.
A fund for the Gibson family has been established at FifthThird Bank. Send donations to: Stephanie Hickox, FifthThird Bank, 3980 Alpine Ave., Comstock Park, MI 49321. Make the check payable to “FBO Kelsey Gibson.” On the memo line put “#7168002785.”
Donations can be made at all FifthThird Banks nationwide. Visit any FifthThird Bank and ask to make a deposit into account #7168002785, FBO Kelsey Gibson.
“The doctors have told Jerry and Carmella that Kelsey is in for a long fight. That’s a lot of missed work and family expenses to be met,” said Don Silseth, UTU Local 313 treasurer and legislative representative. “If you can donate one day of pay, great. If you can donate a half day of pay, great. If you can donate one hour of pay, great. If you can offer continued prayers, great. It’s all needed and appreciated.”
Just as you balance your personal checkbook and compare income to expenses in making decisions where to spend and where to save, we at UTU International make similar decisions with your dues.
Accepting responsibility to protect the interests of our members also includes accepting responsibility to use the funds entrusted to the International so as to obtain the most value from every dues dollar received.
There is no silver bullet for managing finances. Resource utilization is regularly assessed and needed adjustments are made. Demanded action is met with a cost-effective response. This same standard is applied to funds managed for the Discipline Income Protection Program and the United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA).
During the current administration, the UTU’s General Fund, accounting for most day-to-day operations of the International, has increased from $2.1 million to nearly $2.6 million.
The balances of all other funds have improved by an even greater extent, with the total of all International funds increasing from $7.5 million to nearly $16 million — an increase of 111 percent.
The Convention Fund balance assures that necessary funds are available to finance the 11th Quadrennial Convention convening in August.
This is all in spite of reduced membership owing to the deep recession and employee layoffs, and extraordinary administrative and legal expenses.
In 2007, our Discipline Income Protection Program reserve fund suffered a $2 million loss and was left with a balance of just over $5 million. Today, our reserves are at more than $9 million, assuring sufficient funds to satisfy all outstanding liabilities and provide the protection our members expect and deserve.
The UTUIA, meanwhile, earned more than $400,000 from operations during 2010, and remains financially strong with nearly $26 million in surplus.
Union assets are invested primarily in cash accounts and short term bonds, and are largely unaffected by the stock market problems.
The UTUIA, as all insurance providers — and even the Railroad Retirement Trust Fund — has assets invested in the stock market, as well as in bonds and cash accounts. But UTUIA investments are generally conservative in nature. UTUIA investment advice is obtained through independent advisers who have no financial benefit from actual transactions, but are paid on a fee-for-service basis.
Prior to this administration assuming office, it was said that the UTU was broke and could not survive on its own. In addition to precariously low reserves, our nation fell into the worse economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. During the depths of this recession, more than 15 percent of our members were furloughed.
Disciplined finance management by this administration enabled continued growth.
Now, as the railroads recall employees and hire new workers, the resulting increased receipts will add to these reserves, assuring availability of funds for continued quality representation.
I was asked if our Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, the UTU PAC and our recently inaugurated direct-contact-with-members outreach can stop the assault on labor by conservative extremists.
In union there is strength, and when members of all labor unions engage in political solidarity, the result is millions of union members and their families working toward a common goal of electing more labor-friendly lawmakers.
Consider what has been accomplished recently in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Demonstrations in Ohio resulted in hundreds of thousands of voters — union and non-union — signing petitions to force a November ballot referendum on legislation signed into law by the governor revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights. The referendum will allow voters to determine in November whether the law should be invalidated.
In Wisconsin, demonstrations resulted in drives to recall anti-labor senators who voted to revoke public-employee collective bargaining rights in that state. This summer, a special election will give Wisconsin voters opportunity to change the make-up of the Senate.
UTU members and retirees in Ohio and Wisconsin have been receiving direct mail pieces and/or a recorded phone message from me and their state legislative director informing them of what they can do to make a difference in their state. Other AFL-CIO unions are engaged in similar efforts.
Our objective is to keep our members and their families fully informed on political issues so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box. We also are engaged in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives.
Ohio members are being informed where they can sign petitions to put that state’s union-busting legislation to a direct-democracy test at the ballot box.
Wisconsin members and retirees are being advised which senators voted with labor and which senators voted to revoke collective-bargaining rights, so that when the special election is held this summer, they can make informed voting choices.
Similar efforts will be expanded to other states in advance of the 2012 congressional and White House elections.
Coordinating the UTU effort is our political consultant, Dean Mitchell, who has more than 20 years experience directing political campaigns on behalf of labor-friendly candidates. Dean’s father was president of an American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees local.
Polling data validates that labor families vote at a higher percentage than the public as a whole, meaning our votes can make a difference when we work in solidarity on behalf of labor friendly measures and candidates.
Keeping our members and their families informed on political issues — through direct mail, recorded phone messages, the UTU News and the UTU website — will continue.
We have drawn a line in the sand from which we cannot retreat. We can and will make a difference. We will not go away. We will not forget.