March 13, 2000
Trent J. Berhow, President
Food Inspectors Local 2323
American Federation of Government Employees
To: All union officers and members.
Subject: Never give up!!
Over the years I have developed the reputation of being a very aggressive union leader. Called a Radical by some union people, called a Head-Hunter by management, but always acknowledged as very capable, I have always strived for excellence in union representation.
At various times I have had people who professed to being good union members tell me to give up, as you will never win this battle in regard to various conflicts I have had with management. To these people I have always replied that I dont know how to give up, I never have, and I never will. I was once told Youre going about things all wrong by antagonizing management, you need to back off, youre never going to win, you need to kiss their ass to survive. Never have I felt so offended, or so challenged. I didnt give up. I kept on antagonizing management. I kicked their ass, and I did win.
I have had people who professed to being good union people tell me You file too many grievances. Again, I am offended. How can good union people brag about not filing grievances, unfair labor practice charges, or other administrative paperwork? During one conflict with an unmerciful supervisor, I had over 65 grievances and ULPs pending at one time. I have concluded that the quantity of complaints get managements attention, while the quality of the complaints sustains their attention. And by the way, that supervisor is no longer with the agency.
In my opinion any union person who would complain about too many grievances, should be ashamed of them self. Doing nothing about the many civil rights atrocities which management perpetrates against us can and should be compared to thanking management for screwing us. With the onset of HACCP, and the HACCP Inspection Model Plants coming on line, I refuse to do nothing. I refuse to give up. Now, more than ever before, is the time to pour it on, to let management know we are upset, and let them know we wont stand by quietly while they put the screws to us.
Though it can at times be a burden, it is always a responsibility inherent with any union officer position, to represent the people who have elected us. To complain about this responsibility to represent our members, is to diminish the effectiveness of our leadership, and I, for one, would never complain about the responsibilities of any position I was elected to serve in. Give up? No way. Nobody ever said that being a union officer did not involve a large amount of personal sacrifice, because to do the job effectively you will be asked to make sacrifices. It is those officers who willingly make those personal sacrifices with dignity and without complaint, who are the most successful, and who have the most loyal supporters.
In conclusion to this letter, I hope you understand that it is extremely difficult to please all of the people, all of the time. When it comes to all matters relevant to our union at any level: local, council, or national, integrity, determination, and reputation speak volumes about the character we exhibit as we represent our members. As union officers your desire to serve people can manifest itself in many ways, letter writing, grievances, ULPs, and the general conveyance of the attitude that you will never give up. It is that attitude you must embrace. It is that attitude you must enforce. I will never give up.
Trent J. Berhow, President
Food Inspectors Local 2323, AFGE
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