What Exactly Is a Union Rep?

IAM District 75 Assistant Directing Business Representative Henry “Pappy” Perrigan recently decided to answer some of the many questions he gets about what type of job he has as a union rep. He posted his note on Facebook and we have included it here.

I have been asked what type of job do I have as a Union Rep and this is what I have written to try to answer that question.

Let me begin by explaining a few things to everyone about the life of a Business Rep in IAM District Lodge 75. I am using my 30 years of experience as a member and 12 years of experience as a Business Rep to try to help everyone understand the position that I currently have and about to retire from.

If you think this is a social club, you need to do some research. The problems and the rules of the game that Unions has to deal with changes every day. The average day for a Business Rep in the District is 12 to 14 hours a day and then when you go home or the hotel you are staying at for the night, you are doing more phone calls or emails. The Business Rep misses birthdays, anniversaries, ball games, school plays, the first step of a child, grandchild or great grandchild, graduations, and even funerals of family and friends taking care of the union membership. It is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year life!!

No one can understand a Business Rep’s life until they become a Business Rep if they are lucky enough to be elected by the Membership. The Membership deserves and expects their Rep to be available when they need them and for that Rep to be respectful, educated, caring and have a plan to help them without making the matter worse. I am very proud that this District has always made sure a Rep is available when the assigned Business Rep cannot be in two or more places at one time.

All of the Business Reps in this District are the best and most dedicated individuals I have had the opportunity to work with. The Reps truly love helping and fighting for our membership. They are the leaders that lead our membership to victory without sacrificing some of the membership along the way. Sometimes the Rep has to make unpopular decisions with the membership because of law, rules or regulations, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Local Lodge Bylaws, District Lodge Bylaws or the IAM Constitution, but that does not mean they are not warriors or don’t care about the membership or that the Rep is in bed with the Company! When the Rep makes that kind of a decision, it is because he is doing what is best for the Union Membership.

It is easy to hide in the bushes and jump up and down, thump your chest and scream bad things about the Union, the Union Leadership and the Business Reps, but until you have the total responsibility for the well-being of the Union members and their families in every decision that you have to make as a Union Leader/Business Rep, you don’t know the stress and what that Business Rep has to live with after the decision is made. Such as: Did I make the best decision? Was there another way to go? What could I have done different?

You don’t know how crushed a Rep feels when he has to do a plant closing and see the hurt and sadness in the eyes on the members who are losing their job and the way to take care of their families. I am proud to say that District 75 does everything possible to help our members when they face losing their jobs. As a matter of fact, we are in this process of helping our membership right now that is being laid off from one of the contracts with the District.

I have been told that respect has to be earned and I truly believe that is a fact. Union Leadership/Business Reps are human beings and can make mistakes. But all of my Business Reps in this District do the best jobs they can and all of them have my respect for the jobs they do, their sacrifices they have made and their love for the Union Membership.

I believe that the Membership in District Lodge 75 will tell you that Pappy has never told them a lie or has not said I was sorry if I was wrong.

I am retiring in December 2017 but that does not mean that I don’t love the IAM, this District, and all the members, non-members and objectors in the 86 contracts we have in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi or I will not fight with them again if I am needed!

— Pappy

Henry “Pappy” Perrigan is the Assistant Business Representative for IAM District 75 in the IAMAW Southern Territory. This note was published with Henry Perrigin’s permission with minor edits for clarity.