Labor Day picnic celebrates 75 years of UAW

By WEEK Producer

September 4, 2010 Updated Sep 4, 2010 at 6:15 PM CDT

Its as American as apple pie. A picnic on Labor Day weekend. Old friends catching up.

"I get to see people that I don't see but once a year," said Jane Evans. "I'm very personable and I like to go around and talk to everybody."

There's a greater bond than friendship at this gathering. It's made up of members of UAW Local 974 and their families. They're celebrating the of the united Auto Workers union.

"We can remember when they were organizing the UAW of blood in the streets," said Dave Chapman, president of UAW Local 974.

"There were corporations that had police beating up our people in order to discourage having a union. Now we're at a point where we can negotiate a contract without fear of repercussions."

But the last few years haven't always been a picnic for the UAW. The union's membership, at one time more than 1.5-million, is now less than 400,000. And there are new and difficult challenges.

"A lot of good paying jobs are leaving," said UAW Local 974 vice-president Randy Smith. "We represent the middle class, but the middle class is shrinking. For some reason they're taking good American jobs and shipping them overseas."

"The challenge now is organizing another sector," said Chapman. "It's more of a high-tech sector."

Retiree Jane Evans isn't sure younger workers are as resolute as previous generations.

"I wish they were more union oriented. A lot of the young people I talk to, as long as they have a paycheck they're happy."

Which begs the question on this 75-year anniversary, what will the UAW look like 75 years from now?

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