A TRIBUTE TO GEORGE CORNWELL
The following poem is by Larry Solomon, the outspoken retired president of UAW Local 751 at the Caterpillar plant in Decatur during the strikes of the 1990s, as a testament of support for George Cornwell, a long-time member of UAW Local 974 (Caterpillar/Peoria, IL) and Grievance Committee Chairman of the local, who on March 8 was fired by Caterpillar for his repeated vigorous support of workers' rights. Though it was intended as a personal testament from one worker to another, we felt that it deserved publication.
Larry Solomon writes, "Brother George Cornwell is a strong aggressive union man. He has been in trouble in the past because he believes in solidarity and does not believe in compromising what rightly belongs to a worker. Weak union officials have a hard time understanding George. It is a dangerous place to be when you are strong and your union officials are weak....Caterpillar knows that there are only a handful of reps like George and if they can eliminate his style of unionism from the plant and replace it with a person more tolerable of new company tactics, then the new workplace environments can be quickly put in place. This means especially the cooperation of union reps and management on the shop floor....An injury to one, is an injury to all. All for one, one for all. These are terms that have already become obsolete in union circles."
George Cornwell wrote in a final note to his friends, "On 03-08-05 in final step the Company informed the Grievance Committee that Chairman George Cornwell would be converted to a discharge effective immediately. The insurance will stop immediately and the final pay, if any, will be sent. Our arbitration schedule is three to five years away before my discharged case will be up in chronological order with the Company only having two years worth of liability. This means that I will go out and seek work but my heart will always be with you. Please never give up! To all the good Union Brothers and Sisters I want to say thank you for all the support and one day justice will be served. Chairman Local 974 George Cornwell"
George Cornwell, a fighting union man, has received no support from his union, the United Auto Workers, precisely because he believes in standing up to the company on the side of the workers. This is more evidence that workers desperately need a solidarity movement in all our workplaces independent of the unions that will unite workers in a revolutionary challenge to capitalist rule. If we had a solidarity movement now in the Peoria Cat plant linking Cat workers from plant to plant, Cat and the UAW would not get away with this firing. (Editor)
A Tribute to George Cornwell
Ratified contracts are broken on a daily
and it’s something that companies try to hide.
Contracts are rules that workers have to live by,
but not something the company uses as their guide.
There’s protection for union reps on the shop floor,
to encourage them in what they have a right to do.
Cat has always engaged in acts of discrimination,
so in this we are not dealing with anything new.
George has always taken his union position seriously,
and ready to take action when violations are found.
He has learned all his rights in union procedures,
and is not about to let Cat push him around.
He was elected by his brothers and sisters,
to enforce the contract that was bought.
Elected for keeping an eye on the company,
and using the lessons that he had been taught.
He was fully aware that reps have equal footing,
and that discharges are to give solidarity a chill.
George was doing the job he was elected to do,
and to fire him must have given Cat a thrill.
We must all get behind George and support him
especially now that Caterpillar is saying he was wrong.
We must always come to the aid of a union rep,
if those on the shop floor are to remain strong.
So hang in there George, we know you will.
Will you give us some of your burden to share?
We know you are going through another trial now,
but be aware there are many who really do care.
President, UAW 751 (Retired)
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