Union and Community

Union and Community


[Music] This is Chester, Pennsylvania, situated near the middle eastern coast of the United States It’s not a small city, nor a large one, population 135,000. Main occupation of its people—manufacturing. [Music] There are many parts to Chester, like the Main Street where everybody comes to shop. [music] The newer homes in an ever-growing Chester. The older homes, [music] the housing developments where working people live, and the children, the future of Chester. [music] The churches—an important part in the lives of Chester’s citizens— churches of all denominations. [music] Finally, there are the factories where thousands of men and women make their living. [music] This is the Baldwin plant. In this great factory, locomotives are made. Steam and diesel engines, which furnish power for railroads in America and throughout the world. [music] Here is where I work. [music] My name is Ed Orzel. I’m a turret lathe operator. [music] While that lathe turns, a man’s mind is a chance to turn to many thoughts. My thoughts were turning to the bloodmobile that was due to arrive. The Red Cross Bloodmobile that was making its first visit to the Baldwin plant. This was something new for unions. [music] For our union had recruited the people at the plant a wish to make their blood donations. I had arranged the event, and in arranging it, I’d been struck by an idea. The idea that our union membership could do a lot for the community in many different ways. I helped check the names of the donors, most of them, Union men. We organized this line of blood donors like we once had organized a picket line. But now we weren’t just fighting for ourselves. We were giving to the community. One man is a blood donor. Others could give other services. But just what services we could give wasn’t clear to me. Until one night, at a union meeting. I heard about Community Councilors. Frank Ritter, head of our CIO Council, explained that this new committee would help people with their personal problems. He asked for volunteers. Many of us volunteered to join. The Union had made Chester a better place in which to work. Why not make Chester a better place to live? The next day I was to start my studies in the union school. It seems strange for a grown man to be getting back to the classroom. [music] I never knew until those classes, how much could be learned in so little time. We learn to help unemployed get their jobless benefits. We learned about the health and medical facilities in Chester. [music] About the nursing service, and technical aids available to working people without charge. [music] We learned of the voting district so we could help our neighbors to be better and more intelligent citizens. We learned how money raised from the citizens for welfare purposes, was divided. Yes, we knew a great deal when the classes ended, but our learning wasn’t finished. The social agencies building was the last step in our training course. Frank Ritter personally took me through this part of the course. Under one roof, were all these agencies, the Red Cross, the nursing aid, the Family Service, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I was going to find out about these services and meet the people in charge. [music] The first people we visited was the Chester Red Cross, part of the great international organization. The woman in charge explained how the Red Cross blood bank was used, that reservoir of plasma ready for people who needed at an event of accident or illness. There was the Family Service. Mrs. Shelmeyer could explain how it worked. [music] When a family was in distress because of poverty, or ill health, or child problems, the Family Service assisted with advice, and doctors, and money. [music] Now I had two jobs—one with pay at the lathe—another without pay— as a community counselor. My idea about what a union could do in the community was now ready to go into action. It wasn’t long before I had my first test as a community counselor, the plant superintendent approached me one night. One of the men had been injured his leg had been caught by a steel beam. [music] Tony Alto was not too badly hurt, but it did mean that he wouldn’t be able to work for some time. Tony was worried about the doctor bills and about the loss of pay. I told him that the doctor bills would be paid from the fund established by the Union and the employers. [music] Several days later, Tony was able to meet me at the Union office. Here I helped him with workman’s compensation papers. Under state law, a worker injured on the job is entitled to automatic compensation for the injury. Tony gave me the information I needed. [music] I filled out the forms for him, and now all he had to do was sign them. [music] When I left work the next day, I thought about Tony and his family. I felt the job wasn’t done. His doctor bills were paid and he would get his accident compensation. But he did need some nursing care while at home, so I thought I’d go see the Nursing Aid Bureau in Chester. [music] The next day, a visiting nurse and I, called at Tony’s home. This nurse was another of the Community Services. [music] Tony’s wife and child were a little surprised to see the nurse, but by now they were getting used to the many services about which they had never known before. [music] With a child in the house to care for, I knew Tony’s wife would welcome the aid of a trained nurse to care for him. Tony didn’t quite know how to react to all this attention and kindness, but down deep he was very grateful. The nurse will be visiting him three times a week. Meanwhile I discovered new problems. The weekly wage wasn’t coming in. Mrs. Alto wanted to get a job. But that was difficult unless something could be done to take care of the child during the day. That was my next challenge. [music] The answer to Mrs. Alto’s problem was the Chester Day Care Center. Here, working parents could leave their children during the day. The surroundings were pleasant. The people in charge—well-trained, kind, and intelligent. And there were other children and games, and playgrounds so that a child would be well cared for, safe and happy. [music] From the Day Care Center we went to the state employment service to find Mrs. Alto a job. She was asked if she could type.? No Could she sell? No. Was there anything she could do? Yes, she could cook, and there was a need for her services in a restaurant. So now, Mrs. Alto had a job and the family was tied over an emergency. [music] I felt I’d done a good day’s work. I was rather pleased with myself. Then, suddenly, [music] [car screech] [woman screams] The entire community raced to save a life. The grocer called for aid. The telephone operator sped the message. The ambulance with a doctor hastened emergency aid. The police assisted the injured to save a life, in Chester. [music] In the hospital, there was expert care—doctors, nurses. There were also anxious moments for the parents, and relief, to see life returned and to know that their child was in good hands. [music] The reservoir of blood we’d collected at the plant was now accomplishing its purpose. [music] Several days later. I visited the home of the injured boy. I came for two reasons. First because I was eager to know about Tommy’s recovery. [music] Tommy was doing nicely. He’d soon be well again. [music] But I had another reason for coming. I wanted to talk to his folks about cutting down the number of accidents in Chester. [music] It wasn’t enough to save people after they were hurt. Why couldn’t we do something to prevent accidents? To make Chester a safe city for children to cross streets? [music] Tommy’s father agreed and we took the matter to our Union meeting. At the meeting, I told them about Tommy, about the accident, and about my idea, then I introduced Tommy’s father. [music] Mr. Ward suggested a plan of traffic lights at busy intersections. He started a petition among his neighbors to get this done. [music] Frank Ritter said this was a new kind of assignment for the Union and that it would mean a campaign to make the community safety conscious. He asked for suggestions. One Councillor proposed signs, setting speed limits, prominently posted. Another proposed education on the need for careful driving. [music] Still another Councillor proposed more police at school crossings. [music] Frank Ritter asked for a committee to mobilize the community for this project. Just about everybody wanted to serve. They insisted upon nominating themselves. [music] To select the committee, Frank called for a vote. [music] The Secretary read the names of those who were elected. There was Mary Scanlon, and Tommy’s father, and Fred Sampson and finally myself, Ed Orzell. [music] In my spare moments at work, there was little on my mind, but our safety campaign. Now the union wasn’t just organizing workers in a plant, we were organizing the whole community. [music] Mary Scanlon spoke to the Women’s Clubs about the need for safety. [music] Others went from house to house to get signatures for the petition. [music] Here was the power of the pen. Men, women, rich, poor. That petition was growing longer every minute. Under the first signature, that of Tom’s father, were thousands of new names. [music] The women were happy signers for these were the mothers of Chester. Finally, we were ready to present the petition to the City Council at City Hall. One of the first speakers was the owner of the large oil plant. Accidents in the street were injurious to his business. They kept men away from work. There were too many unnecessary man hours of labor lost. A Citizens Committee was present. [music] There was the minister, and a youngster who went to school. [music] And her teacher. [music] And there was the Union Committee. [music] The mayor himself had a few words to say on the subject, and then he called for a vote. [music] That was a tense moment for us— for all of us—we’d worked long and hard on this campaign. We knew what it had mean to the people of Chester and their children. [music] And then the mayor declared the motion carried ! [music] We’d won a safety campaign. [music] Safety signs told drivers to stop taking chances. One-way streets were marked. At the very corner where Tommy had been struck down, the city put up a stop light. Red to stop, green to go. And there were new police to guide the children across the streets. [music] And a new kind of policeman. The younger generation, taking responsibilities training for future leadership. [music] As the lathe turns so does my mind turn over the work of our union in the community. [music] Our union is no longer confined to these four walls. Through the Community Services Committee, we’ve reached out to all of Chester. In Chester, these great workshops aren’t placed where workers are separated from their city. Through their Union, the factories are woven right into the city. [music] The social agencies building. This is the link between the Union and the city. The symbol of oneness, in Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. [Music]

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