Embrace the Past but Organize for the Future

40 years might seem like a long time. But it can go by quicker than your last paycheck. Forty years ago, on January 31, 1978, men and women – black and white, the young and the not quite so young – staked a bold claim on their future in the Newport News Shipyard.

They were fed up with being overworked and underpaid, fed up with unsafe working conditions, fed up with arrogant bosses and arbitrary rules, fed up with the company union that failed to stand up for them. They were ready to act – together.

So, they broke with southern tradition and the status quo and voted to join the United Steelworkers, which promised them a new day in the yard. Thousands of shipbuilders risked everything – paychecks, homes, even marriages – to start USW Local 8888 and build its power in the yard and at the bargaining table.

Through strikes, arrests, beatings and fierce company resistance, Local 8888 has ook more than two years for the union and the company to reach an agreement on the Steelworkers first contract. Now, 40 years later, Local 8888 members will receive about $15,000 in new money and affordable health care in the current 52-month agreement with Huntington Ingalls Industries.

So, throughout 2018, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of United Steelworkers Local 8888. Not simply by looking back, but by showcasing new voices and fresh ideas and a renewed sense of “8888 Pride” in the yard. This is a special moment: 40 years.

Be proud. Be glad that you are part of it.