Dan Maloney says he wants America to make things. Manufacturing is the best way, he says, to rev up the US economy.
Maloney, president of UAW Local 1097 for nine years, has recently been named president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, too. His goals in the new job include improving organizing, messaging, and recruiting efforts among the region's unions. But he says that he also wants to build support for policies that encourage domestic manufacturing growth.
When a company makes and sells a car, for example, he says, it's not just putting a product on a showroom floor. It is also buying metal, glass, radios, and scores of other components and parts from other companies, he says. So that one car provides jobs for the people who sell it, build it, and make the materials and parts that go into it.
"It's an upward economic spiral when you increase manufacturing," Maloney says.
One way to bolster support for domestic manufacturing, he says, is through political activism. Maloney says that he wants to make sure that union members know where candidates stand on issues such as trade policy, government support for promising technology, and infrastructure investment. He also wants more union members to run for local, state, and federal offices.
Maloney took over the Labor Federation job from Jim Bertolone, who for the past two decades has been one of the Rochester area's most prominent and outspoken labor voices. Bertolone railed against trickle-down economics, corporate welfare, and lopsided trade deals, and spoke forcefully in support of a minimum wage increase, policies that boost domestic manufacturing, and universal health care.
Bertolone, who is still president of the local Postal Workers union, says that he hopes to retire within the next year or so. He's been a union leader for a generation, he says, and it's time to clear the way for someone new.
Solidarity will have to be a big focus for Maloney, Bertolone says. Unions have always been built on the notion that there's strength in numbers, he says, but the last 30 years have seen escalating anti-union rhetoric and laws, as well as declines in union workplaces. No union is big enough to go it alone, Bertolone says; the different organizations have to work together to be successful.
"Dan gets it," Bertolone says. "He's a very good advocate and he also has that personality where he gets along with the leaders in all sectors, whether building trades or public sector, and is aware of their issues. I think so far it's worked out very well — that he has the support of everybody."
Bertolone and Maloney say that they are optimistic about labor, thanks to the Occupy Wall Street and Fight for $15 movements. Both target income inequality, they say, and Fight for $15 embodies what the labor movement is all about: workers teaming up to improve their job conditions and pay.