Charting The Course: Unions Work To Stay Viable In Challenging Jobs Market

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

September 6, 2010 Updated Sep 6, 2010 at 5:52 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The Labor Day Holiday proves to be a day of celebration and a day of reflection on where organized labor may be headed in the future.

Jeff Neumeyer dropped in on Fort Wayne's annual Labor Day Picnic, where those in attendance admit the effects of the tough economy and job market are hard to ignore.

Jeff Neumeyer: " They came in big numbers to Headwaters Park again this year, to partake of food and drink and for many, at least briefly, to try and forget about the pain and confusion of unemployment and an uncertain jobs future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 23-million Americans are either out of work or can't find full-time work.

There's some good news locally.

The Fort Wayne GM Truck Plant is in much better shape compared to one year ago.

The plant not only avoided shutdown, but hundreds of jobs have been added in recent months.

The head of Union Local 2209 says Democrats in Washington deserve most of the credit.

Orval Plumlee/Union Local 2209 President: " There's things starting to break loose in the community. You see these hospital constructions going on and things like that. I believe the future is good for here in America and I think it is by the leadership of Mr. Obama."

But WorkOne of Northeast Indiana says this region has lost 8,000 jobs in the stifling recession.

Tom Lewandowski from the Central Labor Council discounts talk that union representation at Navistar's Meyer Road Engineering and Technology Center is a big reason why the company is taking 1,100 high paying jobs out of town.

Tom Lewandowski/Central Labor Council: " Those people that are involved in economic development, who take all the credit for economic development. They'll take credit for the sun rising in the morning and they'll blame us for it setting at night."

Optimism still exists despite tough times and high unemployment numbers.

Ken Folkerts/Painter's Union Member: " Right now, I'm laid off but I'll be going to work soon out at the hospital, which is God's blessing. I think it's going to come back."

Neumeyer: " More than six-million Americans have been out of work for longer than six months, raising concerns about their job skills becoming obsolete.

The message from Lewandowski, workers must organize, or they'll become more isolated and vulnerable than ever before.

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