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Highlight: Henry Salazar

For this season’s member highlight we caught up with OSH Activist Member Henry Salazar, Organizer with UAW Region 6 and Health and Safety Rep with UAW 230 , who has been involved with their union since 2001. Henry shared he has seven grandkids who he happily spends his free time with if he isn't deep sea fishing with friends, family, and coworkers. Henry enjoys helping his coworkers and fighting alongside his colleagues in the labor movement. He especially enjoys taking on the Safety Rep role within his union maintaining meaningful protections for him and his coworkers.


We talked about the recent UAW strike that was covered in the national News cycle. Henry shared that presidential campaigning from leading candidates were noticed in the local offices but the most meaningful impacts came from local organizations being present on the strike lines and supporting the workers. We also talked about various incidents of violence on the strike line: agitators brandishing guns to threaten strikers including Henry; escalation by Police Officers; and, harassment from a private security firm hired by management. Henry shared that “all of the violence and hostility came directly from management,” highlighting how management was funding and instigating incidents of violence on the strike line.


Regardless of management tactics Henry illustrated the strike was still effective, benefitting workers and their communities. Henry encourages workers to continue organizing and forming unions to improve their conditions and preserve their gains against bad employers.


 


We know you as an organizer, but we’re curious to know more about you as a person. What are some of your hobbies away from work?


Surprisingly, even when I’m away from work, I’m not away from work. But if I were to separate myself from work and not have any union hat on, it’s my family. I have seven grandkids, so they truly take up almost all the free time that I have on the weekend or on the holidays. It’s also my wife and the kids. In terms of hobbies, I love to fish. I love deep sea fishing. It’s hard for me to fresh water fish because I’m used to pulling in 15-20 pounders and with fresh water fishing you bring in some little guppies. I usually put an annual deep sea fishing trip together at San Diego.


How did you get into UAW and organizing?


I was a committee-man, first as an alternate, and got on the standing committees. It interested me, politics interested me. I got involved with the political side literally two years after I started in ‘99. And in 2001 I started my union leadership role. I was just looking back at my resume, and I was like, “Man– I did a lot!” I didn’t even realize it. Over the years, I took in a lot. I stuck to the rules and the guidelines that the UAW set forward and it helped guide me through. 


I enjoy the labor movement. To me, it’s fun. I enjoy watching the bosses swarming their chairs.


What’s it like having been a safety representative for the union?


Probably one of the most disliked union officials is a safety rep. No one likes to follow rules. Just like out on the street, no one wants to stop at stop signs. Nobody wants to wear safety glasses, things that are there to protect you. And I think when they realize that you’re coming down on the bosses for not doing their job by keeping the building safe, then they’re like, “Well, they [the bosses] are only doing their job because you’re making them. If you didn’t make them do their job, then they wouldn’t be out here making us work safely. It’s not just to get us in trouble.”


I could honestly say my time as a safety rep, for all 14 years, not one person ever got written up, fired, or given time off. It was always about education and prevention. It was never about discipline.


What got you into safety?


My passion before was collective bargaining. When I first got interested in the union back in 2001, I would watch the committee-man and the supervisors argue. And to see them argue and see the supervisor get cussed out for their conduct and nothing happened? I was like, “I want to do that!” 


The transition from bargaining to safety, not being able to do bargaining, was a tough call to make. I just came off of being a committee-man. I could have been reelected as a second shift committee-man again, but I wanted to move up. And once I did it, I never regretted it. I didn’t realize there were so many opportunities there. If you do the job right, keep the workers safe, you’re more effective there than any manager in that building. The union safety rep is like the second most powerful person in that building, you’re like the only one that could shut the plant down.


 


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