By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
St. Charles, MO – Booths at the Working Women’s Survival Show last month were filled with salesmen hawking products like emu oil, mashed potato whips, new windows and even pole dancing classes, but Machinists District 9, despite being outside of its comfort zone, had its own very special crowd keeper.
They hoped, at best, for general exposure, a chance to mingle with the general population, to teach people a little about union career choices.
What they got was: visitors who called themselves sisters and brothers, folks who wanted to help with the union’s community service projects — and a flash mob of Rosie the Riveters honoring the icon of Organized Labor.
Machinists Community Service and Human Rights Committee Chairman Scott Hargis worked with Lodge 660 members Michelle Windmiller (a coordinator for We Are Missouri, the coalition formed to fight back Missouri’s “right-to-work” legislation), Jennifer Kahl, Shannon Anderson and Lodge 837 member Peggy Flinn to pull together the booth, gather some freebies to distribute and stock enough information to make a visit interesting.
But it was the visitors that made the booth a winner.
A FLASH MOB OF ROSIES
The District 9 booth was besieged with seven Rosies, all decked out in their notable red bandanas, overalls and, of course, attitude. Others came to the booth to thank a union, to remember how union benefits kept their families strong and how their father couldn’t have survived without his union pension.
“It’s a show for working women, and Rosie the Riveter is an iconic symbol of independent, strong working women, solidarity and the power of labor,” said Kelly Hughes of DeSoto, a member of the Decade Dames, a club of women of all ages who meet monthly and dress in themes to have a bit of fun. “Who else would we honor when coming to the Working Women’s Survival Show?”
SHARING THE UNION STORY
Hargis said the event was very important because it allowed Machinist volunteers to listen to the public and to explain more about what they want to know.
“We had a message to deliver, but what I found was that people came into the booth and told us their stories,” Hargis said. “We went from being a voice to an ear. They wanted to talk to their brothers and sisters of labor. It was an unbelievable experience. It showed that we are all a family and we fight for each other. It was a great day for unions and labor. Just wonderful. I can’t describe it.”
The Rosie Dames were there on their own, but seemed to naturally gravitate to the only Labor booth exhibiting. Hargis said organizers estimated attendance of about 40,000 over the two-and-a-half day event.
“We had a ball,” said Hargis, noting that they arrived with only one Rosie to jazz up their booth, but ended up with seven, and a super crowd of people wanting to watch and learn more about their union. “This was an ideal place for us to talk about what unions do, the volunteer work we do for the community and what it takes to become a union member.”
Crowds were very receptive, and the Rosies were thrilled to wear their new District 9 buttons touting, “A woman’s place is in her union.”
District 9 volunteers dressed up their booth with community service messages, raffle items and bumper stickers that quickly disappeared from the table. Visitors to the booth were also invited to take a selfie in costume and post it on District 9’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
District 9 Directing Business Representative Mark Conner said he was overwhelmed with the success of the booth at a show not typically considered union-friendly.
“We are definitely going to do more things out in the general population, rather than always preaching to the choir,” Conner said. “Our Community Service Committee members have been doing an outstanding job of energizing the various diverse groups within and outside our union.
“Unselfish members and individuals such as these are the ones who will set the ground work for the next generation. I couldn’t be more proud — and they put this booth together at the last minute!”
Also helping with the booth, but not available for photos, were Dacia Strattered of Lodge 837, and Amy Wokovich and Bethany Alexander of Lodge 777.
Other member of the Community Service and Human Rights Committee include: Dave McMahan of Lodge 777, Mike Ringo of Lodge 1345, Steve Booher of Lodge 822, Steve Branson of Lodge 41, Remoria Miller of Lodge 1345, Ted Schulte lodge of Lodge 777, and Terry Knoth of Lodge 313.