By MARY ANN HOLLEY
When legislators in Jefferson City were sparring over the issue of paycheck deception and right-to-work, Remoria Miller was there for the Machinists District 9 Legislative Conference, walking the marble halls of the State Capitol, going from office to office asking state representatives and senators to support Organized Labor.
When her union held a Trivia Night to raise funds for political action, Miller and her crew dressed circa the Old West to join in the fun. Political events, Machinists Mouse Races? All bets on.
When volunteers are needed to help worker-friendly politicians, Miller wears her walking shoes going door to door doing “lit drops.”
Miller, president of Machinists Lodge 1345, works full-time on the factory floor at Hunter Engineering inspecting car parts. On her off time, she’s handing union issues and enjoying it to the utmost. She admits it’s a man’s world at the plant, but according to her, it’s more of a “union world.”
“I enjoy the pay that I get, I enjoy my benefits; I enjoy the overall package of being a union member,” Miller said. “In the non-union setting, they pick who they want to give the raises to and how much they’ll get. In a union setting, you get what’s been fairly negotiated. It’s a just situation that creates a better work environment, because workers are united, not divided.”
Miller says becoming involved with her union was natural for her.
“My initial interest in being involved in the union was because unions negotiate your pay, pension, and other terms and conditions,” Miller said. “Unions also lead the fight for equal opportunities in the workplace, like equal pay and treatment against discrimination, and I believe that’s worth standing up for.”
FIRST UNION JOB
Miller’s first union job was at National Vending where she became a shop steward her first year on the job. She continued to hold that position until the business shut down and relocated to a non-union plant in North Carolina.
She had worked as an assembler, making the money changers for the vending machines, but what excited her most was that it was a union job.
“It was exciting for me at the time, because I knew the union stood for benefits, raises and holiday pay. I knew this was something they fought for,” Miller said. “I knew nothing about being a shop steward, just that I cared about workers’ rights and the rights of all my co-workers.”
So, Miller plunged in, first with small steps, then moving forward to get deeper into the Labor Movement. She worked her way up, became more heavily involved in Machinists District 9, and has learned along the way that you don’t have to know it all before you decide to help.
“If you want to get involved, your union can help you do that,” Miller said.
Since she became president of Local 1345 two years ago, District 9 has sent her to training for women in the factory environment at the Wippinsinger Center, an education and technology facility in Maryland established by the International Association Of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The Wippinsinger Center teaches what it is to be a trade unionist. By studying labor history and the role unions play in our society, Miller and other students learned that unions are more than service organizations.
“Unions are part of a much larger movement toward economic and social justice with dignity on the job,” Miller said. “My union, and through additional training, helped to educate me on different issues that I needed to know to help the membership.”
DEPENDABLE AND WILLING TO LEARN
Miller says she believes people see her as a woman you can depend on, a woman that will voice the concerns of and represent all workers, men and women of every race.
“I believe that I am a women that has that sympathetic ear or reassurance to take issues to full-blown representation if a problem get serious. I have learned through union training about the commitment level it takes to get the concerns and issues resolved.”
When I first became a union member, former Union Representative Marvin Gray was the chief shop steward at National Vendors. He asked her to serve as department shop steward. She said she accepted after Gray agreed to help her along the way.
“Getting involved in your union isn’t hard. It just takes an interest,” Miller said. “Your Union officers will help you along the way, and give you the information you need to be involved.”
“My one and only reason for involvement in my union is to put my leadership qualities to work as best as I can,” Miller said “I plan to use these qualities to create new ideas for women in the union. Now is the time to deliver a message by focusing on issues women care about. I always had that passion to help everyone, even with my family, I’m always there for them, making sure everyone is taken care of.”
Miller is married to Theron Miller (a member of Local 1345), and has one son, Morion, who works for Edward Jones Company.
“My union involvement has definitely made life better for my family and provided so much,” Miller said. “And having good union contracts all these years put my son through college.”
She added, “I would tell people to get very active in their union and let it take them where it can.”