We must rebuild

I’m an eight-year bargaining-unit employee of Lennox here in Marshalltown and a UAW 893 union member. The Lennox facility is badly damaged and we can’t work for a while. I was in a shelter inside the building when the tornado hit and thankfully no one was hurt. I daresay perhaps we had luck and God on our side, but I am certain the thanks lies in the company’s effective emergency procedure.

I’m not a spokesperson but I think I speak for virtually all my brothers and sisters who work there, and the Marshalltown community as a whole, when I say: I want to rebuild.

After a tornado like this, with Lennox’s complex business, the rebuild decision is not an easy one to make. No doubt Lennox leadership all over the world is working around the clock to answer this and other crucial questions. It can’t be solved in one day.

The rebuilding decision and the effort itself will require tremendous energy from the Lennox company, its bargaining-unit employees and the Marshalltown community. From what I’ve seen in the immediate aftermath, all three of us have proven our good nature to each other. Our relationship has always ultimately been voluntary and reinvesting in Marshalltown will require us three stakeholders to trust each other and cooperate.

Within hours of the tornado, Lennox leadership and UAW leadership had coordinated to deliver paychecks to bargaining unit members via distribution at the union hall on Iowa Ave. Within fifteen hours, UAW members were getting paid, checks in hand. This is extraordinary. The company also pledged over the weekend to continue to pay bargaining unit employees through an additional week as they continue to make short- and long-term plans.

UAW members have also joined in community relief efforts. Union members looking to help have been directed to the Hy-Vee grocery parking lot to join with the Salvation Army and others to work on peoples’ homes. Unionist have chainsaws, muscles and who knows what else. Food, clothing and other supplies have been donated directly to the union hall and distribution began immediately. What we’ve been able to do, so we have.

A public meal organized by JBS and supported by UAW, UFCW (JBS employees’ union organization) and various other community volunteers on Sunday at the YMCA lot fed hundreds of people. JBS has been providing meals for years and knew exactly how to organize it. Despite some amount of damage, production at JBS is resuming right away; everyone needs an income. We can expect the community to keep relief efforts ongoing while the city recovers.

Solidarity among all of us is the number one thing we need to help show Lennox that recommitting to Marshalltown the right thing. So far I think we have been completely successful.

The social, political and cultural issues that divide our nation and communities around the country, including Marshalltown, have been mostly forgotten as we come together as a community. People from around the world have come to live in our city and we were serving each other and healing each other from the Hy-Vee lot to the YMCA lot and out in the neighborhoods.

I believe this whole community is an asset for Lennox. This company has been in Marshalltown for over 100 years. UAW union members have been building Lennox products for 54 years. We have seen the factory known as ‘Lennox’ transform into the multi-billion-dollar corporation now called ‘Lennox Industries International.’ We are all proud of what we’ve achieved together, and we think UAW members in Marshalltown can manufacture the best residential heating and cooling products in the world.

Lennox is one of the most important features of the city of Marshalltown. It is part of our history and part of our spirit. Marshalltown is also part of Lennox, which has earned the admiration of suppliers, customers and competitors by doing right by stakeholders; an impulse put into the company’s DNA when it was founded over a century ago.

This tornado has hurt us badly, but it didn’t kill us, figuratively or literally. I believe that, one year from now in July 2019, instead of it showing how weak we are, we will prove that we were so much stronger than ever knew.