|ONLINE VERSION||AUGUST 1999|
Age to Take Care
Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us who were young Turks in the mid 70s and early 80s are getting older. While I don't like to use the term "middle age," if the shoe fits, wear it. Given the nature of our craft, the endless traveling and the detailed, difficult, skilled physical work required in order to remain the most productive MofW craft in the world, our stress levels are high and the environment in which we work--not the healthiest. Much of the reason why our craft is so committed to 55 and 30 reflects the conditions and stress under which we work coupled with our rising ages. It is critical that we take care of ourselves and each other. But the consequences of aging doesn't only affect those who work in our craft or perform detailed, difficult, skilled physical work.
Over the past month, several full time union officials within rail labor have had health problems that reflect the "greying" of our work force. Rich Foley, Secretary-Treasurer of the BRS died of a heart attack in late June. Brother Foley was in his mid-40s. Clint Miller, General Counsel for the United Transportation Union had an episode during a high stakes hearing which required him to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. He is also in his 40s or early 50s. Fortunately, he appears to be alright. One of our Vice Presidents will have heart-related surgery at the end of July. He is in his mid-40s. None of those mentioned work under the trying physical conditions that our members who work in the BMWE craft work.
I hear regularly now of BMWE and other craft members my age and younger who suffer strokes, heart angioplasties and surgery, painful back problems and a host of other maladies. Many of us find that our colds and sore throats hang on longer - that we've lost a step, etc. Again, this is age-related throughout the crafts and is not something only suffered by BMWE members because of our work, although our members do have their share of these kinds of health problems.
Given this Brothers and Sisters, I ask each and every one of you to monitor yourselves and each other. Perform at your best, of course, but don't literally kill yourselves in that performance. Recognize that conditions and the speed your may have worked under in your 20s and 30s may simply be dangerous for you in your 40s and 50s. Hopefully the railroads and many of the other crafts will recognize this also and get on board the 55 and 30 train so that we railroaders, regardless of craft, will not have many members suffer the fate of Brother Foley - a good, dedicated unionist, a highly intelligent asset to his Union and the Labor Movement as a whole. But under any circumstances if you see yourself, or one of you Brothers and Sisters pushing a little too hard, getting winded a little too quickly, groaning a little too loudly, talk to him or her (or yourself) to ease up, recognize that Mother Nature is speaking and failing to heed her words can have dire consequences.
Obviously, we are all mortal and will eventually die and possibly suffer health consequences along the way. But if we take care of ourselves and as Unionist, each other, most of us can live to a ripe, old age in relatively good health. I urge all of us to take the precautions necessary to live as long and as healthily as possible.