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The 50-year member milestone is fast approaching for James R. Graham of Local 200 – just three short years.
This retired UBC Local 200 of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters is a former general carpenter, organizer, business representative and office manager, but Graham remains active with the UBC: He is an instructor for the journeymen, third-year apprentice, and delegate leadership training programs for the UBC’s Education Department.
It’s that diversity of experience throughout his career as a carpenter that serves as the groundwork for his duties as President of the Whitehall, Ohio city council.
“During delegate training, we were talking about leadership and how it was important for our members to get involved in their communities, and I thought, ‘you know what, here I am telling people to be a leader. I should lead by example.’”
So Graham ran for office. And he’s equally proud of winning as he is the method he used to campaign.
“I did it the way any member could do it. I made-up my own flyers. Fellow members helped pass out literature. I knocked on doors. I talked to everyone. It was lot of hard work, but I did it. I beat an incumbent, ran unopposed on my second term, and then unopposed for Council president,” he said. “Now, I can be one-hundred percent honest and say ‘you can do it. You don’t need some big machine, you just have to go out and talk to people.’”
Graham says his new position also gives him the stage to educate constituents about the union movement.
“Being in politics gives me the opportunity to make contacts with others that hold political offices. Once I establish a relationship, I can change their mindset – especially on organized labor. I’ve influenced some and changed their minds about what a union is and stands for. Of the people I talk to, their opinion of the carpenters union is totally different now.”
“I did it the way any member could do it. I made-up my own flyers. Fellow members helped pass out literature. I knocked on doors. I talked to everyone. It was lot of hard work, but I did it.”