Members of UMWA Local Union 4011 work at Wood Memorial High School. The school is located off Interstate 161 North in the town of Oakland City, Indiana, and is operated by the East Gibson School Corporation. It is the smallest of the three high schools in Gibson County. Students attending Wood Memorial are from the rural areas of Barton Center and Columbia Townships.
There are currently 277 students enrolled at Wood Memorial, home of the Trojans.
UMWA Local Union 4011 Members carry out the day-today custodial and maintenance duties at the High School.
“The history of the United Mine Workers is rooted in representing Members from the more rural areas of our country,” said Secretary- Treasurer Allen. “We are very proud of the Members who live and work in these small communities. They not only provide essential services to these towns and villages, they are the bedrock that holds these communities together. I consider it an honor to call them my Sisters and Brothers. These Members make our Union great.”
Members Working Together for the Students
The day shift crew arrives at the school at six a.m. to begin their on-the-job duties in preparation for the student’s arrival. Debbie Williams has been working at the school for 19 years. Debbie started as a part-time employee before eventually being hired to a full-time position at the school and she immediately joined the the UMWA.
“When I first arrive in the mornings, I have several duties that I start off with,” Williams stated. “I get here before the students every morning so I can make sure all of the lights are working properly. I also check to be sure all the supplies are stocked and the chairs are in place in the cafeteria. Then I make sure the bathrooms are clean for the students, and help maintain the gymnasium. We want the students to feel safe and comfortable in their environment when they arrive at school each day.” The night-shift crew takes care of cleaning all the rooms, hallways, emptying the trash and getting the school ready for the next day’s activities.
Ralph Ewin has been a UMWA Member for 10 years and is in charge of the cafeteria. He also spends a majority of his time working in the gymnasium that was completely refurbished four years ago. “The school was built about 50 years ago, so it was definitely time for some updating and improvements,” said Ewin. “I’m very proud of the work we have done to renovate and maintain the gym. The floor was completely refurbished, and I painted the stripes along the walls to give it a fresh look. After the floor and painting was completed, I rehung all of the signs on the walls.”
Brother Ewin has been the Local Union President for the past two years. He has a lot of pride when it comes to his job with Wood Memorial.
“I know the students are very appreciative of all the work that has been put into giving our gymnasium a new and modern look. We all do our best to make sure the students have a nice, clean and healthy environment when they walk through the doors each morning.” “The members of Local Union 4011 are very hard-working people,” said International District 12 Vice President Steve Earle. “Every one of these Members goes to work every day with one thing in mind, how can I help the students at Wood Memorial High School today. They provide a great service to the high school and all the students who attend. We are all very proud they are UMWA Members.”
The Union Fights for What is Right
Ralph’s wife, Darla, has been a member of the United Mine Workers for 14 years and also works as part of the custodial staff at Wood Memorial. Since July, 2017, Darla has been the Recording Secretary for Local Union 4011. Darla started at Wood Memorial as a part-time employee and held that position for over nine years until it was eliminated. After Darla’s part-time position was eliminated, she returned as a night-shift custodian, until a day-time position became available.
“When my wife came back on the day shift, East Gibson School Corporation didn’t want to recognize the years of service she earned from her previous job at the school,” said Brother Ewin. “If it wasn’t for the Union fighting for her, she would have lost all her seniority. They wanted to consider her a new hire. With the help of the Union, she was able to maintain her seniority, and we are both grateful for that. The Union stood up for what was right, and we will never forget it.”
“The UMWA is very proud of the diverse Membership we represent,” said President Roberts. “The Union is made up of hard-working members all across this country who are very skilled individuals in a variety of occupations. Every one of them are important to the Union’s continuing success, and we appreciate their dedication and professionalism. The Members of Local Union 4011 make a difference in the lives of each student who attends Wood Memorial, and we appreciate the job they do.”
It’s Not Just About the Job
Local Union 4011 Members not only arrive at work to perform their specific job duties, they also go above and beyond what is in their job description. On any given shift, they may have to repair a water leak or deal with an electrical issue. They may change air filters, mop, sweep and even do repairs on the rooftop. UMWA Member Andy Willis likes his job at the school, but he truly enjoys working and interacting with the students.
“In 2007, the girls’ basketball team made a run to the state championship game but lost one step shy of the title”, said Willis. “In 2017, the team made it to the state championship game, and we won. It was a great feeling to see the students celebrate their victory, and it was great to be part of that excitement.” The Members of Local Union 4011 were there to cheer on their state championship team and are extremely proud of the students they see on a daily basis.
“Trust me, it was a big deal,” said Member Debbie Williams. “We couldn’t have been prouder of the Wood Memorial girls’ basketball team.”
Brother Ewin agreed with Williams. “The whole town was very supportive of the team,” said Ewin. “It was great for all of the Members who work at the school with these students every single day. It was great to be a part of their victory celebration and for us to let them know how much we care. We feel like they appreciate the hard work we do at the school, and we wanted to let them know how much we appreciate their hard work too. We are very proud of them.”