It is a snapshot of history. Dozens of snapshots line the walls of UAW 599. At one time it was the largest UAW local in the nation with 28,000 members. Now it has just 500 members. On March 17th the building will be auctioned off. No longer occupying much of the office space, the local says they will move in to a smaller facility to save on operating costs, though they don't yet know where. Local 599 President Bill Jordan expressed no reservation about the decision, though he is emotional about leaving a building so many auto workers felt was their second home.
"It has to be done. Its a thing you have to do," says Jordan, "but I relate it like a family where a man and woman get married they have 4 or 5 bedrooms and the children grow up and move out and now he's in a 2,000 square foot home and they haven't walked in 3 of the bedrooms in 2 years. You have to do it, but when you walk out the door you can remember your daughter, your son, things like that."
Jordan admitted it was hard to let go of the building and an emotional time for members and laments that the move has to happen on his watch. "I wish someone else were sitting here when we left," he said.
The photos that line the walls tell the story of the heyday of the world's largest automaker, General Motors, in the city where it was born. They depict visits from dignitaries, such as Presidential candidates and Senators, and one photo in particular of African-American and white workers dining together, something we take for granted now, but the photo depicts the role unions in Flint had in the civil rights movement.
"Just as peaceful as heck we just told 'em if my friend can't come in that I work with because he happens to be black or white," says Jordan, "I guess I won't be here either. When you get a bar or retaraunt owner who gets told you have 20,000 people who will boycott you if you don't know how to serve everybody all of a sudden he learns how to serve everybody."
The end of an era here, and across the street from the former Buick City site and the Powertain North complex in its final stages of demolition. Jordan says moving on, both at the union hall, and at the plant complex across the street is a good thing.
"The tearing down is a sign of progress because it has been closed we knew it was going to close," says Jordan. "So even though every day I drive by and see another section down and remember that's where I worked or I worked with so and so here and there, I also have to realize maybe something else can come up."