Member of the Quarter | July 06, 2012
Voting and Politics Matter to District 2's Mike Pyne
No one works harder than Mike Pyne when it comes to raising volunteer funds for the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC) in Michigan and Wisconsin.
“He lives and breathes politics and PAC,” USW PAC Director Mike Scarver said of Pyne, the soon-to-retire political and PAC coordinator for District 2.
Pyne is known for running PAC fund raisers at district conferences that Scarver said typically bring in $15,000 to $35,000 for the cause of electing politicians who support the USW and its members.
“If John the Baptist had a conversation with Mike, the conversation wouldn’t end without Mike trying to sell a raffle ticket for PAC,” Scarver said. “No one hustles harder.”
Pyne was nominated for PAC member of the 2012 third quarter by District 2 Director Mike Bolton and International Vice President Jon Geenen, who oversees the union’s paper industry sector.
New ideas for PAC
Pyne, who intends to retire after the November general election, is the district’s most successful PAC coordinator, Bolton said, adding: “He’s always coming up with new ideas to raise money.”
Pyne, however, said the district has more to do to convince members to participate in PAC check-offs and local fundraisers. “I don’t want to leave any impression that we are satisfied,’’ he said in an interview. “We need to do more.”
Pyne began his career as a member of Allied Industrial Workers (AIW) Local 182 at Motor Wheel Corp. in Lansing, Mich., in 1972, and began working on political campaigns almost immediately. He was elected president of the local in 1977 after holding various other offices.
In 1984, he joined the COPE Department of the Michigan AFL-CIO and four years later became an organizer with the AIW, which ultimately became part of the USW.
Pyne transferred to Wisconsin in 1994 and continued to organize for the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU), which in 1999 merged with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) to form the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE). PACE merged with the USW in 2005.
Cornerstone of USW activism
Geenen called Pyne a cornerstone of USW activism.
“He’s really a lifelong political activist and brought an awful lot to UPIU and to PACE and continues to this day to bring a lot to our own political program,” Geenen said.
“And it’s not just PAC funding, although he is an expert at that. If you are going to compete against corporate America, you have to put some skin in the game, and money isn’t the whole picture. The rest is getting boots on the ground and working your tail off.”
Political Director Tim Waters jokingly said that Pyne has worn out a lot of shoes on the sidewalks of small-town Wisconsin doing political canvassing during his career.
“He’s one of those guys who has immeasurable patience in working with union volunteers and activists,’’ Waters said. “He’s made an impact on a lot of people’s lives, that’s for sure.”
Over the decades, Pyne has knocked on doors of more union households than he could ever count. He said he goes election canvassing every time he is asked to do so.
“We have to be involved in politics. It’s the only way we can serve our membership effectively,” Pyne said. “Everything we do, not only as a union but as human beings, is controlled by politicians in this wonderful experiment called democracy.”
Pyne calls voting “the epitome of freedom. It’s our last best chance,” he said, “to have a voice in what’s going on, the affairs of our government.”
After all these years, Pyne said he is still personally hurt when a union member he meets while leafleting at a plant gate says he has given up on politics and will no longer vote.
“I just can’t accept that,’’ he said. “That is precisely what they want you to do, what our enemies in politics, the people who would have slaves, serfs and kings, that’s exactly what they want. That’s their goal.”