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New Labor Council chief aims to motivate

"Lyn Hofland first attended union meetings as a child with her mother. Since then, her interest in organized labor has been strong enough to take her to the top of the Kitsap County Labor Council's leadership hierarchy.Hofland, elected president of the council April 9, is the first woman to hold the position. She presides over monthly meetings of the council, made up of unions like the Steelworkers, Teamsters and Federation of State Employees.Hofland is also president of the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 482, which represents employees of the Retsil Veterans Home in Port Orchard.I have no life except the union, that's what my daughter says, Hofland joked. She attends many evening meetings, but bemoans the apathy surrounding the contemporary labor movement.With 253 dues-paying members (at Retsil) we should get 200 people at the meetings, but we are doing good to get 20, Hofland said. Retsil employees automatically are enrolled in the union after 30 days, Hofland said, and some aren't happy about it. But Hofland said the union protects workers' rights and promotes safe working conditions.For the labor council, the goal is to get family wage jobs in Kitsap County - getting away from McDonald's jobs. They serve their purpose, but if you are a single parent or raising a family, it doesn't cut it. Part of the function of the labor council is to promote worker solidarity - the group is composed of delegates from local unions who talk about common concerns and bounce ideas off one another.When the Steelworkers or the Teamsters strike, we talk about that, Hofland said. We talk about good things, too, organizing people and negotiations.Hofland was vice president of the council, but became president when the Carpenters Union Local 1592 left the organization, taking with it former president Bill Gearllach.Our president on the national level has dedicated 50 percent of our funds to organizing. He felt the AFL-CIO wasn't dedicating as much work and effort toward organizing as we were. He felt the money spent on the AFL-CIO could be better spent in-house, said Gearllach, a business representative for the Carpenters Local 1592. Gearllach says he will still attend labor council meetings, but he will no longer be a voting member.The more labor stands together, the better, Gearllach said. The way we've been coming together on a regular basis - that's still going to happen.In the meantime, Gearllach is confident Hofland has what it takes to lead the Kitsap County Labor Council.She's a very dedicated, very smart lady. She's not afraid to give her point of view. She's strong and she thinks things through. She's always been really active - this is nothing new to her, Gearllach said.Hofland says her biggest obstacle is trying to figure out how to get people motivated. But her co-workers at Retsil say she already does a great job of it.Anne Brillhart, a custodian at Retsil, says Hofland prompted her to start attending union meetings. She now serves on the executive board.I was curious about the union but I didn't know a lot about it. I would hear (Hofland) talk about the meetings and finally I decided to go, Brillhart said.She said most employees are happy with Hofland's leadership and feel she is well-connected.She's totally involved, Brillhart said. She has her foot in more doors than anyone I know. She's a good listener and she goes to bat for us. She goes the extra mile.Hofland said union politics are still male-dominated, but she brings a fresh perspective to the council.The majority of the leaders (are men). I think it's still pretty male-dominated - I'm sure there are some Steelworkers rolling over in their graves because I'm president, Hofland said.Right now, Hofland has her hands full leading the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 482 in the state worker's strike. Employees are rallying for a cap on skyrocketing insurance costs, which cancel out their cost-of-living wage increases. Retsil has conducted several informational pickets, but does not plan a walk out, Hofland said. "

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