SPRING HILL: Now comes a hero

Union chief, once reviled, now honored

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, workers from Saturn Corp.'s United Auto Workers Local 1853 booed UAW International President Steve Yokich off the stage of a Tennessee high school. He vowed never to return. But he could not have dreamed what awaited him August 28 - the town of Spring Hill, Tennessee, named a street after him.

'There were times I wasn't too welcome here,' Yokich admitted before an audience of Saturn workers and Tennessee politicians, referring to the days when the local and the international union disagreed over work rules. 'But here I am again.'

If events a decade ago bothered Yokich, it did not show at his road-naming ceremony. 'It may be my name on the road signs,' said the beaming labor leader, 'but it's the hard-working men and women of the UAW who have helped Saturn and countless other employers make great products.'

The road, formerly the Town Center Parkway, was renamed Stephen P. Yokich Parkway. Fittingly, the parkway leads to the UAW Local 1853 local hall driveway and credit union.

Just before speaking to the crowd, Yokich walked away from the microphone, bent down and picked up a penny on the stage. 'Just like that bad penny,' he said, 'I keep turning up.'

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