Photo by C.J. Hamilton
Bobbie Billingsley Worked to Help Others
Renee Seals bought a small metal cross to put on the door at UAW Local 112 when her friend Bobbie Billingsley suddenly died in a car accident. The 18-inch cross helped let members know that there wouldn’t be a union meeting that night.
Seals, a quality team member at the Vance, Alabama, Mercedes-Benz plant and a trustee of the local, brought the cross home with her to honor her friend who worked hard in the ongoing drive to bring UAW representation to the facility.
But something didn’t seem right about having the cross in her house. Billingsley, a former paint shop worker fired by Mercedes for her pro-union activities, put her heart and soul into the organizing drive.
“She carried a cross for the UAW,” Seals said, remembering her friend who worked at the union hall as a temporary organizer. “That was her cause. I’m going to put it back at the hall.”
Billingsley died April 7 as she pulled into the union hall parking lot. She had requested part of the previous day off to deal with a recent family tragedy. Dedicated to her cause, she returned the next day – her day off – to add more pro-union co-workers to the database when the accident happened.
“She loved her family. She loved the Lord and she loved the UAW,” Seals said.
Seals didn’t know Billingsley when she worked for Mercedes and became friends after she decided to help in the drive to bring UAW representation to the plant. She discovered that Billingsley had a strong personality and wasn’t easily intimidated, even when the company came after her.
To those who knew and loved her, how she lived her life will be how she will be remembered.
“We all loved her so much and we miss her more and more every day,” said her daughter, Claudia. “She was successful in every project that she was involved in. That’s how we know the union will make it into Mercedes-Benz. She fought so hard so that everyone in those plants would be treated equally and we’re praying that her work makes a difference.”
For George Jones, president of Local 112, Billingsley made a difference every day.
“I’ve never really met anyone who was that passionate about helping out,” Jones said. “She was very passionate and very compassionate in respect to others.”
Billingsley left behind four children, Christopher, Kimberly, Claudia, and Kenya; and four grandchildren, Desire and Christopher, Jr. and Anthony and Kaisen McKenzie.
“We would like to add our condolences to the family of Bobbie Billingsley, whose passion to serve her co-workers was unmatched,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Transnational Department. “The example she set at Local 112 is one of hard work, dedication and total commitment to her co-workers. She will be sorely missed.”
Seals said she will honor her union sister’s mission by continuing to press until Mercedes workers in Alabama have the same rights to union representation as elsewhere in the world.
“When Bobbie passed away, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, we can’t stop now.”