The National Convention, held biennially, is the highest decision-making body in UE. It is composed of rank-and-file delegates elected by members of their local unions, plus two delegates from each Region Council.
Members Set UE Policy
Each local, and Region Council, is encouraged to submit policy resolutions for consideration by the delegates. The union's General Executive Board also submits proposals to the Convention. Following discussion and debate, delegates vote to adopt resolutions. Those that are accepted become the policy of the union.
Delegates also vote on any necessary changes to the Constitution, which must then be ratified by a majority of all UE locals before they can take effect.
At the Convention
UE Conventions last a total of five days and, by Constitution, must be held in either August or September.
Delegates from each Region elect members to committees which guide the work of the Convention.Committees generally meet when the Convention is not in formal session, usually early in the Convention week.
While most of the Convention itself is devoted to the formal business of running the union (delegates debating and adopting resolutions and accepting or rejecting Committee Reports on the work of the union), guest speakers are invited to address the delegates on important issues. Convention-wide workshops are also held as part of the union's educational work. The Convention week is a great experience, but don't let anyone kid you—it's also a lot of work!
Election of Officers
On Wednesday, delegates nominate and elect the UE's three top officers (officially known as the General Officers). Delegates also elect three Trustees, one from each Region and three alternates one from each region, who are responsible for auditing UE's books and records four times a year and safeguarding the property of the National Union. Any UE member in good standing for a year or more is eligible to run for national office.
The Officers Report
The three national officers (General President, General Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Organization) have the responsibility of giving leadership to and implementing the policies and programs adopted by the National Convention.
At the Convention, the officers report to the delegates on their stewardship of the union during the previous two years. Specific topics include organizing, servicing of UE locals and administration of the union's Political Action, Education, Publicity, and International Solidarity programs.
Pay of Officers and Staff
On the recommendation of the General Executive Board, delegates to the Convention also set the pay of the General Officers and UE Staff (Field Organizers and International Representatives) for the following two years.
By Constitution, UE's three national officers "shall be paid a salary not to exceed the highest weekly wage in the industry." To put it simply: UE officers can't be paid more than the members they represent.
This may be surprising, but we believe it's important for UE leaders to live like the members. We know that "boss-sized" salaries lead to "boss-like" points of view—and union leaders who are out of touch with their memberships.
The other question often raised has been "how do you get the best leadership?" The answer is easy. Since pay has never been the reason to run for office, then the motivation must come from something else. Like dedication. We think that's a much better motivation than "doing it for the money."