Under the slogan, “UE: The Union for Everyone,” delegates from UE locals across the country met in Pittsburgh from August 25-29 for UE’s 76th National Convention. UE members made several historic decisions: unanimously endorsing Bernie Sanders for President, becoming the first union with significant manufacturing membership to endorse the “Green New Deal,” and reaffirming UE’s long-held support for single-payer healthcare, now commonly referred to as “Medicare for All.”
On Monday morning, August 26, UE convention delegates voted unanimously to endorse Bernie Sanders for President.
“We live in dangerous times,” declared UE Director of Organization Gene Elk as he introduced the organizing report to the Convention on Monday afternoon. “The National Labor Relations Board, which was originally established to help organize unions, has been turned over to the union-busters that seek to destroy us” and “income inequality is skyrocketing, as stock prices continue at record levels and good-paying jobs disappear.”
Delegates to UE’s 76th Convention reaffirmed the union's longstanding commitment to Medicare for All, unanimously endorsing a resolution on Tuesday morning declaring that “the U.S. employer-based private health insurance system is a disaster” and demanding that Congress pass H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019.
The commitment to international solidarity that is a core UE value was on display at the convention, as guests from Canada, Mexico, Italy and Japan joined UE members to celebrate victories, share experiences and reaffirm solidarity.
UE convention delegates debated and adopted resolutions on Wednesday morning committing the union to a strong stand against racism, sexism, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolutions declare that racism “has always been a roadblock to building a strong labor movement,” that “until women have full and equal rights, all workers are held back,” and that “homophobia and transphobia keep us divided and weaken the labor movement.”
Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, addressed the convention on Wednesday morning. The Sunrise Movement is the youth-led climate justice organization that put the concept of a “Green New Deal” on the political agenda with an audacious occupation of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office in November of last year.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias addressed the UE convention on Sunday morning. “When I come here,” Dias said, “I feel like I’m at home” because “our unions have so much in common.”
The first guest speaker on Sunday morning of UE's 2019 convention was State Representative Summer Lee, who represents a working-class district southeast of Pittsburgh. She was introduced by Local 610 President Antwon Gibson, who told his fellow delegates that Lee was “leading the next wave of folks that are standing up to fight injustice.” During the nine-day strike against Wabtec last winter, Lee “was there at our rallies, fighting right there with us.” Gibson noted how rare it is for a politician to do that.
UE’s 76th Convention was joined by more guests from other unions than any other UE convention in recently memory. Leaders and young activists from the other U.S. and Canadian unions that make up the North American Solidarity Project — Unifor, the Utility Workers Union of America, National Nurses United and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union — joined the convention in various capacities, as did Chris Townsend of the Amalgamated Transit Union.