Although they were unable to gather in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 delegates from UE locals across the U.S. nonetheless held a successful virtual convention from September 20-24, with all of the inspiration, education, democracy and solidarity of a regular UE convention. They were joined by dozens of guests, including rank-and-file members, new UE members from recent organizing campaigns, retired UE officers and staff, and guests from allied unions Unifor (Canada) and the FAT (Mexico).
Guest speakers addressing the UE 77th convention included Unifor National President Jerry Dias, AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson, Congressman Jesus "Chuy" García, civil rights and public health leader Dr. Linda Murray, and retired UE Political Action Director Chris Townsend.
In his final organizing report to a UE convention before his retirement at the end of October, Director of Organization Gene Elk gave an overview of what he called “one of the most fruitful periods for organizing in UE that I can remember.
“Despite the pandemic and despite outrageous attacks on the labor movement, I am proud to say that organizing is alive and well in UE,” Elk told delegates “Neither the pandemic nor the attack from the right could stop us from carrying out UE’s mission to organize the unorganized.
In his organizing report to the 77th UE convention, Director of Organization Gene Elk gave an overview of what he called “one of the most fruitful periods for organizing in UE that I can remember.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made unions even more important for defending the interests and the very lives of workers, delegates to UE’s 77th Convention reported. UE leaders from across the country reported on their locals’ efforts to protect the health and safety of UE members — and, in many cases, the communities they serve.
Convention delegates overwhelmingly approved resolutions on Independent Rank-and-File Political Action and Medicare for All, recognizing, as the resolution on independent political action states, that “We need to continue to fight and organize independently from both major political parties and unite all workers around our class interests as workers.” Both resolutions embody long-standing UE policy.
“It's very important that we unite and come together and have conversations and talk about [topics that] none of us should be afraid to talk about,” said Antwon Gibson, Local 610, speaking on the resolution “Fight Racism.” That resolution, along with resolutions on the rights of women, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people, passed by overwhelming majorities. The resolutions inspired dozens of delegates to share their experiences and thoughts about the many ways that bosses use differences in skin color, gender, sexual orientation and national origin to divide working people, and how best to fight for working-class unity.
Because of UE’s commitment to member education, workshops made up a large part of Wednesday, the third day of convention.
On Wednesday afternoon, convention delegates watched video messages from UE allies from Japan, Italy, Quebec and Mexico. All of them reported how working people in their countries have had their lives disrupted by the pandemic, but are fighting for safe jobs and a secure future.
UE allies from Japan, Italy, Quebec and Mexico sent video greetings to the UE 77th Convention. All of them reported how working people in their countries have had their lives disrupted by the pandemic, but are fighting for safe jobs and a secure future.