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.”
Delegates also elected a new General President — Carl Rosen, current president of UE’s Western Region, whose term will start when current General President Peter Knowlton retires at the end of October.
“We are in dire straits in this country,” Knowlton told the convention in his address, “but we have the ability to turn it around.” He suggested that the endorsement of Sanders, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All, along with the rest of UE Policy debated and passed by UE delegates, points the way forward for a working class that continues to face daily assault by employers and politicians.
The room reflected UE’s evolution into a true “union for everyone.” UE’s membership is now approximately one-third manufacturing workers, one-third public-sector workers, and one-third workers in the private service sector. Members of UE manufacturing locals organized in the 1930s and 40s — Local 506 and 618 members from the GE Transportation (now Wabtec) plant in Erie, PA, Local 243 members from Sargent Lock in New Haven, CT, Local 274 members from Greenfield Tap & Die (now owned by Kennametal) in Western Massachusetts — rubbed shoulders with dispatchers and school-district workers from Connecticut (Local 222), state social workers from Iowa (Local 893), municipal workers from North Carolina (Local 150), rail crew drivers from Illinois, California, Texas and New Mexico (Locals 1177, 1077, 977 and 1477), workers from California who serve individuals with developmental disabilities (Local 1018) and co-op workers from Vermont, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Locals 203, 255 and 667 and the UE organizing committee at Willy Street Co-op) — all of whom joined UE in the last three decades.
What unites UE members is a commitment to democratic, independent rank-and-file unionism. As UE’s officers declared in the convention call, “We have learned that no matter what sector you hail from, UE’s long and vibrant history of aggressive struggle lives on. UE has always been, and will continue to be, a force for worker democracy and solidarity for everyone.”