UE’s 76th Convention: The Union for Everyone Looks to the Future

October 23, 2019

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 PresidentCarl 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.”

UE 76th Convention Coverage

Organizing Report Demonstrates UE in “Fighting Shape”

October 23, 2019

“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.”

UE Members Take a Strong Stand For Unity and Against Discrimination

October 23, 2019

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.”

Convention Hears Youth Climate Leader, Endorses Green New Deal and Climate Strike

October 23, 2019

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.

State Rep. Summer Lee Tells Delegates: “Take the Power”

October 23, 2019

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.

Leaders, Young Activists from North American Solidarity Project Unions Join Convention

October 23, 2019

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.

Former Secretary-Treasurer Newell Speaks at Women's Fundraising Luncheon

October 23, 2019

On Monday, August 26, UE held a new convention event highlighting women’s leadership in honor of former UE organizer Florence Criley. Former UE General Secretary-Treasurer Amy Newell was a featured speaker at this sold-out fundraising luncheon.

Eastern Region president Donna Morgan gave remarks about Criley, who was an organizer with UE for 30 years. She was known as a tireless organizer of unorganized workers as well as a crusader in our shops battling against a bad boss or a raiding union.

Carl Rosen Elected UE General President

August 29, 2019

Delegates to UE’s 76th Convention, meeting in Pittsburgh, elected Western Region President Carl Rosen to be the next General President of the union. 

Rosen has been a member of UE since 1984 when he joined UE Local 190 in Chicago upon being hired at Kerr Glass. He worked at Kerr for 10 years as a maintenance electrician and served in various positions for the local including steward. During that time he was elected to the UE District 11 executive board and then, in 1990, to the position of secretary-treasurer, at which point he began serving on the UE General Executive Board. In 1994, Rosen was elected as UE District 11 President and went to work full-time for the union.  When District 11 was succeeded by the Western Region in 2006, Rosen was elected as regional president, the position he continues to hold today.


If you like what you read, please consider subscribing to the UE NEWS — for as little as $5/year you can support great labor journalism and receive the print edition of the UE NEWS four times per year.

You can also sign up to receive monthly UE NEWS Bulletins via email, or follow UE on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.