UE’s 73rd National Convention, held August 25-29 in Chicago, was a success. Over a very busy five days, delegates from UE locals around the country discussed and adopted more than 30 resolutions setting the union’s course for the next two years in bargaining, organizing and political action; participated in workshops that enhanced their union skills; and rallied on the streets of Downtown Chicago against three giant corporations that are driving down or holding down wages: GE, Walmart and McDonald’s.
The convention heard enlightening and inspiring speeches from Rev. William Barber, leader of North Carolina’s massive “Moral Mondays” fightback movement; Kristine Mayle, one of the militant new leaders who have turned the Chicago Teachers Union into a major force in the fight to defend public education; Jesus Chuy Garcia, Cook County Commissioner and a longtime Chicago activist and friend of UE; Chicago’s Rev. Dr. Calvin Morris, a leader in important activist organizations from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to Jobs with Justice; and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (Dem.-Illinois).
In his keynote address to the convention, President Bruce Klipple assessed the difficult political and economic landscape faced by workers today, and the courageous and exemplary struggles waged by UE locals over the past two years. He said that UE personifies the three-word slogan adopted for this year’s convention, “Resist, Revive, Resurge”, and the rest of the labor movement would do well to adopt more of our principles and tactics. “Because we refuse to join the “race to the bottom today, some tell us, ‘Well UE, they’re out of touch, still living in the past.’ I say the hell we are, because we’re not giving in, we’re not giving up, join and fight with us, or get the hell out of the way. We’ll show you how a union fights back, because it’s who we are!”
On Monday afternoon, Director of Organization Bob Kingsley delivered the organizing report, which also involved newly-organized workers, and UE elected leaders and staff who have helped bring in new members, coming to the stage to report on their struggles and successes. “We must stand up and fight for our rights or soon we will have none at all,” said Kingsley, as he described the innovative tactics the union has used to build the workers’ movement over the past two years, despite many obstacles. He also introduced the UE Young Activists who attended the convention, and who participated in educational and organizing events in the two days preceding the convention. The Young Activists later that day also served as marshals, organizing and directing the march and rallies at GE Transportation’s offices, a McDonald’s in the heart of busy Union Station, and a nearby Walmart store.
Secretary-Treasurer Andrew Dinkelaker made a detailed presentation on the union’s finances to the Wednesday morning session, and reviewed the proposal to switch to a system of per capita payments by locals to the national union based on a formula of 1.65 hours wages per member per month. On Wednesday afternoon delegates voted to approve a series of amendments to the UE Constitution, including changes that will phase in the hourly per capita system. Under UE’s democratic procedures, those amendments have now been forwarded to all UE locals for ratification votes by the membership.
The delegates also elected national officers and trustees for the coming two-year term. Klipple, Dinkelaker and Kingsley were reelected without opposition. The trustees will be Lauro Bonilla, Local 1103; Don Brown, Local 506; and Autumn Martinez, Local 255. Chosen as alternate trustees were Sheila Thompson, Local 893; Chris Wolford, Local 170; and James Lynch, Local 222.
There will be much more detailed reports on the UE Convention, including many photos, in the Autumn issue of the UE News, scheduled for publication in early October.