During discussion of the resolution “Defend Our Civil Liberties,” Local 506 President Scott Slawson called on “our national, our regions, our locals and our members to take up the task of coming up with a plan to beat back all the bullsh-t we are facing from those that challenge our civil liberties and our very existence.”
He chose to speak on the resolution on civil liberties, he said, because “my local was directly affected by McCarthy-era laws.” Local 506 President John Nelson “was fired from General Electric because of his refusal to succumb to the pressures of our own government violating civil liberties.”
Nelson, who died prematurely at age 42, “was willing to give his life to the defense of our members, the UE and the labor movement as a whole.”
Slawson said that the attacks on Nelson are the reason that Local 506 has a full-time president today. “Our local made the decision at that time that no president of Local 506 would ever again be persecuted for standing up for its members, our great union, and working class people's rights everywhere.”
Turning to the present day, Slawson noted that “today, our freedoms are challenged at every level, including local, state, federal, and even from our own employers ... It seems like every time we make progress somebody passes a law that knocks us two steps back.”
He expressed solidarity with UE members in the public sector who face restrictions on their right to collective bargaining and the impact of the 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision, which imposed “right-to-work” conditions on the entire public sector, although he said, “I don’t pretend to understand” what such locals are living through. He emphasized that “those of us that have the ability, have the responsibility” to act.
“We need to understand, there are many forces trying to threaten our civil liberties and when they get done repressing one group of us, they will move on to the next. It is a vicious cycle that won’t stop until we are willing to collectively say in one voice: Stop!
“We need to be prepared to fight, not just for our locals, but collectively for all of our locals. We need to be collectively prepared to mount an attack and go on the offensive to beat back those that choose to block our advancement.”