Delegates Take Strong Stand Against Racism, Hear from International Guests

September 19, 2023

As Day 3 of UE’s 78th Convention opened, delegates considered the resolution “Fight Racism” — a topic about which UE members had a lot to say. Over a dozen members spoke on the resolution, all expressing strong support for what Angaza Laughinghouse from Local 150 called a “very powerful resolution.”

Ricky Steele
Ricky Steele, Local 506.

Ricky Steele, Local 506, said, “When we see racism on our shop floor, regardless of how small of an act it is, we have to stand up and speak up against it.” Cedric Whelchel, Local 1177, declared, “We are all God’s children and if you can’t stand up for a person of color, you can’t stand up for yourself.” Fred Hatef, Local 1008, pointed out that “Fighting racism means fighting it internationally as well,” noting the racist nature of anti-Chinese rhetoric and of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

In the afternoon session, delegates were joined by international guests from Japan, Mexico, and Quebec. Takeshi Takeshita and Keisuke Fuse, both deputy secretaries-general of Japan’s militant labor federation Zenroren, said, “Our unions have a long history of friendship and solidarity” and of working together to “defend peace, democracy, and human and workers’ rights.”

Sonia Vázquez of the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo in Mexico, a rank-and-file worker from a garment factory, described how she and her co-workers threw out a corrupt union. With the assistance of the FAT, they successfully negotiated a new contract with improved wages and other benefits.

Chantal Ide
Chantal Ide, CSN.

Chantel Ide of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) in Quebec spoke on the convention theme of “Building Strike Power.” She described one recent, one ongoing, and one potential upcoming strike by CSN members, noting that “Going on strike is an act of courage, an act of solidarity. It’s never a decision that workers take lightly. This is how we win the respect we deserve as workers.”

In a recorded video, Roxane Dubois of UE’s Canadian sister union Unifor said that in the current moment, “Support for our demands is high, support for unions is high. Now is the time to build our unions and ... fight for the better world workers deserve.”

The convention also watched solidarity videos from the Italian metalworkers’ union FIOM, the metalworkers’ union affiliated with the French CGT, and CNM, the metalworkers’ union affiliated with the CUT labor federation in Brazil.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, delegates participated in workshops on a wide variety of topics, including steward basics, climate justice, racial justice, labor law, and how to build strike power. Following the end of the afternoon session, delegates broke into industrial caucuses to discuss conditions and coordinate activity in the various industries in which UE represents workers, including manufacturing, higher education, rail crew drivers, federal contractors, retail grocery, the public sector, and health and human services.


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