UE left the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1949, when the CIO had lost its militant and progressive direction. With no national labor federation today supporting UE’s rank-and-file principles, we find ways to interact with trade union and community allies who share our approach. Among those places are Jobs with Justice (JwJ) chapters, Labor Notes conferences, and local alliances such as Pittsburgh United and Erie County United in Western Pennsylvania and the newly-formed Community Labor Assemblies in Vermont.
The birth of JwJ in the late 1980s was a response to the failure of business unionism. JwJ was formed by trade unionists, community activists and other progressives as a way to work together for workers’ rights. There are currently 37 JwJ chapters across the country. Whether walking picket lines, supporting organizing campaigns, or staging town-hall style Workers’ Rights Board hearings, JwJ does the work that the formal labor federations are incapable of or unwilling to do.
Labor Notes and its network of supporters have promoted rank-and-file unionism within the U.S. labor movement for 38 years. It has become an indispensable resource for trade unionists. UE leaders, rank-and-file members, and staff contribute regularly to Labor Notes, sharing our experiences and analyses with other trade unionists worldwide. Labor Notes conferences are now the largest gatherings of rank-and-file union members in the country. UE continues to provide some of the largest union delegations at national Labor Notes conferences and plays an important role in conducting workshops and plenary sessions.
JwJ, Labor Notes, and local community-labor coalitions demonstrate the real meaning of the phrase “labor solidarity.” UE locals throughout the country receive aid from these kinds of alliances. Both Erie County United and Pittsburgh United actively supported UE Locals 506 and 618 in their strike and contract negotiations with Wabtec this past winter, and members of the Burlington, Vermont area Community Labor Assembly have been assisting UE Local 203 with community outreach regarding their contract fight.
The basis for UE’s participation in local, national and international coalitions, organizations and gatherings has always been a desire to build a more vigorous, responsive, and relevant working-class movement, and to work with allies — both trade unions and community organizations — regardless of affiliation status, size, or politics. If another world is possible, a world of justice for working people, we need a rank-and-file movement to make it a reality.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 76th UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on the union at all levels to:
- Participate in, support, and join Jobs with Justice and other formations that bring together unions and community organizations;
- Participate in the next Labor Notes Conference in Chicago on April 17-19, 2020;
- Encourages members and locals to participate in or assist the formation of Labor Notes Troublemaker schools, subscribe to Labor Notes, purchase bulk subscriptions and books, and submit articles for publication.