Working people continue to face daily assault. The economic and political attacks and repression against working-class and oppressed communities and organizations have intensified. Organized labor — barely one-tenth of the workforce today — is the last defensive bastion of the working class. Corporate executives, Republican, and corporate Democrat leaders know that if they destroy the union movement, they eliminate the last substantial obstacle to their greedy agenda. Workers are responding with strikes, new political insurgencies, and many other forms of mass fightback.
At UE’s 76th Convention, delegates unanimously endorsed the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a staunch ally to our union since his days as mayor of Burlington, VT in the 1980s. His campaign platform read like the UE policy book. Putting Bernie Sanders in the White House would have been a historic achievement for the working class. While Sanders’ campaign was unable to overcome the corporate and establishment forces in the Democratic Party, his two historic campaigns for president fundamentally shifted the political terrain, highlighting the fundamental conflict between the working class and the corporations who seek to exploit us.
President Biden and the Democratic establishment have clearly abandoned delivering anything of substance for working people on the federal level. In the first few months of Biden’s presidency, the American Rescue Plan Act delivered real benefits to working people — and boosted Biden’s popularity. Since then, however, Biden and Democrats in Congress have ended pandemic aid, increased taxes on the working class, maintained cruel immigration policies, crushed a potential rail strike, and expanded fossil-fuel drilling. Rather than deliver for working people, the Democratic establishment seems to be relying on voters’ rejection of Republican extremism.
Even more disturbing — and insulting — is establishment Democrats’ unwillingness to support working-class struggles in so-called “red states,” or even “red” areas of swing states like Ohio. Neither Biden nor any other prominent Democratic politicians were to be found anywhere near the nearly two-year-long strike by the United Mine Workers of America at Warrior Met in Alabama; Biden similarly declined to visit East Palestine, Ohio after a train derailment dumped massive amounts of toxic chemicals into that rural community. These two high-profile cases could have provided Democrats an opportunity to demonstrate that they are allies to working people facing the onslaught of corporate greed. Instead, right-wing demagogues Donald Trump and J.D. Vance — neither of whom has the slightest intention of regulating the railroads or forcing them to make restitution — flocked to the area, making the unfortunately plausible claim that Biden and the Democrats “don’t care” about rural working-class communities like East Palestine.
The Democratic Party, after years of being largely dominated by corporate interests, is now facing an internal battle as unabashedly pro-worker candidates are running and winning at the congressional, state, and local levels. This, combined with campaigns like Fight for $15, strikes across the economy, and other pushbacks against economic inequality, has put pressure on Democratic politicians to stand up for working people. However, much of the Democratic Party establishment remains quietly indifferent or even hostile to our agenda.
The Republican Party is not leaving anything to chance. Having convinced a significant part of their base that the democratic process is not legitimate if it results in Democrats being elected, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been busy passing legislation designed to suppress the votes of working-class people and people of color. While legislation was introduced in Congress to protect the right to vote in 2021 (the For the People Act, S. 1), it was defeated by Republican intransigence and the defection of corporate Democrats.
It is essential that working people defeat the anti-worker and anti-democratic Republican Party in 2024, even as we are clear-eyed about the shortcomings of the Democrats and the need to build an independent party of working people. Faced with this clearly corrupt and dysfunctional political system, it is hardly surprising that both Biden’s and Trump’s 2024 candidacies are opposed by clear majorities of Americans.
The remarkable working-class upsurge that rose in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating. We are seeing this in both fights in the shop, as union members take advantage of the leverage afforded by a tight labor market to press for higher wages, and on the new organizing front. However, this upsurge has yet to find a coherent or consistent political expression, as our nation’s politics continue to be defined by increasingly sharp rhetorical divisions between the two corporate parties, neither of which is interested in uniting the working class.
UE locals have been active in the Medicare for All campaign throughout the nation, working with other progressive unions like National Nurses United. UE continues to educate our members through workshops and member meetings about the importance of getting involved and supporting the Medicare for All movement. Rank-and-file leaders from UE Local 1008 have participated in Medicare for All actions in southern California, and UE Local 150 has been an active member of the North Carolina Medicare for All coalition.
We also need to continue to fight for higher wages. Thanks to the Fight for $15 movement that UE is actively involved in, many states and local governments have passed $15 minimum wages, which have helped secure larger wage increases at the bargaining table. We need to continue to build a movement that brings attention to wages and continue to fight for a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour.
The pandemic has made the public aware that workers are essential and without us, the working class, society cannot function. As workers, we have the power to run society. Billionaires and the ruling class are not essential to society. We need to continue to fight and organize independently from both major political parties and unite all workers around our class interests as workers and build more working-class politics. As UE, we need to push for reforms that help the masses of working people like Medicare for All, canceling student debt and free higher education, national hazard pay for all essential workers, health and safety for essential workers, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, national rent control, and to form our political party for the workers, by the workers.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 78th UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on the union at all levels to:
- Educate and mobilize the membership to carry forward a working-class political program;
- Support only lawmakers and candidates who consistently take concrete actions to defend working people;
- Mobilize the membership and work with allies to promote worker issues, including full collective bargaining rights for all workers, and to elect pro-worker candidates;
- Calls on locals and regions to contact lawmakers on key issues through petitions, letters, phone calls, emails, lobby visits, annual political action days, town hall meetings, rallies, marches, civil disobedience, and other means to gain positive political action;
- Urges all locals to undertake workplace campaigns to register members and their families to vote, and to encourage participation in all elections, from the local to the national level;
- Encourages locals and regions to engage in local independent political action to ensure that all people are able to exercise the right to vote;
- Encourages UE regions, locals, and members to become involved in Our Revolution, Labor for Our Revolution, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, and other working-class movements for economic and racial justice;
- Reaffirms our support for the formation of an independent working-class political party.