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 our last 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. However, following Sanders’ strong performance in Iowa and victory in Nevada, corporate and establishment forces in the Democratic Party coalesced around Joe Biden, and Sanders withdrew from the race in April of 2020. Nonetheless, his two historic campaigns for president have fundamentally shifted the political terrain, highlighting the fundamental conflict between the working class and the corporations who seek to exploit us.
With historic voter turnouts in many different states during the 2020 presidential election, working people sent a clear message: no to the right-wing anti-worker agenda of Trump and his allies. Some states that have traditionally gone red were flipped to blue, and more working people and unions mobilized to get out the vote. UE members from across the nation participated and helped turn out coworkers and community members to the voting polls. Many UE locals had meetings to inform their members about what was at stake in the election. Joe Biden won the presidency, but our work is far from over since he has had a history of supporting a corporate agenda and has long been part of the Democratic Party establishment.
The new year opened with a dramatic bid by Trump to hold on to power, as he encouraged his supporters to disrupt the certification of electoral college results by Congress on January 6. Hundreds of people broke into the Capitol Building, breaking windows and vandalizing congressional offices, in a clear attempt to overturn the will of the voters through violence — a coup. While this coup attempt was unsuccessful in overturning the election, the “big lie” that Trump actually won the 2020 election has become Republican Party orthodoxy, with the pro-Trump leadership in the House ousting Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her caucus leadership position for daring to question it.
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, teachers’ strikes, 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.
This internal fight within the Democratic Party has been playing out in struggles over two budget reconciliation bills in 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March, brought real gains for working people: it extended unemployment, provided direct payments to individuals, increased the child tax credit and gave significant aid to state and local governments and education, while including virtually no corporate welfare. The 2022 budget resolution introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in August includes provisions to create millions of good paying jobs, make it easier for workers to join unions, and expand and improve Medicare. However, corporate Democrats have been threatening to withhold their support unless the bill is watered down. As the 2022 elections approach, it remains to be seen whether the Democrats will continue to use their majority to deliver for working people, or cave to their corporate wing and give working people no reason to come to the polls.
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 has been introduced in Congress to protect the right to vote (the For the People Act, S. 1), Republican intransigence means that it stands no chance of passing unless the Democrats are willing to get rid of the filibuster.
If Republicans regain control of either or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, the insufficient but real gains for working people made in 2021 will be at risk, and any further gains in the federal arena will become virtually impossible. It is essential that working people defeat the anti-worker and anti-democratic Republican Party in 2022, even as we are clear-eyed about the shortcomings of the Democrats and the need to build an independent party of working people.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new spirit of fightback to the working class. Workers have been fighting for hazard pay and putting pressure on federal, state, and local governments to pass laws protecting essential workers. Within our own ranks, UE Local 150 members that work for city and state governments in North Carolina have been putting pressure on elected officials to pass budgets that reflect the needs of public workers with wage increases, hazard pay, more PPE, and health and safety workplace policies.
UE locals have also 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 in workplaces. 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 77th 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 the 2022 midterm elections;
- Demands that Congress enact the For the People Act;
- 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.