The power of working people to advance our interests, resist employer attacks on our conditions, and reshape our society to serve the many, not only the few, can only be realized when we are united in purpose and action. For this reason, organizing the unorganized has always been our union’s primary task.
Even when faced with the attacks on labor unions, working people, immigrants, people of color, and women waged by the Trump administration and other right-wing forces, and even with pandemic conditions, we come to our 77th National Convention able to report significant progress on the organizing front. With help from rank-and-file UE members we organized thousands of new members in California, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
But we did so despite a difficult environment for working people and their unions. The Trump labor board, populated by union-busting lawyers who are just now being moved out of Washington, reversed small gains made during previous administrations, like quick organizing elections. The internment of immigrant families on our southern border, support for white supremacists in Charlottesville and elsewhere have only intensified the attacks on working people.
Meanwhile, the percentage of American workers represented by unions is dangerously low at just 10.8 percent, one of the lowest points in a century. A weaker labor movement, huge corporate tax cuts passed by the Trump administration and pandemic-related job loss has resulted in unprecedented income inequality. Already-weak labor laws are further undermined by employer efforts to evade compliance through the use of temporary staffing agencies, subcontracting, and independent contractor schemes. Privatization continues apace, decimating good public-sector jobs.
Workers are fighting back and UE is helping to lead the way. Since our last national convention, hundreds of thousands of working people have taken to the streets to protest brutality against people of color and to support the Black Lives Matter movement. UE and other unions, along with hundreds of other community and civil rights organizations, successfully registered millions of voters and threw out Trump and the white supremacists who dominated his administration.
But even in light of this renewed militancy and political activism, workers continue to face tremendous obstacles to organizing, from a legal regime stacked against workers, to intense union-busting by employers, to a constant propaganda barrage from the corporate media. In Bessemer, Alabama we witnessed the kind of “legal” union busting campaign which a company like Amazon can employ to stop a predominantly black workforce from becoming its first unionized shop in the U.S. Amazon exploited all of its legal advantages against its workers, like holding deceitful captive audience meetings and plastering its workplace with anti-union propaganda. It also utilized other questionable tactics including new traffic patterns to limit organizer gate access and conspiring with the Post Office to set up temporary mailboxes inside of the plant. This is one of many reasons why UE strongly supports the PRO Act, which restores workers’ right to organize and establishes meaningful penalties on employers who violate those rights.
But facing these challenges means that our organizing work needs to be stronger and smarter. To meet the challenges, UE formed a larger team of dedicated organizing staff. We’ve developed new tools to allow workers to contact us when they are looking for a union. We’ve employed new technology to track and analyze our work and developed new strategies to more effectively generate organizing leads.
As the “Union for Everyone,” we have brought UE’s style of aggressive, rank-and-file unionism to new sectors of the economy where workers are hungry for a fighting, democratic organization. At the same time, we have doubled down on organizing efforts in industries where we have developed a strong track record, such as rail crew transportation, government contractors, graduate workers at both public and private universities, the rail manufacturing sector and consumer grocery cooperatives.
Our innovative organizing work and use of militant tactics should continue. Plant occupations, strategic organizing strikes, and the establishment of pre-majority unions and civil disobedience should be selectively used where warranted by conditions in the workplace.
We will need more trailblazing, along with new ideas and new approaches, if we are to turn the tide for working people on the organizing front. In searching for these new approaches and tactics, our union needs the ongoing involvement of UE Young Activists and rank-and-file volunteers who have assisted in recent organizing struggles. UE should also continue to involve allies in labor and community groups who are willing to join us in our organizing work.
Workers’ rights to organize and take collective action are human rights. They are fundamental to all democratic societies and we demand that the rights to organize and bargain with employers be restored for all working people.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 77th UE CONVENTION ADOPTS THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZING PLAN TO BUILD OUR UNION:
- UE will continue to serve as the “Union for Everyone” and will organize across the industrial, service and public sectors of our nation’s economy, uniting workers from a wide range of occupations in the common pursuit of improving the situation of the working class through the practice of democratic, rank-and-file unionism;
- UE will provide a home to workers across the economy, and in the private sector will place special emphasis on waging campaigns at sister shops and in industries where we have an existing presence, building our bargaining strength in order to defend past gains and improve our conditions. These sectors include government contractors, rail manufacturing, rail crew transportation, consumer grocery cooperatives and private nonprofits;
- UE recognizes right-to-work as a relic of Jim Crow laws and understands the racist origins of modern anti-union law. We further recognize the role that racism and white supremacy plays in furthering corporate campaigns against labor rights and we therefore affirm efforts to organize predominantly black public-sector workers in Virginia, which now has limited bargaining rights for municipal workers, and in North Carolina, where our members’ struggles for the past 25 years have served as a model for workers organizing throughout the South;
- UE welcomes and embraces the historic movement among thousands of graduate workers to win collective bargaining rights and improve working conditions and wages on both private and public campuses, and will work with organizing committees to build rank-and-file UE local unions;
- UE will build its ranks primarily in existing UE base areas, giving top priority to areas where the existence of viable organizing targets, the availability of staff, the active support of member volunteers and community allies, and other key strategic factors enhance our prospects for success;
- UE will continue to develop the UE-Unifor North American Solidarity Project through cross-border organizing work among Canadian and U.S. transnationals at companies like Hallcon and Bombardier, as well as in other specific sectors and employers. Through this alliance Unifor and UE will continue to share organizing expertise and strategic approaches to building worker power. UE and Unifor local union members and staff will continue to play a vital role in this cross-border organizing project;
- UE reaffirms its commitment to the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), a joint project with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). EWOC assists workers through a distributed grassroots organizing program to support organizing in the workplace for improvements in conditions, safety, and fairness on the job;
- UE will build rank-and-file unions among state, county and municipal employees in states where we currently have public workers under contract, as well as in states where our public employee members are denied the right to collective bargaining, and we will fight to win full bargaining rights for public workers in states where those rights are abridged;
- UE will defend and support our public-sector locals in states like Iowa as they build organizing campaigns to win recertification elections and maintain representational rights;
- UE will test new models and methods of organizing in all sectors, including alternative strategies for gaining recognition of the union, as well as strategies for building pre-majority unions in workplaces where formal recognition cannot be achieved in the short term. We will make use of new technologies for data management and communications to strengthen our organizing; we will look for opportunities for joint organizing with other unions and workers’ centers; and we will revive past organizing methods, including recognition strikes and other militant organizing tactics;
- UE will invite independent unions to join us as the national home of independent, member-run unionism, and we will offer refuge to workers in other unions who are seeking to escape corrupt, undemocratic conditions;
- UE will build our ranks through internal organizing wherever open-shop conditions exist and will develop new plans and materials to assist locals in states that have adopted right-to-work-for-less laws or other measures to undermine union strength and security;
- UE will involve our rank-and-file members in organizing whenever possible and will take the following steps to encourage more members to help organize the unorganized:
- We will provide training and support for members who wish to become involved in organizing and we will provide members with the tools for reaching out to nonunion workers in their communities to find the next organizing campaign;
- We will continue joint sponsorship with regions and locals of organizing trainings, blitzes and other special programs for which lost time and other costs are shared by the national and the region or local to make greater member participation possible;
- We will encourage locals to negotiate for better union leave provisions to enable more members to get time off the job to assist in building the union;
- We will respect cultural and language differences in our organizing work, and we will continue to reach into our ranks to find more volunteer organizers from diverse backgrounds;
- UE will continue our successful Young Activist Program to find and develop activists and leaders for the future; we will prioritize young activist involvement in organizing, and we will ask our young activists to occupy the front line in fighting for workers’ rights.