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Organize the Unorganized: The UE National Organizing Plan

Organizing is part of the UE’s DNA. It is how UE brings workers together to build power. It is how we resist and fight back. We organize to win fairness and improved conditions in our workplaces, to get action from our government on issues which are important to working people, and to get our voices heard over media outlets owned and operated by our corporate adversaries.

During this 75th UE national convention, we are pleased to report progress on organizing — even though we are facing substantial employer resistance which is newly emboldened by the Trump administration and Republican control of both houses of Congress. We continue to make tangible progress organizing workers employed by federal government subcontractors, co-op workers, rail crew drivers, and public employees who have been denied collective bargaining rights.

In organizing new members, we continue to face an onslaught of anti-union legislation orchestrated by corporations to weaken workers’ rights. Despite large protests from organized labor and community allies since the 74th convention, three states — West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri — have passed “right-to-work’’ legislation. Reactionary forces in the South and elsewhere are combining attacks on civil rights, voting rights, workers’ rights, and local minimum wage ordinances. 

In Iowa, Republicans won control of both houses of the state legislature and immediately moved to attack public employee bargaining. Iowa’s union busting legislation now makes it illegal to bargain over healthcare, greatly constricts bargaining on most other subjects, eliminates union dues check-off, and mandates union recertification elections at the end of each contract under which unions must win a majority vote of those employed in each bargaining unit, not just a majority of those voting, to retain the right to represent its members.

The Trump administration’s attack on immigrants makes it more difficult to organize, but also creates new opportunities to work with immigrant workers and organizations who are seeking ways to fight back and gain some measure of security in their workplaces. 

The challenges we face make it even more important that UE continues to develop new methods and models of organizing. 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 workplaces.

We will need more trailblazing, along with more new ideas and more 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 on our organizing work.

Workers’ rights to organize and take collective action are human rights. They are fundamental to all democratic societies and therefore we demand that the rights to organize and bargain with employers be restored for all workers.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION ADOPTS THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZING PLAN TO BUILD OUR UNION:

  1. UE will organize across the industrial, service and public sectors of our nation’s economy, uniting all workers from a wide range of occupations in the common pursuit of improving the conditions for the working class through the practice of democratic, rank-and-file unionism;
  2. 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;
  3. UE will develop cross-border organizing alliances with unions in other countries and in particular UE will utilize the new UE-Unifor North American Solidarity Project to explore and initiate cross-border organizing work among Canadian and U.S. transnationals, at companies like GE and Bombardier, as well as in other specific sectors and employers; 
  4. UE will organize workers at our sister shops, including at corporations such as GE, FCi, PAE and Hallcon/Renzenberger, where we represent workers at multiple sites, and we will put new emphasis on efforts to organize federal contract workers covered by the Service Contract Act;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. 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, where appropriate;
  8. 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;
  9. UE will build its 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” laws or other measures to undermine union strength and security; 
  10. UE will involve its rank-and-file members in organizing whenever possible and will take the following steps to encourage more members to help organize the unorganized: 
    1. We will provide training and support for members who wish to become involved in organizing and will provide locals with materials suitable for reaching out to nonunion workers in their communities to find the next organizing campaign;
    2. We will continue joint sponsorship with UE regions and locals of organizing 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;
    3. 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;
    4. 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;
  11. UE will continue its 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 frontline in fighting for workers’ rights.