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The president of the United States had a tough act to follow Tuesday morning, as leaders from four major industrial unions – the Steelworkers (USW), Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the UAW – gave delegates insight on issues ranging from democracy, jobs and justice to collective bargaining, trade and the global landscape.
Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s speakers:
4 presidents: ‘Stand up and fight back’
Three labor leaders joined UAW President Bob King to discuss the staggering jobs losses in manufacturing and other sectors and how workers can stand up and fight back.
Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said the salaries of teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters didn’t cause the financial crisis, but the crisis in manufacturing that led to staggering job losses put pressure on budgets.
The UAW and USW have launched a case that will challenge China’s unfair export of auto parts, which have grown 900 percent in the last few years.
“Now that we know these facts, what are we going to do about it?” Gerard asked delegates. “What we’ve got to do is mobilize, and say we’re going to stand up and fight back.”
Mary Kay Henry, SEIU president, said UAW 2011 negotiations with the domestic automakers were a blueprint to bring jobs back to America, noting that the union used collective bargaining to return thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
“We want a country where everyone gets to work in a good job, that they can support their family on, have health care and retire with dignity, and expect that our kids will do better than we did,” Henry said.
CWA President Larry Cohen went straight to the point, calling the present the “toughest moment” for the labor movement. He asked how we restore bargaining rights to tens of millions of workers and economic justice when we’re blocked by the limits of our democracy.
“We must work together, not just in the elections. We must reform the system and get big money out [of politics],” Cohen added.
“Let’s stand up and fight back,” said all four presidents, leading delegates in the chant.
Boundy: get involved at all levels
“Organize.” That was the key word for UAW delegates from speaker David Boundy, director of AFL-CIO Campaigns Department.
Boundy implored union members to get involved with their unions and local unions at all levels, without this, he said, the political tides will stay against unions and we will be the collateral damage.
Boundy reminded UAW activists that the middle class lost control of the agenda in this country.
“They declared war on us. We speak for people that they don’t want to hear from,” said Boundy. “There are five million voters that face disenfranchisement simply because they will not vote Republican. We have to make workers the center of our strategy, and do more to reach out to communities.”
During this election year, Boundy hopes that UAW members organize and mobilize even stronger than they have in the past. Some key dynamics to the grassroots efforts strategy include:
“We are going to commit to rapid response. We are going to define the election on the ground and in the media,” said Boundy. “We have to drive this message in every way we possibly can.”
UAW members understand what’s at stake during the 2012 elections. The 2010 primaries were a wakeup call for progressives. With a stonewalling GOP in control of both houses of Congress, the issues of the middle class have been crushed and ignored.
“This is a fight that we take to heart because only by standing together have we been able to stay in the battle and even come out with some victories for the working class. I love my country. I love my union, and I’m going to stand up for what I believe in,” said Rosie Salinas, UAW Local 2166 member, who works at General Motors’ Shreveport, La., plant.
Local 2166's Rosie Salinas: Taking the fight to heart. Photo by Joe Vermillion/Local 602.
Steny Hoyer: ‘Let freedom ring’
Even before Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., began his remarks, the House Minority Whip got delegates up on their feet, cheering, applauding and chanting “Let freedom ring.”
“If freedom is going to ring, it’s going to be because of the right to vote, and the right to organize and bargain collectively on wages,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer told the crowd of grassroots activists that while there was much that goes into politics and policy, the challenges facing middle-class America will not be easy to overcome.
And again, Hoyer received applause when he added: “But you’re used to that – you don’t shrink from responsibility.”
Working together to build better companies, communities and securing the future for all people was a central theme of Hoyer’s remarks. A supporter of the Make it in America legislation, he emphasized that everybody wins when you have a strong manufacturing and farming industry.
“That touched home with me,” said Ricky McDowell, UAW Local 5285 president, who knows how partnerships can make a difference.
McDowell’s local represents the 1,500 UAW members at Freightliner’s plant in Mount Holly, N.C., a right-to-work state.
“We stood together and fought to bring our work back to the Carolinas when the company sent it to Mexico. Because of the strong UAW leadership and commitment to the membership, every laid-off worker has been called back to work, and 500 more workers have been added to our rolls,” he said. “As long as we work together, we will be successful.”
Hoyer closed his remarks by focusing on the American Dream.
“Our agenda must accomplish short-term job creation and long-term competitiveness. We need to level the playing field and hold other nations accountable when they manipulate currency,” Hoyer said. “Every advantage that every worker has in this country is because of what you and your predecessors fought for. I say, join up and pay up!”
V-CAP Award: And the winner is …
For the last 12 years, UAW Region 5 has won the union’s V-CAP Award.
This year was no different.
Region 5 Director Jim Wells took pride in winning the award again but didn’t take the credit.
“I had the opportunity to address the [UAW] International Executive Board about V-CAP contributions, and they asked me how I do it. I told them, I don’t do it. It’s all the members, active and retired, who do it,” said Wells. “We’re going to be asking you to do it again.”
The award is presented to the region that has raised the most V-CAP funds to support working family candidates.
Local 5285'a Ricky McDowell: Helped bring work back from Mexico.
GimmeFIVE: Region 2B takes top honors
The future of the new, 21st century UAW lies in organizing new members and bringing more people on board with fair treatment for workers. It also rests on the ability of current members and retirees to mobilize for social change around creating an environment where that can happen more easily.
There’s no better path for UAW members and retirees to creating that social change than activism through the UAW’s GimmeFIVE mobilization campaign, where members are engaged through social media to attend rallies and other public events where pro-worker demonstrations are being held, sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Regions that have done an outstanding job in getting members and retirees to sign up for GimmeFIVE notifications and participate in events in 2011 were recognized Tuesday.
Julia Daugherty, who directs the UAW Education and Mobilization Department, presented the awards. The first-place winner of the Overall Member Recruitment Award went to UAW Region 2B with 32,143 members joining GimmeFIVE. Region 2B Director Ken Lortz accepted the award on behalf of local unions in his region.
“Region 2B members earned this award, and I was proud to accept it on their behalf,” Lortz said. “We learned the real value of GimmeFIVE during our Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 fight in Ohio. We were able to keep our members informed of events, direct them to information and make sure they were the first to know when key milestones of the campaign were reached.”
Lortz said Region 2B members stepped up to the plate time and time again during the fight to protect collective bargaining.
“We used the momentum coming out of that campaign to continue to sign up members for GimmeFIVE. I thank everyone for their hard work,” he said.
The Most Improved Award went to UAW Region 1C with 10,784 members signed up, and the region’s retirees also were honored for most improved. Region 1C Director Norwood Jewell accepted both awards on behalf of his region.
Judith Browne Dianis: Heed warning
Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, warned UAW CAP activists that “the bogeyman is coming.”
And by the bogeyman she means those right-wing politicians who are attacking Americans with their so-called voter ID laws and changes to voting procedures designed to thwart millions from voting or even showing up at the polls in November.
The fear, she said, is that without sabotaging the existing system, voters may just re-elect President Obama, and that isn’t what Republicans want. So they’ve created myths such as one that claims the nation has been overrun by voter fraud.
“You are more likely to be hit by lightning than find one prosecutable case of voter fraud,” Browne Dianis said.
Local 19's Patrice Broxton: Protect the right to vote.
Photo by Joe Vermillion/Local 602.
The Advancement Project is a policy, communications and legal action group committed to racial justice founded in 1999 by veteran civil rights lawyers.
“I thought she was an excellent speaker, but what she said really got me upset,” said Patrice Broxton of UAW Local 19 in Grand Rapids, Mich. “The one thing you have at birth is the right to vote, and I’m upset that politicians are actually passing laws to take that away from people.
“We’ve got to turn that around because we cannot afford to move backward – we need to move forward,” she added.
Nassar: Tax fairness at heart of economic revival
Justice and fairness may be two of the bedrock principles our nation was founded on, but there’s a disturbing trend when you compare the United States to other developed nations.
We have the most unequal distribution of income of any major industrialized nation. There’s no mystery why, said UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar. The Bush tax cuts enacted in the early 2000s were a giveaway by conservatives to the very wealthy.
“They’ve seen their income go off the charts while middle-class families barely keep up,” Nassar said.
Nassar gave an overview of tax fairness during Tuesday’s session. If the Bush tax cuts were allowed to end, the nation would gain $1.4 trillion over 10 years and would be able to create 25 million jobs.
But it’s not only about keeping our economic recovery going, he said. Our democracy is weaker because the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few also concentrates political power. The 1 percent use their financial resources to shape the outcome of elections and influence legislation.
“Enough is enough,” Nassar said. The UAW supports revisions to the nation’s tax code that would:
“We need a rule that says if you are a millionaire, you pay a minimum 30 percent tax – no exceptions,” Nassar said.
Gwynne Cobb, Sandra Davis, Jennifer John, Vince Piscopo, Joan Silvi and Chris Skelly contributed to this story.
WASHINGTON -- The Keystone XL Pipeline is a complex project which deserved the careful consideration regarding its environmental and economic impacts that the Obama Administration planned to provide.
In a cynical move, the House Republican leadership called for a rapid decision on the pipeline in exchange for agreeing to keep the payroll tax cut in place. The payroll tax cut enacted last year has been an important part of efforts to turn around our struggling economy. While the House Republicans wrapped job creation rhetoric around their pipeline demands, they have rejected numerous opportunities to support programs creating good U.S. jobs. Here are a few of the jobs initiatives proposed by the Obama administration that Republican members of Congress have rejected:
A project this far-reaching deserved better than the “politics as usual” strategy of a do-nothing Republican Congress. Their job blackmail agenda is simply wedge politics.
Addressing global climate change, establishing sustainable and secure energy sources, and creating and retaining safe and family-supportive jobs are keys to a positive future for our children and grandchildren. President Obama has acted wisely.
By Cindy Estrada and Phil Thompson
We can all agree that Michigan must change to thrive and return to prosperity. Organizations representing 35,000 state employees are leading the way in creating new solutions, new ways of thinking and new collaborations that will take Michigan on this new path.
Three months ago, we presented Gov. Rick Snyder with well-researched recommendations to save Michigan taxpayers at least $185 million this year alone and protect the services all Michigan residents depend on.
The “New Solutions for Michigan” report laid out clear, common sense steps that Lansing can take immediately to create a leaner, more efficient state government. These are best practices like those that Ford Motor Co. and other private sector companies have used to cut waste and become competitive again. Ford, working with the UAW, successfully reinvented itself, and Michigan can, too, if we are smart and act soon.
Yet, despite his promises to review the report, the Governor and his administration still have not acted on these opportunities to create the “value for money” government that he insists he wants.
In the meantime, Service Employees International Union Local 517M; UAW Local 6000, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25; Michigan Corrections Officers; and Michigan State Employees Association continue to lead the charge for change that benefits our state. We recently committed to a coordinated bargaining arrangement that represents a historic shift in the way labor unions work with the administration. We agree with the Governor that state government needs to be more efficient and streamlined, and we are doing our part.
Now it is time for the Governor to do his.
We ask that he act immediately on the reforms listed in the New Solutions Report. The highlights include:
State employees are on the frontlines every day, seeing critical opportunities to save money so the state can avoid the cuts that are hurting Michigan’s residents and communities. We are social workers who help families through tough times and keep kids safe, prison guards who protect our communities by keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, 911 operators who send police or firefighters to save us when our lives are in danger and much more.
Michigan state employees have made roughly $4 billion in concessions over the past decade to address state budget cuts, and the state workforce is at least 25 percent smaller than it was 20 years ago. Cuts are not the answer.
For nearly three decades state employees have been making the case that only lasting reforms like the ones we have suggested will create the lean, efficient government that Michigan’s taxpayers and families deserve.
Cindy Estrada is International Vice President with the UAW. Phil Thompson is Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 517M. This opinion piece originally appeared in the Aug. 29, 2011, edition of the Detroit Free Press.
When most people hear about hunger strikes, they think of Mohandas Ghandi, who engaged in several to protest British rule of India. It was Ghandi’s nonviolent way of communicating his message against an unconscionable offense to achieve dramatic results.
The way Tony Hall sees it, Congress’ proposed budget cuts are an offense to conscience.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has joined the hunger fast to support workers who can barely make ends meet. Photo by Rick Reinhard.
Nearly two decades ago, the former Ohio congressman fasted for 22 days in response to budget cuts that would have had a devastating impact on poor people at home and around the world. That was 1993.
Fast forward to 2011, and Hall is at it again – provoked by similar budget cuts under consideration by Congress. Hall he was joined by other prominent religious leaders including Jim Wallis of Sojouners, Rev. David Beckmann of Bread for the World, and Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide who are enduring open-ended fasts in protest of the proposed budget cuts.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, also joined the fast stating, "I am fasting for the nurses' aide who holds the hands of our elders by day, but does not have the means to care for herself by night. For the security officer who puts his life on the line for us, but whose own life is at risk because he can barely make ends meet. I'm fasting for the child care provider who nurtures the promise of the next generation, yet fears that her own children will not have a better life than she had."
The Republicans’ proposed cuts (including a 30 percent cut to development assistance, 14 percent reductions to child survival programs, 8 percent cuts in HIV/AIDS treatments and 40 percent cuts to the Global Fund) put the lives of millions of children at risk, will harm seniors and those with disabilities, and unnecessarily plunge tens of millions around the world deeper into an already desperate struggle with severe malnutrition and hunger.
According to his website, hungerfast.org, the former Democratic member of Ohio’s House of Representatives began this hunger strike on March 28 for three reasons:
According to feedamerica.org, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty, including 15 million children – the highest poverty rate since 1960. Meanwhile, Americans face high unemployment with skyrocketing food and energy prices. Globally, about 25,000 people die from hunger-related causes every day, 925 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition, and 2.1 billion live on less than $2 a day.
There’s no doubt that Congress must address America’s long-term fiscal challenges. No nation can spend without limits. But in the name of deficit reduction, some in Congress have called for irresponsible cuts to vital domestic and international anti-poverty and hunger programs. As Americans, such cuts not only run counter to our sense of compassion and the common good, but they also distract us from the real problem.
Suggesting that the budget can be balanced on the backs of poor people not only ignores the two largest slices of America’s budget — tax cuts for the wealthy and military spending — it betrays a fundamental lack of conscience. Poor people did not cause America’s financial problems, and hurting them is not the right solution. In fact, cutting programs for low-income people actually hurts the economy; every dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in stimulus benefit.
The first time Hall began a hunger strike, in 1993, Congress had eliminated the House Select Committee on Hunger, a bipartisan panel created to address the needs of poor and hungry people at home and around the world. Hall inspired thousands across the country to join his crusade. Through their efforts, the World Bank pledged increased support for hunger programs and the nonprofit Congressional Hunger Center trained future leaders in the hunger movement.
Not everyone may be able to go on a hunger strike, but there are other ways to participate. For information and to sign a commitment form, visit hungerfast.org.
Gwynne Marie Cobb
Mary Kay Henry has represented health care workers at the Service Employees International Union for nearly 30 years.
As SEIU president, Henry has expanded her cause to wake the sleeping giant of labor, calling for a “new and dramatic course of action” to create jobs for all workers in America through union coalition building.
A featured speaker on Tuesday’s session of the UAW National Community Action Program (CAP) Conference in Washington, Henry said coalition building across industries will be key to strengthening the collective bargaining and political power of labor.
Reflecting on the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1937, she explained how the workers were not alone in their struggle against General Motors. Labor campaigned and worked together in Michigan to elect then-Gov. Frank Murphy, an ally who helped protect the workers’ right to organize during the strike. And it was the Women’s Auxiliary and Emergency Brigade that broke windows to let in fresh air when the police tear-gassed striking workers inside the plant.
“Are we prepared to think about each others’ fights in a way that really rebuilds a movement and creates a turnaround between now and the 2012 election?” Henry asked the more than 1,000 CAP delegates and activists on Jan. 18.
Henry believes unions should coordinate around what she termed “national flashpoint” issues, including:
Henry believes the UAW is a new UAW, and its efforts to “fuse labor and social justice causes” will not go unnoticed by the media or those who oppose labor.
“There are a lot of people who feel the
Mary Kay Henry, leader of the Service Employees International Union, believes all unions should concentrate on certain 'flashpoint' issues, including good jobs, quality public services and immigration reform. Video. Photo by Rick Reinhard.