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UAW President Bob King kicked off the union’s annual National Community Action Program (CAP) Legislative Conference in Washington on Sunday with a pledge.
"This will be a historic conference,” he told more than 1,600 UAW delegates at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in the nation’s Capitol. Delegates gathered for the weeklong conference to unite around the top issues facing workers and the upcoming November election, as President Obama runs for a second term in one of the most anti-labor political climates in recent U.S. memory.
The evening kicked off with a moving rendition of the National Anthem and “Oh, Canada” from the newly formed Region 1A Unity Choir, along with a music video of the Puerto Rican anthem. UAW Local 94 member Ellen Jaeger of Dyersville, Iowa, who works at John Deere Co., gave the invocation.
Then UAW Vice President Joe Ashton introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
King said much is at stake with the presidential election looming, and UAW CAP activists will play a key role in the union’s support of Obama’s re-election campaign.
Richards, the daughter of legendary Texas Gov. Ann Richards and a longtime progressive activist in her own right, is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights. She’s also president of one of the most important sources of health care for American women.
Cecile Richards told CAP delegates that extremist right-wingers have the money so progressives have to bring the people to protect the gains we have made. Photos by Joseph Vermillion/UAW Local 602.
“One in five women in America get health care from Planned Parenthood,” said Richards.
In an address that included humorous anecdotes and a fiery delivery that brought the audience to their feet in applause, Richards delivered a solid rebuttal to the steady GOP attack against Planned Parenthood and labor rights.
“Planned Parenthood and the UAW share a planned vision for this country. When we get together, we are unstoppable,” said Richards. “Our opponents have money, so we have to bring the people. The moderate wing of the GOP is an endangered species. But Bob [King] and I feel the tide is turning.”
“The extreme right wing is against women, working people and the middle class. It’s time for working people to lead again,” she added. “Extremists in the right wing want to destroy Medicare and the labor movement. They want to tear us apart, but they dropped a match on dry kindling. The attacks on us have ignited a sleeping giant.”
Becky Irvin, 47, a 19-year skilled assembler inspector who builds prototypes at General Motors’ Warren (Mich.) Tech Center and is a member of UAW Local 160, thought Richards was “awesome.”
Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards gave delegates her list of the top 10 reasons progressives will win in November.
"She stressed that working together – the UAW, Planned Parenthood and all progressive organizations – is important. All of us need to stick together. Women who use Planned Parenthood's health care services often don't have the good-paying jobs with good health care benefits that UAW members have," said Irvin. "The more the right wing attacks working people, the more it brings us together."
Richards then listed her top 10 reasons the UAW, Planned Parenthood and all progressives will beat the right wing in November.
No. 10, she said, is because the GOP candidates are in an “extreme universe unrecognizable to average Americans. “The ninth reason,” said Richards, “is that the GOP candidates are a serious case of all head and no cattle. Number eight, the GOP candidates can’t tell the truth and Americans know it,” she said. “Number seven, the right wing is anti-women, anti-immigrant and against so many things important to Americans that they are bringing progressives together like never before. Planned Parenthood is proud to stand with the UAW,” said Richards. “We’re proud to stand with the UAW. We have your back.”
“The sixth reason the GOP will be defeated in November,” she said, “is that we have national health care – and we’re not going back. Number five, kids are counting on us,” said Richards. “Number four, when you try to knock us out, we will come back twice as strong. The third reason? Because the public is on our side,” she said.
“The second reason,” she said, “is that President Obama stood with us, and we are going to stand with him!” she said as the crowd jumped to its feet roaring with support and applause. “President Obama brought this auto industry back to life.”
And the number one reason the GOP will lose this fall, she said, is all of the UAW members who are working to re-elect President Obama.
“The future is up to us,” she said as she thanked the audience and left them energized for the week and election campaign ahead in the coming months.
Aaron Warfield of UAW Local 931 has been a materials handler with the Ford Motor Co.’s NMPDC/Pilot Plant in Allen Park, Mich., since 2007. A committeeman and bargaining representative of the 200-member local, he was thrilled with Richards' remarks.
“She was an excellent speaker. I think it’s very important that the UAW and Planned Parenthood stand together. We all need to fight together to maintain the middle-class and good-paying jobs with benefits,” said Warfield, 48.
“I liked her comment about 'You dance with the one who brought you to the dance.' It’s important that we support President Obama's re-election campaign. He supported us, and we need to support him. Richards made a lot of sense tonight," said Warfield.