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1,500 CAP delegates take to the streets of Capitol Hill

02/05/13

WASHINGTON – About 1,500 UAW CAP Conference delegates took to the streets Tuesday, making the week’s traditional trek to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress.

The Obama administration and Congress will be considering many issues of importance to UAW members and working families this year. A few of the major legislative issues the UAW will address throughout 2013 include:

  • Stopping benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
  • Tax fairness and the budget.
  • Keeping Japan out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • Creating a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants.

Here’s a closer look at some of the day’s visits:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., 9th District

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., discusses legislative issues with Tim Yeager of UAW
Local 2320, who visited the Hill on Tuesday. Photo by Don Lehman/UAW Local 249. 

A group of UAW Region 4 CAP delegates visited the office of Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, a self-described “UAW groupie.”

“I’m with labor all the way,” said Schakowsky, who represents the state’s 9th congressional district.

“Unionization is the most important way to bring back the middle class.”

Ursula Wagner of UAW Local 2320 was attending her first CAP Conference, but she was glad to be with her representative to discuss several social safety net issues near and dear to her.

  Ursula Wagner

 “As a social worker, I work with the poorest of the poor,” said Wagner, vice chair of her unit at the National Organization of Legal Services Workers in Chicago. “That’s why maintaining Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security isso important. The  middle class needs more economic security, not less.”

On the subject of immigration, the congresswoman said she believes any reform must be a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. 

“I’m a full supporter of a pathway to citizenship – citizenship being the key word here – for all immigrants,” Schakowsky said. “Illinois has always been immigration friendly.”

  Javon Baker

Javon Baker of UAW Local 719 in LaGrange, Ill., said meeting with Schakowsky dealt with the issues at hand in a good way. 

“I was glad to have the opportunity to tell her about a sick relative who needed good medical care that he wouldn’t have had access to if he didn’t have Medicare coverage,” said the local’s CAP chair who works at Electro-Motive Diesel.“My story was heartfelt, and you can tell she understood. Rep. Schakowsky is labor friendly, and I appreciate her leading us and helping us get further along in our goals.” 

 

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., 17th District

Delegates asked Rep. Cheri Bustos, D.-Ill., for her help in preventing Japan from becoming a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would hurt domestic auto jobs. Photo by Don Lehman/UAW Local 249.

A delegation of about 20 political activists from Region 4 also met with newly elected Rep. Cheri Bustos, who immediately thanked UAW members for their support in her victory last November.

“Thank you so much for your help. My success is because of you and other UAW members who supported me,” said Bustos, adding that the union is “very personal” to her because several relatives are members.

John Gedney, UAW Local 1268 CAP chair of Rockford, Ill., was pleased to be visiting Bustos, whom he said is a representative who understands working people.
 

“Labor played a big role in helping Congresswoman Bustos get elected. Ten UAW locals are in her district, so it’s nice to have a representative who understands working people, who has a UAW background from her family, and understands working people’s issues, not just union issues,”Gedney said.

Local 1268 President George Welitschinsky thought the meeting went well.
 

“It’s easy when you meet with someone who is such a good friend of labor,” said Welitschinsky, who is out of Chrysler’s Belvidere Plant. “We want her to know the current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should not include Japan because it would hurt American auto companies and threaten their comeback.”

He said the delegation gave her a draft of a letter to present to President Obama outlining the reasons the TPP should not include Japan and put American-based auto companies at a severe disadvantage.

 

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., 11th District

Delegates from Region 8 discuss issues with Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. Photo by
Karl Lindquist.

UAW Region 8 CAP delegates met with Democratic Congressman Gerald Connolly of Virginia’s 11th District in what seemed like a visit with old friends.

Mike Spraker, UAW Local 2069 vice president from Dublin, Va., wasn’t always a political activist. In his words, he finally “came off the sidelines.” Now it’s second nature for him.

Delegates pressed Connolly on immigration reform, the federal budget and fair trade. 

“These people work for us, and instead of only hearing from corporate America, they need to hear from working America. We are lobbyists, too,”said Spraker on why it’s important for UAW members to lobby their representatives in Congress. 

A Volvo worker with 29 years’ seniority, Spraker is a liaison between engineering and design in the company’s Methods Lab. 

Earleen Miller, Local 2069’s vice chair, also met with Connolly in what was her first CAP Conference but not her first experience with political action. 

“It’s a shame if we let a handful of people make decisions for us. I have a lot to say about how my state is run,” said Miller. “It only takes one person to get it started. By coming here, we remind them of those promises they made while on the campaign trail and let them know that we are holding them accountable.”
 

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., told delegates that the nation cannot slash the budget to return to prosperity. Photo by Karl Lindquist. 

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., 5th District
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., 4th District

Two groups of UAW Region 9A CAP delegates from Massachusetts and Connecticut filled the day with at least six stops to congressional offices. Their agendas included talking about important legislative issues, but they also wanted to witness the fruits of their labor. 

“It is really satisfying to have worked on campaigns and then see candidates here and in their offices,” said Barry Hock, of UAW Local 1981, which represents the National Writers Union. 

The visits included the offices of Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., 5th District, and Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., 4th District.  

It was not the first visit to congressional offices for second-generation UAW member Jordy Osbourne of UAW Local 379 in Connecticut. However, with 14-month daughter, Madison, at home, this one gives him a different perspective. 

“I’ve got to pave the way for my daughter so she’ll have a better future,” Osbourne said. 

Osbourne and six other members from Connecticut ended the day with a visit to freshman Congresswoman Esty, who invited the group to keep her up to date on issues that concern them. 

When it comes to budget issues, “It cannot be that we slash our way out,” she said.

UAW Local 376 member Karen Schuesslerhad a plain and simple request of Esty: “No cuts to Social Security, no cuts to Medicaid and don’t raise the age for Medicare.” 

Schuessler said that her grandfather, a farmer, retired at 62. And like others, he had worked hard, paid into the system and deserved to be able to receive the benefits he had been told would be there for him. 

“People paid into that system. Why anyone would want to shortchange them when they need the program the most?” she asked.

“That is a point I raised as a candidate, and I will continue to raise it,” said Esty. 

“Today we have talked with representatives who stand with us,” said UAW Local 379 member Thomas Kearney of Bloomfield, Conn. “We appreciate that, and this is an opportunity to thank them for that support. This is very rewarding.” 

During the 2012 CAP visit, UAW member Henry Pires of UAW Local 470 in Massachusetts was there to congratulate outgoing Rep. Barney Frank for 40 years of public service. This visit, he was there to welcome freshman Joe Kennedy III to his office on Capitol Hill. 

Kennedy briefed the group on his positions on the budget, immigration and trade, and assured them to have no doubt that he is on the side of working families.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III told Region 9A delegates he wants to hear their ideas.
Region 9A delegates told him it was great to have another Kennedy back on the Hill. Photo by Jay Combs. 

“I want to hear any ideas or suggestions you have,” Kennedy told UAW members.  

The congressman encouraged UAW members to keep in touch and not hesitate to let him know how he can help – and he also had a very special message to share. 

“I appreciate all the support you have given me and so many people in my family,” said Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. 

Although Kennedy seemed to enjoy the discussions on legislative issues, he also took great pleasure in hearing this sentiment from UAW Local 1596 member Kathleen Melish: 

“It’s great to have a Kennedy back on the Hill.” 

Compiled by Gwynne Cobb, Sandra Davis, Jennifer John and Joan Silvi