The UAW kicked off its biannual National Cap Conference in Washington D.C. with hundreds of union members gathering at the Marriott Marquis Hotel to set the union’s upcoming political and legislative work. Tying into the spirit of last fall’s wildly successful Stand Up Strike at the Big Three automakers, the theme for this year’s conference is “Stand Up For Your Future,” with a focus on retirement security.
UAW President Shawn Fain was the keynote speaker for the day’s proceedings. He addressed an energetic crowd of delegates and received a standing ovation on numerous occasions during an impassioned speech presenting a vision of a member-led, powerful, reenergized UAW.
“We’re here to turn our union, our families, and our communities from quiet supporters of the cause of economic and social justice into an army of working-class warriors ready to stand up,” Fain said to those in attendance. “As the working class, we know we have the majority. But it must not be a silent majority. We know we have the power. But it must not be disorganized power. We know we are on the right side of history. But we can’t wait for the history books to vindicate us. We must act now.”
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock gave a powerful speech on reproductive justice. “The attack on women’s reproductive healthcare will be on every ballot across America in 2024,” Mock said. “We need the entire nation standing with women. We must lobby every politician that receives our CAP dollars and our votes to support legislation which provides choice for women. Everyone must join us in this unprecedented battle for reproductive freedom for women. If women are not truly free, no one else can be either.”
Each of the UAW’s three Vice Presidents spoke on the issue of retirement security, discussing the need for post-retirement healthcare as an essential next battle for the UAW in the legislative halls and at the bargaining table.
“The fight for retirement security in this country is bigger than any one employer,” said Vice President Rich Boyer. “It’s bigger than any one industry. We have to have an aggressive plan to win – just like we did during the Stand Up Strike. We need a strategy that lifts up all workers and creates real standards in this country. We need to win real retirement security for all.”
“When these companies listen to Wall Street and say we can’t afford to care for the people who made us all this money, I say there’s something very wrong with that,” Vice President Mike Booth stated. “There’s something wrong with these corporations, there’s something wrong with congress, and there’s something wrong with our for-profit health care industry. These are not problems we can solve one worksite at a time or one industry at a time but solve them we must. The American people want real retirement security. We need real retirement security. And it’s about time that we fight like hell for real retirement security.”
“We were incredibly effective during the Stand Up Strike because we were aggressive, united, and because we took the boss by surprise,” Vice President Chuck Browning told delegates. “It’s time that we used those same aggressive tactics and applied them to our political program. It’s time for us to take the boss fight to the next level. That’s how we win.”
Many delegates made the short trip to Capitol Hill to stop into congressional offices to lobby for workers’ rights on numerous issues.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gave a rousing keynotes speech during the day one conference dinner, speaking on the many challenges facing the working class and the importance of fighting for working people in 2024 and beyond.
“Amidst all of those challenges, there is some extraordinaire good news taking place,” Senator Sanders said. “We are currently seeing a major revitalization of the trade union movement in America. And, in that regard, I want to thank the UAW for all that you are doing, because you are helping to lead that revolution.
Sanders’ speech was followed by an interactive session where the Senator Sanders and delegates took turns asking and answering each other’s questions.
The National CAP Conference is the heart of the union’s political work. Delegates and leaders work together to shape the UAW’s political and legislative priorities moving forward.
Local 1391 members in UAW Region 4 have been holding the line on strike at CVR Nitrogen in East Dubuque, IL, since October of last year, courageously standing up to protect their retirement security.
Workers walked out after the company refused to guarantee they will provide a match to workers’ 401(k) contributions during current contract negotiations.
In a new video released by the UAW, workers at CVR Nitrogen speak out about why they are willing to stay out on strike as long as it takes to secure their future.
“In our (previous) contract, it stated that the 401(k) could be changed at any time,” Dusty Glab says in the video. “And by change you would assume it would be maybe a percentage or so. But they took it away. They took the 401(k) match from us.”
“A year later, they reinstated it, and they claim they’re never going to do it again. So, we’re just asking for that to be put into writing.” Dustin Cady explains.
“That is the only retirement that we have,” Larry Flogel says. “We do not receive any type of pension plan or any other benefits whatsoever toward retirement.”
“I think it’s a David and Goliath fight because it’s corporate greed against the hardworking American man trying to make a living for his family,” Dean Beschen says. “(CVR) thought we were going to fold within a week (on strike). They’re hoping and they were telling the employees that were running the plant that it ain’t going to be long, that we’re going to fold.”
“I’m willing to stay out indefinitely, if that’s what it takes,” Cady says.
“This is bigger than 94 people on strike,” Local 1391 President Doug Glab says about the importance of standing up against the company’s greed.
“It’s more about a principle and a belief and, honestly, what we believe we deserve,” Dusty Glab adds.
The strike at CVR comes on the heels of UAW members winning record contracts at the Big Three automakers and Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After mounting the first major strike threat of 2024, UAW Local 933 members at Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, IN, are speaking out about their historic tentative agreement. The deal includes an end to wage tiers resulting in up to 150% wage increases for many workers, as well as major improvements to health care, retirement, and cost-of-living.
Watch UAW Local 933 members speak out about the deal at Allison Transmission in a new video released by the UAW.
“Nothing like this has happened in Allison’s history,” Local 933 Shop Chairperson George Freeman III said about the agreement. “The best thing about this; we made no concessions.”
The union’s last contract with the company expired on November 14, 2023. Local 933 members resoundingly rejected the company’s previous offer on December 1, because it failed to address workers’ core demands.
Local leaders continued to prepare workers for a potential strike, and workers were ready to walk the picket line as long as it took to win an equitable contract.
“If there wasn’t the threat of a strike, we would’ve never have gotten what we got,” said Zachary Boyd.
“The company got worried and knew that this strike would have shut down several OEMs,” said Freeman.
If ratified by Local 933 members, the wage increases in the agreement will be a life changer for many of the workers at Allison Transmission, especially for new hires, some of whom will see a 150% wage increase.
“I stay in a studio downtown and I don’t even have a kitchen,” Monique Morrison said. “Something would happen with my car, and I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent. I have not been to the eye doctor or found a primary care physician because I can’t afford it. It’s been rough.”
“We could barely afford cost of living,” said Kendra Davis. “This definitely gives us hope. We will be able to provide for ourselves and also for our families and not feel like we’re not wanted.”
“With this new tentative agreement, honestly, the entire mood has changed,” James Somerville said. “This is a career. This is a job now.”
“I don’t have to get up early and pull a whole 14-hour shift just so I can make sure that I have enough money for my bills,” Reana Cotton said.
The tentative agreement at Allison comes on the heels of the UAW’s successful Stand Up Strike at the Big Three automakers last fall, and builds on the union’s new approach to collective bargaining has inspired workers to demand a better standard of living for themselves.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., went public today with their campaign to join the UAW. Over 30% of the plant’s workforce have signed union authorization cards, a major milestone on their path to form a union with the UAW.
A video announcing the campaign can be accessed at uaw.org/mercedes-al and the media is invited to use the footage.
The launch at Mercedes in Alabama comes just one month after Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., reached the 30% threshold and went public with their drive to join the UAW. It comes just six weeks after non-union autoworkers across the nation started organizing to join the UAW. For more information on that campaign, visit uaw.org/join.
“In the past, people didn’t know if we had a pathway forward here,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, a measurement machine operator who has worked at Mercedes since 1999. “Now everybody’s coming together and seeing what the pathway is, and it’s through the union. When we get our union in here, I think people will once again look at Mercedes and say, it’s not just another job, it’s a career job. It’s a job where generations will want to come and work. And that’ll spread out to the suppliers and then to the broader area.”
Mercedes made $156 billion in total profits over the last decade. In the last three years their profits grew 200% over the previous three years. From 2020 to 2023, the average price of Mercedes vehicles in the United States jumped 31% even as pay for Mercedes’ U.S. workers stagnated. Workers at the Tuscaloosa plant build the Mercedes GLE, GLE coupé and GLS model series as well as the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE.
In the latest episode of From the Archives, UAW Archivist Gavin Strassel – with some help from fellow archivist Mary Wallace – gives us a tour of the cold storage film fault at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.
In the video, Strassel asks Wallace why the films are kept in a cold storage freezer. “Most of these films are cellulose acetate base,” she says. “At room temperature, they start to degrade, and we get that smell of vinegar, which is called vinegar’s syndrome. So, we have to keep them nice and cold so that they don’t degrade.”
Wallace estimates that there are over 1,000 films in storage at the library. Most of the films were made by the UAW, but there are some from the AFL-CIO, and others as well.
“There’s a ton of hidden gems in here,” Wallace says. “Just recently, we were able to digitize one film, and it was so appropriate for the recent UAW negotiations. It was Walter Reuther talking tough about the 1961 GM strike, and it was just so appropriate for what was going on. Those are the kinds of things that are hidden within these little film canisters…”
In a new video released by the UAW, Local 933 members at Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, Indiana, speak out about why they are ready to strike for as long as it takes to win an equitable contract. The group of 1,500 workers authorized a strike in October and are prepared to walk off the job at any moment.
The video, “Stand Up at Allison Transmission,” can be accessed here, and the media is invited to use the footage.
“We’ve given them record profits. We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do,” said Steve Vaught, Allison Transmission worker and UAW member. “We have to stand up. I think everybody would be more than happy to walk out the door and say, hey, we deserve better.”
Allison Transmission, which manufactures commercial duty automatic transmissions and hybrid propulsion systems, has amassed more than $6 billion dollars in profits in the last decade, and over half a billion dollars in the first three quarters of 2023. CEO David Graziosi’s pay has increased by 600% in just the last two years alone. Yet, the company continues to lowball workers in contract negotiations, showing little regard for the hard work and sacrifices made by its workforce.
“They don’t respect us, and they don’t care about meeting us halfway,” Andy Davis said.
The union’s last contract with the company expired on November 14, 2023. Local 933 members have been working in good faith on a contract extension since then in hopes of reaching a deal. However, on December 1st, workers rejected a tentative agreement by over 96% because it failed to address their core demands.
“The company’s proposal was a slap in the face,” said Jewel Van Dalsen. “Workers feel like, if this is what we need to do to show the company we’re worth a little more than they think we are, I’m ready, and I believe my coworkers are ready.”
“People want change,” Craig Myers said. “Does anybody want to strike? No, we don’t want to strike. What we want is a reasonable, fair contract. But to get to that better contract, are we willing to go out on strike and take a stance? Yeah.”
Today, 33 U.S. Senators are calling on 13 non-union auto companies to refrain from union-busting as over 150,000 autoworkers have launched campaigns to organize with the UAW. In a letter sent to the CEOs of the automakers, the Senators, led by Senators Peters, Stabenow, Padilla, Butler, and Brown stressed the importance of respecting workers’ right to form a union, and encouraged the companies to commit to neutrality in any organizing effort.
“Your commitment to neutrality would ensure that management does not pressure workers into voting against unionization or delaying the election process,” the Senators’ letter states. “We believe a neutrality agreement is the bare minimum standard manufacturers should meet in respecting workers’ rights, especially as companies receive and benefit from federal funds related to the electric vehicle transition.”
The letter also addresses reports of illegal actions taken by a number of the companies. In recent weeks, the UAW has filed unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board against Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen for engaging in various illegal union-busting tactics in an attempt to intimidate and dissuade workers from voting to unionize.
“These retaliatory actions are hostile to workers’ rights and must not be repeated if further organizing efforts are made by these companies’ workers,” the letter continues. “We therefore urge you all to commit to implementation of a neutrality agreement at your manufacturing plants.”
“Every autoworker in this country deserves their fair share of the auto industry’s record profits, whether at the Big Three or the Non-Union Thirteen,” UAW President Shawn Fain said. “We applaud these U.S. Senators for standing with workers who are standing up for economic justice on the job. It’s time for the auto companies to stop breaking the law and take their boot off the neck of the American autoworker, whether they’re at Volkswagen, Toyota, Tesla, or any other corporation doing business in this country.”
The campaign comes on the heels of the UAW winning record contracts at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis in October 2023, after the six-week Stand Up Strike that captivated the labor movement and led non-union automakers to raise wages in anticipation of fending off potential organizing at their facilities.
More information on the organizing drive can be found at UAW.org/join.
On December 22, 2023, forty-nine workers at EmPower-Solar in Bethpage, NY, voted overwhelmingly to join UAW Local 259. The organizing victory was achieved despite the company hiring lawyers and lobbyists in attempt to thwart workers’ efforts to unionize.
Instead of respecting its workers’ decision, EmPower continues to union-bust. On December 29, the company unilaterally laid off forty percent of its workforce without even notifying the union of its decision.
In response to the company’s despicable union-busting actions, Local 259 is holding a rally on Saturday, January 6, at 9 am ET at EmPower’s Headquarters in Bethpage, NY.
“Working in renewables could be a great job, but the industry needs a healthier balance of power between management and labor to make growth sustainable,” EmPower-Solar worker Daniel Lozano and Local 259 Vice President Michael DiGiuseppe wrote in an op-ed last month. “These are the jobs of the future. They ought to pay a living wage, be safe, and be unionized.”
If you are in the New York area this Saturday, join Local 259 and send a message to EmPower that union-busting is unacceptable.
WHO: UAW Local 259, Region 9A
WHAT: Rally Against Union-Busting and Corporate Greed
WHEN: Saturday, January 6, 2024 – 9 am ET
WHERE: EmPower-Solar HQ 999 Stewart Avenue, Bethpage, NY 11714
In what looks to be the first major potential strike of 2024, 1,500 UAW members of Local 933 in Indianapolis are making preparations to walk out at Allison Transmission if the company continues to lowball workers in contract negotiations.
Allison Transmission, which manufactures commercial duty automatic transmissions and hybrid propulsion systems, amassed over half a billion dollars in profit through the first three quarters of 2023. Company CEO David Graziosi has raked in nearly $18 million in the last two years alone. The union contract expired on November 14th, and on December 1st, workers resoundingly rejected a tentative agreement by 96% as the company refused to address core demands.
In a new video, Allison Transmission workers speak out about what they’re fighting for, and against management’s unwillingness to come to a deal that honors the sacrifices and value UAW members have made at Allison.
“We gave up a lot during the recession, and in those years there really hasn’t been a reciprocation of the sacrifices we made during that time,” said Pattie Evans. “Just like when we lost cost of living, we don’t have any assurance that going forward we’ll be able to keep up with inflation and things like that.”
“I’ve had some medical issues,” Martha Brumett said, explaining how the taxing work schedule at Allison leads to more injuries on the job. “You have a lot of wear and tear on your body. On your wrists, on your back. Your feet are constantly tired. It takes a toll on you.”
“I work seven days a week. Anywhere from nine, ten-hour workdays,” said Lisa Perry. “I have gotten used to working those many hours so that I can afford and take care of my bills.”
“I would love for it to go back to where it was, you know, good benefits and good pay,” Allison retiree Donald Reed said. “You got workers out there working a lot more hours than we worked, with a lot less pay. It should be better now than it was when I was working there. It’s not. That’s a shame.”
Negotiations are taking place during a watershed moment for the labor movement in the United States, as hundreds of thousands of workers have won record collective bargaining agreements in the last year, and public approval of labor unions remains at a near all-time high.