With a strong voice and heartfelt delivery, UAW President Dennis Williams took the podium at the 37th Constitutional Convention and talked about the promises he made to members four years ago as the union’s newly elected president.
“Four years later, I am proud to report to you that we have achieved our goals,” Williams said. “The bottom line is the UAW is in better shape today than it was four years ago.”
In his farewell remarks to UAW delegates, he told delegates that in his four years as president, the union has had three straight years of balanced budgets, a healthy strike and defense fund and a balance sheet in which “income exceeds expectations.”
The union, he said, gained 20,000 new members last year and engaged in successful organizing campaigns, making it clear that the union remains strong, relevant and what workers prefer when they can vote without being intimidated or bullied. The union gained members at parts suppliers like Dana, Faurecia and Challenge Manufacturing. “At all three of these jobs, workers were allowed to vote without fear of their jobs and as a result they voted yes for the union.”
Williams explained that 2015 Big Three Bargaining showed the union’s strength.
“Big Three bargaining demonstrated how our democratic process worked,” he said. “In 2015, negotiating at GM, FCA and Ford protected health care, improved retirement and addressed job security.” When voters turned initial contracts down, it proved a very important point. “I said when that happened it was not a setback, it was a part of our process,” Williams added.
He reminded members how the union came together to help residents of Flint, Michigan, who were victimized by poisoned drinking water and those in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico who were hard hit by hurricanes. Puerto Rico was particularly devastated by still lagging support from the federal government. But UAW members stepped up and helped with donations of money, labor, fresh water, and whatever help was needed, he said.
“This is what I’m talking about when I talk about solidarity.”
At the heart of Williams’ address was his love for the union, its members and its mission.
“What holds the UAW together and drives the labor movement forward is our solidarity,” he emphasized.
“Over the past four years, the UAW has forged a positive path. We have put ourselves in a better position. We have looked death in the eyes during the recession. We have bought our union back to a foundation of fiscal responsibility for our membership and we have fought the fight. And we will continue to do so. Brothers and sisters, we are in solidarity together forever.”
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