The 2019 UAW Special Bargaining Convention closed with chants of “We are One!” as UAW members set their union’s bargaining priorities for the next four years by overwhelmingly adopting a comprehensive resolution.
UAW locals will use the resolution as a guide when they enter negotiations with management. While negotiations with the Big Three automakers loom large, the resolution is designed to give workers from all segments guidance on a wide variety of workplace issues. The convention itself was a reminder to members that it was solidarity that won the working conditions and benefits that UAW members enjoy today, and that same solidarity is critical to protecting those gains and winning others.
As for the Big Three, UAW President Gary Jones announced an immediate increase in strike pay and another to take effect in January as preparations for the coming negotiations.
“We are preparing for a conflict and we are choosing to rely upon ourselves rather than rely on the goodwill of others,” Jones told the 900-plus delegates in attendance. “The battle may not come if others see how serious we are and how ready we are.”
Jones also spoke of the announcement late last year that General Motors will close plants.
“Four plants, brothers and sisters.” he said.
After announcing that four plants will be idled, GM later extended Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly’s final days until January 2020. Jones asked delegates why GM did that.
“Do you think GM searched their soul and left Hamtramck Assembly alone out of the goodness of their hearts?”
Members responded with a resounding “No!”
Jones said GM gave Hamtramck a temporary reprieve only because UAW members fought for it. That same fighting spirit will be needed as the union goes through the negotiations process this summer.
“And now they know there will be no more quiet closings of plants,” he stressed. “No more shipping jobs abroad without a sound. They are on notice.”
Jones added that the other three plants – Warren Powertrain in Michigan, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, and Baltimore Powertrain in Maryland, remain a priority.
“We aren’t done. Lordstown, Warren, Baltimore. We have your backs!” he said to thunderous applause and cheers.
UAW Vice President Rory Gamble, who directs the union’s National Ford Department, introduced the bargaining team for the upcoming negotiations. Gamble also gave his sector report, saying that Ford Motor Company has experienced years of good times and members expect to share in the profits they helped make.
“Negotiations are going to be tough,” Gamble said. “Our members are going to be prepared for the fight ahead.”
He added that the newly re-introduced Ford Ranger pickup truck is doing well and “is proving that there is a market for small trucks.”
His report also addressed that status of temporary workers. Since 2015, 3,451 temporary workers have transitioned to full-time status. The apprenticeship program is running at capacity and in the last 3 ½ years, 1,182 workers have become apprentices.
UAW Research Director Jennifer Kelly gave a presentation on how technology such as cloud computing, more powerful computers, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, 3-D printing and more will impact the jobs of UAW members.
“Some people say we don’t need to worry about this,” said Kelly. “But we need to know how what we do is impacted.”
Kelly added that the auto industry is moving away from manufacturing products to providing services. But it doesn’t have to mean job losses as union members can bargain on these issues.
“We have tools at our disposal to get through this technology as we have done in the past with technology,” Kelly said.
The resolution adopted by delegates addressed advancing technology, as well as scores of other issues, including wages and benefits, health and safety, quality, job security, and health insurance and pensions. The UAW has made advances in all of these areas, Jones told delegates, but to make more, UAW members need to only look at the union’s history.
“Eighty-three years ago, our union brothers and sisters shut down a plant in Flint, Michigan. They locked themselves in and closed the door,” he said. “They sat down.
“One man shouted, ‘She’s ours.’ They stayed for 44 days. They wanted good wages. A grievance system, safe workplaces.”
Jones reminded delegates, telling the delegates that their union will remain true to its history and legacy in protecting their interests and advancing their concerns.
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