Energy and Passion of Women’s March Must be Duplicated, Not Wasted
I believe that 2017 is a critical year for us to build union power from the ground up. There is a strong relationship between union members and the communities in which they work and live. Think about it: The UAW was founded by people coming together to make a change. Had they stayed at home, shrugged their shoulders and figured someone else was going to do it — there might not be a labor movement today.
When people take action it means something is happening and we should take notice. I certainly took notice and was immensely inspired when, on Jan. 21, millions of women — and men — stood up for what they believed in at the Women’s March in Washington and at the 600 sister marches held around the world.
I was in awe of the number of women who marched: over 500,000 in Washington and Los Angeles; over 200,000 in New York City, over 150,000 in my hometown Chicago, over 100,000 in Boston and Denver. UAW women were at those marches in solidarity with others and what’s really powerful is that about a third of the people who turned out for the Women’s March on Washington were first-time protesters.
This wasn’t just a one-time action either. Many women marchers vowed to stay active by calling Congress to oppose Cabinet picks or proposed bills, getting out the vote in 2018, or running for local office themselves. This demonstration was global and it was powerful. We can’t lose the energy and passion of the Women’s March. More labor union women and their supporters are needed to continue to grow their solidarity in the fight for economic and social justice for women.
I realize it’s one thing to say to members, “Get involved,” but it’s another thing to actually inspire people to do so. If you’re inspired by the Women’s March as I was, the UAW is ready for your energy to keep the momentum going. Start by getting active in your local union Women’s Committee and come together with your UAW sisters to make the change you want to see. I don’t think this gets said enough: UAW sisters — you DO have a greater role to play in your union, your community, and your country.
Vibrant local unions and progressive social movements don’t just happen; they are planned for and worked on by people like you — UAW members who care about the future and status of our union and who care about what kind of future we want for all working families. One way to make a difference in all aspects of our union is through Local Union Standing Committees which are set forth in Article 44 of the UAW Constitution.
Those committees are:
- Citizenship and Legislative
- Civil and Human Rights
- Consumer Affairs
- Conservation and Recreation
- Constitution and Bylaws
- Education and Mobilization
- Women’s Committee
- Community Services
- Union Label
And such other committees as they deem necessary.
Right now, half of all UAW local unions don’t have all of the standing committees required by Article 44. But standing committees shouldn’t exist just because it says so in the Constitution. They are designed to be building blocks upon which a successful local union is based. Standing Committees are the tools through which the programs aimed at strengthening our union are put to work. UAW members are a part of the community and being active strengthens that connection.
Your local union needs YOU to be active. What are you passionate about? Do you volunteer in a soup kitchen? Do you support veterans’ causes? Are you the person people go to when they want to know which products are union-made? You can find fulfillment for your passions in a Local Union Standing Committee.
Once you are involved, work in conjunction with other standing committees to build even more power. These are the groups where much of the work of the local union gets planned and put into action. Reviewing candidates who want an endorsement from the UAW? CAP Committee members set up those interviews. Voter registration drives? Members of the Civil and Human Rights Committee usually lead that charge.
Local Union Standing Committees give you the platform to build solidarity within your workplace and strengthen relationships in your community. If one of the basic tenets of our union is building a social movement to improve the lives of our workplaces and our neighborhoods, then it’s up to you to walk the walk and step up and get involved. It’s about who you are in the community. Your UAW experience starts with you and how strong your local union is and the future of the labor movement depends on you. Your union gives you the tools to promote your concerns and to speak on behalf of yourself and your UAW sisters and brothers.
We cannot solve many of the country’s economic and social problems solely at the bargaining table. Our union is based on equality and dignity. We do not believe that a person’s skin color or religion or sexual orientation should keep them from advancing in the world, and discrimination has no place in our union or in the communities where we live. We have to resolve to do more on the political front in our communities and reach beyond the workplace to show people who are either ambivalent or hold preconceived notions about union members, that we are about more than a paycheck and our interests extend beyond our membership.
In 2017, we must go forward on day-to-day issues of interest in our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our communities. You are the eyes and ears of your community and you know what the issues are so make that connection — the UAW/community connection.
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