Tag Archive for: Bernie Sanders

Statement by UAW President Shawn Fain before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for a hearing on Workers Should Benefit from New Technology and Increased Productivity: The Need for a 32-Hour Work Week with No Loss in Pay.

President Fain’s full remarks:

Good morning, Chairman Sanders, Dr. Cassidy, and members of the Committee.

I’m here to talk about one of the most important issues to any union leader and any working-class person, any US senator, and any human being: our time.

As president of the United Auto Workers, I represent four hundred thousand working-class people and six hundred thousand retirees. I know when my members look back on their lives, they never say, “I wish I would have worked more.” When people reach the end of their lives, they never say, “I wish I made more money.” What they wish for is they wish they had more time.

That’s what work does. We are paid for our time, and when we work, we are sacrificing time with other people, with family and friends, and time for other things we wish to do. But time, just like every precious resource in our society, is not freely given to the working class.

Since the industrial revolution, we’ve seen productivity in our society skyrocket. With the advance of technology, one worker is now doing what twelve workers used to do. More profit is being squeezed out of every hour, every minute, and every second.

There was a time when this phenomenon was supposed to lead to workers getting their time back — getting some of their lives back. Nearly a hundred years ago, economist John Maynard Keynes spoke of the future of workers’ time. His worry was that, with all the gains in productivity, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. He predicted a fifteen-hour workweek.

In my own union, I go back into our archives and I read about the fight for the thirty-hour workweek, an idea that was alive and well with our union back in the 1930s and ’40s. But today, deep in the twenty-first century, we find these ideas unimaginable.

Instead, we find workers working longer hours. We have workers working seven days a week, twelve hours a day. There are workers, union or not, working multiple jobs, and they’re living to work, they’re scraping to get by, and they’re living paycheck to paycheck. We find workers today working deep into their sixties, seventies, and eighties because they can’t afford to retire.

We find associated deaths of despair, from addiction and suicide, of people who don’t feel a life of endless, hopeless work is a life worth living. Workers have been sacrificed at the altar of greed, and they’ve been stripped of their dignity.

We have a mental health crisis we talk about a lot in this country. But we never talk about the causes of that. There have been studies: increases in stress from working seven days a week, twelve hours a day — you’re sacrificing family life and things you want to pursue — it causes increases in cortisol levels, which leads to heart disease, cancer, strokes.

Given all those facts, if someone is lucky enough to retire — typically after they’ve worked themselves to death their entire life — they face knee replacements, shoulder surgeries, and spend the rest of their lives figuring out how they’re going to survive.

It’s sad to say that in 1933, the US Senate passed legislation to establish the thirty-hour workweek, but due to intense corporate opposition, that legislation failed. But in 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing a forty-hour workweek — eighty-four years ago. Eighty-four years ago, the forty-hour week was established. Since then, we’ve had a 400 percent increase in productivity, but nothing’s changed.

That was why, in our Big Three campaign and our stand-up strike, we raised the flag for a thirty-two-hour workweek. This isn’t just a union issue, contrary to what some people want to talk about. This is a working-class issue. That’s why 75 percent of Americans stood with us in our contract fight. Because they’re all living the same reality.

Who’s going to act to fix this epidemic of lives dominated by work? Are the employers going to act? Will Congress act? How can working-class people take back their lives and take back their time?

I know what people, and many in this room, will say. They’ll say, “People just don’t want to work,” or “Working-class people are lazy.” But the truth is, working-class people aren’t lazy. They’re fed up.

They’re fed up with being left behind and stripped of dignity as wealth inequality in this nation and this world spirals out of control. They’re fed up that three families in the United States have as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of citizens in this country. That is criminal. America is better than this.

I agree there is an epidemic in this country of people who don’t want to work. People who can’t be bothered to get up every day and contribute to our society, but instead want to freeload off the labor of others. But those aren’t blue-collar people; those aren’t working-class people.

It’s a group of people who are never talked about for how little they actually work and produce, and how little they contribute to humanity. The people I’m talking about are the Wall Street freeloaders, the masters of passive income. Those who profit off the labor of others have all the time in the world, while those who make this country run — the people who build the products and contribute the labor — have less and less time for themselves, for their families, for their lives.

Our union is going to continue to fight for the right of working-class people to take back their lives and take back their time. We ask you to stand up with the American workers and support us in that mission.

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.”

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock addresses delegates at the UAW National CAP Conference in Washington D.C.

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.”

UAW President Shawn Fain speaking with a CAP delegate during the day one conference dinner.

“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.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at the UAW National CAP Conference in Washington D.C.

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.

CAP delegates listen to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during his keynote address.