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.