UAW Activists Meet To Plan Convention Strategy

"How do we make our union stronger?" was the challenge, as 40 to 50 UAW activists convened in Flint, Michigan October 20-21. On Saturday a meeting organized by the UAW Solidarity Coalition brainstormed resolutions for the UAW Constitutional and Bargaining Conventions, to be held back to back in Vegas next June. After the brainstorming session, they broke into small groups to write resolutions, then made presentations to the whole assembly.

The Solidarity Coalition, founded a year ago, is a network of reformers within the union, some of whom first came across each other on their websites.

Coalition activists plan to disperse examples of resolutions, stimulate discussion among UAW members, and help others to write their own resolutions. The goal is to increase education, involvement, and activism.

CONSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVES

Direct election of all International Reps was considered fundamental to accountability. More funds channeled into organizing and away from business ventures was determined essential to restore the credibility and reputation of the UAW as a social movement. Organizing auto parts plants was deemed the number one challenge.

Coalition members contend that a confrontational organizing union has more appeal to prospective union members than a cooperative business union, and a dynamic democracy will stir more grassroots involvement than the static bureaucracy now in place in the UAW.

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A special amendment proposed by Local 2036 at Accuride in Henderson, Kentucky, to prevent the International Executive Board from cutting off strike benefits to striking or locked-out members, resonated like a drum roll in a marching band.

BARGAINING IMPERATIVES

A strategy to unite all auto-industry members in national negotiations hinged on a four-pronged attack: an industry-wide strike, a demand not to settle the national contract until all local contracts are ratified, a national pattern contract for all part suppliers, and COLA on pensions.

On Sunday members of the UAW New Directions Movement used their accumulated years of experience (Erwin Baur, the oldest member, recalled debates with Walter Reuther) to demonstrate how the conventions actually functioned. Impersonations of heavy-handed chairmanship spiked the lessons with comic relief. They showed video tapes of previous conventions and instructed younger members how to get the floor, address the audience effectively, and use Robert's Rules of Order to further debate.

Retired convention delegate Dave Yettaw facilitated a discussion on strategies to win delegate elections.

If education fuels the engine of democracy and ideas are the sparkplugs of change, the conviction which combines thought and feeling into action is the driving force of the labor movement. UAW activists in Flint recharged their ever-readies and split town with more enthusiasm than an SUV spitting gravel on a back road to Vegas.