June 13, 2010
35th International UAW Constitutional Convention Begins
Text and Photos By UAW Region 8 Webmaster John Davis
The 35th International UAW Constitutional Convention convenes at 10:00AM on Monday, June 14, 2010. Every four years the UAW comes together to make changes to the constitution and elect the International Executive Board. This year President Ron Gettelfinger, Vice-President Cal Rapson and Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn will all be retiring, ending long distinguished careers serving labor and the working class. Passing the gavel from one leader to another is always an exciting time. On Wednesday delegates will elect the UAW leadership for the next four years.
This convention finds the UAW at a bit of a crossroads. The past four years have seen the economy spiral downward and take the automotive industry with it. The UAW found itself in a precarious position of finding ways to keep the industry alive to preserve jobs and chart a future for our membership. Bargaining was reopened in 2006, contracts in 2007, changes in 2008, and more in 2009 as GM and Chrysler each found themselves in bankruptcy protection. Sacrifices by UAW members and assistance from the federal government kept these companies afloat. It was the brave actions of UAW leadership and solidarity in the ranks that helped navigate through these treacherous waters to keep the industry afloat.
A year later the Detroit Three are gaining market share and returning volumes to areas that were cut a year ago. GM has repaid the bridge loan from the federal government and is preparing a new stock offering. While the industry and the economy are not out of the woods, things are looking up at the moment.
UAW Region 8 kicked off the 35th International UAW Constitutional Convention with a leadership meeting on Sunday, June 13, 2010. UAW Region 8 Assistant Director Joe Rypkowski kicked off the meeting with the pledge of allegiance while Region 8 Representative Tom Savage led the group in prayer. Local 1832 President Mike Pardue thanked the Region 8 membership for their support during the time the “Fighting 1832nd” has been locked out. Peterbilt is closing the plant and ending the local union. “It has been the support we have received from our brothers and sisters of Region 8 that has sustained us” Mike stated. “On behalf of our membership I would like to thank each local union for their donations, support and prayers.”
UAW Region 8 CAP Representatives Roy Thomas and Jim Rodgers updated the group on the midterm elections. “Two years ago we won some races that no one thought we could win,” Roy Thomas stated. “We elected a President – a President that has worked with us to protect America’s working families. We were proud two years ago but our momentum has waned. There are 18 senate seats up for reelection and it is important to support candidates that support us. We have to regain the momentum we had and educate our members on the candidates in this year’s elections.”
“It is important to remember VCAP check off,” adds Jim Rodgers. “We will never match the money corporations but every little bit makes a difference.”
UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel wrapped the meeting up. “We have a union that has survived the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression,” Director Casteel states. “Today we have a NLRB that follows the letter of the law. Our members at Local 1832 and 1990 have won arbitration cases that will help them. While Peterbilt has closed the plant at Local 1832, it has been ruled the lockout was illegal and the company will have to pay restitution. This administration has an open door to this union and we need to remember this. We have seen some improvement in the economy and there has been some improvement in the volumes we are seeing. As a union we have to keep working to grow the economy and support candidates that support us. I appreciate your attendance here this week and look forward to working with each of you has we grow the labor movement.”