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June 14, 2010

Click Here For Monday's Photo Gallery

President Gettelfinger State of the Union Address

Rep. Dingell's Speech

Monday schedule of events:

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June 14, 2010

Day 1 Report from the 35th International UAW Constitutional Convention
text and photos by Region 8 Webmaster John Davis

The 35th International UAW Constitutional Convention kicked off at 10:00 AM on Monday June 14, 2010 with the presentation of the colors, the national anthems of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and opening prayer. Over 1200 delegates have come together this week to debate resolutions to the UAW Constitution and to elect the International Executive Board.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm was the first speaker to address the Convention.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm welcomed UAW delegates Monday to the Wolverine state at the union’s 35th Constitutional Convention and offered some keen observations on keeping jobs in America.

She pointed to how Ford Motor Co. recently brought jobs from Mexico and Japan to its Rawsonville, Mich., plant with the help of local, state and federal governments that received tax incentives and grants.

“Competitive taxes reward companies for bringing jobs back home instead of sending them offshore,” said Granholm, who leaves office this year due to term limits. “It’s a necessary partnership in this global economy.”

“But the fourth partner was you – the UAW. And it’s a formula we must replicate all over the nation,” added the governor, who also urged manufacturers to build products in UAW-represented states. “If you want to win quality awards, you’ve got to have the talent: UAW worke rs. You hold the keys to quality.”

UAW Local 600 member Anthony (Tony) Richard, unit chair at the Dearborn (Mich.) Diversified Manufacturing Plant where they produce frames for several Ford vehicles, had high praise for Granholm’s leadership.

“Gov. Granholm’s always been a positive force for the UAW, and she understands our issues and what we need for the future,” Richard said. “We hope the new governor has the same interest in our members and for all of us in the state of Michigan.”

Winston Williams Jr., a UAW Local 652 body shop worker at General Motors’ Grand River facility in Lansing, Mich., believes the governor inherited some hard times and wants people to remember her as “a hard-working, sincere leader who represented Michigan extremely well. “We’re going to miss her. She did everything she possibly could within her power to help workers.”

Granholm, elected to office eight years ago, said the UAW must pick up the mantle for the rest of the globe, stressing the importance of international worker rights.

“We must level the playing field up,” she said. “Your brothers and sisters in other countries are counting on you.”

Her remarks ended on a high note, paraphrasing former UAW President Douglas A. Fraser: “Presidents come and go, governors come and go – but the UAW goes on and on.”

Following Governor Granholm Congressional Representative John Lewis of Georgia addressed the crowd. Region 8 Director Gary Casteel introduced Representative Lewis to the convention. “Representative Lewis has a long history of standing with America’s working families. He worked with Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement and has spent tireless hours working for a better America. It is with great gratitude that today we present Congressman Lewis with the UAW Social Justice Award.”

“It is an honor to be with you here today,” Representative Lewis stated. “I want to thank the UAW for your dedication to America’s working families. I was born and raised in a small town in Alabama. I had many relatives who left the south for hope of a good paying job in the auto industry and headed for Detroit. My family worked for Ford and GM and were UAW members. I am honored to be here with you today on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the UAW and to be with your great President Ron Gettelfinger as he prepares for retirement. I remember the first UAW President I met and that was the great Walter Reuther. In 1963 I was working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when Walter Reuther marched with us in Detroit. He gave Dr. King an office at Solidarity House where the marches in both Detroit and Washington and on that day in Washington when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, it was Walter Reuther who joined us on stage and addressed the crowd. I know the difference this union has made in building the middle class and protecting America’s working families. I am honored to be with you and accept this award.”

Next on the agenda was Michigan Representative John Dingell, the dean of the Congress and has entered a proposal for health care reform every year he has served in the Congress. Rep. Dingell was also presented with the UAW Social Justice Award. (click here for the complete text of Rep. Dingell's speech)

Following Rep. Dingell UAW President Ron Gettelfinger presented the State of the Union Address.  As you know, nearly seventy-five years ago a few blocks from here our union was formed at the Fort Shelby Hotel on August 26, 1935 when 200 auto and parts workers from seven states came together. Today, as we meet on the eve of this historic anniversary of our beloved UAW we recognize the accumulated sacrifices of millions of women and men who have been part of forging our great union. Their steadfast resolve not only made it possible for future generations to fare better than their own, but essentially created the middle class in America. Our membership and leadership face the future together in solidarity because of those who built our union and those who followed them and built upon that foundation. 

As we celebrate “75 Years of Solidarity” we remember that our founders unselfishly sacrificed so that workers could have a voice in the workplace. Employers have always known that a union is the only instrument that gives working men and women any form of equity and justice in the workplace. Most employers have consistently and vigorously opposed unions with every means at their disposal. During and since the auto crisis they focused their smear tactics on the UAW like never before.

Today, more than ever, we need to feel the passion of the labor movement. It’s wonderful to be union. To have a union card is the best insurance anyone who works for a living can have. And, to have union in your heart is essential.

It is a great feeling to say; these are our people and this is where we come from. This is our union family!

 Judy and I have made so many friends over the years and we value each and every one. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives.

May God bless America, the UAW, our future leaders and all of you.

Solidarity, Solidarity, Solidarity Forever! (click here for the full context of the speech)

The afternoon was rounded out with a speech by Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio who introduced the “Cash for Clunkers” bill that saved 60,000 American automotive jobs.

Sutton, a Democrat who represents the 13th Congressional District, said the program saved or created 60,000 U.S. jobs. More than 7,000 vehicles were sold through the act, officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, in just 30 days. Sutton warned that our work as a union and nation is not done, despite the modest turnaround in the economy.

“Currently, we have a $7.8 billion auto deficit with Korea. We must have trade policies that work and are fair to American workers,” she said.

“This is not about being against free trade; we’re talking about fair trade. This is about the rules of trade and making sure that it’s also fair for us,” Sutton added.

Sutton urged delegates to get involved and stay involved with the issues affecting all workers including free trade, currency manipulation and workers’ rights by writing Congress, making calls and hitting the campaign trails.

“Today we are not just here to talk about our history. We are here to talk about our future. We are fighting literally for the soul of this country,” she said.

Sutton called current trade laws “unacceptable” and urged members to protest passage of any further trade deals initiated under President Bush.

“It’s outrageous, and I will fight it. We have a responsibility to develop trade agreements that allow our workers to flourish. And you can rest assured that I’m going to fight for it,” said Sutton.

“We will not stand idly by and watch our brothers suffer. It’s about Wall Street profits and the middle-class dream. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you, not just as a member of Congress, but as an advocate on the street fighting for this great nation,” she said.

Additionally President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka addressed the convention.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had a message for all working Americans in his address to delegates on the opening day of the UAW’s 35th Constitutional Convention: “Stand with us.”

“The labor movement is not an inheritance,” said Trumka, who heads the 11.5 million-member federation, which includes the UAW. “The labor movement is an achievement that every generation must fight for in response to the challenges of our times.

“Stand with us. And we will stand with you for one day longer than anyone would stand in your way,” he said to the 1,200 delegates at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.

Trumka demanded that Detroit’s resurgent automakers do right by the workers who have done right by them. “Because just as there has been shared sacrifice in periods of pain, there must be shared prosperity in periods of gain,” he said.

In addition, he noted the opportunities to represent workers at startup automakers such as Fisker Automotive in Wilmington, Del., and Tesla Motors Inc. in Fremont, Calif.

"We're building a future with clean, green union jobs and a well-trained, well-paid workforce making world-class products. It won’t be easy. It won’t happen quickly, but we can make it happen together,” Trumka said.

He called outgoing UAW President Ron Gettelfinger “a leader of extraordinary wisdom and integrity who led this union and the auto industry through some of the hardest times since the Great Depression.”

Adding that “We've got to be architects of the future,” Trumka gave a historical nod to former UAW President Walter P. Reuther, who used to say we don’t have time to look into the rear-view mirror.

And, Trumka said, “Today he’d add – not even if that mirror was built by proud autoworkers.”

The final speaker of the day was Mike Smith, the director of the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs who presented a presentation on the history of the UAW.

The remainder of the day was spent in reading and debating resolutions submitted by members all across the country.

5 resolutions approved
Health care reform – Delegates approved a measure acknowledging the disparities in health care coverage in the United States, supporting the recently passed national health care reform legislation and vowing to continue efforts toward adoption of a single-payer health care system.  “God bless the UAW for negotiating collectively for health care reform,” said UAW Local 602 President Brian Fredline.

Creating auto and manufacturing jobs for the future – A resolution was approved supporting a strong U.S. manufacturing sector by protecting existing jobs, green technology and product development, fair trade, regulation of hedge funds and the establishment of a consumer financial protection agency. Brian Schneck, president of UAW Local 259, said the resolution is crucial to stopping job loss. “Corporate greed has led us to this point. We have an opportunity to create a new, green technology and partner with business and labor to accomplish this.

Right to Organize – Delegates approved a resolution that calls for strengthening labor laws to allow all workers in all sectors to organize free of employer interference. The resolution also calls for overturning Bush-era anti-worker decisions and insisting that Congress act now to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Supporting Our Troops and Honoring Our Veterans – UAW delegates passed a resolution that calls for policies that respect and honor America’s active and veteran military personnel and their families.

Political Action – Delegates passed a resolution that encourages and equips members to become effective lobbyists and political activists, and build coalitions with other labor and progressive groups. The resolution also urges continued support of the UAW’s Voluntary – Community Action Program) V-CAP.

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