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June 15, 2010

Click Here For Tuesday's Photo Gallery

Remarks By Senator Tom Harkin

Tuesday schedule of events:

  • Marian Wright Edelman
    Founder, Children's Defense Fund
  • Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
  • Jyrki Raina
    President, International Metalworkers Federation
  • Arturo Rodriguez
    President, United farm Workers

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June 15, 2010

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

Day Two of the 35th International UAW Constitutional Convention kicked off at 9:00AM on Tuesday June 15, 2010. While this day included a number of special speakers, the major work of the day was on debating and voting on resolutions to the UAW Constitution.

Civil and Human Rights – This resolution reaffirmed the UAW’s commitment to civil and human rights. In our 75 year history, the UAW has always been at the forefront of the battle for civil and human rights. To continue the commitment, this resolution discussed the importance of education and training regarding ending discrimination and advancing equal justice. Equal pay for women, sexual harassment, disabilities, and hate crimes are all important points concerning our commitment.

In harmony with that resolution the next speaker was Marian Wright Edelman, the Founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Born in South Carolina, Marian Wright Edelman attended Spelman College before joining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. Her experience with the Poor People’s Campaign led her to found the Children's Defense Fund in 1973 as a voice for poor, minority and disabled children. Today the Children’s Defense Fund is one of the nation’s most productive children’s advocacy groups, working to level the playing field for children living in poverty through improved education and health care.

“It is indeed an honor to be here with you today, as the UAW has a long history of working to eradicate poverty in this country,” Marian Wright Edelman stated. “The Children’s Defense Fund has a program called Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign works toward reducing the statics of children who will end up in prison. According to recent statistics, 1 in 3 African American and 1 in 6 Latino males born in 2001 are at risk of spending imprisonment during their lifetime. For comparison, 1 in 3 Latino and 3 in 7 African American children born in this country are born into poverty. In addition, since 1979 there have been 107,603 children who have been killed as a result of gun violence. On average, nine children are killed every day as a result of gun violence.

Education is vital to allowing children to rise up out of the trap of poverty. Title I was created “to ensure all children a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.” However, the formula for distributing Title I funds is stacked against the very children it was most intended to help. The current formula (a complex combination of four formulas) favors large districts regardless of their child poverty rate while children trapped in areas of concentrated poverty in mid-sized cities and rural districts are seriously disadvantaged. Now I don’t begrudge anyone earning their first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth million. But when CEO’s pay is thousands of times greater than a school teacher, what message are we sending. We must invest in education and work to insure the playing field is being leveled.”

International Metalworkers Federation President Jyrki Raina addressed the convention and spoke of the importance of forming global alliances in the labor field to reduce whipsawing between workers on different continents.

One of the UAW best friends in Washington, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, addressed the convention via satellite in Washington, D.C. “You know, what I have always respected about the UAW – going back to its beginnings in the 1930s – is that it is a two-fisted, never-give-up, fighting union. Walter Reuther survived brutal beatings and two assassination attempts, and he never gave up organizing the auto industry.  He and the UAW prevailed.

And it has been the same thing with the UAW and the auto industry over the last couple years.  Some folks were willing to shut down GM and Chrysler, and break the backbone of American manufacturing.  But you folks refused to give up. With a helping hand from friends in Washington, you fought back.  And, today, sales at the Big Three are up sharply.  The auto and auto-parts industries are bouncing back – along with aerospace, gaming, and farm and construction equipment. Once again, the UAW has prevailed. And let me tell you, I get a lot of inspiration from you folks.  Right now, there are a lot of naysayers here in DC who are counting out the Employee Free Choice Act. 

In the weeks ahead, we are going to pass a tough new law cracking down on Goldman Sachs and all the other bad actors on Wall Street. We’re going to provide help for struggling pension plans so that workers don’t lose their retirement security because of the stock market crash. And in my Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, we are going to pass a food safety reform bill with tough new requirements and inspections.  No more kids getting sick from eating peanut-butter sandwiches!” (click here for the complete text)

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez addressed the delegates and discussed the long history of the United Farm Workers and the UAW.

Following President Arturo Rodriguez’s address, the delegates took part in a demonstration around the convention hall floor in support of the UAW’s mission of good jobs, protecting workers, securing pensions and leveling the playing field on trade agreements. The International Executive Board led the march as 1200 delegates took part in the march around the hall.

The convention returned to resolutions with a resolution to make a constitutional change in the officers of the International Officers. At the last convention, a resolution was passed to allow the IEB to make a decision on whether or not to replace one of the five Vice-President should an office be vacated. During the past four years Vice-President Terry Thurman retired. The IEB made the decision not to replace him. The new resolution would change the constitution to read there would be one President, one Secretary/Treasurer, and four Vice-Presidents. The resolutions also stated that should a Vice-President vacate their office during their term, the IEB could again decide to not replace that office taking the number of Vice-Presidents to three. After debate the amendment passed.

The delegates also voted to pass a resolution making adjustments to the compensation of the International Executive Board and staff. The resolution reduced some built in cost of living steps to allow International salaries to reflect sacrifices that had been made by much of the membership. After much debate the resolution passed.

The next group of resolutions dealt with the finances of the International Union and handling issues that have arose over the past four years. Resolutions passing included:

  • Granting the IEB the authority to draw funds off the strike fund should it become necessary.
  • Reduce the public review board from seven to six members.
  • Require any appeal to be made in writing and contain a physical signature of the person submitting the appeal.
  • Members in good standing who are on indefinite layout from their employer may not be a candidate for a non-executive board office that contains grievance handling or bargaining duties.

After the convention was adjourned for the day a reception was held for all delegates to honor the retiring International officers.

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