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Region 9A

2011 Leadership Conference Report by Herb Hyde

 

2011 Region 9A Leadership Conference 
Hyannis, MA
September 18-22, 2011

This year’s agenda focused on organizing, bargaining and the political challenges our union faces in 2012. The opening session was held Sunday evening, with greetings from Regional Director Julie Kushner and Assistant Director Ted Feng. Massachusetts Congressman, William Keating addressed the crowd and discussed the challenges his party is facing with the current obstructionist congress and the very real challenges ahead in 2012.

Monday’s plenary discussion dealt with securing workplace justice. It was a lengthy panel discussion detailing the struggles faced in organizing workers at Foxwoods, labor problems at the Colt Firearms Company and the struggles at Columbia University and in the agriculture sector. 

As you can see The UAW is a much more diversified union now than just auto workers. Union density—(which is the size of the current union population) is of critical concern to our union, as well as all unions across the country. In the past several decades with jobs being shipped overseas and down south to right to work states, union membership has seen a precipitous drop. However, on the bright side, there is now a concerted effort to reverse that trend and it is beginning to bear fruit. The Scott Walker debacle in Wisconsin has ignited a fire across this country because of his all- out assault on unions. 

Richard Bensinger, Director of UAW organizing, discussed how we will be attacking that problem. One of the biggest challenges he noted, are transnational companies (foreign auto companies and dealerships) who are now moving into this country and setting up shop, in mostly right to work states with dealerships across the country. However, we are developing a plan to address that issue in the near future—specifics of that strategy will be rolled out soon, and volunteers across the union, active and retired members will be recruited to help.

The Citizens United decision was discussed: how it has impacted the political debate with the billions of dollars being thrust into the political system by corporations and the mega rich, who want to destroy the working class in our country. We have to fight back with any and all the tools we have: activist volunteers to work phones banks, leafleting, registering voters, etc, as well as a push to increase our voluntary contributions to our political fund (V-CAP).

Mary Beth Cahill, director of our Washington office and National CAP, discussed in detail the financial challenges we face in fighting this battle. Our union has approximately 399,000 members currently. If each member contributed just two more dollars into V-CAP contributions, we would increase our fund by millions of dollars.
Example:
If you contribute $1 dollar a month now, and you increase your donation to $3 dollars a month, that would be enough to match the $1,000,000 the Koch brothers use against us. In comparison to other unions’ contributions to their v-cap programs, we lag behind by a substantial amount. Most other unions contribute a sizeable amount greater than ours. Our national goal is to increase that amount through voluntary contributions by active and retired members in a proactive manner, explaining the need and the impact their dollars make to our members.

We attended a very intensive two day work shop, which attempted to teach us skills that could help us better communicate with our members, as well as people we will be attempting to organize in the near future. It also outlined the skills needed to communicate in a rational way with voters who don’t see eye to eye with our beliefs-in a non-combative manner.

The workshops were designed using a train-the-trainer template: It started off in some cases being confrontational. In part, because some of us older folks had trouble grasping the concept. But as it progressed, the light bulbs came on, and for me at least, it became a very positive exercise and a good tool to get younger people within the union to become more active and to become leaders in the future. These younger people are the future and I believe we should all be supportive of us trying to make our union strong. We need their support so that they can help us move into the future and address our specific needs.

I came away from the conference with a very positive outlook, and I hope to work as an activist as long as I can be of help, and as long as my crumbling infrastructure keeps me standing! 

Fraternally,
Herb Hyde
Local 930 UAW-retired
 

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