Delegates reaffirmed "the UE policy of rank-and-file political action, based on the principles of independence, education, and mobilization, utilizing the full range of political action tools as the best way to defend and advance the interests of our membership."
In speaking on the resolution "Build UE Rank and File Political Action" delegates stressed the importance of political action in defending and improving living standards.
Political developments are taking place in the context of "an economic situation that looks scarier and scarier," reported Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend. The "world shaking events" of Sept. 11 will further destabilize the economy, Townsend predicted.
A highly speculative stock market finally went bust, setting off a wave of plant closings and layoffs. "Firing us is still the best way to keep the stock market happy," he said.
State budgets are compromised, Townsend observed, and layoffs are taking place in the public sector. "The fight to defend the jobs of public sector members is just beginning," he said.
On the national level, all that the Bush Administration has accomplished is the tax cut — which Townsend described as "the perfect crime" — achieved with the help of Democrats, "who now claim to worry about the federal budget," he said.
BIG BUSINESS AGENDA
Big business and the Bush Administration seek to surrender Social Security to Wall Street and fast-track negotiating authority for the President in order to push through the Free Trade Area of the Americas, an expansion of NAFTA.
Aware that his Presidency lacks legitimacy, Bush’s backers are continuing the election campaign by courting African-American, Hispanic and trade union support, Townsend said. Some unions have responded to Bush overtures, particularly on energy policy. "Any good trade unionist would be appalled," he said. "Our union is not going to get involved in this kind of behavior." He reminded delegates of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, broken by Ronald Reagan the year after its endorsement of his presidential candidacy.
Recommending that delegates pay attention to the report of the Policy Action Committee (see: Mobilizing for Jobs and Justice), the political action director stressed that "major battles are shaping up in Washington, D.C." He concluded, "The source of our power is rank-and-file political action."
‘IN BED WITH THE BOSS’
"Politicians are in bed with the CEOs of the big companies," charged Sue Smock, Local 506. "We need to get people into office who are for the workers."
UE is the fastest growing public sector union in Iowa, observed Jennifer Sherer, Local 896. "As public sector workers, we know that whether issues come to the table or not depends on political action," she said; tax policies, layoffs, budget cuts are linked together through political action and collective bargaining.
"If we don’t win at the ballot box we will lose at the negotiating table," suggested Lester Koch, Local 112. "We have to get behind the Labor Party, we’re not pushing enough. We have to get this out to the brothers and sisters who would like to be union but can’t be. We all have one thing in common, we work for a living. That’s got to be the theme of our political action."
Mary Stewart, Local 618, pointed out that Locals 618 and 506 at the Erie, Pa. General Electric plant have a joint legislative action committee. "I urge those locals without a political action committee to start one or combine with other locals or get help from the district."
John Thompson, Local 690, drew attention to resolve 7, calling on UE locals to send delegates to state political action conferences. The bosses are in state capitols every day of the year, he said. Greater participation is crucial to success, and the union’s political action program is "vitally important," Thompson argued.
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