The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

UAW Convention:
Introduction

Jun 25, 2018

The UAW held its every-four-year convention in Detroit, June 11-14. Many delegates hoped to hear a way forward for the union they work to build. What they got was another scripted convention.

Only two issues created some heat. The first was the renewal of a dues increase passed four years ago. The politically significant part of the discussion focused on whether part-time and temporary workers should be charged the same amount as permanent full-time workers, even though they work fewer hours.

Gary Walkowicz, who was nominated for the presidency in opposition to the traditional leadership, spoke against the unfairness, which not only served to divide workers, but which also induced a growing number of the part-timers to be resentful of the union, even hostile. He pointed out that many of these workers, today part-timers, will be permanent tomorrow, and that their resentment may be fodder in the hands of the workers’ enemies. Perhaps 100 delegates voted against the main resolution.

The second issue was a proposal to raise salaries of top officials, more than $46,000 for the president. And this in a year when the union officials pushed to keep higher dues. One delegate from the floor – a supporter of the current leadership – said he couldn’t vote for this and then face his membership. Maybe 150 delegates voted against, while about 300 supported the increase, out of 900 delegates.

On the basic question of what policy the UAW should have, in the face of the growing attacks on workers’ standard of living and right to organize, there were few people, other than Walkowicz who spoke to the issues. (The letter he addressed to the Convention is reprinted next to this article.) As with previous Conventions, few delegates dared to give him their votes. But there were delegates afterward who thanked him for being bold enough to oppose the leadership and for raising concerns about the direction of the union and its policies of partnership with corporations.