Elections matter: UAW Community Action Program Conference opens in Washington, D.C., with a renewed call for unity and activism

It’s been two years since members of Local 42 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to join our union, but with a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) now dominated by anti-union members, they continue to be denied their rights, UAW President Dennis Williams told union political activists Sunday.

Williams, speaking before more than 1,100 delegates at the 2018 UAW Community Action Program (CAP) Conference in Washington, D.C., said the change in the makeup of the NLRB was one of many consequences of the 2016 elections that hurt working Americans. Working Americans will suffer consequences for generations as a result of the tax bill President Trump signed into law last year, which is expected to create huge budget deficits in order to give corporations and the wealthiest Americans millions in tax relief. Moreover, Congress followed that act with an immediate attack on critical social programs.

“The ink wasn’t dry on the tax cut when (House Speaker) Paul Ryan started talking about cutting Medicare and Social Security,” said Williams, who was speaking at his last CAP conference as president.

“When we come together, we win,” said Williams, citing numerous examples of the UAW’s long history of social and economic justice victories from the civil rights movement to labor and workers’ rights. 

While there are always differences among UAW members, the 2016 election saw more than 8 percent of UAW members either not voting or voting for third-party candidates. This was particularly harmful in swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Well-heeled conservatives like the Koch Brothers were able to fund messaging that brought wedge issues to the forefront, including Black Lives Matter, immigration and NAFTA, ignoring the pocketbook issues that affect working men and women.

“They wedged us,” Williams said. “They divided and conquered.”

Despite losing the presidency and both the House and Senate, our union and the labor movement remain powerful, as important midterm elections will be held in late 2018. Not only do we have to educate our members and neighbors about issues such as infrastructure, fair trade, the right to education and worker rights, but we also must earnestly listen to their concerns.

“My point, brothers and sisters, is that we are extremely powerful in our country when we work together as one,” he said.

Click here to watch the speech in full.