Resolutions from UWUA 30th Constitutional Convention
Delegates considered and gave testimony on the following resolutions during the 2015 convention. All of the resolutions below were passed by vote unanimously.
REPAIR AMERICA – INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
WHEREAS, More than a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) pronounced the U.S. electricity grid “aging, inefficient, congested and incapable of meeting the future energy needs of the information economy.” The DOE called for substantial public-private capital investment; and
WHEREAS, The current condition of our gas, water and electrical infrastructure threatens the U.S. economy and the safety of U.S. citizens. Natural and man-made disasters over the last several years have exposed the system’s weaknesses. Modernization of the grid has been made all the more urgent by our increasing dependence on a reliable supply of electricity. Without that, telecommunication, the financial system, healthcare, emergency response, and the internet, are not reliable. Yet, the threats to the grid have been growing even as society’s dependence on the grid has increased; and
WHEREAS, Adequate investment in our electrical generation, transmission and distribution systems would lead to fewer brownouts and blackouts, and save US businesses $126 billion, prevent the loss of 529,000 jobs and $656 billion in personal income for American families; and
WHEREAS, Aging, leak-prone natural gas distribution pipelines and associated infrastructures are a safety and environmental hazard. Most safety incidents involving natural gas pipelines occur on natural gas distribution systems and in densely populated areas; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has sounded the alarm regarding the poor state of our infrastructure for more than a decade. Over that time, we have participated in many meetings with state governments and at the White House and U.S. Departments of Energy and Labor. Federal efforts resulted in the Quadrennial Energy Review, a four-year plan designed to improve the nation’s energy infrastructure. But, while infrastructure funding has increased, more investment is needed for essential infrastructure; and
WHEREAS, In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America’s total infrastructure a grade of D+ and estimated that the investment needed by 2020 is $3.6 trillion. ASCE estimated, based on current spending projections, that an additional $84 billion will be needed to upgrade water and waste water systems to a B grade by 2020 and $107 billion will be needed for electrical systems; and
WHEREAS, Because water infrastructure is typically out of sight, it is a chronic source of underinvestment. American water systems are extremely inefficient. The EPA estimates that about one-sixth of the water we treat for drinking and pump into our systems leaks out. Moreover, our water systems are based on a hodgepodge of outdated technology, much of which is past its useful life; and
WHEREAS, Significant investment in the energy infrastructure will create new job opportunities for skilled workers. At the same time, the current TS&D infrastructure will need to be maintained. Expansion of the energy sector and requirements for workers with new skills will create demand for new workers in energy-related jobs; and
WHEREAS, Infrastructure discussions tend to focus on giant projects, but the vast majority of funds support smaller maintenance and capacity improvement projects. These projects are as critical to economic growth as big-ticket projects. Many projects of regional and national significance remain stuck in the planning stages, because states and local authorities cannot afford their completion; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has advocated for infrastructure improvements through the legislative and the regulatory processes at the local, state and national levels. In California, Locals 132, 522 and 483 fought for a law that directs the state Public Utilities Commission to implement a comprehensive statewide strategy to reduce emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, by repairing gas leaks throughout California. In Chicago, the union sponsored Utility Workers Military Assistance Program was developed around a long-term infrastructure project to replace the city’s aging gas pipelines. In Michigan and elsewhere, UWUA affiliates are successfully advocating for infrastructure investment.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA urges Congress to support investment in electrical, gas and water infrastructure reliability, resilience and affordability through the development of tools, methods, and new funding for operating the grid and water systems of the future; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Updating our infrastructure requires investment in projects large and small. The UWUA calls on all levels of union leadership to advocate for infrastructure maintenance and modernization with the goal of creating good paying jobs. The UWUA stands ready to assist local unions in seeking local, state and federal opportunities through legislation, the regulatory framework, and private and public grants; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The infrastructure necessary for the successful adaptation of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology must be developed now; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA commends the passage of the 2014 Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program, and calls on states to allocate greater resources towards repairing failing water and waste water systems.
WHEREAS, Utility workers put their lives on the line daily. In any emergency that involves our gas, electric, or water systems, a utility worker must respond first, before other emergency personnel such as police, EMTs and firefighters can do their a jobs; and
WHEREAS, Tragically, our members sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice. We honor every UWUA member killed in the line of duty. Their dedication will not be forgotten, and we owe it to our deceased members and their families to work toward preventing future tragedies; and
WHEREAS, Utilities are essential to modern life and have been declared by the United Nations as basic human rights. We are the workers who provide essential services. Every UWUA member plays a critical role in our society and is an “everyday hero”; and
WHEREAS, Extreme weather has raised public awareness about the importance of utilities and the shortcomings of our utility systems. Since our 2011 Convention, thousands of members have put themselves in danger and given up time to ensure that power, heat and water was restored to their communities and other communities in need; and
WHEREAS, Recent natural gas pipeline explosions underscore the dangers of deferred maintenance to workers and customers alike. The preventable deaths and injuries that occurred in San Bruno, Allentown, New York City and Philadelphia are not unique. They are a consequence of systemic neglect and disinvestment.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the National UWUA will, upon request, assist locals and members’ families who are struck by the tragedy of line of duty deaths by making information and resources available that will aid in the planning of appropriate funeral and memorial services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The rights of workers, their families and ratepayers, must be more important than dividends to utility stockholders. The safety of our gas, electric and water systems is paramount to every utility worker. The UWUA will tirelessly advocate for infrastructure maintenance and modernization, and continue to participate in forums such as “Lest History Repeat Itself – Pipeline Safety Initiatives” with the goal of protecting members and the public. We also demand that utility companies invest in upkeep and repairs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA and its affiliates will work with elected officials to be recognized as First Responders; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, Through UWUA-sponsored training programs, we will train the safest, most productive and highest skilled workers in the industry.
WHEREAS, In a democracy, the right to vote is a moral imperative, and this fundamental legal right is the lynchpin of all other rights; and
WHEREAS, Americans have witnessed escalating attacks on our voting rights. These attacks have been premised on the false claims that America is threatened with high levels of voter fraud. Prior to the 2012 elections, 180 bills were introduced in 41 states to make it harder for Americans to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Before those elections, 27 voter suppression laws in 19 states were passed that require voters to present documentary proof of citizenship in order to register and government- issued photo IDs in order to vote; and
WHEREAS, Voter ID laws are really just voter suppression laws, as are other disenfranchisement strategies including the reduction of early voting days, insufficient or outdated voting machines, biased purging of voter rolls, and artificial barriers to registration; and
WHEREAS, Studies by nonpartisan organizations such as Judicial Watch and the Brennan Center for Justice show that the majority of these laws disproportionately affect the elderly, poor, minorities, and young people. These laws cause a significant number of valid ballots to be wrongly discarded; and
WHEREAS, These disenfranchisement strategies are executed by far-right groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is the organization funded by the billionaire Koch family. When these strategies succeed, the result is that our nation is controlled by a few wealthy individuals who have only their own interests in mind rather than the interest of our country as a whole; and
WHEREAS, In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an essential provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This provision helped protect the right to vote in the states that have historically engaged in the most severe voter disenfranchisement; and
WHEREAS, Despite the right wing attacks on voting rights, the trend has shifted toward expanded voting access, with hundreds of bills introduced in states to protect and expand voting rights.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the UWUA, its affiliates, and members will continue to engage in efforts on the federal, state, and local levels to guarantee the constitutional right to vote; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That UWUA affiliates and members join allied organizations at the state level to secure legislation and constitutional amendments designed to increase electoral participation and to protect the voting rights of historically disenfranchised Americans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the UWUA and its affiliates go on record in support of actions that help ensure that voting is “free, fair and accessible for all Americans,” and that flawed processes that suppress voting be corrected; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the UWUA urges both houses of Congress to adopt the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act, introduced by Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin and John Conyers from Michigan, to fully restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were diminished by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. The legislation would also expand the Voting Rights Act by giving more power to federal courts to stop discriminatory voter suppression tactics before they are implemented.
WHEREAS, Despite more than a century of struggle and gains, women still do not have equality. Women make only 77 cents of every dollar paid to men. As workers, women continue to fight for good jobs, a just economy and family values at work. Too few women are recognized as leaders in their union; and
WHEREAS, Women’s equality is a shared struggle. More women belong to labor unions than to any other membership organization. Women’s issues are UWUA issues. We work toward shared leadership to reflect the makeup of our membership and we demand shared prosperity for all; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA is committed to gender equality, deplores the continuing discrimination against women in economic and social life, and recognizes the equal contribution of women and men to society, to our economy and to the labor movement; and
WHEREAS, Women workers, fighting gender discrimination, have repeatedly been the backbone of the labor movement throughout history. Unions are integral to economic and political well-being of working women; and
WHEREAS, Equality is a fundamental union value. Unions must be at the forefront of the struggle to achieve gender equality in the workplace and throughout society. The UWUA is committed to identifying, supporting and mentoring women activists in the workplace, in our Union, and in our communities.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA is committed to the achievement of gender equality, deplores the reality of pervasive discrimination against women in economic and social activity, and recognizes the equal contribution of women and men to society, to economic life and to the labor movement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA has created the Women’s Caucus to be charged with developing a plan to address the issues that impact women in the utility industry, to encourage greater participation in the activities and leadership of our Union, and to help women to advance in all areas of our industries; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA Women’s Caucus will provide a venue for communication, education, strategy, networking, and a support system to enhance the ability for our union sisters to engage in their Union as committed, strong members and leaders; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA supports the efforts of women to become involved in political action, lobbying and running as candidates in municipal, state, provincial and federal elections. Additionally, the UWUA encourages the formation of regional and local women’s committees, and will assist and provide resources to promote a deeper understanding of the need to develop regional and local women’s committees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Every worker should get a fair pay for a day’s work. Union contracts have contributed to women earning higher wages, but we must continue to close the wage gap between men and women. We commit to expanded job training and educational opportunities for women in all aspects of the industries we represent. And, we support policies that make wage and benefit standards across industries more transparent and fair; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA will continue to challenge itself to identify how we can build on the success of our Women’s Caucus and Human Rights Committee to ensure that we reflect the diversity of our membership through the activities and decision-making structures of our Union.
WHEREAS, UWUA members are the driving force of our union. We are strongest when all members fully participate in our Union and in our communities; and
WHEREAS, Well-funded corporate and political attacks continue to threaten the labor movement, our democratic rights, and the middle class. The UWUA needs all of its members to be engaged politically and to participate in the movement for social, economic, and human justice in our communities; and
WHEREAS, Shortly before the 29th UWUA Constitutional Convention, the Young Workers Initiative Committee (YWIC) was formed to address the challenges of the generational transition, as seasoned leaders retire and entrust the future of our union to younger and newer members; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has invested in its future by creating a permanent structure for the YWIC, including the commitment of staff and resources at the national and local levels. The UWUA has made great strides in helping our young members to begin a lifetime of activism by encouraging their participation in our local unions, in politics, and in community affairs. The UWUA has also helped them gain a deeper understanding of our Union’s proud history and traditions; and
WHEREAS, UWUA Young Workers have demonstrated success as leaders at many levels of our Union.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The YWIC is a national priority for UWUA, and the YWIC stands ready to advise and assist locals in expanding Young Worker programs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That UWUA locals and councils are strongly encouraged to develop Young Worker programs that increase participation of the next generation, with the goal of forming UWUA Young Worker groups at 50% of UWUA locals by our 2019 Constitutional Convention; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, All UWUA locals are encouraged to incorporate the best practices of successful Young Worker committees and to develop formal mentoring programs to help shape standout young workers into future leaders; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That Young Worker Initiative Committee members be integrated into organizing and political initiatives, as well as social media and community partnerships at both the local and national level.
WHEREAS, Electing pro-labor political candidates in the United States at all levels is critical to advancing the interests of our members and all working people; and
WHEREAS, Our democracy is jeopardized by a political system where money is equated with free speech and candidates must raise millions of dollars to finance their campaigns. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has allowed unlimited money, both foreign and domestic, to flood political campaigns to advance corporate interests. Labor-backed candidates are often enormously outspent by anti-labor politicians; and
WHEREAS, State legislatures and governors across the country have waged war on workers, their families and their unions; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA stands in strong opposition to corporate-owned legislators in the U.S. House and Senate who put profit before people. The 2016 elections will be pivotal for regaining worker-friendly majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The 2016 presidential election will be a defining moment in American history, and the UWUA is committed to promoting workers’ rights and building an economy that serves poor and middle class working families as the cornerstone of a campaign to elect a pro-union President of the United States.
THERFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, UWUA convention delegates thank the thousands of member volunteers who contribute to UWUA-COPE, knock on doors, staff the phones, distribute fliers, stuff envelopes, and register voters in support of working families’ legislative and political agenda; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, While many members have contributed to the UWUA COPE fund for years, a majority does not contribute. We can do better; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on every affiliate to appoint a COPE Chair and Committee to develop a plan for raising political funds. If all 50,000 of our members gave just $1.00 per week to the UWUA-COPE fund, we could raise millions and build a war chest for the 2016 elections; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, All UWUA local unions must offer every member the opportunity to make a small contribution through PAC check-off. If collective bargaining agreements do not contain language permitting this, it will be a goal of the local bargaining committees to ensure that this necessary language is included in their contracts as soon as possible; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA and its locals commit to participate in national and area joint labor political election programs, including member and voter contact by phone, worksite visits, canvassing, and mail. Local UWUA leaders will encourage members to volunteer their time for these important efforts; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA pledges to recommit itself to reclaiming state houses and the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives for working families, and to partner with our allies to protect the right of workers to collectively bargain for better wages, safe working conditions, and healthcare for our families, and to fight against toxic proposals like “Right-to-Work” and so-called “paycheck protection” legislation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, With the 2016 presidential elections, we must strengthen our COPE and fully participate in the 2016 UWUA Victory Conferences and elections, in order to replace anti-worker legislators and governors, and to elect a worker-friendly President in the White House; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA encourages our members to stand as candidates for all levels of political office, and is committed to assist those members in their efforts to represent working families.
WHEREAS, The past 30 years of U.S. trade policy have negatively impacted workers’ rights, wages, and consumer safety while increasing corporate dominance and the wealth gap; and
WHEREAS, The goals of international trade should be to create jobs, and share economic prosperity, and provide a long-term source of employment and stability in our communities. International trade must be fair and regulated to ensure that our economic and social well-being is enhanced; and
WHEREAS, After decades of trade agreements modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), evidence shows that free trade has led to increased corporate profits at the expense of working families, and increased protection of foreign investment but nothing for workers and communities; and
WHEREAS, Job loss from unregulated global trade is no longer restricted to the manufacturing sector. Millions of “high tech” and service jobs are being exported to low wage countries with estimates placing the number of jobs in the U.S. that may still be outsourced at up to 30 million. So-called free trade agreements also hold back wages for jobs that cannot be offshored. All workers face downward wage pressure. When workers in manufacturing, service and technology are displaced, they add to the supply of U.S. workers available for remaining jobs, and wages for all workers are depressed; and
WHEREAS, Trade agreements currently under negotiation with new “partners,” including the Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are following the same failed NAFTA model. The latest FTA to be granted “fast track” treatment is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and potentially China, South Korea, Thailand and Cambodia. The TTIP promises more of the same; and
WHEREAS, Our country cannot afford to worsen the economic inequality that has been generated by lowering wages for working Americans (even though our productivity has increased) by off-shoring our jobs in an era where over 60,000 factories have disappeared, and by pitting our labor force against low wage, third world workers, all of whom are in a race to the bottom. This travesty is worsened by socalled free trade agreements; and
WHEREAS, This race to the bottom has resulted in the worldwide exploitation of workers, while the internationally recognized labor principles adopted by so-called FTAs fail to protect workers’ rights to freely associate and organize, to expect safe working conditions, and to bargain collectively without fear of retaliation, threat or death; and
WHEREAS, The TPP and TTIP have been negotiated in secret despite the public’s real stake in the outcomes. Yet, big business continues to push for even less transparency through Fast Track, a trade promotion mechanism that limits Congress’ constitutional power to regulate commerce by publicly debating and amending trade agreements, thus circumventing our democratic process; and
WHEREAS, If given the opportunity to shape trade policy through open and democratic processes, workers, unions and community members can harness the power of FTAs to promote shared prosperity by using them as a tool to check unfettered corporate dominance and ensure that trade policy does not undermine the economic interests of workers everywhere.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA maintains that workers’ rights are human rights. Corporations will continue to exploit workers until workers have the right to organize and collectively bargain, and the mass exodus of jobs from the U.S. will continue; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA condemns Congress’ recent approval of fast-track legislation, which allows the President to submit TPP to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. And, we will take individual Congressional votes into consideration before issuing endorsements for political candidates; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The fight to defeat TPP is not over. The UWUA will continue to educate members and the public on the true costs of the policy, and will wage a campaign for the defeat of TPP in Congress; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the UWUA will work with its labor and political allies to achieve trade policy solutions that enhance labor rights and workers’ voices on the job. The UWUA will call on the U.S. Trade Representative to strengthen the labor and environmental standards of all future FTAs by insisting that trade partners agree to the ILO conventions with enforcement mechanisms; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the UWUA will work with community partners and the AFL-CIO to advocate for transparency and accountability in the trade agreement negotiating process and will pressure the U.S. trade representative to allow labor, environmental, human rights and other publicinterest groups access to negotiations in order that we may educate the public about the costs of unfair TPAs; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, the UWUA will work with its labor and political allies to ensure that all trade agreements enhance the rights of workers and increase the ability of U.S. workers to reclaim the promise of America.
WHEREAS, The Utility Workers Union of America continues to support the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) goal of securing high quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans. Since the passage of the ACA in 2010, millions more Americans receive affordable health care. The ACA has eliminated some of the worst insurance company abuses. Yet, millions of people remain uninsured or underinsured; and
WHEREAS, We will continue to work for changes to the ACA at the national level that will protect health plans from adverse unintended consequences of the ACA, and press for employers to assume responsibility for contributing to the cost of health care for their employees and to prevent employers from dumping employees onto Medicaid or the health care exchanges; and
WHEREAS, Improving the ACA is an important step in the goal of guaranteeing health care for all and establishing universal health care as a basic human right, without exclusions or penalties; and
WHEREAS, While the market place has a role to play, our government must play the central role in regulating, financing and providing health care. The experience of Medicare shows that the most cost effective and equitable way to provide quality health care is through a single-payer national system; and
WHEREAS, Gridlock at the federal level has shifted hope for further progressive health care reform to the states. State-level legislation is now implementing innovative programs to achieve universal health care. A national health insurance system may result from individual states creating their own single-payer models; and
WHEREAS, The ACA allows individual states in 2017 to apply for federal waivers to implement their own health systems, provided a state can cover at least as many residents as the ACA without adding to the federal deficit; and
WHEREAS, Every industrialized country in the world, except the U.S., has a single-payer system because it is the most equitable and cost-effective method of providing health care. Single-payer would best serve our workers, families and communities; and
WHEREAS, Single-payer national health insurance is not just about financing health care. It is an important step toward leveling the playing field between rich and poor, sick and healthy, and young and old.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the UWUA will work in coalition with affiliated unions, labor councils, community partners, and single-payer health care advocates in pursuing legislation to receive waivers from the federal government in 2017 for individual states to set up universal health care single-payer systems.
WHEREAS, Young utility workers are not gaining the skills necessary to replace a rapidly aging workforce. 38% of electric and gas utility employees will retire in the next decade. Yet, unemployment of young adults is the highest in generations, with 5.8 million young adults neither in school nor working.
WHEREAS, Projections indicate that by 2030 the energy sector overall, including transmission, storage, and distribution, will need an additional 1.5 million workers. Most of these jobs will be in construction, installation and maintenance, and transportation, plus approximately 200,000 more workers with computer and mathematics skills will be needed; and
WHEREAS, Following deregulation, utilities stopped providing sufficient training for their workers; and
WHEREAS, UWUA created the Power for America Training Trust Fund (P4A) to train the next generation of utility workers. P4A was established as a joint labor-management trust to create career paths in the utility industries, and to provide on-the-job training and continuous skills enhancements for our members. The mission of the UWUA Power for America Training Trust Fund is to provide workers with the highest quality training to meet the needs of the industry and the global marketplace; and
WHEREAS, With 200,000 veterans leaving military service annually, recruiting and training vets for energy jobs can reduce the skills gap in our industries; and
WHEREAS, Providing training and good jobs for those who serve our country is a UWUA priority. To fulfill that mission, the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP) was created as a public-private partnership between the Power for America Training Trust Fund, Peoples Gas, and the State of Illinois Workforce and Economic Opportunity Agency; and
WHEREAS, The UMAP partnership is built around a long-term infrastructure project to replace the aging gas pipelines in Chicago. To date, UMAP and Peoples Gas have graduated more than 60 candidates. These veterans are now UWUA Local 18007 members employed at Peoples Gas; and
WHEREAS, The most effective training combines classroom learning with on-the-job experience. There is substantial evidence that apprenticeship programs efficiently increase employee productivity. Researchers have found that U.S. workers who complete an apprenticeship make about $300,000 more than comparable employees over their lifetimes; and
WHEREAS, Apprenticeships are also an effective public investment. In an analysis of work-force training programs, researchers found that the return on investment for apprenticeships is $23 for every public dollar of investment; and
WHEREAS, Union-led training helps to develop good union members, especially in “right-to-work” states. Union training gives workers a good introduction to the value of union representation and collective bargaining; and
WHEREAS, Under a five-year agreement with Consumers Energy, P4A leads the training of employees at Michigan’s largest electric and gas utility. In addition to training new workers, P4A provides further skills development for employees working in natural gas and electric service, power generation and meter reading. The majority of P4A trainers are retired utility workers who have been out in the field – they have years of experience and can tell students what to expect day-to-day on the job; and
WHEREAS, In June 2014, P4A proudly opened a new 10,000 square foot training center in Potterville, Michigan. The center is owned by the Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC) and run by the Power for America Training Trust. P4A has expanded its partnerships to include 12 community colleges and 5 employers, and is offering expanded training options over a larger geographic area; and
WHEREAS, In January 2015, UMAP was extended another five years with the aim of training an additional 250 veterans.
WHEREAS, The Michigan P4A center is a model that can be duplicated throughout our jurisdiction to meet the changing needs of the industries and the communities that UWUA members serve. Likewise, the UMAP program’s success has drawn national attention from the Department of Labor, Congressional leadership, military partners and employers from across the country; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA calls for a shift to competency-based credentialing, which is particularly useful for veterans because they enter the civilian workforce with a unique set of skills—skills that may not be recognized by civilian certifications. As a result, veterans are often required to go through courses where they already know much of what is taught; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, P4A is committed to providing training and development programs for the contributing employers and participants as well as the continued development of the web-based P4A Training Resource Center. This secure, confidential website allows for real time review by participants and training personnel of training records and skills enhancement.
WHEREAS, In 2000, California enacted legislation naming an official state holiday in honor of Cesar Chavez and declared March 31, his birthday, a day of service and learning in its public schools. This legislation has led to a national movement calling on Congress to do the same with an official federal holiday for Cesar Chavez; and
WHEREAS, The California legislation led to a wave of optional or commemorative Cesar Chavez state holidays in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin; and
WHEREAS, In 2008 as a candidate for president, Senator Barack Obama called for a national holiday in Chavez’s honor, saying: “Chavez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist, and a civil rights leader. And his cause lives on. As farm workers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago. And, we should honor him for what he’s taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation”; and
WHEREAS, A Cesar Chavez national holiday would be the first time that a labor leader ever received this honor; and
WHEREAS, This holiday would encourage all people to model Cesar Chavez’s legacy by engaging in action for workers’ rights, civil rights, environmental justice, non-violence, and empowerment of the poor and disenfranchised; and
WHEREAS, The Cesar Chavez National Holiday is a national organization based in Los Angeles that is spearheading the effort to win a national holiday and state and local holidays, and is coalescing organizations, communities and individuals throughout the country; and
WHEREAS, Organized labor is a natural ally of this effort to tribute Cesar Chavez, one of labor’s own leaders, the founder and former president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Utility Workers Union of America calls on President Barack Obama to follow through on his 2008 presidential campaign proposal and work with Congress to establish an annual legal, public, federal holiday and a day of service, learning and action in recognition of Cesar Chavez, an internationally recognized Mexican American labor leader, on his birthday, March 31; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the Utility Workers Union of America will continue to support the Cesar Chavez National Holiday coalition and to actively partner with elected officials and supporters and leaders of Latino, labor, civil rights, interfaith, and other organizations who are working together to ensure that the legacy of Cesar Chavez is recognized and celebrated throughout our nation.
WHEREAS, Organizing is our future. Despite anti-union employers and political attacks on working families, the UWUA works tirelessly in organizing on behalf of working families; and
WHEREAS, UWUA members and the communities we serve have worked together to fight back against greedy employers, unjust laws and regulations, as well as to offer ideas that make a difference to workers, ratepayers and communities; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has trained Young Workers Initiative Committee members to serve as the centerpiece of the UWUA’s organizing strategy, as we continue to create a core of volunteer organizers from local affiliates throughout the country who are deployed to organizing drives; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has focused on clerical, technical and professional employees who have traditionally not been organized, and has begun the process of educating them on the importance of collective bargaining and membership in the UWUA; and
WHEREAS, As mergers and acquisitions reshape the utility industry, it is critical that the UWUA negotiate successor language, access to the property, and neutrality agreements; and
WHEREAS, Since the last Constitutional Convention, the UWUA has committed its resources to many workers who have expressed interest in joining the UWUA. This has required a substantial investment in economic resources and expertise because organizing campaigns are long-term commitments due to reactionary employers.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA will work with our locals to organize, engage, empower, inspire and mobilize potential and existing members to fight back against anti-worker attacks, and fight forward to expand our union and reclaim the promise of shared prosperity; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA commends the National Labor Relations Board for enacting expedited union election rules. In May, UWUA Local 118 organized 5 new members, becoming the first union in the country to win an election using the new, streamlined process; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA welcomes Local 610 members in Holland, Michigan to our Union family. Local 610 was chartered in 2015; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA is committed to expanding its volunteer member organizing program, and will continue to hold training classes and expand its core organizers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Through contract negotiations, UWUA locals can both protect their current membership and lay the groundwork for new organizing. The UWUA has created model contract language for neutrality, access to property, and card check language for use at every contract negotiation; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, We will work with our community partners to protect and promote the interests of working people, ratepayers, families and communities—including the opportunity to join and organize a union.
WHEREAS, Members are the source of our Union’s strength. To combat unprecedented attacks on American workers, the UWUA must harness the power and potential of our membership; and
WHEREAS, The most effective form of communication is a face-to-face, one-on-one, member-tomember conversation. This approach builds a strong connection inside the Union, to lay the basis for a long-term, effective program to counter corporate greed and anti-worker policies; and
WHEREAS, In January 2013, following Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s signing of “Right-to- Work,” the UWUA created the Member-to Member (M2M) campaign with the goal of preserving our gains and combatting the corporate and political attacks that are destroying the American middle class. M2M is structured to streamline communications at every level of our Union, so that we can efficiently share critical information and respond with effective action; and
WHEREAS, Our Union launched the Michigan M2M program in early 2013. All 23 locals of the Michigan State Utility Workers Council and all the Divisions of Local 223 reviewed the implications of “Right-to-Work” legislation. Each group adopted the principles of establishing M2M Action Networks and committed to utilizing existing steward systems and activities to better engage their members. Meetings were held across the state. Sustained efforts culminated in members within 36 of the 41 Michigan UWUA locals understanding the complexities of “Right-to-Work,” and establishing the structure needed to organize the membership to fight back; and
WHEREAS, The M2M communication strategy is designed to build the power to win justice for all UWUA members, their families and their communities. Member-to-Member action networks link local leaders with all members through an action coordinator in every union unit. The coordinator works with member action organizers. Each organizer — a steward or an informal leader — is responsible for keeping in touch with 5 to 20 co-workers. Every union member is part of this network; and
WHEREAS, Across the country, M2M networks have been established, expanded and successfully utilized for contract campaigns and political action.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Strengthening our Member-to-Member networks is a UWUA priority. The National UWUA will continue providing comprehensive education and hands-on instruction to develop effective M2M structures by facilitating workshops at the local level, and during regional and national conferences; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, M2M is a key tool for a better future for UWUA members. Today’s UWUA must evolve if we are to take on challenges of the 21st Century. We must continue to reinvent our Union with bold new strategies and initiatives, and M2M is essential to our success; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, National UWUA priorities and initiatives, including the Young Workers Initiative, activating Retirees, the Women’s Caucus, Youth and our campaign to rebuild America’s infrastructure, will be integrated into our M2M networks, ensuring that every member is informed of UWUA programs to help realize our goals.
WHEREAS, Employers have a moral and legal duty to provide a workplace free of known hazards. But too often, employers ignore safety risks or else blame the victim, contending that employees themselves are responsible for workplace accidents and diseases; and
WHEREAS, More than 40 years after the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), the number of on-the job injury deaths averages 13 every day plus there are an estimated 50,000 deaths from occupational diseases every year. Health and safety risks are endemic to the utility industry. In 2013, 40 utility workers died of work-related causes; and
WHEREAS, OSHA’s budget has been slashed and enforcement hampered by austerity measures imposed by Congress. Government safety and health standards save lives, but the process for setting new standards is long and cumbersome. The standards for many serious hazards are out-of-date, and other workplace hazards have no standards at all; and
WHEREAS, Whatever legal and contractual coverage UWUA members have, the most important factor affecting workplace safety is how effectively we organize in our workplaces and mobilize members to stand up for their right to a safe workplace. The key to achieving strong protections, whether through collective bargaining or the legislature, is a strong union. Safety and health are fundamental to building a strong union; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA leadership has made worker health and safety a top union priority. Utility workers must be prepared for emergency response. UWUA members are first responders in all emergencies dealing with electric, water, gas and steam. Through the use of federal grants and union resources, the UWUA initiated the Train The Trainers (TTT) program and training in the Systems of Safety (SOS) method, where training classes of both union and management workers begin after the completion of TTT. Training has steadily expanded and, to date, the UWUA SOS program has trained more than 6,000 workers over the last four years.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on all members to support political candidates who champion the cause of health and safety, and who will insist that government agencies serve the best interests of workers. The UWUA opposes corporate and legislative efforts to weaken occupational health and safety laws, regulations, and enforcement. We will work for the passage of progressive legislation to better protect worker rights and safety; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, UWUA urges Congress to fully fund the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its sister agencies; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, We will fight to strengthen workers’ compensation and safety. All jurisdictions should increase workers’ compensation benefits. Loopholes favoring the employer must be closed so that all work-related injuries and occupational diseases are fully compensated regardless of the injury or disease; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, We will continue to work for stronger workplace standards and expand our efforts to educate our members. Our goal is to ensure that every member knows his or her rights under the contract and the law — especially the right to refuse unsafe work. We will train the next generation of safety and health activists, and commit resources to resolving health and safety problems through successful programs such as the P4A training and the SOS Haz-mapping component in our UMAP veteran training. The UWUA will continue to provide technical assistance, training, and educational materials on health and safety to our local affiliates; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, We will continue our efforts to improve and enforce the health and safety clauses of our collective bargaining agreements, including the right to refuse unsafe work, immediate arbitration of health and safety disputes, union access to all relevant information, and an increased role for local union health and safety committees and representatives.
WHEREAS, The term “right-to-work” is designed to mislead workers into believing that their individual power is equal to their employer’s power. “right-to-work” assures no worker a job, protects no worker against employer bias or management retaliation, and undermines a worker’s right to union representation and the ability to build a strong union that bargains for fair wages and benefits; and
WHEREAS, “Right-to-work” laws foster disunity by encouraging workers to freeload on their union sisters and brothers by enjoying the good wages, benefits and job protections negotiated by union members without sharing the costs of winning those gains; and
WHEREAS, While proponents of “right-to-work” promote their agenda in terms of economic development and democracy, their true motive is to deny unions and workers funding for bargaining and political power. The goal of “right-to-work” is to marginalize unions and strip workers of the voice they have achieved through collective action; and
WHEREAS, “Right-to-work” laws encourage employers to diminish worker pay, benefits, and employment security. The impact on workers is actually the “right-to-work-for-less.” In states with laws restricting workers’ rights to form unions, the average pay for all workers is lower. In 2013, it was $5,971 (12.2 %) less than workers in free bargaining states. “Right-to-work” states also have higher rates of poverty and workplace fatalities, and lower rates of health insurance coverage; and
WHEREAS, The 2010 and 2014 general elections resulted in conservative majorities in state legislatures and governorships across the U.S. Having bought anti-worker politicians, corporations now are pushing for the elimination of core worker rights and protections. Twenty-five states have enacted “rightto- work” policies. No one is safe. The agenda has advanced even in historic labor and UWUA strongholds such as Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania; and
WHEREAS, Anti-worker laws can be defeated. After Ohio enacted “right-to-work” laws that stripped public employees of their bargaining rights, eliminated arbitration, raised employee health costs and limited seniority rights, Ohio UWUA locals, working with the State AFL-CIO, organized a signature drive to place the law on the ballot for a public vote. As a result of those efforts, the laws were repealed by a vote of 62%.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the UWUA strongly opposes “right-to-work” laws and supports efforts to repeal such laws. The UWUA condemns the activities of corporate financed “right-towork” groups who promote anti-union strategies for ever-greater profit; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on the National Labor Relations Board to strike a more reasonable balance between worker organizations and corporations in states where “right-towork” has been enacted, mandating “fair share” fees for non-dues paying workers who have the benefits of union contracts and representation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA urges our local unions facing the burdens of “rightto- work” laws to strengthen our bonds with our members and maintain full membership; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the UWUA opposes all initiatives to enact new “right-towork” legislation, and opposes the efforts of all “right-to-work” groups. The UWUA calls on workers to compare compensation levels of free states versus “right-to-work” states to appreciate the value of the right to unionize and to act to defeat anti-worker legislation in their own state.
WHEREAS, High quality public services are the backbone of our society and have improved our lives, built stronger communities, reduced the impact of inequality and bolstered our economy. Public services depend on investments and attention from communities in order to thrive; and
WHEREAS, The aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 has limited the revenues available to fund these services and increased the need for these services by forcing more Americans into poverty; and
WHEREAS, Wall Street and bankers created the economic crisis that led to the Great Recession, but continue to deflect attention away from themselves by blaming public sector workers and pensions for the economic crisis; and
WHEREAS, The efforts of corporations, anti-government activists (using lobbyists like the American Legislative Exchange Council) and the politicians who do their bidding, have further diminished public service revenues by pursuing an agenda of austerity; and
WHEREAS, States, counties and municipalities are looking to private contractors and elimination of collectively bargained pensions as quick fixes on short-term budget shortfalls, without regard for longterm costs in terms of dollars, stresses of the social safety net, and eroding quality; and
WHEREAS, Recession and austerity politics are undermining public services at the same time it is essential that the promise that these services provide to our communities be reclaimed; and
WHEREAS, Collective bargaining is the best vehicle to help transform public institutions and improve the delivery of more cost-effective government services while providing a voice for workers on the job; and
WHEREAS, Public sector workers and their unions are under attack because that is where organized labor is strongest. In 2014, 35.7% of public-sector workers belonged to unions, more than five times the 6.6% private sector rate of unionization. Attacks on public sector unions aim at denying unions the resources needed to advocate for members in collective bargaining and in the political arena. And, these attacks hurt not only unions and their members, but all working people; and
WHEREAS, At the state and local levels, the richest Americans already pay less in taxes as a share of their income than the rest of the population.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, All workers deserve a living wage and secure retirements. Fewer and fewer workers have pension benefits, and wages have been stagnant for decades. Too many workers are losing ground, and the UWUA refuses to go along with this race to the bottom. The UWUA remains firm in its resolve to do everything possible to preserve the wages, benefits, retirement security, and jobs of union members who provide vital public services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA supports the rights of public sector workers to bargain collectively and will hold states, counties and cities accountable for their contractual obligations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will support efforts to invest in public services in order to reclaim their promise as a tool for building a more just and prosperous society; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will support efforts to create a system of federal, state and local revenues that is progressive, adequate, stable and fair. UWUA calls for ending the use of overseas tax shelters and other methods of corporate tax avoidance; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will highlight the solution-driven approach to service- delivery issues that can be achieved through meaningful collective bargaining where joint problemsolving can produce positive outcomes for employers, employees and citizens; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA will work to mobilize members around commonsense tax and revenue policies that support the delivery of quality public services to build stronger communities, rebuild our infrastructure, create more jobs, reduce income inequality, and help reclaim the promise of America.
WHEREAS, All workers deserve to retire with a reliable income that enables them to maintain their standard of living and not fall into poverty as they age; and
WHEREAS, The U.S. faces a retirement security crisis as the traditional retirement model consisting of an employer-provided defined benefit plan, Social Security and personal savings has unraveled. The retirement savings shortfall facing U.S. workers is over $4 trillion; and
WHEREAS, While nearly 80% of union members have access to an employer-sponsored retirement program, the American Dream of a safe retirement is out of reach for most non-union workers. As of 2010, only 51% of private sector workers had access to a retirement plan at work, and 38 million households had no retirement savings at all. Only 18% of workers say they are very confident of having enough money to live comfortably in retirement; and
WHEREAS, Defined benefit pension plans providing secure retirement income have been all but eliminated for non-union workers, and are under increasing attacks for union workers in both the private and public sector. The preservation of pension plans is one of the biggest fights that local unions wage in contract negotiations; and
WHEREAS, Under the pretext of competitiveness, corporations have profited greatly from the elimination of traditional worker pensions. Companies commonly freeze worker plans while increasing the retirement benefits of executives. Numerous corporations use bankruptcy or other legal maneuvers to abrogate contractual obligations and hand them off to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), resulting in decreased pensions for workers; and
WHEREAS, Defined contribution pension plans such as 401(k)s are often inadequate but are now the dominant employer-based retirement programs. DC plans shift all investment risk to individuals and are contributing to the retirement crisis. They have high administrative fees that diminish an account’s value by up to 30%; and
WHEREAS, Social Security provides a modest retirement income for most Americans. Social Security amounts to just one-third of the income that retirees need. And yet, for the majority of people 65 and older, these benefits constitute 50% of their income. As the value of 401(k) plans diminish and employers continue to reduce traditional pensions, Social Security is more crucial than ever; and
WHEREAS, Projections vary as to how long Social Security will remain solvent, but claims of an imminent crisis are inaccurate. The system is financially secure and will be able to pay full benefits for the next three decades so long as there is political will to keep the program viable. Proposals for privatization or individual managed accounts would destroy, not strengthen, the program.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Pensions are not gifts from employers; they are deferred compensation won at the bargaining table. The UWUA supports the continued use of defined benefit pension plans in both the public and private sectors. For this reason, the UWUA encourages our locals to defend and improve the defined benefit pension plans that we have in place; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Where all efforts have been exhausted to protect a defined benefit plan and to force consideration of a defined contribution plan, we urge our locals to negotiate provisions requiring the employer to make contributions that provide real financial security for our members throughout retirement, and that minimizes the major risks associated with these plans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will advocate for legislation and regulatory oversight that prioritizes the needs of retirees instead of mazimizing Wall Street investment profits; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, UWUA opposes any plan to privatize Social Security, raise the retirement age, or cut benefits. The UWUA urges Congress to preserve Social Security and consider eliminating the income tax cap to fortify this vital program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the UWUA will advocate for a national version of the retirement plan that California introduced in 2012. Aimed at lower-income workers whose employers do not offer a pension, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program requires employers to withhold 3% of an employee’s pay, with participants automatically enrolled unless they opt out. Those funds are then invested under the state’s pension system or professionally managed by a private fund; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA strongly urges increased regulatory and legislative oversight to impede corporations from handing off contractually negotiated pension benefits to the PBGC. Where PBGC takeover is necessary, UWUA will lobby for increased employer funding to strengthen the fund’s finances and enable it to pay out greater shares of promised pensions to retirees. Additionally, through public education and shareholder activism, the UWUA will aggressively fight inequitable corporate policies that boost executive retirement benefits at the expense of worker retirement benefits.
WHEREAS, The UWUA Human Rights Committee was enshrined in our union’s constitution at our 2007 Constitutional Convention because the struggle for equality is central to our union’s mission; and
WHEREAS, As our union membership and the communities in which we live evolve, we must expand our conception of diversity and embrace all workers. A diverse and inclusive labor movement is essential to connecting with and representing the workforce of the future, where women workers, workers of color, and young workers are the clear majority. Additionally, we must ensure that our union remains a beacon of opportunity for military veterans, experienced workers, LGBT workers, workers with disabilities and workers of every faith; and
WHEREAS, Equality is a shared struggle. Civil and human rights do not serve “special interests.” To succeed as a union, we must embrace the practices of inclusion and nondiscrimination in carrying out every endeavor at every level of our union. Only by coming together will we be able to transform an economy that has favored corporate interests over people, built wealth for the very few, and lowered expectations for what’s possible for working Americans.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA urges local unions and regional bodies to make sustained and conscious efforts to build diversity in their organizations—at the leadership level and in the hiring of key staff; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The Human Rights Committee is integral to the work of our union and an essential resource. The committee is available to provide local unions with: communications assistance; training, including – biases, diversity, communication and conflict resolution; complaint processing with an emphasis on fostering union relationships instead of conflict; and assistance with organizing with an emphasis on organizing the growing diverse population; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The Human Rights Committee complements the work of the Young Workers Initiative Committee and Women’s Caucus, and stands ready to assist in realizing each group’s goals; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA will actively engage in legislative and policy advocacy on issues of importance to diverse groups of workers to lend support and demonstrate our commitment to these communities.
EQUALITY AND CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY
WHEREAS, The gains from economic growth are unequally distributed in the United States. During 2009–2012 —the first three years of recovery from the Great Recession—average household income in the U.S. grew by 6%. However, most of those gains went to the privileged few. 95% of income gains went to the top 1% of households. During this same period, the share of income growth for the bottom 90% of households was a negative 15.7%; and
WHEREAS, Society does not succeed without a large, prospering middle class. But today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in jeopardy; and
WHEREAS, In recent decades, income inequality has grown as corporate CEOs have taken a greater share of the economic pie, while wages have stagnated and unemployment remains high. In 2013, the CEOto- worker pay ratio was 331:1, and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio was 774:1; and
WHEREAS, Fair CEO-to-worker pay ratios mean that the contributions of all employees are important to running a successful company. Full disclosure of the ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay demonstrates to investors whether or not a company values its employees and allows investors to use the pay ratio to evaluate grossly inflated executive compensation proposals; and
WHEREAS, There is substantial evidence that the incentive structure for corporate decision makers is flawed. Long-term goals for investments have been undermined because management compensation is tied to short-term stock-market performance. There is no evidence that increases in executive compensation in recent decades have improved economic efficiency. Instead, excessive executive compensation has stolen the corporate income needed to compensate ordinary workers; and
WHEREAS, Regressive payroll and excise taxes have grown as a share of federal tax revenue, while progressive income and estate taxes make up a smaller share. A decades-long accumulation of tax exemptions, deductions, and exclusions have helped reduce effective tax rates on high-income households and corporations. These provisions in the tax code shelter huge amounts of wealth from normal taxation; and
WHEREAS, The need for further reform of the nation’s financial system is critical in order to end the Wall Street abuses that helped cause the financial crisis, threaten another crisis, and continue to harm consumers.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the UWUA commends the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) for issuing a proposed rule requiring companies to disclose the ratio of total compensation between CEOs and the median pay of employees. We urge the SEC to adopt a final rule so companies are required to disclose the ratio between CEO and median employee pay so that investors can use this information; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, As Federal agencies promulgate new regulations, the UWUA calls on them to protect public budgets from losses due to unforeseen economic downturns and to better supervise the hedge funds, private equity funds, and mutual funds in which our retirement savings are invested; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, We must make sure that the wealthiest 1%, the large profitable corporations and the Wall Street financiers, all of whom benefitted from misguided economic policies, pay a fair share of taxes. Tax laws should impose the same tax rate on investors’ income as on workers’ wages. Estate taxes should be raised so that, at a minimum, tax rates and exemptions are restored to the levels that existed before they were lowered by legislation signed by President George W. Bush; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA is committed to shareholder voting reform of publicly held corporations. Shareholders should have the right to nominate candidates for corporate boards. Shareholders should have an annual advisory vote on executive compensation; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA will continue to advocate for laws supporting the fair distribution of wealth in America, including initiatives to strengthen labor unions and workplace rights. The UWUA will advocate for livable wages, better benefits, fairer trade policies and stronger protections of public services.
WHEREAS, In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations have the same right to freedom of speech as natural persons and are, therefore, entitled to unlimited election spending. Later, in its McCutcheon decision, the Supreme Court ruled that an aggregate limit on political contributions was unconstitutional and that the government cannot limit the number of candidates to whom an individual may contribute, nor restrict an individual’s total aggregate contributions to candidates; and
WHEREAS, Regardless of the legal notion of “corporate personhood,” business corporations are not people. Corporations are man-made legal structures that exhibit no qualities of being a person, and exist to make money for their shareholders and executives; and
WHEREAS, The rulings in Citizens and McCutcheon further tilted the political playing field in favor of the top 1% and have opened the flood gates on political spending by corporations and the super rich, thereby corrupting the democratic process. The amount of money spent in political elections continues to put politics outside of the reach of the average citizen; and
WHEREAS, In 2012, business interests once again dominated American politics, outspending the labor movement by 11 to 1. These corporate interests push an agenda to reduce workplace rights and safety, weaken unions, threaten the right to vote, and cut tax rates for corporations and the super rich while decimating the safety net for American working families; and
WHEREAS, Labor organizations are subject to strict reporting guidelines and must publicly disclose political expenditures, while campaign finance rules allow corporations to funnel their contributions to organizations like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Chamber of Commerce and other anti-labor entities.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA urges the Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to reverse dangerous Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and to rein in the flood of secret money in the elections. Congress should regulate the raising and spending of money, including the activities of so-called “Super PACs,” while giving states the authority to further regulate campaign finance at their level; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA supports the public disclosure of all corporate campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, trade association payments and payments to organizations that engage in political campaigns; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA urges Congress to develop rules to establish a public finance election system for federal elections, to repair the system, and to require shareholders of publicly traded corporations to approve any corporate spending on political campaigns. The UWUA encourages local unions to advocate for campaign finance reform protections within their states.
WHEREAS, America has the world’s largest reserves of recoverable coal, providing the country with a 235-year supply of secure, affordable domestic energy. Coal generates 40% of the nation’s electricity—by far the largest share—and remains the dominant fuel for electricity generation. Coal, like natural gas, oil, and wood, releases carbon dioxide during combustion. Each of these carbon-containing materials exist in abundance in the United States and are foundational to our nation’s energy economy; and
WHEREAS, Advances in clean coal technologies and more efficient combustion systems have enabled U.S. power plants to reduce their regulated emissions by more than 60% since 1970, while increasing electric power output over the same period by 140%. A new coal-fueled power plant emits 90% fewer emissions than the typical 1970s plant it replaced. Further emissions reductions are expected as new technology is developed; and
WHEREAS, The United Nations has called on industrialized nations to work closely on Carbon Capture and Storage or Sequestration (CCS) development. This technology is critical to our future. Globally, there are 13 large-scale CCS projects in operation, with 9 CCS projects under construction. Twenty-two CCS projects represents an increase of 50% since the start of this decade; and
WHEREAS, The Obama Administration has broad plans to reduce carbon pollution by 80% or more by 2050. This will partly be achieved through the Clean Power Plan (CPP) proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014 for existing power plants, that would reduce power sector emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030; and
WHEREAS, CCS technology has been cited by authoritative sources on climate change mitigation, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), as one of the most important technologies to meet stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals; and
WHEREAS, The U.S. Department of Energy announced a landmark CCS accomplishment this spring. A group of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects supported by the department captured 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the equivalent of removing more than 2 million passenger vehicles from the nation’s roads for one year; and
WHEREAS, Recent industry reports suggest that with successful research, development and deployment, sequestered coal-based electricity generation in 2025 may cost less than unsequestered coal-based electricity generation today.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA supports establishing environmental policies that balance the need for expanded and affordable energy with sensible environmental protection, while providing the long term certainty needed for major investment; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on Congress to set aside partisan differences to enact responsible climate control and energy legislation, and condemns efforts to create regulations that disadvantage specific energy sectors, which leads to job losses and increased energy costs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on utility owners to implement the best available technologies at existing coal plants; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA calls on Congress to approve President Obama’s 2016 budget request of $560 million for the fossil energy research and development, $116.6 million of which is earmarked for carbon capture research and development. The focus of federal fossil energy research and development should be carbon capture and storage, and activities that increase the performance and availability of systems integrated with CCS; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA supports extensive CCS research before requiring its use. Until CCS technology is more fully developed, the UWUA calls on the EPA to remove requirements in its draft New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for carbon dioxide that would require all new coal-fired power plants to meet a standard of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per Megawatt hour of power produced, which can only be achieved with partial CCS.
WHEREAS, Nuclear power supplies 19% of total U.S. electricity production with essentially zero greenhouse gas emissions. Renewables like wind and solar do not provide reliable base load power, and any additional loss of nuclear-generating capacity would result in increased carbon dioxide emissions. Preserving the U.S. nuclear reactor fleet is a critical element in the transition to a low-carbon future; and
WHEREAS, Since 2012, four power companies have announced the retirement of five nuclear reactors in the United States. Amid increasing debate over nuclear power in countries such as Japan and Germany, these announcements have led some Wall Street analysts and academics to forecast a wave of U.S. reactor retirements in the coming years. If these predictions are correct, the result will worsen climate change and lead to the loss of good U.S. jobs; and
WHEREAS, In 30 states, nuclear energy facilities supply low-carbon electricity to 1 out of every 5 homes and businesses. The continued operation of nuclear power plants is critical to ensuring stable, reliable and affordable energy. Nuclear power is one of the few sources that can produce large volumes of electricity 24/7. However, issues with fuel disposal and potential accidents are obstacles to expansion; and
WHEREAS, Americans support nuclear energy. A recent public opinion poll found that 86% approved of license renewals for nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards. Seventy-seven percent agreed that companies should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built in the next decade; and
WHEREAS, An already safe technology must be made demonstrably safer, less expensive and more secure against the threats of terrorism. Good public policy involves balancing risks. Above all, we must base our energy policy on a scientifically valid appreciation of real-world risks, not on scare tactics. With many nuclear plants nearing the end of their useful lives, we must build new generators. At present, there are five new reactors under construction expected to come on line between 2016 and 2018. However, replacement is not keeping up with closures of numerous nuclear reactors.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Increased nuclear power generation must be a key component to an American energy policy that lessens our dependence on foreign oil and reduces the output of greenhouse gases. The UWUA urges Congress to include nuclear power as a significant component of any comprehensive climate control and energy legislation. The UWUA calls on Congress and the Obama Administration to encourage the building of new plants through guaranteed loans and other legislative and regulatory means; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Most of the 100 reactors in the U.S. are expected to be granted license extensions from 40 to 60 years. This justifies significant capital expenditure in upgrading systems and components and extra performance margins. There is widespread agreement that license extensions up to 80 years may be needed, and this prospect is driving research on the safety and reliability in older plants. The UWUA calls on Congress to support the research and updates needed to extend the life of America’s aging nuclear plants; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA commends the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) orders for immediate post-Fukushima safety enhancements, which are likely to cost about $100 million across the whole U.S. fleet. The first order requires the addition of equipment at all plants to respond to loss of power and to maintain containment integrity. The second order requires improved water level and temperature instrumentation on used fuel ponds. The third order applies to the 33 BWRs with early containment designs and requires reliable hardened containment vents. Additionally, the UWUA supports the industry’s proposal to set up regional emergency response centers under NRC oversight; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA demands that all nuclear power plant operators maintain a strong safety culture, utilizing the best industry standards to achieve operating excellence. Safety, production, and cost control are necessary goals for the operation of nuclear plants. These outcomes are complementary, with most plants achieving high levels of safety, impressive production, and competitive costs; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The U.S. needs to develop a permanent waste repository. Safely securing spent fuel should be a public safety priority of the highest degree. The UWUA urges Congress and the Obama Administration to take immediate action. The cost of fixing America’s nuclear vulnerabilities may be high, but the price of doing too little is incalculable.
WHEREAS, The UWUA supports a U.S. energy policy that embraces an “all of the above” power generation strategy, that does not pick winners and losers, and that results in economic prosperity, enhanced domestic energy security and robust job creation. Independence from foreign supplies of oil and gas, along with the threat of global climate change, requires a comprehensive U.S. energy strategy that benefits our domestic economy; and
WHEREAS, In the rush to lower carbon emissions, federal and state legislation and regulations sometimes fail to include provisions for ensuring that workers and their communities are not left behind in the new green energy economy, and guarantee adequate reliability and affordable energy; and
WHEREAS, Too often the UWUA has witnessed utility operators use the EPA’s rules as an excuse to prematurely shut down coal-fired plants that are meeting environmental standards through scrubbers and other technology; and
WHEREAS, Job displacement that results from economic or ecological imperatives must be dealt with as the other side of the “social good” coin, and not cost workers or communities their health, wealth or assets. The cost of such changes should fall on corporations and not workers; and
WHEREAS, According to the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC), lower reserve margins, environmental regulations and the changing resource mix represent increasing challenges for reliably planning and operating the power system. Existing regulations and lower gas prices contributed to the retirement of approximately 39 GW of generation from coal and other fossil fuels between 2011 and 2013. The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) could lead to additional coal-fired generation retirements of approximately 47-68 GW by 2025; and
WHEREAS, Cyber incidents and physical attacks are growing concerns. Cyber incidents have not yet caused significant disruptions in water or energy sectors, but the number and sophistication of threats are increasing, and information technology systems are becoming more integrated with infrastructure.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The UWUA, along with other members of Unions for Jobs and Environmental Progress, will continue to be a vocal advocate for ensuring that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, scheduled to go into effect in 2016, maintains grid reliability, protects displaced workers and affected communities in the wake of this change in national energy policy, and protects consumers from corporate pricing opportunism; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The utility industry requires more time to develop coordinated plans to address shifts in generation and corresponding transmission reinforcements to address the emission targets. The interim target date within the proposed CPP requires significant CO2 reductions by 2020. Fundamental changes in both the generation mix and transmission and gas pipeline infrastructure require implementation beyond these interim target dates. With the input of industry and worker representatives, regulators must develop an approach that accommodates the time required for infrastructure deployments, market enhancements, and reliability needs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will also work at the state level to ensure that coalfired plants are upgraded to meet environmental standards and to ensure that the state CPP implementation addresses the impact on communities and workers; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, Workers and communities affected by plant closures resulting from the CPP standards must be made whole. Plant closures must include provisions for a “Just Transition” for the local community that faces the loss of revenue, and for the workers who lose their jobs. This includes a commitment to guarantee training and comparable jobs to affected workers (at union wages), as well as necessary retraining. A possible funding model is the “stranded costs” for investment losses due to plant closures that utility companies are allowed to recoup through future rate increases. A funding stream for retraining and relocating “stranded workers” displaced by technological change and plant closure should be created through a utility wire surcharge or similar mechanism. If we compensate companies for “stranded investment” in physical goods, we should do the same for stranded workers.
WHEREAS, Utilities are uniquely and heavily regulated by government. Regulatory systems evolved from popular movements for control over privately owned utility monopolies. In many cases, the regulatory systems can be strengthened. However, these systems provide an essential platform to defend ratepayer, community and worker interests; and
WHEREAS, Regulation provides essential protections for the public. Consumers and other stakeholders are able to participate in public proceedings that determine utility rates and service quality standards. These proceedings also determine the conditions under which utility employees work, including health and safety, and even the continued existence of the jobs themselves; and
WHEREAS, Regulatory proceedings, especially before state utility commissions, provide opportunities for UWUA to have a say in matters that affect our jobs, our families and our communities. The UWUA and many of its local unions traditionally participate in such proceedings. We have taken the lead in defending high standards of customer service, public safety and reliability, and have been effective opponents of efforts to dismantle our nation’s system of regulation in the public interest; and
WHEREAS, Recent extreme weather has heightened public awareness of the vulnerabilities of utility systems, thereby creating high profile opportunities for UWUA regulatory interventions. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, New York Governor Cuomo convened a commission to evaluate the response of state utilities. Many of the UWUA’s suggestions were included in the commission’s final report, including a recommendation that utilities be obligated to “review existing staffing levels and evaluate the impacts of an aging workforce.” After severe ice storms left more than 600,000 Consumers Energy and DTE Electric customers without power, the Michigan Public Services Commission investigated. As with Superstorm Sandy, the UWUA surveyed members, conducted its own assessment, and provided the results to the Commission. In response to the UWUA’s concerns, the commission issued an order in which it “urge[d]” the utilities and the UWUA to “jointly consider the union’s recommendation for an independent audit regarding the adequacy of current baseline staffing levels”; and
WHEREAS, State regulatory boards can mandate the preservation of utility jobs when reliability and safety are compromised. Two American Water locals, Local 121 in Tennessee and Local 537 in West Virginia, successfully used the state regulatory system to require the companies to hire and maintain proper staffing levels in order to provide safe and reliable service. A request filed by Local 1-2 in New York to the state Public Service Commission (PSC), helped to end a lockout at Con Edison. A rate case intervention in New York led to the PSC ordering an independent audit to evaluate staffing and the use of outside contracting at Con Edison; and
WHEREAS, The UWUA has used the regulatory process to oppose plant closures and implement gas safety rules.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Participation in regulatory proceedings affecting our members, families and communities is a key function for every level of our union. The UWUA’s regulatory interventions should be guided by the right to safe, reliable and affordable utility services, adequate staffing, fair employee compensation, and the right to full participation in all regulatory proceedings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The UWUA will continue to conduct training around regulatory issues at regional conferences and at the request of local union leadership. The UWUA is also available to assist local unions in evaluating, preparing and conducting regulatory and legislative interventions; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The UWUA is committed to implementing regulatory strategies that promote core union goals, including job safety, job preservation, new organizing, and curtailing the contracting out of UWUA work. To achieve these objectives, we will work with community, labor, consumer, environmental and industry groups whenever possible to advance common goals.
WHEREAS, Each day over 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65, a pattern that will continue until 2030. Ten percent of America’s utility workers are ready to retire today, and another 30% are projected to retire in the next 10 years; and
WHEREAS, UWUA retirees helped build our Union and fought for many of the workplace benefits that current members enjoy. The loss of retiree members from our ranks could seriously weaken our Union and the labor movement; and
WHEREAS, Many retiree members have the time, energy, and union commitment to be activists in UWUA’s political action, contract campaigns, and organizing drives. Retirees can help maintain collective bargaining rights and the right to retire with dignity; and
WHEREAS, Numerous UWUA retirees continue to serve their local unions in informal capacities to further the interests of unions and workers.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That UWUA locals are urged to create retiree chapters and to encourage officers, stewards, activists, and other members who are about to retire to become active in their local retiree chapters; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, In those places where new retiree chapters are created, local unions and retirees will work together to form organizing committees and to build worker strength; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the UWUA and its locals and retiree chapters will work together to build effective retiree organizing campaigns and to include retirees in membership meetings, local union newsletters, and communications to members; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the UWUA and its locals and retiree chapters will work together to mobilize retired members and leaders by engaging them in political activities; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the UWUA and retiree chapters will work together to build state Alliance for Retired Americans groups that are backed by the AFL-CIO in order to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to build a sustainable retirement system for all working Americans that guarantees economic security.