The UWUA Human Rights Committee was formed in 1971, after a series of meetings with the National Executive Board members because of a lack of diversity within union leadership and representation, especially among Black and other minorities in the union and the workplace.
In 1971, the utility industry ranked last in employment of workers of color among the 23 largest U.S. industries, and had fewer women and Spanish-surnamed employees than most other industries.
The UWUA, much like other organizations and businesses, had experienced systemic institutional racism during that time.
Inclusion is a priority
Therefore, the UWUA National Executive Board voted to form a Human Rights Committee:
“The committee would consider charges of discrimination in hiring practices, promotions, and other conditions of employment, and seek to improve communications between the National Office and the local unions in all matters concerning human rights.”
Diversity and inclusion in union representation, and diversity and inclusion in energy jobs became a priority then, and remain so today.
At the 28th UWUA Constitutional Convention in 2007, the Human Rights Committee mandate was amended to place diversity and inclusion on a fast track. And in early 2014, the committee voted to adhere to, and act on, the amended constitutional mandate and drafted a mission statement:
“To provide advocacy, training and support to UWUA local unions and members in the areas of human rights/civil rights, and matters of discrimination in the workplace. This includes hiring practices and complaints of members against their locals.”
In order to best work towards its mandate, the committee today is very diverse in its makeup, reflecting the real array of generations, cultures, genders, and races within the union.
We now offer locals customized skills building workshops for union leaders and shop stewards in such areas as cultural competence, diversity, threat assessments and rapid response, and leadership and team building. And in conjunction with the UWUA Organizing Department, committee members are canvassing in right-to-work states and mediating around difference, inclusion and equity.
Our goal for 2015 is to increase the training and development of our new committee members and UWUA leadership, to give them the skills they need to succeed in fulfilling our mission statement and building this great union to lead us all, together, into the future:
“To accelerate our efforts to attract and recruit a diverse pool of workers into our industries and our Union;
To make the Utility Workers Union of America a model of hiring and promotion practices for women and people of color and all our brothers and sisters;
To develop and support hiring practices in our industries that will promote a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities where we work and live.”
Committed to making progress
Today, systemic, institutionalized racism is not as bad as it was in years past, but it still exists. When collected and analyzed, data reveals that we have not reached our goals and there is still much work to do, both internally in the UWUA and with the corporations and communities we serve, work, and live in.
The Human Rights Committee is committed to these goals and we are presently developing a concise strategy and diversity business case, to achieve these goals and fulfill our mandate.
Craig Massey, Chair