America’s infrastructure — the systems we rely on every day for transportation, clean water, energy, and to communicate with each other — earned a “D+” from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The goal is to get Americans working together again to build this backbone of systems we rely on every day.
The 30th Constitutional Convention opened with an exciting show by the Black Pearl Pipes and Drums band. Delegates and speakers all rose as the sound of bagpipes and drums created a burst of patriotic fervor and National Guard escorted the colors of the United States. Sharon Griffith of UWUA Local 1-2 then wowed the crowd when she nailed singing the National Anthem. After a resounding ovation for Griffith, the crowd took their seats and Dr. Nathaniel Knowledge delivered the invocation.
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.
UWUA paused to remember all of their brothers and sisters who have passed away, and in particular, those who have left since they last convened four year ago. Their hard work, dedication, and sacrifices in fighting for the rights and dignity of utility workers have paved a path for what we enjoy today. It is because of them that we have stronger voice in the workplace and a better quality of life. We honor and salute their memory. Members shared their sorrow and bid farewell to their brothers and sisters remembering all that was good and true in their lives, and the precious memories which shall endure. Read more about the UWUA former leaders that were remembered at the convention.
Play the video below to see names:
Guest Speaker: Mike Williams, President, Florida AFL-CIO
Mike Willliams started off the UWUA 30th Convention by welcoming delegates and their families to Florida. Mike’s passion and successful leadership have created a stronger labor union movement in Florida while facing the adversity of Right-to-Work laws.
Williams started his speech by explaining that “each of you [is] a leader in your own way or you would not be a delegate here today representing your sisters and brothers from your home local.”
“It takes a real leader for our brothers and sisters to fall in and work side by side to fight the challenges we face today.” The government wants to do away with society’s needs while the rich hide behind walls. Each of you as a leader can take the sword and fight the battles the middle class and workers are facing everyday. So, take what you learn this week, and take it back home and fight the fight with your brothers and sisters.”
Play the video below to hear Mike William’s speech:
Report: Michael Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America
UWUA National President Michael Langford kicked off the UWUA 30th Convention by walking to the podium to the song “Blue Collar Man” by Styx. Langford started his speech by talking about how the government is attacking the working people and how to change it by Reclaiming America. He then explained how collective bargaining will be the best way to raise wages.
“Millionaires and billionaires are operating and running this country” said Langford.
Langford spoke about the Power for America Training Trust Fund and how he considers it our “lifeline.” He explained the importance of training. Langford pushed the fact we cannot run this country only on solar or wind power and need to stop shutting down plants and Repower America.
Langford pointed out the need to Repair America, “We must repair the infrastructure of the country.” We need to continue to fight for the dire need of electric, gas and water.
Langford closed his speech pushing the need to stand in solidarity, and when things get tough, “What we’re going to do is roll up our sleeves and we’re gonna say we aren’t taking it anymore… that’s what utility workers do.”
Play the video below to hear Michael Langford’s speech:
Video Greeting: Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
Guest Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Energy Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall currently serves as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy. She has been serving in this role as second in command at the Energy Department since October 2014. Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall praised Michael Langford for working to bring the voice of utility workers to the conversation in Washington. She insured that wherever Secretary Moniz is, utility worker interests are well-represented by his office.
“Our office has a focus on [the] resilience of the energy infrastructure; emergency infrastructure management is one of my top priorities. It’s my job to enable you to do your job,” stated Randall. She explained that in an emergency, the Department of Energy (DOE) works with your utilities to restore power, water and gas to affected areas. And before an emergency, the DOE to works with you to plan for an emergency.
“You are truly first responders and you provide an intense good to society. The media may not understand the methodical process you must go through to keep everyone safe and get the power back on.”
“The white paper by the UWUA about Hurricane Sandy taught us all very much, UWUA put a spotlight on our infrastructure and that it takes A LOT to keep the lights on, to keep the gas on and keep clean water flowing in neighborhoods all over America. The UWUA is an important partner in the future of the American energy economy. You see the results that happen when infrastructure wears out or falls short. You also see the effects of the climate change when dealing with cooling water and low water levels that stop resources from getting to power plants.”
“You are the boots on the ground and we are deeply appreciative of you and your union.” – Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall
Play the video below to hear Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall’s speech:
Video: Utility Workers 24/7 – First Responders in Times of Public Need
Utility workers serve their communities in all types of weather and situations. Utility workers are first responders, performing heroic acts in times of public need. Those outstanding heroic events were honored at the UWUA Convention.
The 2015 Utility Worker’s National Her Award was presented to Steve Rosatti of Local 164. His quick thinking and unwavering courage led to saving a family of four from a burning house in Scottdale, PA.
Please see below for a complete list of the UWUA heroes recognized during the convention.
Young Workers Initiative Committee Presentation
Young Workers Initiative Committee (YWIC) members Paul Talboo from Local G-555, Nick Passerelli from Local 18007, Joe Fern from Local 18007, and Craig Pinkham from Local 369 took the stage to give a much anticipated presentation. YWIC explained their three core principals: 1) Improved communication and education 2) improved public view of unions, and 3) fighting for social and economic justice through political actions.
The committee discussed how the economy is a top issue yet the candidates do not connect with their voters on it. This has caused the voter turnout to decrease, but there is hope with the uptick in Democratic vote share. Moreover, they discussed other top issues including the need to increase minimum wage. YWIC listed out more proposals that the public support, including rebuilding the infrastructure leading to job creation. They explained how money plays a major role in the elections, using the Koch brothers as an example.
The speakers highlighted the Ohio Black Friday minimum wage protest in front of Walmart and how, within the following weeks, Walmart announced the raise in wages. They also shared a protest at Chicago’s Guitar Center, a protest by Nissan workers and a rally in front of McDonald’s to highlight the need to raise minimum wage. YWIC ended their presentation by calling on their brothers and sisters to stand together and fight back for change. Click to download the Powerpoint presentation.
Keynote Speaker: Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
With much anticipation this year’s keynote speaker, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, took the stage at the Utility Workers Union of America’s 30th Constitutional Convention and delivered a fiery speech on the critical need to raise workers’ wages in this slow and painful recovery from the Great Recession. With his fist pumping, he drew attention to the labor movement’s efforts to build broadly shared prosperity, to hold government and employers accountable to working families, and why we cannot sit back allow the current situation to continue. He spoke of how important the work of union members is, and why it’s so important to stand up and rally with each other.
“The work union members do makes a difference in everyone’s lives.” Even though most workers are independent, they share common values, they want to be paid for work, fairness at work, and want to provide for their families and their futures.
Trumka explained the dangers of unregulated utilities, along with the history that is about to repeat itself causing many consequences. Small companies merge into larger ones and CEOs are reckless and greedy; they “put profit ahead of service.” We will stand up and fight for America.
The labor movement is the backbone of the middle class. Trumka highlighted how everyone’s job is important and the country needs jobs to create a better future. “It all comes back to raising wages and the single best way to raise wages is with a collective bargaining agreement.” Trumka said. He also explained the new overtime rule. For those who work under $51,000 a year, you will be paid for any overtime work.
Trumka closed his speech by reminding everyone to vote, fight together, and take the knowledge they gained from the convention to make a better future in the American labor movement.
Play the video below to watch Richard Trumka’s Speech:
Resolutions, Committee Reports and Amendments
After completing many hours of preliminary planning, the UWUA 30th Constitutional Convention committee members made their reports on their findings and input from the delegation on each of their topics during the convention. Each resolution was also brought to the table so that delegates could share their experiences and accumulated knowledge to vote on the resolutions listed below. Many members took the microphone to express why each resolution was so important, and how it affected their lives every day at work and in society. Each of these resolutions were designed to increase UWUA’s ability to fight for the members, improve lives, and move UWUA forward to be better able to face the challenges of the future.
- Resolution #R-1: Repair America – Infrastructure Investment
- Resolution #R-2: First Responders
- Resolution #R-3: Ensure The Voting Rights Of All Americans
- Resolution #R-4: Empower UWUA Women
- Resolution #R-5: Build Our Future, Expand The Young Worker Initiative
- Resolution #R-6: Reclaim America – Political Action and COPE
- Resolution #R-7: Trade Policy For Shared Prosperity
- Resolution #R-8: Establish Comprehensive, Universal, And Affordable Health Care As A Fundamental Human Right
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