As members of UAW Local 1981, we’re well aware that our union is composed of more than just autoworkers. This fact was brought into sharp relief in January at the UAW’s 2019 TOP, Competitive Shop/IPS, and Gaming Departments Conference in Las Vegas. The event brought together locals representing just about every industry outside of the Big Three car manufacturers.
NWU president Larry Goldbetter, book division co-chair Edward Hasbrouck, Southeast Michigan chapter chair Ulanda Caldwell, and I joined hundreds of our UAW brothers and sisters to form a broad, cross-section of labor. That included teachers, graduate-student employees, state employees, office professionals and those who work in casinos, healthcare, insurance and for independent auto parts suppliers and manufacturers.
The wide range of unions there gave us a unique opportunity to network and build solidarity with other locals around the country, while learning more about the struggles we all face.
Over three days, the UAW leadership made rousing speeches and headed up informative workshops and presentations, such as one from the research division that gave us a more nuanced view auto parts suppliers and other manufacturing workers: They contend with the failings of NAFTA on one side, and the shift from internal combustion to electric cars on the other.
The legislative division’s presentation gave us a chance to celebrate our political victories, while considering the challenges facing the legal rights of workers at the federal level. Workshops covered issues ranging from sexual harassment and workplace violence to collective bargaining.
The conference also presented us with an opportunity to build stronger relationships with the unions in the UAW’s academic council, which represents everyone from academic student employees, research assistants, teaching assistants, professors, administrative and clerical staff at colleges and universities across the country.
As many graduate student and postdoctoral workers move on to publish books, papers, and articles, we sought to make those unions aware that the NWU could be a natural fit for their members. This sparked an interesting discussion on the issues facing academic workers in relation to the writing they do for their university, aka “Publish or Perish.” We look forward to working more closely with these groups in the future.