April Newsletter: Building a United Working Class

From higher ed to auto to heavy truck and beyond, this month UAW members have been demonstrating what a fighting, unified labor movement looks like. Across the country, working people have more in common with each other than not, but forces of corporate and institutional greed seek to keep us divided – along lines of identity, workplace, industry, geographic area, and more. But coming together as UAW members is a uniquely powerful opportunity to break through those divisions, and learn, connect, and build power with a wide range of fellow members.  In working together to build a united labor movement across such a diversity of workers, UAW members are building the kind of solidarity, mass participation, and collective power it will take to win a world where all working people have a real say over working & living conditions. 

And Region 6 members know we CAN win that world. Every day, UAW members across the country are redefining what’s possible when we develop wide networks of worker leaders across all areas of the economy. President Fain put it best in his remarks at this month’s Labor Notes Conference: “The working class can win. We don’t win by playing defense or reacting to things. We don’t win by playing nice with the boss. We don’t win by telling our members what to do, what to say, or how to say it. We win by giving working-class people the tools, the inspiration, and the courage to stand up for themselves.”

New Organizing

  1. On April 19th, history was made when Volkswagen workers in Tennessee won an iconic landslide victory to unionize the first automaker in the United States in decades, with 73% voting UNION YES. This is a battle that has been going on for years, including 2 previous efforts to unionize in 2014 and 2019. Thanks to a worker-led model of organizing that prioritized building a wide network of more than 300 worker leaders across the workplace, as well as the increased energy on the heels of the Big 3 strike, this time workers were victorious. Onwards to a strong first contract! 
  2. Looking to build your organizing skills? Sign up for the new Region 6 online organizer trainings, starting this summer! These will be a series of zoom trainings focused on practical organizing skills you can put to use on a campaign that matters to you. You’ll also receive direct support from an experienced Region 6 organizer. 
  3. The UAW Youth Labor Organizing Corps (YLOC) launched this month! YLOC is a program by and for students to build skills and strategy for organizing around important issues on campus and in the broader community. Find more info & get plugged in at the YLOC website
  4. On March 31, the members of the California Association of Professional Scientists voted to affiliate with UAW, becoming a new local!
  5. This month, Workers at California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network and Health Access California won voluntary union recognition as Health Advocates United!
  6. Research Associates and Postdocs at University of Southern California are forming a union as USC Researchers and Fellows United - UAW! 

Contract Campaigns

  • Grad Workers at University of Alaska continue escalating their campaign for a strong first contract. Earlier this month, they held a practice picket, and have since set a “Ratify or Strike” date for Monday April 29, and are preparing to strike if a contract is not ready to ratify by then.
  • Academic Student Employees of Local 4121 also continue escalating their contract campaign. Following a mass rally on March 29 and a practice picket on April 17, ASEs launched a strike authorization vote this week. In just the first 12 hours, more than 1500 members voted and more than 25 departments held organizing meetings.
  • Educational Student Employees at Western Washington University continue their fight for a strong first contract. 
  • Members in multiple units of Local 509 in aerospace and heavy truck are preparing to bargain new contracts this spring and summer, and are ramping up organizing plans for powerful, participatory campaigns. 

Justice for Palestine

Across the Region and across the country, workers and students continue escalating the urgent need for a permanent ceasefire and justice in Palestine, including through a wave of growing student organizing at universities across the country. UAW members in the Seattle area are encouraged to join a Labor for Ceasefire rally on April 27, and members in the Los Angeles area are encouraged to join the Workers Unite for Palestine rally on May 1. Undergraduate student organizers are encouraged to get in touch with the Youth Labor Organizing Corps to connect about campus organizing. You can also find more information on the Region 6 website

Member Spotlight: Mary Ann Massenburg, Local 2320 Retiree

Greetings Region 6 Members. I’m Mary Ann Massenburg and I’m a Retired UAW Region 6 International Rep. I started out as a legal worker and bargaining chair at California Rural Legal Assistance, where we organized with District 65 in the 1970’s. We affiliated with the UAW in the 80’s and became part of Local 2320. I joined the Region 6 International staff in the 1980’s and was fortunate to do both organizing and servicing for several Region 6 locals in multiple sectors. 

In 1985, I received the first organizing lead from graduate student workers who had started a union at UC Berkeley, and were looking to affiliate with a larger union. I spoke to several other unions and found that they were reluctant to take on the campaign, saying that UC would fight unionization for at least 20 years and that it would cost millions of dollars to win. But after the Region 6 leadership and I met with the impressive leadership at Berkeley, we decided to take it on and I was appointed to coordinate the campaigns. We made a commitment to support workers organizing at all the UC campuses and wage a fight for recognition using legal, legislative, and organizational power. 

Even with turnover, the campuses showed an amazing ability to replicate leadership. After 17 years, TAs/GSIs, Readers and Tutors won recognition and fought for a good first contract. I always thought that if the student workers had a positive union experience, they would take it with them wherever they went, which has been proven to be more than true as I worked on other campaigns in academia.

The organizing successes and increased membership significantly contributed to getting Region 6 re-established. As an active retiree, I have been so impressed by the commitment and ability of members from all the sectors of Region 6 to work together to organize, bargain, and do turnout for the UC and Big 3 strikes. And to help with the victory at VW! It is inspiring to be part of a diverse community where people have confidence in each other to achieve not only workplace goals, but broader community goals. I love continuing to be involved in our union alongside other Region 6 retirees!

Message from Region 6 Director Mike Miller

Last week, auto workers at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee made history when they resoundingly voted to form their union. With 73% of workers voting in favor of unionizing, this is a dramatic shift from two previous unionization drives that were each ultimately voted down. Unlike the previous VW campaigns, this campaign adopted an organizing model focused on building a wide, deep network of worker leaders across every area of the workplace who drove the campaign forward. This is a model many of us in Region 6, and across the UAW, have been developing over many years through tens of thousands of 1-1 conversations and dozens of successful campaigns. And as the victory at VW clearly shows, it is a model that transcends all parts of the economy, and uniquely has the power to drive massive waves of worker-led organizing throughout the country.

I want to offer a massive congratulations to the Region 6 organizing team who spent countless hours in Chattanooga supporting VW workers to build and win the election: Carla Villanueva, Ken Lang, Garrett Strain, Michael McCown, Rob Ackermann, Saul Arias, Emma Joslyn, Brigid Boll, Dylan Small, Pete Lafreniere, and Phil Harding, as well as organizers from other regions: Michael Bell, Krista Szfranski, Darrell Johnson, Bill O'Malley, and Nicholas Knable. 

In other exciting news, members of California Association of Professional Scientists (CAPS) voted to affiliate with UAW -- welcome! Your fellow members across Region 6 look forward to supporting your fight for a strong contract! 

Grad Workers at University of Alaska and Academic Student Employees at University of Washington are both building inspiring contract campaigns and escalating to win strong contracts. At UA, Grad Workers have set a ratify or strike date of April 29, and at UW, ASEs are voting to authorize a strike in advance of contract expiration on April 30. Your Region 6 siblings are ready to show up in solidarity wherever these fights take you. 

Finally, I look forward to seeing many of you at the Injury to One Conference in Oakland next month, and at Summer School this June in Los Angeles. As always, if you have questions or feedback, please shoot me an email.

Political & Community Action 

About 20 UAW members posed for a photo with fists raised

  • On April 23rd, a Global Day of Solidarity was held for Daimler Truck (Freightliner, Western Star Brand and Thomas Built Bus) workers, who are fighting for a record contract. Workers from across not just the United States but across the world joined rallies and actions in solidarity with Daimler workers. In Portland, OR, members of Local 492 rallied outside Daimler North American HQ. 
  • This month Region 6 members joined thousands of other union members at the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago to make connections, build solidarity, and learn from each other’s fights. Members from Locals 872, 4121, 4811, C/GPU, and UOSWU spoke on panels about rebuilding a fighting UAW, planning direct actions, getting strike ready, winning parental benefits, the surge of grad organizing, undergrad organizing, organizing for a just transition, and more.
  • UAW members in California are organizing to pass SB 1090, which will provide working families with more timely access to Paid Family Leave (PFL) and State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits by allowing workers to apply for these benefits prior to the start of their leaves. SB 1090 is a small but needed change to ensure equitable access to the Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance programs. PFL and SDI benefits are what make it possible for workers paid low wages to continue to meet their basic needs like rent, food, and medicine while on leave. 
  • On April 3rd, California State Assemblymember Diane Papan introduced AB 2123, Improving Access to Paid Family Leave. AB 2123 will remove an unnecessary barrier for individuals seeking to access the Paid Family Benefits they pay for, by allowing individuals to take care of their loved ones without having to use up their vacation time. This bill aims to promote gender equity by remove barriers disproportionately placed on women.

Recap from the UAW Education Committee Conference

By Joel Benefield, Local 230 

Hundreds of UAW members in red shirts posed for a photo in the Walter & May Reuther Family Education Center

On April 14th-19th, hundreds of members showed up, and showed out, to the 2024 Education Committee Conference at the Walter & May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway, MI. For many of the Delegates it was their first time at our center. They were greeted at Registration by the 2024 Fellows, a group of UAW members from across the country who have gone through an extensive training program to develop skills as union educators. Here in Region 6, we have three Fellows this year – myself, Brandon Macias (Local 509), and Justin Jarvis (Local 492). Along with our other ‘24 Fellows, we played a key role in facilitating workshops with Delegates, and sharing the history and beauty of our Education Center.

The lessons being taught at the conference were many, but the main takeaway was the Effective Educator training, a course which teaches the delegates how to educate their fellow members. As we know, an educated membership is a strong membership. At the end of the week, delegates from nearly every region in the country now have the skills to hold workshops at their own Locals – as well as having made lifelong friendships and making those connections that can only be made at a beautiful place like Black Lake.

5 UAW Region 6 delegates to the Education Committee Conference

UAW Job Openings

Interested in finding a job working for your union? A number of positions are open in various departments and levels of the UAW, and UAW members are especially encouraged to apply. Find open positions and information about how to apply at the UAW Indeed site

Upcoming events

  1. Region 6 Gender Justice & Civil Human Rights Committee meeting: May 6 at 6pm via Zoom
  2. Region 6 Climate Justice Committee meeting: April 30 from 6-7pm via zoom
  3. Region 6 Education & Communications Committee meeting: May 17 from 12-1pm via zoom
  4. Region 6 Political Action (CAP/PAC) meeting: May 18 at 10am via zoom
  5. The Region 6 An Injury to One Is an Injury to All Conference is May 11-12 in Oakland, CA. Check out the call letter or contact your Local for more information. 
  6. Region 6 Summer School is June 20-23 in Los Angeles. Check out the call letter or contact your Local for more information. 
  7. The A. Philip Randolph Institute’s National Education Conference is July 15-18 in Hollywood, Florida. Check out https://www.apri.org/ for more information.  
  8. The 53rd International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) will be held May 21-27 in Houston, Texas. Contact your Local for more information. 

Stay Connected & Share Your Updates

The Region 6 Newsletter is produced by the Region 6 Education & Communications Committee (ECC). If you have updates or stories from your Local/Organizing Campaign to share in a future newsletter, email [email protected]. All Locals & Organizing Campaigns in Region 6 are strongly encouraged to send members to participate in the ECC on an ongoing basis. For regular updates and information, you can also check out Region 6 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and our website.