UAW endorses Sweeney

The United Auto Workers has endorsed John Sweeney for re-election as president of the AFL-CIO, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger announced May 26.

Sweeney, he said, “has actively encouraged a lively, open and much-needed debate on the future of the labor movement.”

“Sweeney has focused squarely on issues and on doing what’s in the best interest of workers and their families, refusing to be drawn into divisive personal squabbles,” Gettelfinger continued. “He believes in reaching out and bringing people together, not driving them apart.

“The UAW has supported important reform proposals within the AFL-CIO to help create a stronger and more effective labor federation,” Gettelfinger said. “And while different unions approach the challenges we face from different perspectives, we believe it’s important to focus on what unites us.

“We are united in demanding an end to the human rights abuses in American workplaces which deny millions of people a free choice about whether to join a union. We are united in our belief that working families must have an effective voice in the political process. We are united in recognizing that today’s global economy demands a global labor movement that can fight for workplace democracy and rising living standards for all workers, no matter where they live,” Gettelfinger said.

A fair minimum wage

The number of Americans in poverty has increased by 4.3 million since President Bush took office, says a statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Sweeney urged passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2005, which was introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). The act would bring the federal minimum wage up to $7.25 an hour.

“As real wages continue to deteriorate for workers, members of Congress consistently increase their own pay,” said Sweeney. Meanwhile, “low-income working families are making sacrifices to pay for food, gasoline and rising health care costs.”

Keeping passenger rail on track

A new caucus has been formed in Congress to protect passenger rail in America, the online Political/Legislative Action Center of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers reported. Representatives Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Castle (R-Del.) and Andrews (D-N.J.) initiated the caucus, which plans to begin holding briefings this month with groups that are interested in strengthening passenger rail.

Continental Tire runs over laid-off workers

Continental Tire North America terminated health insurance for nearly 200 workers and their families in spite of a written agreement to provide continued health insurance in case of a shutdown, said the workers’ union, United Steelworkers Local 665. After laying off the workers, the company “is now trying to argue it was not a shutdown,” said Terry Beane, Local 665 president. Beane vowed to “fight this action all the way to Continental’s corporate headquarters in Germany if necessary.” Until the issue is resolved, the workers and their families will have no medical benefits, the union reported.

Retreating in order to advance

United Students Against Sweatshops issued a call to students across the country to participate in a summer retreat in Chicago Aug. 12-15 to build organizing skills and strategize about campus living wage campaigns, Wal-Mart and international solidarity actions.

Participants will also have the opportunity to hear from USAS international interns who will spend their summers in India, Haiti, Mexico, Turkey, Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Kenya, South Africa, El Salvador, Philippines and Korea.

Travel scholarships will be available for those who register early, according to an announcement issued by USAS. The retreat will be held on the campus of Loyola University, and housing and food are included in the registration. For more information, contact USAS at

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood (