By Vice President for Organizing, Caleb Klipowicz
Contact Caleb at [email protected]
Like most members, when I joined COGS I had never been part of a union before and I really had no idea what it meant to be a “local” in a national union. I mostly just ignored stuff I saw around the office about our parent union the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE for short). I knew they sent folks to help with our organizing drive and the re-certification vote, and that was about it. But after serving as one of our delegates to the UE 76th National Convention, I’d like to let you all in on a little secret—UE is pretty rad! While UE may not be the biggest or best known union in the US, from what I saw at the convention I can say with confidence that we are part of one of the most progressive, democratic, and forward thinking unions out there.
Over the course of the week, representatives brought up concerns over racial justice, the climate crisis, gender identity, and sexual orientation; we heard from speakers that included a lead organizer of the West Virginia Teachers Strike, international solidarity allies, and a little-known Senator from Vermont named Bernie. Somewhere between everyone calling each other “brother” and “sister,” meeting comrades from all over, and taking part in a Medicare for All direct action on the streets of Pittsburgh, I found myself energized to come back to organizing here at the U of I.
At the convention I also got to hear about the struggles and many successes of our our union brothers, sisters, and siblings across the country. Strong locals continue to fight for better wages and working conditions by any means necessary, and new locals are organizing from coast to coast. I also felt better seeing the dismay on others’ faces when they heard about the many challenges we face here as a result of the 2017 union-busting law. As in other right-to-work (for less!) states, here in Iowa the deck is stacked against us. But we are far from alone!
As your Vice President for Organizing this year I still have a lot to learn. I know I may not get the privilege of being a UE member for as long as the other representatives I met. But I am grateful that we are part of a bigger union family that is independent, democratic, and committed to making life better for all working people in the world. While it’s easy to lose sight of this bigger struggle over the ups and downs of a semester, I find encouragement knowing we’re part of something much larger than ourselves.