The 9th Regular International Convention of the UFCW
May 16, 2023
The 9th Regular Convention, held in Las Vegas, Nevada began as delegates registered on Sunday April 23, 2023. With a full range of information booths in Unity Hall, including the UFCW Minority Coalition, UFCW Women’s Network, UFCW Canada and OUTreach groups to name a few, delegates had lots to see and do.
On the following morning, International President Marc Perrone called the convention to order. The theme for the week was UFCW: A Better Future. Delegates were inspired and encouraged to keep up the fight for working people across the United States and Canada. President Perrone’s address to the convention focused on the key words, Essential, Value, Strength, and Future. These words shaped each day’s messaging.
President Perrone spoke to attendees about our collective struggles during the past few years, but noted the strength and determination of UFCW members to not only face challenges but to ensure our communities were fed and taken care of by all every member who put their personal safety on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States and Canada.
Guest speaker, Dr. Myron Rolle, Former NFL Player, Neurosurgeon and Humanitarian, spoke about the challenges he has faced in his life and career, and encouraged all delegates to keep up the fight for the working class, to never lose your spark, and to always believe in yourself. Myron commended delegates “for their dedication to ensuring our countries could function despite the insurmountable challenges we faced, not only due to the pandemic but as a result of the political struggles we have faced over the last few years.”
Next was Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan who spoke about the rights of working people in that state, and how they continue to fight for workers’ rights despite challenging anti-worker legislation and changing state laws. On April 21, 2023, Michigan became the first state in 58 years to repeal a “right to work” law, which the Associated Press called “a win for Unions.” Governor Whitmer said this was a huge win for workers in Michigan, and an example of the change workers can create when they stand together.
Value was the word that shaped day two, which began with the Election of the International Executive and Board. UFCW Local 175 Secretary-Treasurer and Elections Committee co-chair Kelly Tosato took nominations and conducted election proceedings from the podium. UFCW Local 175 President Shawn Haggerty was re-elected as International Vice-President from Canada. International President Marc Perrone, Secretary-Treasurer Shaun Barclay, and Executive Vice-Presidents Paul Meinema, Stuart Applebaum, Milton Jones were all re-elected as International Executive Vice-Presidents.
President Perrone made it clear that his pledge to ensure no worker stands alone continues. “We will fight and expose those who will condemn the hardest working people in our countries to the darkness of despair, fear and exploitation,” said President Perrone. “Time and time again, across every industry and every sector it has been the UFCW that stands as the wall defending workers and their families, and no one will ever tear that union wall down, ever.”
Further, President Perrone illustrated the UFCW’s commitment to a newer, higher organizing standard that will make us the premiere organizing union in the United States and Canada, and ensure we make our union diverse, and stronger than ever. “We are the UFCW. We have changed workers’ lives for the better again and again. We have made two nations more just, and we have helped make real and lasting change in our society,” added Perrone. “What we do matters, not just today but every day… thank you all for the difference you make to so many, and the absolute privilege to stand before you today. United today, tomorrow, and every day forward. That is the mission for the greatest union that has ever and will ever exist.”
UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema brought greetings on behalf of our Canadian membership. President Meinema thanked all workers for their resilience and perseverance during the difficult last few years, and spoke about our members’ ability to recover. President Meinema said he was “truly thankful to our entire membership in both the United States and Canada who never stopped being brave neighbours, pushing for better protections, … and bringing fairness to workers.”
“We must do what we have always done; listen, adapt, and explore every means to empower workers…” added President Meinema. “Throughout our history, we have never been stopped providing fairness, demanding justice and battling for a better tomorrow. That is our legacy, that is our future, so let us continue to advance the efforts because UFCW is unstoppable.”
Other guest speakers included AFL-CIO President Liz Schuyler, who took time to thank delegates for their continued efforts on behalf of working people, and led the swearing in ceremony for the International Executive Board.
President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and UFCW member Bea Bruske addressed the delegation and touched on the topics facing working people in both the United States and Canada. She spoke about paid sick time, anti-scab legislation in Canada, threats we face from Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre, and the commitment of the CLC to ensuring all Canadians have access to affordable childcare, dental care, and good jobs for all working people.
The Resolutions Committee took to the stage next to introduce the debate and voting on 92 proposals and resolutions put forward by local unions for voting on at this convention.
Strength was the theme of the next day, which began with the state of the Union presented by Secretary-Treasurer Shaun Barclay. In his address, Secretary-Treasurer Barclay told delegates that the International Union is financially stable and prepared for the battles ahead. “Financial strength and security will allow us to reach our goals for the future,” he added.
The Constitution Committee continued its report and debate of constitutional changes and challenges made by the local Unions and completed the resolution process.
President Perrone introduced the next guest, hero of the high seas and proud 37-year union member, Captain Richard Phillips, whose real-life experiences were made into a movie. In April 2009, Captain Phillips’s ship was hijacked by Somali pirates during which he was taken hostage. Learn more about Captain Philips’ story here.
Captain Philips asked the delegates to take away three thoughts from his address:
- You are much stronger than you even know. You can do more and you can take more. The strength is already within us.
- Nothing is completely lost until we choose to give up. Failure is only final when we give up, give in or quit.
- A dedicated, motivated team; working together can overcome most any obstacle or solve any problem.
Quoting a navy seal, Captain Phillips said “everybody encounters adversity in their lives, sometimes it’s small, sometimes life-changing. How you handle it, starts and stops with you.”
Following Captain Phillips’ address, the Organizing Committee outlined the challenges faced by workers during the last few years and set an agenda to continually grow our Union for the years to come.
The final day of this 9th Regular Convention saw delegates inspired for a bright future as they passed ground breaking resolutions and constitutional amendments that will bring all workers into the future and will show a more inclusive, diverse, and stronger UFCW.
UFCW International Executive Vice President and National Bargaining Director Milton Jones spoke to delegates regarding our shared need for achieving exemplary collective bargaining agreements in all sectors and maintaining our reputation for being a leader and champion of workers rights in both the United States and Canada.
Delegates were inspired by the resolutions put forward and spoke in favour of including diversity, reconciliation, and social justice matters as amendments.
Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris spoke to the delegation via video message, and thanked President Perrone for his ongoing dedication to our membership, for being an ally to working people, and for strengthening protections for workers across America. Vice President Harris also noted that the Biden administration along with our members will continue to “fight for workers, side-by-side” and thanked all members of UFCW across the United States and Canada for the work they do.
Vice President Harris added that we “need to keep organizing, marching, and keep fighting to build a future where all workers have the opportunity not only to survive, but to thrive.”
To wrap up the convention, President Perrone took the time to thank each member for taking time away from their jobs and their lives, to share the value of what good union contracts mean to them. “Members who taught us about the stories about strength in their union family and about how they stood together for a better life. Members who are testaments to their communities, their locals and the bright future of our union.”
As President Perrone thanked the hotel staff, convention crew, and UFCW International staff, one message was clear: the future of working people across the United States and Canada is bright. If we are prepared and if we stand together, anything is possible.
“It’s days like these that we become reenergized in the pursuit of our mission; doing all that we can for working people and delivering, by any means necessary, a better future for our members… this is who our union is and always will be,” said President Perrone.
“We must organize more, we will bargain harder, we will deliver improved value to our members, we will respect and defend all of our locals and each other, we will defeat any anti-union enemy, every group who wishes to weaken our union family and we will do this together,” added President Perrone. “We are, this is, our UFCW. We will always stand together.”
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