MONTREAL — The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union hopes to boost its membership to 3 million over the next decade — more than double its current 1.3 million members — Joe Hansen, president, told the UFCW convention here last month.
The union's growth target, he said, will be “every non-union facility in our industries.”
Hansen made his remarks at the UFCW's sixth conference, which it holds every five years. The meeting was held in conjunction with UNI Global Union (Union Network International), of which Hansen is also president.
In his speech, Hansen said the union's growth effort in the U.S. will come from changing the political landscape, resetting the public policy debate and refocusing government action on working families — goals that could start with the election of Barack Obama as president, he declared.
Hansen cited three key issues that he described as part of the union's “aggressive agenda”: Passing the Employee Free Choice Act; fixing the U.S. health care system; and reforming the nation's immigration system “and bringing justice to immigrant workers in Canada and the U.S.”
The foundation for the union's growth will be its unity agenda, Hansen said — a set of principles that focuses on a unified approach to collective bargaining, organizing, political and legislative action, a union spokesman told SN following the meeting.
“That agenda will give us the capacity to begin meeting our goals, to unite more workers in our industries, to give us the structure to innovate and grow [and] to give us the ability to improve the lives of our members,” Hansen said.
He likened the union's renewed efforts to grow and improve the work environment to the struggles in the early days of union organizing. “Each of us are the beneficiaries of a union movement forged in the struggles and sacrifice of the last century. We have had good lives because someone had the vision, because someone made the sacrifice, because someone took on the fight to give us a better life.
“What we have received from the past, we must pass on to the future. We are ready to transform the underpaid jobs of the 21st century into the jobs of a new middle class.
“We can no longer think in terms of uniting thousands of workers. Our plans need to be aggressive enough to include hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of new UFCW members.”
Hansen said the UFCW realized more than four years ago it had to change the way it was operating. “We saw that our structures, our methods of operation, our bargaining strategies and our organizing programs, which were successful for the 20th century, would not work for the 21st century,” he explained.
“We [developed] a strategic plan to guarantee that we coordinate our actions and build our strengths to be one union, with one voice. That is the foundation of our future.
“There are no longer local labor disputes. An attack on our members anywhere brings a unionwide response. Companies can no longer isolate local unions. They cannot separate our members. They cannot divide our union.”