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Every five years, representatives from chartered bodies of the UFCW in the United States and Canada come together to debate issues and pass resolutions, make amendments to the International Constitution, and elect International officers. It also is an opportunity to connect and collaborate with other UFCW members from a diverse range of industries, states and backgrounds.

It’s democracy in action as each local union sends delegates to speak and vote on behalf of their local’s members. This is the only time changes can be made to the International Constitution. Changes are made through the submission of proposed amendments to the Constitution that then must be voted on by the delegate body in order to be accepted.

At the 9th Regular Convention that was held at the end of April this year, the delegates approved a change to the Constitution that reduced the waiting period to receive benefits in case of a strike.

Also, workers who have organized with the UFCW will be eligible for benefits as they negotiate their first contracts. The Constitution now adds guarantees to the financial solvency of the strike fund, a real protection for our members who need to take the ultimate action in negotiations. In addition, the convention discussed a voice for members across the union at the International’s Executive Board and a commit­ment to additional organizing.

Breaking new ground

This year’s convention broke new ground for unity and solidarity.

More than 2,000 delegates and alternates gathered to attend meetings and workshops to not only learn new skills for themselves, but to gather fresh ideas to take back to the food processing facilities, grocery stores, cannabis dispensaries, nursing homes, packing houses and other places where they work. The workshops were designed to educate the delegates about industry trends, organizing and new strategies that can help provide a better future for our union family.

The last five years have been a difficult time for everyone as our union felt the impacts of a global pandemic and a changing world. The COVID-19 pandemic, an increasingly volatile political landscape and a changing Labor Movement have all posed unprecedented challenges, but they have also created opportunities to strengthen the UFCW across two nations.

In the last convention we laid out our core values of unity, family, community and worth, and our dedication to those values continues.

Our International Union plans to focus and  build on those values and on the mobilization we created through the toughest times of the pandemic. We aim to use the lessons we learned through hard-fought bargaining in negotiations to strengthen our ability to advocate for our essential workers and ensure our members are protected in the future.

Our union family gets stronger as we work together across local unions and regions to address their specific needs.

The American people’s faith in unions remains strong, even as their faith in other national institutions falters.

That continued faith is a direct result of the value that our union – and all unions – bring to the workplace. We are able to maintain that faith because of the hard work UFCW members have done to stand together while fighting for a better future.

Organizing to grow and strengthen our union has been a priority and will remain one in the years ahead. We’ve energized a new generation of organizers and members, and we’ve laid the groundwork to continue our success in the future.

Each organizing victory and first contract effort strengthens our entire union family. From the pharmacy with only a few workers to the largest meatpacking plants and every workplace in between, organizing successes bring us all one step closer to achieving our goals.

Together, we can continue to raise wages, improve workplace safety and build a better future for everyone.

There is no doubt we continue to face challenges in our work. Employers’ union-busting tactics are growing, giant mergers put our members in the way of profits, the threat of anti-worker legislation continues to loom, and far too many of our members continue to suffer the effects of a deadly, global pandemic.

The pride I felt when I witnessed the strength and solidarity that grew within our union over the four days of convention proceedings, as well as the weeks of preparation it took to get us there, was amazing.

A feeling of unity flowed through the convention like a tidal wave.

Our union is strong and focused on building a better future.