From the President: Understanding Our Union’s Core Values

It is Critical to Maintain Them in Difficult Times

The UAW’s core values affect everything we are and do: how we bargain, how we endorse candidates, how we conduct ourselves and how we treat each other.

These values come from our history and are written in the preamble of our Constitution:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; expressive of the ideals and hopes of the workers who come under the jurisdiction of this UAW: that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men and women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

“Within the orderly processes of such government lies the hope of the worker in advancing society toward the ultimate goal of social and economic justice.”

Our values have been constant for over 80 years. Workplaces and society in general have changed since our founding in 1935 and we have learned to adapt to the conditions and circumstances we face. If we don’t reaffirm our core values, even in times of great challenge, then we dilute them over time. Understanding our core values and where they come from makes us credible.

First UAW Core Value: Build and Maintain High Standards in Contracts

UAW Constitution, Article 2 (Objects), Section 1: “To improve working conditions, create a uniform system of shorter hours, higher wages, health care and pensions; to maintain and protect the interests of workers under the jurisdiction of this International Union.”

The benefits we have bargained for in our contracts for the last 80 years have given UAW members a better life. It wasn’t just about pay raises; it was about quality of life and ensuring future members had a seat at the table. This is why we fought for paid holidays, vacation time, and health benefits in contracts. We will continue to support or challenge policies and laws that affect these benefits, including health care. This is why we oppose the Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On average, premium costs for employer-sponsored health care have grown much more slowly than in previous years before the ACA. What would have happened if the Republicans’ bill passed? All indications show that those costs would have risen. What that translates to at the bargaining table is that we would return to the days when health care dominated bargaining and ate up wage increases.

Second UAW Core Value: All are Equal

The fundamental principle of our union is that all people are equal, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, skill or education level. Vacations with pay, grievance procedures, holidays, and health care for workers didn’t exist in any meaningful way until unions fought and won them through collective bargaining. We believe everyone should have access to health care — rich or poor. If everyone contributes, everyone should be eligible for health care at the lowest possible cost.

Third UAW Core Value: We fight for Everyone; Not Just Ourselves

We are all connected. The labor movement motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” is more than a tag line. We set the bar that all working men and women deserve respect and dignity on the job while providing a decent middle-class living for their families. But this goes beyond the workplace. It’s about our communities and our country. We were there in 1963 with The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington, we supported Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and we advocated for the release of Nelson Mandela from imprisonment in South Africa. But it isn’t enough to crow about what we have done in the past because injustice still exists today. We oppose policies that are cruel and leave people to fend for themselves. The GOP-led Congress took a swing at seniors, the working poor, and kids in its health care bill audaciously titled the “American Health Care Act.” The bill stole directly from Medicare’s trust fund to pay for tax cuts for insurance companies and slashed Medicaid. Imagine telling a child with cancer they can’t get chemotherapy because a CEO needed a bigger bonus or telling a disabled elderly relative they can’t get long-term care because insurance companies needed those million-dollar tax breaks? That’s not who we are.

Fourth Core Value: Bread Box and Ballot Box

“To engage in legislative, political, educational, civic, welfare and other activities which further, directly or indirectly, the joint interests of the membership of this organization in the improvement of general economic and social conditions in the United States of America, Canada, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and generally in the nations of the world.”

— UAW Constitution, Article 2, Section 5.

UAW’s legislative interests cover a range of subjects that are often directly related to our core values such as labor rights, workplace safety, and Social Security. The UAW has a responsibility not only to look out for its members but also to use its influence — at the bargaining table with business and in the political realm with government — to make America a more livable society for all. From the president to city council, these representatives set the direction of our country by deciding how tax dollars are spent to what laws are passed or repealed. When we vote, we vote for candidates who will support us. The GOP’s bill to repeal the ACA isn’t a health plan that supports working families. It is a bad policy that undermines your health benefits, your plans for retirement, and your piece of mind that you won’t live in squalor in old age because of your medical bills — but it would be a $1 billion windfall for insurance companies.

UAW values belong to all of us. We protect them, we nurture them and we practice them. They don’t live in a book or a building. They evolve and get stronger, but our core beliefs never change. Our union has always been about a greater calling. We are more than just contracts and bargaining; we are also about lifting up our communities and fighting for fairness for all.