The TWU is once again a fighting, democratic union. That vision was laid out by International President John Samuelsen at the 2018 Legislative & Political Conference, where the theme Policy • Politics • Power was displayed throughout.
The Government Affairs Department hosted the biennial conference in Washington, DC, April 22-25.
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With the rest of the IAC at his side, President Samuelsen set the tone for the conference with his opening remarks about his vision for the union and the need for members to remain politically engaged. International Executive Vice President Alex Garcia discussed how the new Government Affairs department would carry out that vision.
Larry Willis, President of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, spoke about current federal policy and the importance of bringing workers’ voices to the policy discussion. Afterwards, Policy and Legislative Director Andrea Wohleber moderated a panel of congressional staff and labor lobbyists who discussed the Dos and Don’ts of Lobbying. The panel provided insight on how union members can best engage in the legislative process and answered questions from TWU members.
Wohleber wrapped-up the morning session with a policy presentation that explained the federal legislative process and described at length the three issues TWU members would lobby on while in DC: Amtrak funding; FAA Reauthorization and Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing; and Infrastructure Investment. Armed with handouts describing the TWU’s positions on these issues, TWU members left the morning
session ready to lobby their Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill.
During the afternoon, members had the opportunity to lobby or participate in three workshops: TWU State Conference Overview and Working Agenda; Janus v. AFSCME: The Case, the Effect, and the TWU Response; and How to Use Paid and Free Media to Your
The second day of the conference kicked off with an address from Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (JWJ), who spoke about JWJ’s mission to win meaningful economic justice campaigns for working families throughout the country by building broad-based coalitions with labor unions and holding elected officials accountable.
Director of Political Action Regina Eberhart gave informative presentations on the following subjects:
- The current state of politics and the decline of labor union density in the country.
- Ways to build union power in advancing the TWU Political agenda.
- Where TWU members can have an impact in the upcoming
midterm elections in gubernatorial, Senate and House races.
- The importance of COPE and using its resources to expand the
TWU’s political network.
TWU members also heard an impassioned address from Brian Flynn – a candidate running for Congress in New York District 19 and Grandnephew of Mike Quill – about bringing the issues that matter most to labor union members and their families back to Congress.
International Executive Vice President Alex Garcia honored the memory of our beloved sister and mentor, the late TWU International COPE Director Gwen York, along with a heartfelt video tribute that captured her deep dedication to the TWU.
Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX-33) spoke about Gwen’s passion
for the union and her steadfast commitment to mentorship and the support of others.
Members also heard from TWU International Director of Organizing Steve Roberts and Assistant Director of Organizing Sean Doyle about the momentous victory for the 5,000 JetBlue Inflight Crewmembers who had voted overwhelming to join the TWU.
TWU State Conference Chair Andrew Rangolan gave a presentation on State Conferences, which explained its structure, its 32-point working agenda, as well as a brief dialogue from Chairs on the importance of being engaged with the State Conferences. State Conferences also work closely with the TWU International Campaign Unit.
Following lobby visits and workshops in the afternoon, TWU members enjoyed themselves at a reception where dozens of Members of Congress addressed the crowd and spoke one-on-one with their TWU constituents.
The final day began with an address from Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) who spoke about federal investment in transportation systems and the importance of union engagement.
Following his remarks, COPE awards were presented to TWU members who had demonstrated dedication to COPE and political involvement. Leader of the PAC Award was presented to the late Gwen York and TWU Civil & Human Rights Director John Bland. The PAC Ambassador Award went to Matt Hettich, Local 556; Cassandra Gilbert, Local 291 and Patrick Flannery, Local 2001.
The conference culminated with a special Janus panel, moderated by TWU Director of Campaigns Nick Bedell, featuring:
- Chip Shannon, AFL-CIO National Campaign Coordinator
- Peggy Shorey, AFL-CIO Director of State and Local Legislation
- TWU Local 100 Vice President TA Surface, John Patafio
- TWU Local 234, Executive Vice President Brian Pollitt