Lana Payne brings message of solidarity, worker power to UAW Conference

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A woman and two men stand on the floor of a convention hall with a lit stage behind them.

Unifor National President Lana Payne brought a message of solidarity, union building and worker power in a keynote address at the United Auto Workers (UAW) Special Bargaining Convention, held in Detroit March 27-29, 2023.

“Our unions are about building worker power. They have always been about building worker power,” Payne told UAW delegates. “We are experiencing a special moment across the working class in North America. And that if we organize enough to seize it, we can profoundly change the future for working people in both our countries".

Payne led a Unifor contingent, which included Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier, Assistant to the National Officers Shane Wark, Automotive Director Dino Chiodo and Research Director Angelo DiCaro, invited as special guests to the UAW Convention. Addressing delegates from UAW locals across the U.S., Payne began by congratulating UAW President Shawn Fain and his leadership team on their recent election and the membership on their fresh victory to strike down right to work laws in the state of Michigan.

Recalling the shared history of Unifor and the UAW Payne called for unity and perseverance.

“We endure for our members and for working people everywhere. We endure because, if we don’t, who will change this world? Who will bring workers the dignity that each of them deserve? Who will fight for our fair share of the economic pie, if not us? My friends, this is our challenge, as trade unionists,” said Payne, reminding delegates that there is great joy in the struggle.

Payne pointed out a historic opportunity with Detroit Three negotiations set to begin for both Unifor and the UAW later this year, the first time the unions have bargained simultaneously since 1999. The negotiations will take place as the industry continues the shift to electric vehicles. Calling the move to EV as monumental a change as there’s ever been in the history of car-making she warned the auto sector transition will be the litmus test for transitions in other places.

“The challenge is immense. As countries chart their path toward net zero, we better be prepared. We need to plan. We need to plan, responsibly, so that industries don’t collapse. We need to plan so that not a single worker is left behind,” Payne said. "It’s a vision about how we manage this transition in a way that makes sense for working people… this transition will not have workers going backwards. Because together we are going to fight like hell to make sure they don’t."

Payne ended on a message of optimism and allegiance. 

“In the months and years and decades to come, we will do great things together. We will continue to change this world. When future generations reflect back on this time – let the record show that our two great unions stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder, in solidarity.”

Read Lana Payne’s full remarks to the UAW here.