DETROIT — UAW President Shawn Fain struck a defiant tone in his inaugural address to members on the first day of the union’s special bargaining convention, laying the groundwork for potentially contentious contract talks with the Detroit 3 automakers this year.
“We’re here to come together to ready ourselves for the war against the one and only true enemy: multibillion dollar corporations and employers who refuse to give our members their fair share,” Fain said to members. “It’s a new day in the UAW.”
Fain was sworn in as the UAW’s fifth president in five years a day before the convention opened following a prolonged, contentious election.
He defeated incumbent President Ray Curry by fewer than 500 votes. As the count neared an end, Curry filed a protest alleging widespread disenfranchisement.
Fain has promised a more aggressive approach to bargaining with the Detroit 3 this fall. The union is expected to fight for better wages and benefits as well as more job commitments.
During his speech Monday, Fain quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and said the union is stronger than ever.
“We have the discipline we need to organize better than ever before,” Fain said. “We have the understanding we need to regain the trust of the membership. We have the organization that, if united in a common goal, we cannot be defeated. We have the will to sacrifice for the greater good, including on the picket line.”
Fain said the UAW planned to fight to gain what it lost during the Great Recession, when the automakers asked for concessions to remain afloat financially.
“Our members have very high expectations, and rightfully so,” Fain said. “They demanded equality of sacrifice from us. Today we demand equality of gains for our membership.”