Coalition of Labor Union Women Elect Leak as President, Back Single-Payer Health Care, Paid Family-Medical Leave

RENO, Nev.—The 500 delegates to the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s convention elected Auto Workers activist Connie Leak as their new president, and put CLUW on record for government-run single-payer universal health care, paid family and medical leave and living wages for Wal-Mart workers, among other causes.

But delegates to the 4-day mid-November conclave postponed action on one other important, but internal, issue, drafting and implementing a 4-year strategic plan.

Leak, a national CLUW vice president and board member, succeeds Karen See, and becomes the AFL-CIO constituency group’s seventh president.  An Auto Worker since 1977 and now an international rep in the union’s Women’s Department, Leak joined CLUW in 1998.

“My personal goal has always been to encourage young women to lead through mentorship, training and example.  They are the future leaders in our unions and CLUW,” she said in a statement posted on CLUW’s website.  One guest speaker, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes, hit the same mentoring theme, saying mentors would help union women “move beyond fears and insecurity.”  And mentoring was the topic of one of the top convention workshops.

Delegates embraced several top causes in their resolutions to guide CLUW in coming years.  They include:

• Campaigning for single-payer government-run national health care.  The Affordable Care Act does not include that as an option, unless a state sets it up and shows it can meet the national standards the act sets.  Vermont has done so.

Some 21 unions, led by National Nurses United and the Steelworkers, have been pushing single-payer for years.  Convention delegates said single-payer would ensure “scarce healthcare resources are not squandered by profiteers, marketing and excessive administrative costs.”

• Deciding to help mobilize the whole labor movement and progressive allies “to defeat the forces of austerity and anti-unionism in the debate over postal reform.”  A majority of the Postal Service workforce is female, minority group members, or both.

• Committing CLUW members and chapters “to incorporating programs about reproductive rights in their normal activity.”  CLUW has run a longstanding reproductive rights project and campaign.

• Renewing CLUW’s commitment to enacting paid family and medical leave.  The

GOP-run House refuses to consider the bill, pushed by longtime pro-working woman advocate Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

• Urging members to join the nationwide campaigns for living wages and the right to organize for Wal-Mart workers and to give children “the opportunity to attend great schools” in “a safe, welcoming environment in their own neighborhood,” an AFT cause.

CLUW delegates re-elected their other top officers — Dee Gorczyca of IFPTE, Executive Vice President; Judy Beard of APWU, Treasurer; Kerry Newkirk of SEIU, Recording Secretary and Bennie Bridges of AFGE, Corresponding Secretary — and most of their board.  Four new members joined the board.

-PAI