Union leaders from across the U.S. share insights on politics and organizing at 2022 Food & Drug Conference; panelists focus on potential of harnessing workers’ capital
Union leaders from across the United States shared their perspectives on political engagement, Union organizing and prospects for pro-worker legislation during the 2022 Food & Drug Conference on Dec. 12 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
In one of the best-received panel discussions, Kirk Vogt, secretary-treasurer of UFCW 8-Golden State in California, led a spirited conversation featuring Amber Baur, executive director of the UFCW Western States Council; Steve Lomax, president of UFCW Local 1996 in Georgia; Dan Pedersen, president of Local 876 in Michigan; Jim McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99 in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah; and Brian String, president of UFCW Local 152 in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The audience cheered as Pedersen noted both chambers of Michigan’s state legislature will be controlled by pro-worker representatives in the wake of a successful election. “We expect a bill to repeal ‘right to work’ will be sent to Gov. Whitmer sooner rather than later,” he said.
FDC participants also applauded when Lomax spoke of the successful campaign to reelect Raphael Warnock as senator from his state and McLaughlin described the successful effort to reelect U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and elect Katie Hobbs as Arizona’s governor. In addition, Baur and String described efforts by the UFCW to promote pro-worker legislation in the states they serve.
A panel discussion on “Leverage Workers’ Capital to Benefit and Grow Union Membership featured UFCW 8-Golden State President Jacques Loveall, pension expert and economist Steve McCourt of Meketa Investment Group, and veteran labor leader Bruce Raynor, who served as general president of UNITE HERE and executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) before becoming a prominent consultant for institutional pension funds. The panelists described efforts to promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards for trustees of Union-affiliated pension funds with billions of dollars in assets.
The 2022 Food and Drug Conference continued with Larry Innocent, president of Pharmacy Benefits Solutions, outlining strategies for reducing the costs of pharmaceutical medications, including customized drugs designed to fight cancer and other diseases. During his remarks, Innocent described his own harrowing but successful fight against stage 4 cancer.
The conference also included a presentation by award-winning speaker Andy Masters, who offered constructive advice on “Working and Living: Finding a Balance.”
In her remarks to conference attendees, FDC Director Ellen Anreder talked about the importance of making the best use of one’s time on Earth.
“Our souls are hungry for meaning, and we can be grateful every day our souls are nourished by the meaningful task of serving working people and their families,” she said.
“We are so blessed to earn our livings in this way. We are changing the world, making it more fair, more just and more free. For this reason alone, we can say yes, our lives do matter, and every second we spend devoted to this task makes us more worthwhile human beings.”
The Food and Drug Conference will return to Caesars Palace Las Vegas on Dec. 11, 2023.