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Latest News - October 2014

November 5, 2014
The campaigns have ended, but labor fights on
Source: The Detroit News
By: Dennis Williams

We’ve made it through another Election Day, and it presents us with another opportunity to reflect on our values, the progress we’ve made, and why it’s so important that we keep fighting. Particularly in election years like this one, unions are being hit hard by well-funded attacks from special interest groups.

Whether we’re heading to the ballot box like we did Tuesday, or just in talking with our friends and neighbors about the issues, we’ve got to ask ourselves: Will Americans continue to have a voice in the workplace? Or will we slide back to the days before unions, when workers had no protections?

Since 1935, millions of members have contributed to the UAW’s legacy of standing up for working people. These folks know just how important unions are, from ensuring safe working standards, to protecting the middle class and keeping our economy strong. But the progress we’ve made isn’t guaranteed — and is constantly under threat.

We recently received a moving letter from Janet Markus of Indianapolis, who told us the story of her now-deceased parents, James and Mary Jane.

James served in World War II in the South Pacific. He returned home, went to trade school and landed a job at the Ford Motor Co. plant in Dallas. He told his daughter what it was like to work in the days before unions:

The first day on the job Daddy learned that there was one water fountain for the whole plant. The only break happened for lunch, at which time everyone who had not brought their own water queued for the fountain. If they didn’t reach the spigot before the lunch bell rang, they went without. There were no breaks for the bathroom. Men brought jugs into which they would conduct their business while they managed the line. If they needed to do more, they soiled themselves. Leaving the line meant losing the job.

Of course, unionizing wasn’t easy. James was beaten by company thugs when he stood up for the union.

The UAW was the first institution that protected my father from starvation, ignorance of others, free-floating hatred of others and told him he was a worthwhile human, a human worth fighting for.

Today, workers face that determined opposition here in Michigan, where wealthy extremists bankroll efforts to attack organized labor.

But we continue to stand strong because we know how much this work matters: Unions raise the standard of living for everyone, and that’s something worth fighting for.

Dennis Williams is president of the United Auto Workers.



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