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LaTanya Burdiss is a third-generation UAW Local 228 union member at Ford Motor Co.’s Sterling Axle Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. She belongs to the same union and works at the same facility her retired grandfather did; her mother still works there as well. Burdiss was recently elected to the local’s education committee and has previously held elected positions with the election committee.

A 12-year UAW member and union activist, Burdiss works as a machine operator on the afternoon shift. She’s also an avid reader, a poet and a student in the Wayne State University Labor Studies Program. Burdiss is a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and the Trade Union Leadership Council (TULC).

How did you get involved with the union’s GimmeFIVE education and mobilization program?

I grew up with union activism, and my mother is still involved in her local. I’m really grateful that I have a union job because it’s job security. So it was natural for me to step up and do my part: go to union meetings, attend rallies and take labor classes. There was a rally in Lansing about a year ago, and I went for my grandfather because he couldn’t go.

You’re a busy woman. Why spend your spare time doing GimmeFIVE activities?

It makes me feel good to be involved with something positive instead of waiting to see what’s going to happen. I want to help support everyone. I do it because numbers show strength.

Can you elaborate on that a bit?

Our human and civil rights are at stake. We have to fight to hang on to what we’ve already won and spilled blood over [as a union] because those rights are precious and sacred. We have to all come together. The media doesn’t show a lot of good that the UAW does together with and for the community – and not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We do things such as the book bag drive and fund raising for local schools in jeopardy of closing. I get out so that I can witness and be a part of the good that solidarity can do.

How can others catch your spirit?

I try to promote the UAW at every turn. Some people belong to bowling leagues and bike clubs and try to get me to join. My club is the UAW. Some people just find a calling. Mine is getting involved. I’m already in a club – the UAW. Get on board.

Gwynne Marie Cobb