Every year, as I think about the Thanksgiving holiday, I always try to concentrate on the things that we as a union, and our sisters and brothers in solidarity everywhere, have to be thankful for. And, as always, there is much to be thankful for. But what to say about 2020? A year that has brought so much sickness with COVID-19, so much social upheaval and unrest and a presidential election that has only underscored the deep divides in how our nation is to go forward. Put it this way, no one I know signed up for 2020. This year has been like nothing any of us ever saw coming; it’s been like nothing we could ever have prepared for. But despite everything, I am seeing that there are still blessings out there that need counting.
This has been a year of tremendous growth, of needed healing and understanding and of Solidarity.
Earlier this month, marked one year since I became President of the UAW. I was honored to accept this enormous responsibility. I’ve been a member of this union for more than 40 years and when I accepted the office of President, the UAW had entered a very dark chapter. We were facing one of the most serious issues in our history — a loss of trust from both our membership and working families across this nation due to a corruption scandal that touched the very highest office in this union.
In response, my top priority as president of the UAW was to do everything in my power, along with the International Executive Board (IEB), to regain the trust and the standing that this great union of ours built through generations of fighting for the rights of working families. Generations of members stepping up at every turn to do the right thing, standing in picket lines, challenging multinational corporations, marching with civil rights leaders, advising presidents and demonstrating courage in the most difficult moments.
Myself along with the rest of our leadership team, put that legacy at the forefront of our efforts to turn things around. And we went to work: It’s been a year of unprecedented challenges, of loss, of crises and frankly, of pain. But it has also been a year of coming together, showing our strength, remembering our fundamental values and the foundation that this union was built upon. It has been a year of growing, of bonding and putting things right. And it has reminded us of how when we come together in Solidarity, we can meet any challenge, we can change our nation and our communities for the better, and we can overcome any obstacle — including this devastating pandemic.
About this virus, I want to say here that my heart goes out to each and every one of our members, and everyone who has lost loved ones and suffered economic hardship due to this virus. I too have lost loved ones and have spent these past months working with my brothers and sisters, the IEB and the companies to do everything in our power to keep all of us safe during this worldwide pandemic.
So, we go on, shoulder to shoulder. And we do what we’ve always done — we fight for what is right, we fight for better, and we stand united.
When I stepped into this position, I promised major reforms would be implemented across this union. The IEB entrusted me to take this union forward, and I took that charge very seriously. I promised to be transparent in communicating our reform efforts to restore integrity and confidence in our union as an organization and in our leadership.
I believe we have come a very long way in that critical journey.
We have implemented a comprehensive ethics program and sweeping financial reforms with top-to-bottom independent oversight, education and training.
- The Establishment of an independent Ethics Officer
- The Establishment of an independent Ethics Ombudsman
- The Establishment of a confidential Ethics Hotline
- Establishment of a Policy for Recovery of Misuse of Funds
- Comprehensive, enhanced independent accounting oversight
- Banning Charitable Contributions from UAW joint program centers
We have already clawed back funds from those who violated their oath of office, completed a massive overhaul of our financial house, are in the process of selling the controversial Cabin 4 at Black Lake and so much more. We are turning the page on this dark chapter and moving forward to face the challenges ahead.
Our work for the rest of this year and certainly into next year, will be to keep one another and our communities safe through this pandemic.
I know I’ve said this many times over the past several months but it is worth repeating here. In the early days of this worldwide health crisis, our members were among the first to step up when our nation was in need. Our sisters and brothers volunteered to go back into the plants after we shut down production in mid-March to make life saving Personal Protection Equipment (PPE); ventilators and other critical supplies. Members also stepped up to make masks, open food banks, serve on the front lines of this crisis in health care facilities and public safety and much more.
This is the hallmark of our union and this great membership.
In early February, our Health and Safety Department began to track best practices and the impact of the pandemic on our worksites and we set up a communications system to help answer members’ questions about their worksites and safety issues. And it was the UAW, through the COVID-19 task force with the Big 3, that demanded a production shutdown in March to keep our members safe. We have worked tirelessly to keep our members healthy and safe during the pandemic and I pledge to you that we will continue to do so and continue to make sure employers do not forget that it is the hard working Men and women of this union that keeps our economy strong.
As we head into this Thanksgiving weekend, I want to wish each and every member of my UAW family a healthy and happy holiday. I know we will be celebrating differently this year, and I urge all of us to follow the national and state protocols to keep one another safe.
I want to thank my sisters and brothers for their hard work and courage this past year. I also want to thank you for the privilege of leading this union. It is truly an honor to serve as your president and I am so proud of what we have achieved together this year.
Thank you and God Bless.
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