On July 22nd, UAW President Gary Jones delivered an address to delegates at the 110th NAACP Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Jones honored the organization’s history and continued work as a champion for civil rights across America. He also highlighted the UAW’s commitment to ensuring racial equality during the American civil rights movement and the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa and pledged that the UAW will continue to stand with the NAACP to ensure equality and justice for all Americans. The transcript of his remarks can be found below.
Gary Jones Remarks
110th NAACP Annual Convention
July 22, 2019
Good morning, brothers and sisters.
We’ve been marching together, the UAW and the NAACP, side by side, for generations.
I am so pleased to be here today to recognize this great organization that, since its inception over one hundred years ago, has been a beacon to so many. This organization and its members here are responsible for some of the greatest achievements in the history of civil rights, and of human rights. And you continue to be entrusted with the hopes and dreams of people all over the world. To give a voice to people who often have none. I honestly cannot think of a more important fight and a greater mission. We share that mission.
There’s a history to Right-to-Work, you know, that dates back to Jim Crow times in the American South. The people in charge wanted to make sure that African Americans and working white people could not be members of an organization together. They knew the power that would be found when we worked together.
When the UAW was formed in 1937, a decision was made that we would unionize based on what industry someone worked in, and everyone would be included, regardless of race. Our organization, unique among labor unions, included African American members from its inception- not just as members, though but in leadership roles. This is a reflection of our mission, and of our membership as a whole, from the time of the Sit Down Strike until today.
Those were challenging times. But you know, challenging times produce great leadership. Great causes, great struggles, great courage- they produce giants. Two giants, in particular, one from your organization and one from ours, stood together during some of the most difficult periods in this nation’s history stood together, not just as two men working toward a common goal, but as friends. Because they both understood that labor rights are civil rights. And they both understood that there is power in working together. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Walter Reuther, marched together, worked together, fought together as friends. Dr. King wrote his “I Have A Dream” speech right here in Detroit, at Solidarity House. Walter Reuther paid the bond when Dr. King was being held in Birmingham jail. Brothers and sisters, these two men joined together and changed this nation. And everyone in this room shares in those achievements.
The friendship between the UAW and the NAACP continues through our organization’s history. Another UAW President, Owen Bieber, my friend and mentor, continued to lead the UAW in another shared fight. Owen joined the struggle against the evils of apartheid, supporting President Nelson Mandela. And upon his release, one of Mr. Mandela’s first visits was right here in Dearborn, Michigan, at Local 600. He came to thank our members personally for their efforts and financial support during his struggle. During that visit, Owen gave Mandela a royal blue UAW jacket, embroidered with his name. He pronounced him an honorary member of the UAW. Mandela made a speech to the union members present for his visit, stating “Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here.” “The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.” Because that is what the friendship between our organizations really means. We are truly brothers and sisters.
Those were challenging times. These are challenging times. More than ever, we need to work toward a joint goal. More than ever, we need to share in the never-ending fight for equality for all, Justice for all. And respect for all. This convention’s theme sums it up perfectly: When we fight, we win.
Sisters and brothers, I don’t have to tell anyone here that our nation is divided. It is divided, still, and it is hurting. Our friends, our families, our communities, they are struggling. But here, here in this room, we know that we can fight together. Fight against those who would seek to divide us, would seek to diminish and defeat us. So, sisters and brothers, we are gathered together once again to fight these battles. It’s never easy, but we will prevail because we never, never, never give up.
I will end with this by saying: The UAW stands by your side. In solidarity. And in friendship. Thank you, brothers and sisters.
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