Unions and the Fight for Civil Rights
The following article appeared in the Detroit Free Press and was written by UAW Vice President and Director of the National Ford Department, Jimmy Settles.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to remember the historical importance of organized labor to black workers and their families, and unionism’s continued relevance today.
It was once legal to discriminate against minorities in hiring and wage equity. Even when it became illegal to discriminate against minorities in the workplace, bias against minorities was widely practiced and tolerated. Unions were at the forefront of the battle fighting for equal wages and an equal chance at jobs that could elevate families out of poverty.
Historically, African-Americans were given the least desirable jobs – if they were permitted to work at all alongside whites – and the auto industry was no exception. With the advent of the UAW, job opportunities and wages improved.
The UAW was formed to fight for, and ensure, workers’ rights. Fairness and justice is the epicenter of our value system and it extends to the community as a whole.