Detroit News - Labor Voices: It's time to realize our dream for a more perfect union

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UAW President Rory Gamble

President Rory L. Gamble

By Rory L. Gamble

With images of an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol this month, we all are experiencing a nation divided like none of us has ever seen. We are divided by politics. By opinions. By economics. By beliefs. The cause? Well, that is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that this is a time to look to — and take heart in — the words of President John F. Kennedy and heed the warning of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that healing our nation starts with us. Each of us must personally seek to find what unites us and foster that, bond with it, build upon it, so that we can move forward to a better place for us all.

Somewhere within the separation and violence we’ve recently experienced are true signs that “what unites us is greater than what divides us.”

What unites us is the American Dream — the ability to better ourselves, create a good life, take care of our co-workers and families and have hope for the future. No matter your political, religious, social beliefs, it is what we all desire and hope for: the ability to create a good life. It is the foundation of the UAW and what we have tirelessly been striving to achieve for all of our brothers and sisters since our very first days.

There is much hope for this dream, this unity. Take for example, the Jan. 5 run-off election of Rev. Raphael Warnock. Warnock is a pastor and politician from Georgia. He is the first black senator in the state. He grew up in Savannah’s public housing. He was one of 12 children and the first college graduate in his family. And he's the senior pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church where King preached.

Warnock's father was the late Rev. Jonathan Warnock, a World War II veteran, who was born in the Jim Crow South. His mother, Rev. Verlene Warnock, worked picking cotton and tobacco in the 1950s.

Looking back on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, it is clear that he foresaw families like the Warnocks while his own generation experienced the siege and violence of the civil rights struggle.

That historic speech was written in part at UAW headquarters, Solidarity House, in Detroit. King then delivered the initial version of the "dream" speech in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched up Woodward Avenue with our own UAW President Walter Reuther.

We are unified in our united American dream that this country keeps alive in our hearts. We are united in our strong beliefs in the founding ideals of our country: equality, liberty, and democracy. We must use the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK. And the story of Senator Warnock, to bind our community together again.

The first step is for each of us to stop opposing each other just because of our professional, political, social or organizational views and instead ask each other what we can do collectively to make our communities better? How can we help one another?

When the UAW first formed, the idea of our regular, everyday work life being equal, fair, just and safe seemed like a dream. But working together with a purpose, a goal, and a “we must do this” attitude, brought it all to fruition.

Let us all take personal responsibility to protect our great democracy. Let us seize our moment in history ― this moment ―  to realize our dreams of a more perfect union.

Rory Gamble is president of the UAW.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.