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Photo by Detroit News Archives Originally posted on DetroitNews.com 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.

Detroit - “Hand on Bible, in the seat of the world’s longest democratic republic, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took an oath that carries the hopes and dream

Sisters and Brothers,

This week we will see a new Administration sworn into office in Washington, D.C.

My Brothers and Sisters, I am very pleased to share some positive news today that, once again, speaks to how our UAW family is stepping up to help out during this worldwide crisis. As we all know, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical to keeping our frontline health care workers and others safe from infection as they care for others and keep our communities functioning. Yesterday, we announced that the UAW, working with Ford Motor Company, has taken another step in responding to the COVID-19 crisis by shifting more production to face masks for medical use, PPE and respirators. Our UAW Ford members continue to volunteer to report to work during this difficult time as we expand at the facility across from Flat Rock, Michigan to make respirators. And UAW Ford members are continuing to make face masks for medical use at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant.

Together with Ford, the UAW continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by shifting production to face masks for medical use, personal protective equipment and respirators. UAW Ford members continue to step up and volunteer to work during this difficult time as we expand at the facility across from Flat Rock to make respirators and at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant to make face masks for medical use.

My Sisters and Brothers, Just a short message today on behalf of myself and the entire International Executive Board, to wish our UAW family all the best on this holiday weekend. Many of us are observing religious holidays; and while our celebrations may be different this year, we are still with one another in spirit and in faith. And it is that commonality that will see us through this terrible worldwide crisis.
The day COVID-19 shutdown the Warren (Michigan) Technical Center is the day Travis Fick jumped wholeheartedly into the fight against the virus. “It was a Friday. I believe March 20. I had been paying attention, so I knew there was a shortage of personal protection equipment, so I started a Facebook group to see what we could do,” says the Local 160 member. Immediately, he posted information about the need to get protection gear to medical professionals. He called businesses like dentist offices that had closed because they were not essential, but might have N95 masks, gloves, medical gowns and caps, or anything that could be used on the front lines.

Tune in 2 p.m. (EDT) Friday, April 10, for a free webinar that offers expert information for those still working outside the home during the coronavirus pandemic. The event, Workplace Safety in a Pandemic: Slowing the Spread of Coronavirus and Communicable Diseases, is sponsored by Cornell University ILR Worker Institute. Register now at https://bit.ly/2JR2MFb.

My Brothers and Sisters, I’d like to talk a little today about the loss of my good friend and former UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks. Ruben passed on Monday, another casualty in this terrible pandemic. He was truly a gentleman and a tireless fighter for working men and women, for our members and for what is right and just. He served this union tirelessly for decades, starting at the GM Fisher Body Plant 2 in Flint, Michigan. He quickly rose through the UAW ranks, serving as committee person, executive board member and director of Region 1C. I will be forever grateful for his leadership and his friendship. And in thinking about my dear union brother and his contributions, I take strength in the fact that Ruben was one of so many dedicated individuals who have served this union.
My Sisters and Brothers, I’m pleased to bring you some more stories today of the good works of our UAW family during this terrible crisis. I’ve shared stories in the past weeks of our brave members on the front lines of this pandemic, but we have many members helping out in so many different ways across the nation. I’d like to share a different type of story today.
On March 13, Penni Cox was laid off from her job at the General Motors plant in Kokomo, Indiana. “Business wasn’t good, and the company was downsizing. We prayed for more work. We were willing to build anything. We just wanted to work,” says Cox. “And now, here we are building ventilators.” Cox, a mother and grandmother, is a third-generation autoworker and member of UAW Local 292, and is proud and excited to contribute to the COVID-19 fight.