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COMMENTARY: Unions Put America First and Goal

NNPA NEWSWIRE — For working men and women, the game is always the same. We take the field against management and the companies who put profits ahead of the very people who make them profitable. As in football, ours too is a game of inches, and we fight for every single one of them.

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Miami, FL, USA — Aerial photo Miami Hard rock Stadium hosting 2020 Super Bowl LIV (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Miami, FL, USA — Aerial photo Miami Hard rock Stadium hosting 2020 Super Bowl LIV (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for Super Bowl LIV. The big game matches the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers and marks the first time these two have met in a Super Bowl. So how will the big game turn out? I’ve got the answer already. Because of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and the collective bargaining they have put into place, the men and women who represent both teams in jobs on the field and off, win. As does America.

Before the guys clash helmets on the field, I want to talk a little bit about how critical union representation is for anyone who gets up and goes to work every day. And, regardless of where you report to work — whether it’s on a football field, behind a desk, in a factory, at a casino, in a classroom, in a bookstore, at the post office, in a museum — having a union means that your rights are protected.

Giving Solidarity the ball

Union representation assures that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement are met; that negotiating retirement and insurance benefits are bargained for; that member services and activities are provided; that health and safety standards are put in place and followed; that workers are paid a fair wage and have a voice in their workplace. And by the way, our union brothers and sisters are the backbone of their communities, providing assistance and support to charitable and community organizations across this country.

I believe that every worker, in every job, should have those rights and protections. And a lot of people agree with me. In fact, approval ratings for unions is at a 50-year high. I think we saw clear evidence of that this past fall during the history-making strike against General Motors. All of us, standing up to this massive, powerful, multi-billion-dollar company. But all that money and all that power was no match for my union brothers and sisters who stood in Solidarity and ultimately drove into the end zone with a victory.

That’s the power of Solidarity, of working men and women standing strong together. Support poured in from across this nation and around the world, and our NFLPA brothers and sisters were right there alongside us. From my own seat here at the UAW, I can’t thank the pro-union NFL players enough who turned up on our picket lines and stood with the nearly 50,000 of us in front of plants across this country, marching with us in the heat, the cold and the rain for fair wages and a fair contract. And just as we have in the past, the UAW will be there to support the NFLPA in 2021 as they enter into their bargaining.

Marching America down the field

That’s what it’s all about. Standing together to protect our right to collectively bargain and have representation in the workplace. And, make no mistake, when we stand together, we win. But the forces working against us and the right to collectively bargain are fierce, formidable and with a game plan all their own. Corporations and the politicians they have working for them will stop at nothing to erode union representation and make it more and more difficult to organize. Our strength is our Solidarity.

For working men and women, the game is always the same. We take the field against management and the companies who put profits ahead of the very people who make them profitable. As in football, ours too is a game of inches, and we fight for every single one of them. So, like I say, I already know who the winners are in the 2020 Super Bowl. (I am not claiming that to know what Kansas City might bring and what the 49ers might have planned to stop them!) I’m just saying, I know the winning job unions have done for all of us on whatever field we play on or whatever game we’re playing.

(It should be a good matchup and know that you’ve got Union Labor on both benches that all of America will be rooting for.)

President, UAW

Ray Curry was elected President of the UAW on June 28, 2021 by the International Executive Board upon the retirement of UAW President Rory L. Gamble. Curry officially assumed the office of president on July 1, 2021 and will serve out the remainder of the term until June 2022. Elected UAW Secretary-Treasurer at the 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018, Curry was instrumental in implementation of broad financial ethics reforms and oversight as part of the UAW’s Ethics Reforms Initiative.

Curry was elected Director of UAW Region 8 in June 2014 at the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit after having served four years as the region’s assistant director.

As Region 8 director, Curry was instrumental in securing new labor agreements with various parts suppliers. In July 2015, under his leadership, the region successfully organized the first gaming bargaining unit of Region 8 as part of a coalition of four other unions to represent the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland. In October 2017, the combined coalition reached its first individual collective bargaining agreements. UAW Local 17 represents the table dealers. Under Curry’s leadership, the region also won an election for representation at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in June 2018, bringing 1,250 new members into the union.

A North Carolina native and military veteran, Curry served three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and five years in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration / Finance. He holds a Master of Business Administration, MBA, degree from the University of Alabama.

Curry joined the UAW in July 1992, when he was hired as a truck assembler at Freightliner Trucks in Mount Holly, North Carolina, (now Daimler Trucks, NA) and later became a quality assurance inspector. He remained in that position until 2004. He served on the local’s civil rights committee and as a delegate for the area A. Philip Randolph Chapter. From 1998 to 2004, UAW Local 5285 members elected him to serve in numerous leadership positions, including as UAW Constitutional Convention delegate, chairman of the trustees, financial secretary-treasurer and alternate committeeperson. He also served as chairman of the UAW North Carolina State Political Action Committee, executive board vice president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO and as a UAW member organizer on the 2003 and 2004 Freightliner organizing drives in Cleveland, Gastonia and High Point, North Carolina.

In October 2004, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger appointed him as an International representative assigned to Region 8. His assignment as a servicing representative included aerospace, automotive (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors facilities), heavy truck, and numerous automotive supplier locations in Alabama and Tennessee. He was responsible for collective bargaining, arbitration, organizing, political action and other bargaining-unit assignments. In June 2010, he was appointed Region 8 assistant director by then–Region 8 Director Gary Casteel.

Curry was elected as a 2012 Democratic National Convention alternate delegate on behalf of the state of Tennessee and later became a full voting delegate at the convention.

He is the 2017 recipient of the A. Philip Randolph Leon Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017 recipient of the Tennessee State AFL-CIO Presidential Award, the 2018 PR Latta Rank and File Award from the North Carolina AFL-CIO, as well as the 2019 National Newspaper Press Association’s National Leadership Award.

A longtime grassroots activist, Curry is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, a Silver Life member of the NAACP, and member of the national NAACP Board of Directors. He is also an active member of numerous community and social organizations including but not limited to the Michigan State Democratic Party, American Legion Post 177 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Unique Masonic Lodge #85, Charlotte Consistory #35, and Rameses Temple #51 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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