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OP-ED: The stuff of Dreams — MLK goes right on marching

NNPA NEWSWIRE — It is shocking that in 2020, mothers in African American and minority communities still have to worry about the safety of their sons and daughters when simply going off to the store, going out for a jog and or being stopped at a traffic light. This must end.



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (National Archives)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (National Archives)

More than 50 years later and still so much to be done

By Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

The citizens of this country are in the midst of a battle that we have been fighting for a very long time. A battle of racial inequality, systemic abuse, and injustice.

It is time to win this battle once and for all.

Across the nation over the past weeks, protesters are saying they have had enough. They are weary of the ongoing struggle for equality and equity, of the battle against systemic injustice, and the fear of being a person of color in America. The horrific, needless death of George Floyd on May 25 at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis is tragically all too familiar.  And we are seeing our nation cry out in pain. It is the pain of generations of inequality and the pain of a nation divided.

It is shocking that in 2020, mothers in African American and minority communities still have to worry about the safety of their sons and daughters when simply going off to the store, going out for a jog and or being stopped at a traffic light.

This must end.

Generations of misery

George Floyd is sadly one of many, many African Americans who have been the victim of racial profiling and brutality. The larger tragedy of our society is that this criminal activity did not start with Mr. Floyd. Or with Breona Taylor or Tony McDade, who also lost their lives in the past month for similar reasons. Nor did it start with Eric Garner, killed in 2014 due to a police strangle hold — or Rodney King’s brutal beating in 1991.  The names and stories stretch back generations and are part of the ongoing racial disparity and injustice that permeates our system. A product of 400 years of oppression, prejudice and fear.

How many stories like George Floyd’s must we hear? How many lives cut tragically, brutally short?

At the UAW, we have been fighting for generations against systemic racism. Think back to August 28, 1968, when more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. Two men participating in that march — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and UAW President Walter Reuther — were dedicated to breaking the color lines and fighting for equality in wages, opportunities, housing, healthcare and fair societal treatment.

A wound that will not heal

The 1968 March on Washington succeeded in getting those in power to sit up and take action. It was successful in pressuring the administration to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress.  It was a time that gave Americans — especially minorities — hope. But how far have we come since then if we still are marching, if we are still protesting?

Not nearly far enough.

It is time for this country to transform from the ways of the past. To turn our backs on the prejudices, fear and hate of our past. To vote in local and federal elections for leaders that will represent men and women of this country and no longer their self-interest.

I truly worry if we cannot do this, this wound will continue to tear our nation apart.

In today’s marches across the country, we are seeing history repeating itself.  Again, our community members are joining together, young people especially, and taking up the cause to demand change. And the UAW, with its long history of supporting and fighting for civil and human rights, is right beside them.

It is not just police brutality that affects the African American community. Because of socioeconomic and environmental factors — many due to continued disparity in opportunities — when COVID-19 struck this country it hit people of color especially hard.

Currently, the UAW is working with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office serving on the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force will act in an advisory capacity to the Governor and study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommend actions to immediately address such disparities and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie them.

We need real change

But we cannot just talk about it. We must DO something about it. Just like we saw civil rights legislation that came out of the demonstrations in the past, this tragedy and these demonstrations and clashes will need to result in legislation and reforms passed. PASSED and ENFORCED.

And while I do not want to vilify all men and women in blue — we cannot not turn away from the horror of George Floyd’s death. An American citizen begging for his life on an American city street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

This is not an on-the-sidelines hurt for me.  I am an African American man born in raised in the south and now living in an urban center, but I am speaking here as an American, as a union member, and I am speaking to all of us.

When we look at the many tragic incidents over the past decades, most recently Mr. Floyd’s horrific death, I can only think that we as a nation failed this young man, as we have failed so many others. This cannot continue.

As Americans, we need to serve a warning to all who have the power — our representatives, our law enforcement officers, our leaders, our detractors — we are watching. And we are all committed to the safety and personal rights of ALL Americans.

We will hold those accountable, regardless of who they are, if they put any of us in peril. While doing so we must remember the legacy of two men, two friends, who worked tirelessly for so many years. We must honor that relationship, as well as our fellow men and women, as we address the challenges that we still face today.

But we must take action now — and we must make permanent change — for all of us.

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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