Labor Day Message From Director Beverley Brakeman

“Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted.” - A. Phillip Randolph

Working together for justice, equity and inclusion are guiding principles of the labor movement.  Labor union members represent one of the most powerful institutional forces built around collective action and purpose. Every day we work to raise up the lives of all working people, stem the tide of growing income inequality, and fight for an end to systemic racism, gender bias and discrimination. We do this at the bargaining table, in the Halls of Congress, in the workplace, and in the streets. 

One of the most powerful ways workers can fight for justice and equality is by withholding our labor to fight for better wages and benefits, a safer workplace, fair treatment and more. We also withhold our labor in solidarity or protest with something about which we care and that is core to our principles of fighting for justice. 

In 1936, GM autoworkers in Flint Michigan sat down and stopped working for 44 days fighting for better pay and safer working conditions – and they won.

In 2018 and 2019, UAW graduate student workers at Columbia University, the New School, and Harvard University, and UAW workers at CAMBA Legal Services in New York City went on strike to get their employer to the bargaining table and to bargain in good faith – and they won.  

In the Spring of 2019, Stop and Shop workers across New England went on strike demanding better healthcare and retirement security – and they won. 

Despite laws prohibiting workers in the public sector from going on strike, from February 2018 to April of 2019, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Virginia and California walked off the job protesting abysmal classroom conditions and inadequate school budgets. Deemed the RedforEd movement, teachers across these states demanded recognition and change – and they won.

On Juneteenth (June 19th) a day commemorating the end of slavery, union members and workers across the country stopped working for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We did this to show that labor stands in solidarity with George Floyd and to protest police killings of unarmed people of color. Labor stands with Black Lives Matter.

With tenacity and fortitude workers across the country withhold the means of production, demand change and fight for justice through collective action – and we win – a lot.

And when we are not at work or fighting for workplace justice, we are working together for racial, gender and economic justice in our communities. UAW Region 9A members have participated in and even held Black Lives Matter protests across the Region. We have marched, rallied, chanted and kneeled. That’s what we do and who we are.

UAW Region 9A has grown its ranks by more than 5,000 in the past year at some of this country’s most prestigious institutions of higher education, cultural institutions across the region, legal aid and advocacy organizations in New York City, non-profit advocacy agencies in Massachusetts and legal services programs across the country. We are winning and we are proud.

So as we honor or celebrate this 2020 Labor Day – a day in a year none of us will ever forget – let us be reminded that, above all, we are working together for justice.