UAW Region 9A Remembers Pioneers for Justice and Equity

Many believe that to die on Rosh Hashanah is to be tzaddik, a person of great righteousness.  

During Rosh Hashanah, a time of reflection, prayer, and introspection we lost one of our greatest minds and hearts, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. RBG, as she was affectionately known, brilliantly navigated and balanced the dictates of her common sense and her humanity with her judicial commitment to ensure all of us the promise of equal justice under the law. In her many years on the bench, RBG both penned and dissented in numerous precedent setting cases - often a lone voice against the dictates of patriarchy and white supremacy.

The UAW also lost one of its most beloved union leaders, Dottie Jones. Dottie began her career in the labor movement in 1966, developed training programs for minority and female union members at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations, and dedicated her union life to the advancement of women in the workplace. Many of us in the UAW who knew and loved Dottie believed her to be a woman of great integrity and passion for our union – our own UAW feminist hero.

Dottie was appointed by President Steve Yokich to serve as an administrative assistant in the President’s Office – a first for an African-American woman. She served on several boards and commissions, including the Michigan Women’s Commission; the National Association of Commissions for Women, and the Michigan Task Force Against Sexual Harassment whose work resulted in the amendment of Michigan’s Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act to include sexual harassment as illegal behavior. She was named one of 25 Outstanding Black Women in Michigan in 1985 received the Feminist Achievement Award, and the Walter Reuther Distinguished Service Award.

In 1996, a court case challenged the all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute. The Supreme court, led by RBG, ruled the state-funded school accept women for admission.

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court swept away a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act which required certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to undergo federal oversight before enacting any changes in voting procedure. Ginsburg, in her fiery dissent wrote "[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

In 1999, Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear for gender discrimination in her compensation. She won the case in federal court in 2003. Goodyear appealed all the way to the Supreme Court which upheld a reversal of the federal court decision.  Railing against the 5-4 majority Ginsburg delivered a scathing dissent from the bench accusing the eight male justices of being indifferent to the gender pay gap. "The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination," she said, calling upon Congress to act where the court had not.

Dottie Jones and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were pioneers in the labor movement and in the court of law, respectively.  Dottie, an African American woman and trade unionist.  RBG, a white Jewish woman from Brooklyn. Both driven and successful in fighting for racial, gender and economic justice using their intellect, their platform and the power of the Institutions in which they serve to effect change and improve lives.

In Region 9A, we are working to elevate and improve our focus on combatting systemic racism, gender, and LGBTQ+ bias and discrimination. Our recent forum on Racism and Policing, driven by UAW rank and file members and attended by over 100+ members was an intentional and successful step towards mobilizing a new and diverse group of rank and file members seeking to be engaged in working together for justice.

We will walk in the footsteps of our sister Dottie Jones to mobilize and fight for justice, change, diversity, and growth in our ranks. And we will fight against an appointment to the Supreme Court by the Trump Administration to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg like our lives depend on it. 

At the bargaining table, in the Halls of Congress and state legislatures across the Region, at new worksites and on the political front, we have the collective power to mobilize and organize for justice - let’s do it.

The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.