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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.

Yesterday, UAW Local 434 members at John Deere in Moline, Illinois began producing face shields for health care workers battling COVID-19 in their communities. The original run will produce 25,000 face shields with materials on order to produce another 200,000. The shields will be distributed to local health care facilities, as well as being used by production workers to ensure they’re safe while producing the equipment.

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.

The UAW International Executive Board is deeply saddened by the passing today of beloved former UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks.

“It is never easy losing a member of the UAW family, and it is especially hard when it is someone like my union brother Ruben Burks, who gave so much to members and the union that he loved,” said UAW President Rory L. Gamble. “He was a gentleman, and a fighter for what is right and just. I am forever thankful for his leadership and his friendship.”

My Brothers and Sisters, Just a short message on this Monday afternoon as we move into another week of this worldwide crisis. Today, I’d like to start with the news of an amazing milestone. I’ve spoken before of our brave UAW men and women who are working tirelessly at the Ford Plymouth, Michigan plant producing much needed face shields to protect those on the front lines of this pandemic. In just 13 days, since this effort began, our UAW members have produced 1 million face shields. This vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been shipped to numerous health care facilities in several states, one of the hardest hit being New York.

“We could not be prouder of the UAW members that have volunteered to make such a difference at this critical time in our history. These UAW Ford Members have sacrificed beyond themselves for all of us.”