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To Labor Day and Labor Days Ahead

The American labor force is on the cusp of a complete transition in mobility, a transition to clean energy and clean vehicles. The UAW has been heavily involved in the national discussion on how to successfully navigate this transition. Photo courtesy of NNPA.

In 1882, a union man, Peter J. McGuire, founder of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and an early supporter of the creation of the American Federation of Labor, suggested setting aside a day for a “general holiday for the laboring classes.”

Almost 130 years later, Labor Day continues to celebrate those who did the work and the magnificent job they have done in building what I will always believe to be, the greatest nation on Earth. One hundred and thirty years later, America will again thank those who figured it out; those who pitched in; those who rolled up their sleeves and made this country work. But if this day is a statement about achievement, it is perhaps most importantly a testament to the U.S. worker’s ability to meet change, to adapt to its challenges, and to embrace that change and forge a better America.

Moving it forward

So, with the holiday upon us, this is what I would like to hold up in these complicated times: America is retooling. Climate change and a pandemic have rerouted directions and pathways. But America’s workers — union workers — are ready to meet these new directions and traverse those roads. America’s Labor Day thanks workers for the job they have done. At the same time, we must thank workers for the job they are about to do.

This is a time of tremendous evolution in our industries. We are on the cusp of a complete transition in mobility, a transition to clean energy and clean vehicles. At the UAW, we have been heavily involved in the national discussion on how we can successfully navigate this transition.

It can be done. We know that our workers are the best in the world and as we transition to electric and hybrid vehicles, we must protect our American workforce.

These vehicles and components must be built here by American workers and these jobs must be good paying union jobs. And we all know that it is the working men and women of this nation that are the engine that drives our economy. And any momentous change in our industry must not lose sight of that undeniable truth.

America’s strength

I can tell you that there are no greater consumers of what gets built here than by hard working Americans who put their work into building these products. Let me pause a bit to share some of the comments of President Joe Biden at a recent White House event on clean energy and the clean vehicles that will power us responsibly forward in the decades to come.

Biden, who has always been a friend to labor and to the UAW since his earliest days in government, put it this way.

“Whether or not the jobs to build these vehicles and batteries are good-paying union jobs — jobs with benefits, jobs that are going to sustain continued growth of the middle class; they have to be, they have to be made here in America.”

This is how it must be.

To this end, I want to make mention of Senator Debbie Stabenow’s measure that works to tie key consumer rebates for EVs to union auto jobs made here. The Stabenow Made in America Provision included in the Clean for America Act, would continue a $7,500 consumer credit for EVs and add for the next five years, a $2,500 bonus for autos assembled in the United States and another $2,500 for meeting certain worker focused labor standards.

What’s more, after five years, a vehicle must be assembled in the U.S. for consumers to be eligible to receive a $10,000 base credit and an additional $2,500 bonus credit for vehicles that are union made or apply worker focused labor standards. We at the UAW are committed to passing these provisions into law.

So, I’d like to ask that as you celebrate this Labor Day, take a moment to remember all those generations of Americans that this day was created to recognize. All those workers who have delved into and carved out a country that remains a beacon of accomplishments and as importantly, all those ready for the next big job as we move America forward. As Joe Biden has said, “I believe that the middle class built America, but I know who built the middle class; unions. Unions built the middle class.”

Yes, they did.

And yes, the work goes on.

Ray Curry is president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. Curry graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a B.S. in Business Administration/Finance and an MBA from the University of Alabama. He joined the UAW when he worked as an assembler at Freightliner Trucks in Mount Holly, North Carolina.