There's a silver lining to these challenging times for unions and workers, United Auto Workers president Bob King told attendees at Saturday's opening session of the AFT convention in Detroit. And it's this: "There's greater solidarity in the labor movement than I've seen in my lifetime."
King (pictured at right), who praised the AFT for focusing on member mobilization and activism, said he and the UAW stand with our union in the fight to ensure that workers have a voice on the job. "If we want better education, better hospitals or better government, we need the voice of workers in solving problems."
Labor and our allies must take the lead in restoring an America based on democratic values and jobs with wages that lift everyone's quality of life—union and nonunion, King asserted. "We have to be committed to rebuilding a social and economic justice movement."
Lashing out at those on the far right who would cut education funding, oppose smaller class sizes and refuse to support school infrastructure projects, while they were also vilifying teachers, King told the educators: "You are miracle workers."
Educators have something in common with autoworkers, he said. UAW members have had to fight with management "for better-quality vehicles, just as you have had to fight for better-quality education."
King praised President Obama for supporting the bailout of the auto industry when many elected officials, especially Republicans, opposed it and polls showed it wasn't a popular decision. "If the auto industry had been liquidated," he pointed out, "over a million good-paying, mostly union jobs would have been lost."
The UAW president called for support in re-electing Barack Obama, saying that, while unions and their members have been unhappy with some of the things the president has said and done, "no president has stood up for collective bargaining the way this president has." [Roger Glass/photo by Michael Campbell]