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EXCLUSIVE: Rory Gamble Named First African American President of the UAW

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I was sitting at home and brainstorming on things that I needed to do, and then the phone started to ring,” stated Rory Gamble, a welder fixture repairman, who joined the UAW in 1974 when he worked at the Ford Motor Co. Dearborn (Mich.) Frame Plant. “The local NAACP chapter president called, and others,” noted Gamble, who in December was named the 13th president of the 85-year-old union. “It hit me then that, ‘Hey, you’re the first African American president,’” Gamble recalled. “It struck me like a rock. It’s a great accomplishment.”

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy.

Representing nearly 1 million current and retired members of all ethnicities and backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the UAW has never had an African American president.

Until now.

“I was sitting at home and brainstorming on things that I needed to do, and then the phone started to ring,” stated Rory Gamble, a welder fixture repairman, who joined the UAW in 1974 when he worked at the Ford Motor Co. Dearborn (Mich.) Frame Plant.

“The local NAACP chapter president called, and others,” noted Gamble, who in December was named the 13th president of the 85-year-old union.

“It hit me then that, ‘Hey, you’re the first African American president,’” Gamble recalled. “It struck me like a rock. It’s a great accomplishment.”

Gamble observed a distinct and frequently-used quote that dates back to Winston Churchill: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

“There is a great weight that comes with being the first African American president,” Gamble said.

“I want to be an example where no one can question my leadership and not use anything against another African American brother or sister to prevent them from being able to ascend to a position like this.”

Gamble accepted the job after his predecessor, Gary Jones, resigned amid a corruption scandal.

Despite the cloud of suspicion left behind, Gamble observed that the union must continue to move forward.

“Being an African American already means you have a great deal of responsibility and so I want to make sure that the way I carry myself will keep the doors open for others to follow,” Gamble expressed during an exclusive interview with NNPA Newswire.

“I’ve been blessed. I was able to come up during a time where there was a lot of activism. Unlike today, where a lot of our brothers and sisters get caught up in the digital world, I came up when everything was more hands-on and personal,” Gamble continued.

“You couldn’t hide behind a keyboard. You had to get up and see people and look them in the eye. Looking folks in the eye shows that you have a lot more of yourself invested.”

That doesn’t mean Gamble is technologically challenged.

“I had to get social media because you have to engage and keep up with the times,” he said.

“I’m very personal, and I love engaging with the members. I try hard to make sure that our union doesn’t get away from that even though we have this digital and electronic stuff. That’s fine, but the downside is that it can be icy when it comes to human relationships, so I like the eye-to-eye contact.”

Gamble, 64, started his UAW career as a welder fixture repairman.

Before that, he was a defensive tackle at Northwestern High School in Detroit, where he credited his father, a former elected officer of Local 600, as an early mentor.

In 1975, Local 600 members elected Gamble to serve as a plant trustee.

From 1976 to 1979, he was the local’s alternate benefit representative and, later, he served as a bargaining committee chair.

In 1988 Gamble earned an appointment as staff director and administrative assistant for Local 600’s president, with responsibilities for third-stage grievance agendas for all Ford Rouge plants and as editor of UAW Facts, the local’s newspaper, according to his biography.

He was elected delegate to the UAW’s 32nd Constitutional Convention and served on the Constitution Committee.

Since 1987 Gamble’s assignments have included local union health and safety coordinator, employee support services program, education director, civil rights coordinator, fitness center coordinator, and family services and learning center coordinator.

He has served as director of Local 600 Ford units, including Dearborn Engine and Fuel Tank, Dearborn Truck Plant, Milan, Industrial Athlete, and Dearborn Frame. Other assignments have included retirees’ liaison and coordinator of the Rouge Rehabilitation Center.

In 1998 and 2003, Gamble served on the UAW-Ford National Negotiating Team. From 1993 to 2002, he was elected for three terms as the local’s recording secretary.

Gamble was elected first vice president of Local 600 in 2002 and re-elected in 2005.

In 1999 Gamble received the Spirit of Detroit award; the 2006 Horace L. Sheffield Jr. Humanitarian Award; and the 2008 Minority Women’s Network (Detroit chapter) Man of the Year award.

“Labor unions have raised the standards of living, that’s pure and simple,” Gamble observed.

“If someone’s family gets into a major health scare, the family could be put into major financial jeopardy. So, the union has provided employees with job security, increased wages and enhanced health care benefits. You can plan for your kids to attend college and other important milestones that you might not otherwise be able to do if you didn’t have that protected status that unions provide.”

Gamble continued:

“I have never sat across the table from a CEO of any major company who didn’t have a contract with that company that guarantees their wages and benefits and even a golden parachute. That same worker will tell the worker in the plant on the floor that they don’t need a union, but every major CEO has his wages and benefits contracted. That’s a big irony.”

Gamble also noted the UAW’s relationship with the Black Press of America had spanned decades because the union and publishers share a common belief in social justice and civil rights.

“People need to know how important the Black Press is and how important the union is,” Gamble said. “Both have accomplished so much together. We do this by making sure that we use all of the available resources to educate our people and let them know how important and relevant the Black Press and the union is especially when they are functioning together. The things we’ve accomplished to uplift society and our people, in general, is something we need to continue to do together.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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