Wednesday, September 23, 2020

By Mark McManus
General President
United Association

Respect:  it’s more than just a word—it must be an action as well. This issue of our UA Journal is being written during the most controversial and conflicted political divide this country has seen in nearly a century. I urge you to read this issue and consider all that we are putting before you.

When I speak with reporters or to politicians, I am always honored to describe our membership to them as a microcosm of the entire United States in all its strength and variety. As UA members, we come from all different walks of life. We have varying religious beliefs that shape our day-to-day decisions and how we raise our families. We represent all different races, genders, sexual orientations, all abilities and disabilities, and ages. We represent both the liberal and conservative sides of the aisle and somewhere in between. We are also the highest-skilled workers, living in ruby-red to deep-blue states. This is who we are. We are veterans and volunteers. We hunt, and we fish. We support the right to life, and we’re pro-choice. We’re third- and fourth-generation UA members, and many of us are the first generation of members as well. This varied complexion of our organization reflects the core values of our membership in both our countries. 

Of course, there are differences among us—minor differences in the big scheme of things, because in the end, we are working together as union Brothers and Sisters for a common goal. We want good employment, good wages and benefits, safety, and a clean and happy jobsite. We want to go home at night with a feeling of accomplishment and pride when completing the hardest of projects. That’s what we want, and that’s what we cherish.

Listen, Brothers and Sisters, you have worked jobs all your lives. You’ve gone to school to learn your craft. While performing the skills of your trade alongside your Brothers and Sisters, you may find you disagree on political ideas. But now, in this world we live in, tension and divisiveness have grown to an alarming degree. Debates too easily become heated arguments, with the dangers that anger implies. 

It is important to remember that among all things, respect needs to be the common goal—respect for different opinions, respect for the jobsite employer and the end-user and, most importantly, respect for your fellow Brothers and Sisters. Respect doesn’t mean we have to agree. But it does mean that in all things, we are upholding the Standard for Excellence, and we are representing the UA with the highest levels of class and civility.

I strive for that here at the General Office, even as I recognize that there is always room for improvement. There are a whole host of issues that are difficult and complex in nature, but opportunity lies in constructive conversation. When we lead with disrespect, our voices go unheard, and our character is sullied. This is NOT who we are.

I fully understand, and your Political Education Committee understands and respects that good UA mechanics will disagree with our endorsement of Joe Biden for the office of President of the United States of America. The opinions and input from everyone on this Committee—representing your states and industries—was heard and truly listened to. The Committee and I vetted the issues that affect the entire membership of the UA:  Union Rights, Infrastructure, Energy, and Retirement Security. We also kept both candidate choices for Vice President front and foremost in our deliberations.

Neither candidate is scoring perfectly, but the Committee ignored outside pressure calling for an early endorsement so it could thoroughly go through all the issues that affect the UA. We also recognize there are many good, solid, respectable members who are firm believers in one or the other candidate already and, regardless of the committee’s findings, it may not change their opinion. And we respect that. 

Campaigns, candidates, and political parties seek to divide to accomplish their goals of winning elections. Here in the United Association it’s our creed to be united, to collectively work in the greatest industry in the world. We can do that if we respect all opinions, all sectors, both countries, all states and provinces. We have each been given a gift of living in the U.S. and Canada and being proud Brothers and Sisters of the UA. Let us respect and honor that gift as we have always done, through the diversity of our beliefs, as well as the diversity of our skill set and the incredible benefits North American citizens enjoy because of it.

If the President gets re-elected, I honestly will pray, hope, and try to help in any way that I can to see him and this country be successful. Our fights with the far left and far right won’t end on November 3. The Union movement and the UA aren’t going to be given anything. We have to be the best at what we do and be engaged for our collective cause for as long as we are members. It is our oath—and our pledge.

I assure you that I respect all of our members, even some family members, neighbors and great friends that have a different opinion. And just a hunch—I don’t think I’m alone here. 

We are the UA. We are diverse in who we are and what we believe, but we stand as a united front doing the thing we love out on the jobsite, working side by side with our Brothers and Sisters. If we set a standard of respect and live and act on that, we will continue to prosper.