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The UAW can change lives, families and communities. I’ve seen it and you have, too.

On Nov. 3, I was named acting president of the United Auto Workers International Union. I grew up here in Detroit. My family is UAW. My community is UAW. 

Earlier this month, both GM and Ford ratified contracts, and talks with Fiat Chrysler have begun.

Pattern provisions of those contracts will lift temporary workers to top pay in four years.

Gone is the path to nowhere — where temporary workers have no hope, and full-time workers can’t see the end of the finish line to top pay. 

UAW members have made these companies highly profitable, and UAW members share in that success through bargained profit sharing. We have a seat across from management to discuss pay, on-the-job safety, health care benefits and our members’ futures as technology changes.

The strength and solidarity of our union created all of that. 

UAW solidarity on the picket line created a pattern this year that will lift up all manufacturing workers and the middle class in this nation.

I fully understand —  and welcome — the weight of my responsibility as acting president. I can think of no way to make a greater contribution to my union right now than to take on this momentous charge. 

And yes, the UAW faces challenges. Yes, there is and should be outrage and anger at those UAW leaders who betrayed their oaths of office. But make no mistake about it: There are also great opportunities.

I’ve outlined a series of ethics reforms including hiring an ombudsman to handle complaints; hiring a first ever ethics officer; boosting accounting standards; setting strict policies on the handling of money for charities; changing the structure of the joint program centers; and pursuing the return of any funds received illegally through a clawback.

In that same spirit, the board has decided to post Cabin 4 at Black Lake for sale. 

Many have said some of these actions should have come sooner. Some have said these reforms are not enough. Some members, journalists (including from this paper) and critics skeptically say we are making these reforms only because of the federal investigation. And that is OK.

What matters is that these reforms are being instituted today, and as I said in my first week in my new role, more reforms will follow. But the true reason for these reforms are not to deflect from finding other wrongdoing, or pressure from newspapers, or fear of investigators — these changes are being made because UAW members deserve a clean union and have the opportunity through this investigation to fix some ugly leaks in its 84-year-old foundation.

We are the union of Reuther; the union of the Battle of the Overpass; the union of White Shirt Day and sit down strikes; the union that created pattern bargaining; the union that stood with the Rev. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela; the union that has been at the forefront of labor laws, civil rights, health care coverage for all Americans, retirement and social security protections. I assure you that this union and its mission are bigger than today’s challenges.

That is not to say that the wrongdoing we have experienced is glossed over in any way. But we are moving forward; and we can, and will, do better and do more.

Let us not forget that everyday UAW members go to work and keep the great American dream moving in our heavy trucks, our cars, our farm equipment, our planes, our rockets, and governments, universities and even casinos.

And when my time as acting president ends at the 2022 Constitutional Convention, we will leave this great union uncorrupted and better than we inherited it, and with restored pride as each UAW member clocks in at work. 

Because the opportunity to change and strengthen the UAW is worth the challenge for all of us.

Rory Gamble is the acting president of UAW.

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