Being Thankful in Difficult and Stressful Times

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, it is a good time to reflect upon the year. To be honest- 2020 has been a hard year. To start the year we saw COVID -19 began to spread across the United States. After much debate, many states shutdown during the spring to help stem the growth of the virus, as hospitals, and funeral homes were filled to capacity.

While some states tried to place the health of their citizens first, others sadly did not. Finally, after growing pressure from the federal government most states reopened before the virus could be contained. April, May, and June saw a downward trend on the number of new cases per day. In July, tourist destinations began to open, and numbers once again began to climb. At the current time the United States is seeing record daily numbers of new cases, averaging over 150,000 new cases a day. While doctors have improved at treating the disease, we recently passed the 250,000-death mark. These are indeed troubling times for us all.

When the pandemic began the International Executive Board of the UAW made some hard choices. The decision was made to ban travel and cancel all conferences for the year. This resolution was not made lightly – it really impacted the Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center at Black Lake. However, the risk to our members through travel and gathering simply was not worth the risk. As our regional conferences were cancelled we were naturally disappointed. For me one of the joys of being director is to meet our members at these conferences and hear their opinions on a variety of topics. Again, while the loss was disappointing, the risk was not worth it.

As the public was affected by the spread of COVID-19, the economy took a hit. We saw unemployment numbers hit 14.7% and still hover just about 10%. In the spring, Congress passed a stimulus package that was supposed to help struggling Americans, but too much of those funds ended up with those who were not struggling. Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Due to the timing of the pandemic, millions of Americans could see their meager unemployment benefits expiring in December, as some in Washington are stalling on passing another economic stimulus plan to help these workers displaced by the virus.

Recent news that a vaccine is nearing completion sends some hope going forward, but the experts predict the winter months could be brutal and COVID and the flu team up to attack the population. Far too many elected officials and individuals refuse to take the virus seriously and refuse to do something as simple as wearing a mask for protection for themselves and others. “We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.” We should all care about others and take every step we can to stop the spread of the virus. Being considerate does not cost a thing- and we all can wear a mask. Let us remember the Mine Act of 1977, the coal miners fought for many years to pass just to be able to have this very right to slow down deaths by black lung.

While 2020 has been nothing short of a challenge- we must remember there is still plenty to be thankful for. This year I am thankful doctors and nurses, who have worked long hours, watching their patients, perish, without loved ones present. I am thankful for school teachers who continue to help our children learn through this pandemic. I am thankful for fast food workers who continue to work for meager pay during the virus. I am thankful poll workers who placed themselves at risk to ensure democracy is protected. I am thankful for scientists who have worked tirelessly to find a vaccine for this plague. I am thankful for our brothers and sisters who have worked in masks, worked in uncomfortable PPE, and other means necessary to be safe for themselves and others. I am thankful for those who care enough for their fellow man to wear a mask in public and to practice social distance.

This Thanksgiving it is my fervent prayer that we all stop for a moment and take stock of the blessings in our lives. Reach out to those who know whose families have been affected by this virus. Be mindful of charities and the relief agencies. Be mindful there are over 6,000,000 additional Americans have lost their jobs. With 2020 came a GREATER responsibility to help others.

In closing, on behalf of the entire staff of UAW Region 8, I wish each of you and yours a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. May we all remember each other’s families in our thoughts and prayers and do what we can to stem the tide and bring COVID-19 past memory.

Mitchell Smith UAW Region 8 Director





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