UAW VP Jimmy Settles Jr. Talks Growing Up in the Union, Detroit

The union leader talks about his journey through the ranks of the UAW.

J. Carlisle Larsen

Vice President of the United Auto Workers, Jimmy Settles Jr., speaks with Stephen Henderson this morning about growing up in an auto industry and how his politics were shaped through the union and community organizations.

Settles says, “The Sixties were very good times for me… During that time I remember I used to have to pass out leaflets for the Trade Union Leadership Council, which was the political springboard for African Americans during that time.”  

Because of his work with this organization, Settles became involved in issues important to his community, “probably the only ‘A’ I ever got in school was in Civics, because I knew the issues.”

Working at Ford while in college, Settles says African Americans “had equality economically but we didn’t not have equality politically…the UAW worked to garner some equality politically.”  Originally, Settles did not want to become so involved in the UAW because his father was a union rep. “I did not want to be [a union rep]…I watched my dad…they used to have some real heated union meetings that sometimes ended in fisticuffs because they were so passionate.”

Today, Settles says the UAW remains true to its values of equality and its mission of giving back, “Today we are very active in the community… We built two ball parks, state of the art little league parks, one on the East Side one on the West Side.”  The UAW focuses a lot of its energy specifically on Detroit, he says, “The city of Detroit, we’re in really dire need. So we do a lot with the schools, we do a lot with the homeless, we do a lot with different community groups.”

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.