I am not a union gal. I was not raised in a union family, nor I do not fully comprehend the solidarity that I often witness at union political gatherings where members address each other as, ‘brother’ and “sister”….that is until last Saturday.

The setting was the Region 9 United Auto Workers (UAW) CAP Council Awards Dinner. This is an annual event held to honor selected Region 9 UAW members for their service in the categories of, “citizenship, retirees, veterans and women.” In addition, the union presents two college scholarships to support and advance the higher learning of young adults in our WNY Community. I attended the dinner out of respect for the endorsement that Region 9 UAW and their NYS CAP Director, Paul Schuh, have accorded my candidacy.

It was a lovely dinner and an entertaining awards ceremony as presenters shared interesting stories about the men and women being honored. As I followed along in the dinner program, it appeared that all awards had been given and the evening was at an end. And then, a special award was announced, an honor not printed in the program. The presenter titled it a, ” humanitarian award,” given to Region 9 UAW member, Mark Phillips, for his selfless act of generousity toward a fellow union brother.

As the story went, a union member had been laid off and was desperately trying to return to his job in order to support his wife and six children. Just as it appeared that this man was going to be called back, he died. Suddenly,his family was left without their husband/father and without his income to support them. There was not even the money for a proper burial.

Enter, Mark Phillips, a UAW Region 9 member who had just received a signing bonus of $3000. Upon hearing the plight of his deceased union “brother,’” Mark added $700 of his own money ($100 for each family member) and delivered $3700 to the family. He did so without fanfare, without official note,and without any thought of recognition. However, he did so with the full support of his wife, Sharon.

As the story of the Phillips’ generousity enveloped the gathering of UAW members and guests, a respectful…almost reverential… silence connected us all. And when this caring man stepped forward to humbly accept his honor, all assembled rose, as one, in recognition of he and his wife’s selfless kindness.

And at that moment I understood….and deeply respected…. the brother and sisterhood of unions.