During a visit to Chicago today, I spoke to a familiar crowd at the United Food and Commercial Workers Legislative Conference. I’ll never forget when I stood on the picket line with UFCW members during a supermarket lockout. For five long months, we united our collective voices to demand fair wages and affordable health care.
I have a long history partnering with UFCW in the fight for workplace justice. So, I was honored today to remember a UFCW leader who spent her lifetime fighting for all working people—the great Addie Wyatt.
Ms. Wyatt was a trailblazer, a reverend and an American icon. She believed that dignity and respect belonged to everyone—no matter where you came from or what job you worked. From humble means, she worked as a meat-packer in Chicago for many years and rose to the highest ranks of the American labor movement.
Ms. Wyatt was also an ordained minister who built bridges of understanding. And as a woman of great faith, she had great faith in the American worker.
She stood up for workplace justice, and she worked tirelessly to integrate the labor movement. Early in her career, she worked with Dr. Martin Luther King on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Later in her career, she counseled a young community organizer named Barack Obama as he came up the ranks in the Windy City.
She was the first African-American woman to lead a local labor union and later became the first African-American woman to lead an international union—as an international vice president of the UFCW.
Today, she becomes the first African-American woman to be given the Department of Labor’s highest honor—an induction into the Labor Hall of Honor.
Ms. Wyatt was a true champion for all working people and she leaves behind a remarkable legacy of compassion and positive change. I’m so proud that Addie Wyatt is now listed in the Hall of Honor where she so clearly belongs.