Richard Ray is a lifelong member, leader, and advocate for Unions in the southeast United States. For years, he was involved with the AFL-CIO, even serving as Georgia State AFL-CIO’s president for over a decade. Retired now but still President Emeritus at Georgia State AFL-CIO, Ray is still very politically active in union matters. Last week, Union Auto Program was fortunate enough to sit down for a phone interview with Ray, who imparted wisdom from his years of union experience. The topics ranged from the benefits of being a union worker and advice for young union members to his dream car and how he met Union Auto Program CEO John Perez. Dynamic, informative, and entertaining, Ray gracefully shared some of the wisdom and knowledge he has gained from years of working with unions.

The Red, White, and Blue of America: Insights From Richard Ray

The Red, White, and Blue of America: Insights From Richard Ray

Ray began by stating that a large number of young adults and students who are considering college would be better suited pursuing a trade school education. To Ray, misguidance from high school counselors sometimes encourage students to make decisions without knowing about their alternatives options, leading to consequences like student loans. Instead, Ray views apprenticeship programs as a more reliable method for some to further their education and find essential jobs like plumbing or electrical work. These positions, when acquired through union membership, secure healthcare and other benefits for members, and provide a level of peace of mind through job security that non-union workers miss out on.

Those protections and securities are what Ray views as the key benefits of being a union member. Instead of having a voice of one, union members are able to collectively rely on their union leaders to negotiate fair conditions and treatment by employers. Knowing that your boss isn’t going to erroneously fire you without citing a valid cause isn’t something that union members have to worry about. Union contracts incentivize employees to work hard and employers to hold up their end of the bargain. Ray believes that the union dues that members pay are worth it because of the protections and permission to focus solely on doing their jobs well.

Union leaders get a lot out of their positions, as well, according to Ray. Being an elected representative for a group of hardworking union members instills confidence in union leaders. This act of being selected demonstrates that leaders are trusted and can be expected to help others selflessly and consistently. Ray says that his time as a union leader allowed him to sleep well at night knowing that the collective bargaining efforts he participated in led to real benefits in other people’s lives. 

Being a union member is as rewarding as you make it, according to Ray. He encourages young union members to get involved as much as possible among their ranks, whether that be through volunteering or any other form of participation. Ray recommends that young union members pay attention to history, perform kind acts for their communities, and stay active in their unions. When asked what has defined unions over the years, Ray described a consistency in a fight to survive that has stayed true for union members for decades. The political implications also remain similar, as some support unions and others do not, even if the specific faces and names involved change over time. The general concept of unions has miraculously stayed the same, even as culture and technology have continued to evolve over the years.

Technological advancement is made no clearer than in the electric vehicle industry, which we have discussed in-depth on this blog. Ray views the shift from combustion engines to electric vehicles as inevitable, which will create a real opportunity for job creation, specifically in trade-friendly circles like those so often occupied by union members. Ray believes that automakers are moving in the right direction, and is excited to see automakers like Ford releasing electric versions of their beloved models. Ray views the future as an opportunity and believes that unions will continue to adapt to the times just as they always have.

Ray described his experience meeting Union Auto Program CEO John Perez as a positive one. Friends still, the two met when Perez told Ray his genuine and inspiring life story. When Perez approached Ray about starting the Union Auto Program, Ray recognized the passion and authenticity that Perez brought to the table. The sincerity Ray sensed led to a partnership and friendship that continues to this day.

The phone interview ended on a fun note, as we asked Ray what his dream car is. He told us that he’s lucky enough to have it sitting out in his driveway. A lifelong Chevrolet driver, the Chevy Traverse stands for everything Ray needs out of a dream vehicle. American-made, dependable, and sustainable, his choice of a dream car reflects his union values, and it does so in style.

Unionism is an American practice that is here to stay. Countless union members and Americans have benefitted from the collective bargaining and negotiations put forward by union members and their leaders over time. It was a privilege to sit down and speak with Richard Ray, whose experience and knowledge help grant a better understanding of the importance of unions and their loyal, hardworking members.

Car Buying Service for Union Members

Union Auto Program offers a convenient, fair-priced car buying service that offers a free choice of one Peace of Mind Benefit with a new or used vehicle purchase. With access to a network of union car dealers with a wide range of vehicle makes and models to choose from, our members benefit from huge savings and incredible lease deals!

Explore our different types of cars for sale or contact us to speak with one of our member advocates to learn more about our member auto sales program and how it works! Get started learning about how our union car dealership can help you save on car specials and auto promotions available.

Additional Readings:

IBEW and Electric Trucks: The Future of Automotive

Fight for $15: Unions Win Big in Florida

Oil Prices and the Automotive Industry