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NC State AFL-CIO President James Andrews honored as a "Champion of Justice"

Jeremy Sprinkle
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North Carolina Justice Center celebrates 20 years of defending justice

NC State AFL-CIO President James Andrews was among five "Champions of Justice" honorees at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the North Carolina Justice Center at the Raleigh Convention Center last weekend. James' fellow Champions included former Governor Jim Hunt, state Representative Mickey Michaux, Jr., former Z. Smith Reynolds director Leslie Winner, and former UNC System president Tom Ross.

Before inviting James to take the stage and accept his award, the Justice Center played a video, narrated by Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch, about why they chose him as one of their 2016 honorees:

"I am so honored that this great organization selected me for this award, and that you somehow believe that my life's work to bring justice - particularly to the workplace - is worthy of such honor," said James in his acceptance speech. "I am just in awe - I'm really shaken some - that I am standing here tonight receiving an award with such distinguished, well-deserved North Carolinians."

James praised the work of the Justice Center researching the issues and doing the policy analysis that our state federation and many other progressive organizations rely upon. "North Carolina is in a better place because of you," James said.

While too many so-called progressive organizations still treat "union" like a 4-letter word, James commended the Justice Center, whose staff joined the United Auto Workers and secured their first union contract in July, for practicing what it preaches.

"The North Carolina Justice Center understands that when you're fighting to improve the conditions of poor people - when you're fighting a situation where poverty is running rampant - there's nothing wrong with workers organizing a union."

"You understand that a union card in one hand and a voter registration card in the other is a pathway to the middle class."

James credited the "three-legged stool" of faith, family, and the labor movement for giving him the ability to stand strong all these years.

Speaking directly to his wife and family members in attendance, James said, "I want to thank you for giving me the time and the space to do what I love, and that is to stand in the gap for those who are not able."

With dozens of union members and leaders in the audience, including national AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and American Federation of Government Employees national president J. David Cox Sr., James said to his union family, "I accept this award on behalf of you."

"The things that we send into the lives of others come back into our very own," James said in closing with a nod to the leadership of the Justice Center. "I know that your next 20 years will be even greater."

Watch video of James Andrews acceptance speech: