PITTSBURGH, Dec. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers' (USW) 1.2 million active and retired members join the citizens of South Africa and people across the world in mourning the loss of a great leader and humanitarian, Nelson Mandela. Words cannot express our condolences to the Mandela family as nobody in our time has sacrificed so much for democracy, freedom and human dignity.
Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison, the first 18 on Robben Island where he was confined to a small cell and forced to labor in a quarry. In the mid-1980s Mandela was offered his freedom on the condition that he unconditionally reject violence as a means of bringing about change. He rejected the proposal.
"What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned?" he wrote. "Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."
With international voices lobbying strongly for his release and escalating domestic civil strife, Mandela was granted his unconditional release in 1990. As African National Congress (ANC) president, he led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections.
In 1994, he led the ANC to victory and was elected President. Mandela's presidency is noted by his forming a Government of National Unity which reduced ethnic and racial tensions, reflecting his belief that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." He also said that "resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
"Nelson Mandela inspired people everywhere around the world," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "His loss is universal."
USW International Vice President of Human Affairs Fred Redmond said we can best honor his memory of courageous activism by striving to promote equality and fairness wherever and whenever we can.
"Our struggles for economic and social justice breathe life to his vision of another possible world," said Redmond, chairman of the board of directors of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an organization of black trade unionists that fights for racial equality and economic justice.
The USW is the largest private-sector union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies. For more: www.usw.org
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)