Q & A with Retiring Human Rights Chair Nathan Waters

Human Rights Committee Chair Nathan Waters will retire June 30. Appointed to the committee by the union’s executive board in 2017 and named chair in 2018, Waters served 3, two-year terms and steered the committee through COVID. The 45-year member of Michigan Local 105 spent his entire career at Consumers Energy. The Utility Worker interviewed Waters about his time on the committee and his plans for retirement.

Nate Waters (left) with incoming Human Rights Chair Darryl Taylor

What are you most proud of achieving?

I’m big on family, so the first thing I tried to establish when I came into the position was to build affinity and create a family atmosphere that encouraged committee members to talk on a regular basis. In the past, the committee met quarterly; I established monthly meetings, where we would get together to report on things that we had done in the community, happenings in locals, and things going on in our personal lives.

We formulated a detailed action plan and tracked progress monthly. This worked well for 2018 and 2019. When COVID hit in March 2020, we had to regroup. We kept doing the only thing we could really do and that was to just stay in touch with each other. We meet virtually for two hours on the third Tuesday of each month.

What do you feel is left unfinished?

One of my dreams was to have a human rights advocate in each local. As currently structured, the Human Rights Committee has eight members representing the union’s five regions. Regions I and V are each represented by two members and Regions II, III and IV each have one member. It’s a big job to cover a whole region that can include up to 12 states.

The National union is in the process of reorganizing and redistributing roles and responsibilities in many areas, including the Human Rights Committee. I’m hopeful that we’re moving toward having human rights advocates at the local level.

In addition, we have the ongoing issues of racism and unconscious bias that still exists in parts of our union. These are big, societal problems that can’t be tackled in a day or solved by our union alone. It’s a process that requires awareness and commitment. We can do our part within the UWUA by maintaining focus on the issues.

Any parting words of wisdom for your UWUA family?

Stay diligent always. Stay in the fight and never stop fighting for what’s right, especially when it comes to defending our members. This commitment must extend beyond the walls of our union to our communities. Our communities are the backbone of our union.

And always remember that the civil rights movement and the labor movement are entwined; we can’t make progress in labor without the support of our broader communities and vice versa. We need each other to move this country forward. So, it’s very important that we broaden our understanding of what a union is beyond negotiations and grievances.

I encourage every local to be involved in its community. As I’ve been saying for years, change starts with the family. So as the family goes, so goes your community; as community goes, so goes the city; as the city goes, so goes the state; as the state goes, so goes the country.

What are your plans for retirement?

I’ll be playing a lot of golf, but I’ll also be volunteering at local high schools to mentor young people. I’ll do some community service, as well. In my position as Human Rights Chair, I had the privilege to establish relationships with people across the nation and will welcome opportunities to continue to work together. Lastly, I’ll be looking to continue my work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, an area I worked hard to develop at Consumers Energy and in the UWUA. I’ve learned a tremendous amount over the years and still have much to share.

As many of you know, I love music and leave you with one final song to reflect upon that captures everything I wish for all of you: Stevie Wonder’s “As”.

And always remember, Brother Nate loves you all!