(Mar. 26, 2014) — The labor movement has a strong record of advocating for minority groups and women with allied organizations like the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.
Kevin Cummings, Western Territory Grand Lodge Representative for the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, has been working hard to add the cause of North America’s First Inhabitants to the list. Four years ago, he founded the Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality (Council FIRE).
“Council FIRE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and was created to better include the issues of the first people of these lands in the conversations and actions that labor is already undertaking,” said Cummings. “The issues of health care, education, jobs, and poverty among Native people, and especially on Native lands, are at the bottom of all indicators. We can communicate and educate about these problems in the same manner that we do for other demographic groups. There was no organized effort to do this, and now there is. We can do this, and we should — this is at the core of what the labor movement is all about.”
To show the IAM’s support, Western Territory General Vice President Gary Allen presented a donation to Cummings and Council FIRE at a gathering of the Inter Tribal Warriors Society in Washington state.
“The IAM is proud to stand up and be counted in this long-overdue effort,” said Allen. “The first people to live on these lands should not be denied the opportunities to be heard. We have long supported opportunities for all people, and this is a great step forward. This is about justice for all people; nobody should be left behind or ignored.”
“We have been blessed by the acceptance of the labor movement, and by the tribes,” said Cummings. “Our first major effort is to have a grassroots effort on voter registration. Native people are among the most under-registered groups that exists. We need all people to have their proper say in how this country moves forward, and labor is uniquely situated to help.”
Council FIRE has been adopted by eight states in the U.S., plus the Ontario Provincial Council in Canada. It has been endorsed by LCLAA and the International Labor Communicators Association (ILCA). To find out more, you can visit them on Facebook by clicking here or on their website – www.council-fire.org.
This report originally appeared at GoIAM.org and is crossposted here with the author’s permission.