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Labor decries George Floyd’s murder, urges action on racism

Union leaders’ profound words calling out racial injustice are important and necessary. We must also act — now and in the future — to end police brutality.


(June 3, 2020) — In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and other recent killings of unarmed Black men and women, dozens of unions — national and local, large and small — have expressed their sadness, their frustration, their anger, and their determination to address systemic racism and end police brutality in this country.

Here is Labor Leaders Address Racial Injustice, a Facebook Live event held earlier this morning that featured AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other national and local labor leaders. Note that their common focus is on taking action.


Today we offer a collection of local and national labor leaders’ statements, and excerpts from each. (Please let us know what statements and links we need to add.)

Let this be an archive of organized labor’s sense of resolve at this difficult time in our history. Let this also be a reminder of our anger and our calls to action that we can refer back to in the future, as we hold each other accountable for fighting systemic racism in our unions and our country.

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO — “There is and has been an epidemic of racist police violence targeting Black Americans, our sisters, brothers, and siblings in the labor movement. As unionists, when we see injustice, it is our obligation to call it out. We must root out white supremacy within all of our institutions, but in particular within law enforcement.”

AFT Seattle 1789 — “AFT Seattle Community Colleges Local 1789 stands in solidarity with all of those who fight injustice, and today we give our love and support to those who are fighting back against racism and police violence.”

AFT Washington — “In this moment, we must recognize our responsibility for increasing our efforts to dismantle the racist system that benefits white people at the expense of people of color. We must ask ourselves, how am I showing up as an ally, even as an accomplice?

MLK Labor (Resolution Affirming Our Commitment to an Anti-Racist Union Movement) –“we are committed to fighting for racial justice in all our institutions no matter who or what would seek to hold us back from the liberation of all working people. We must move with urgency, for no workers’ labor should harm that of another, and we cannot be asked to hold any position that does not protect BIPOC workers in full.”

OPEIU 8 — “Back to ‘normal’ can not be the way it’s been! Too many disparities exist today – in housing, in healthcare, in education, in job opportunities and in public safety.Black, Indigenous and other people of color suffer these disparities the most. Institutional racism must be recognized and ended. Genuine police reform must be non-negotiable.”

Pierce County CLC (Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter Movement) — “The Pierce County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, has a duty to our members, to our labor community and to our country to directly and unflinchingly address our own role in systemic bias and fight systemic bias in all its forms.”

PROTEC17 — “Throughout its history, the Labor Movement has aligned with the Civil Rights Movement in the fight for social, economic, and racial justice. PROTEC17 continues to be committed to this fight, and our members have made it one of the top priorities in our organization’s Strategic Plan. Individually and collectively, we must continue to vehemently pursue this mission. Too many lives have been lost and it must end.”

SEIU 775 — “In the middle of one pandemic we are mourning the lives lost from another. We have been fighting systemic racism since we became a union – and we will not stop.”

SEIU 925 — “The trauma of the continuous attacks on Black people paired with the current pandemic is exceptionally cruel. When we see our brothers and sisters attacked, our own sense of safety and security is also attacked. Our principles of unionism obligate us to challenge this injustice and support the communities that need it most.”

Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) — “We stand side-by-side with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and other local unions throughout Washington state in reaffirming our commitments to eliminating racism from the labor movement, calling out injustice wherever it occurs, and combating the structural and institutional inequities that advantage some while denying others their full human dignity.”

Southwest Washington CLC — “Racism is an enemy of working people. Racism plays an injurious role in the daily lives of all rank and file workers. It undermines the collective power in the fight against police brutality, voter disenfranchisement, racism in hiring practices, disparities in health care, disparities in wages and the school- to- prison pipeline. ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’: we are on a journey toward becoming antiracists, and we are committed individually to calling each other into this work and holding one another accountable.”

Spokane Regional Labor Council — “Structural racism negatively impacts Black Americans and communities of color, including our labor community. The consequences create turmoil impacting the liberty and freedom of every citizen. The militarization of police forces as part of the “war against drugs” and the “war on crime” along with “Zero tolerance” policies, have not made communities safer, but instead have broken the trust in community policing, particularly generating suspicion and fear in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities.”

Teamsters 117 — “The members we represent in Law Enforcement and Corrections have overwhelmingly expressed empathy for the family of George Floyd and disapproval of the actions and inactions of the officers involved… This is a time of reckoning in America. I call on all of us at Teamsters 117 to ask what we can do to stop racism and treat all people regardless of race, color, gender, or sexual orientation with compassion and respect. We are no stranger to fighting injustice — the power of our Union is not limited to our labor agreements. Now is the time for systemic change and to build a more just society for all.”

UFCW 21 — “When communities of color are being repeatedly traumatized, when we see racist acts of hate and violence on full display played out online and splashed across televisions and newspapers, we remember that labor’s power comes from our ability to act collectively. Fear undermines our collective power. Racism undermines our collective power. Racism is the enemy of the working class. Racism is the enemy of organized labor.”

Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 — “WFSE stands with all of our union siblings, and especially the millions who have disproportionately suffered violence and loss due to white supremacy. These ongoing killings in our communities lay to bare the deeply entrenched structural racism that must be addressed. We demand that the people who took part in these senseless killings be brought to justice. Without justice, there can be no peace.”

Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) — “We know that a state­ment is not enough and that this is not an isolated incident. We are calling for action. For action to bring George Floyd’s killers to justice and justice for the many victims of racist violence before him.”

AFL-CIO — “Racism plays an insidious role in the daily lives of all working people of color. This is a labor issue because it is a workplace issue. It is a community issue, and unions are the community. We must and will continue to fight for reforms in policing and to address issues of racial and economic inequality.”

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) — “If any good is to come of this, we in the labor movement and the nation must unite to stop the systemic cycle of injustice, racism and hatred that plagues our country.”

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) — “As a nation, we grieve with these families. We share their sorrow. We feel the pain of their loss. We are reminded that our failures have real costs. We remember that a more perfect union is not merely an aspiration, it is a responsibility and a calling. Each of us, as American citizens, is accountable for making that aspiration a reality. Each of us has a part to play in that more perfect union.”

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — “The killing of George Floyd was a shocking and heinous act of violence that demands accountability. There can be no public safety unless innocent, unarmed African Americans feel safe walking the streets in their communities.”

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — “Hate is rising in the United States with a zeal, emboldened by the White House, among others. It is a stain on our humanity, and good people must gather together to resist and repel it.”

American Postal Workers Union — “Let’s fight for a new day. Whether a person is jogging, doing their jobs, birdwatching, driving, being arrested, attending union meetings, or going to and from work, all human beings, regardless of our race and the color of our skin, have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to life itself.”

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance — “We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again because the work continues; we all have a role in responding to atrocious acts of violence. As Asian American and Pacific Islander working people, we commit to leveraging our power to dismantle oppressive systems, addressing anti-blackness in the AAPI community, and loving and fighting for our black siblings.”

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA — “Tears are not enough. This is a damnable thread running through the length of American history. It is only now more visible because of the ever-present cell phones that record our shame. And it is our shame – the shame of white Americans who have tolerated, or dismissed, justified, or, God forbid, encouraged and participated in violence against innocent Black, brown and indigenous people for hundreds of years.”

Communications Workers of America (CWA) — “There is no in-between. There is no neutral option. The only real way to dismantle racism and build the working-class power we seek is for every worker to take on the struggle for justice for Black people in this country as their own and to embrace the actions that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ demands of us.”

International Association of Machinists (IAM) — “We face a clear choice: Do we join in solidarity with each other, in accordance with our values—and do the hard and difficult work of building a racially just society—or do we allow misinformation, fear and suspicion to continue to divide us? We must stand in solidarity with one another.”

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) — “It is incumbent upon the labor movement to stand on the side of justice, to unite against racism, and to stand against hatred, white supremacy and its systematic oppression and criminalization of people of color. We in labor remind all our sisters and brothers in this country that Black Lives Matter.”

International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) — “We at the ILWU are a union that has a rich history of fighting for racial and social justice. We cannot sit back and watch the same scene unfold time and again. We will not sit back and not fight for change.”

International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) — “We are exhausted and enraged that African-Americans, like Mr. George Floyd, are being slaughtered needlessly by law enforcement officers with cover-ups more common than vigorous investigations. The grief and outrage expressed in the demonstrations on the streets of Minneapolis and other cities across America in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s murder, are the by-products of policies and practices that are discriminatory and seemingly target minorities.”

Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) — “We stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who are committed to tearing down the walls of inequality and racism that have plagued our nation for far too long.”

National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) — “NALC knows that the death of Mr. Floyd is just the latest example of institutional racism that creates fear in the day-to-day lives of millions of African Americans and other minorities. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – our common rights as Americans – are not achievable in a state of fear.”

National Nurses United (NNU) — “In a hospital or clinic, when a person says ‘I can’t breathe’ they are immediately swarmed by medical professionals who triage the situation and treat them immediately. They work hard to save lives. In the case of George Floyd, Minneapolis Police took no care or life-saving measures. Instead, they left him pinned down to the ground until paramedics arrived. Police ignored the pleas of George Floyd and he died.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) — “We stand firmly behind the African-American community that for too long has had to endure humiliation and dehumanization in the shadows, in silence and with no prospect of meaningful redress. Real reform must be undertaken and enacted immediately so that the historically brutalized and marginalized among us may have a modest reprieve and a glimmer of hope that a nation that espouses equality and protection under the law for all its people is living up to its stated ideals and foundational promise.”

Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) — “It’s time for real and positive change. It’s time for our nation to end the centuries-long abuse of communities of color and instead commit ourselves to building a fair and equitable nation for all our citizens.”

Pride at Work — “Pride at Work will continue to band together, to stand up to police violence, and to fight systemic racism and white supremacy in all its forms. We will continue to fight for racial, social, and economic justice now and forever.”

SAG-AFTRA — “The murder of George Floyd is deeply emblematic of a corrosive inequality and injustice at the heart of America. As protests spread across the country it is not enough to condemn injustice. It’s not enough to demand change. We must recognize that racism lives in our culture and only we can change that.”

SEIU — “Over the past few years, we have seen heightened public awareness of the racism that people of color have always experienced. Awareness is not enough—it must lead to action. In Minneapolis, that means arresting and charging the officers responsible for the death of George Floyd.”

Teamsters –” Unfortunately, this is just the latest incident of an unwarranted police killing of an unarmed black man in the United States, and a harsh truth that we must accept – equal justice under the law is not a reality for all Americans. Black people fear for their lives on a daily basis by the very institutions which are supposed to protect them.”

Teamsters National Black Caucus — ” Working people of America, we must root out racism, discrimination, bullying, abuses of power, and the disenfranchisement of all-American people, in our families, workplaces, institutions, and in our society. We have the power to have our voices heard now, and always, not just in a time of a crisis.”

Transport Workers Union (TWU) — “The nine minutes it took to murder George Floyd have exposed a gaping wound. Now it is incumbent on us and our society to heal it. Let us reflect as a union and a people on the turbulent period we are going through and let us emerge better because of it.”

UNITE HERE — “For months we have grappled with “the new normal” of living in the midst of COVID-19. We’ve struggled with job loss, with wearing masks, with the need to socially distance. What we need to grapple with, and change, is the historic normal. The commodification and the brutalization of Black people. From Emmett to Trayvon to Sandra to Tamir to Eric to Philando to Botham to Breonna to George Floyd and too many others—it has become “normal” to see our Black Brothers and Sisters being killed, and we cannot and will not stand idly by.”

United Auto Workers (UAW) — “George Floyd’s death is an American tragedy in a time of extreme pain and uncertainty. The color of our skin cannot — and must not — divide us.”

United Steelworkers (USW) — “At moments like these, we in the labor movement cannot be silent and must express our collective outrage over these brutal murders.”

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