“Labor Shouts, Black Lives Matter!”

Workers across America reacted with horror to the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The same taxpayers who pay the police to protect and defend us watched an unforgivable abuse of power, as an officer knelt on a man’s neck, depriving him of life-giving air. On that street corner, George Floyd’s name was added to the long list of black men and women killed by racism, and America reacted with righteous anger.

Those of us in the union movement have long fought for equality and justice. The struggle of organized labor has been one of the leading forces promoting economic justice across racial and gender lines, and fighting for greater equality, and equal pay for equal work.

A high priority for labor unions is workplace safety. We fight every day to ensure that our members labor under safe conditions, and then we watch as those same workers walk out the door of their workplace to where we cannot protect them. On the streets of our cities, people of color, our members, and most especially black men, are endangered. This is intolerable. This must end.

Labor unions, particularly those representing law enforcement, must bear a special burden in wiping out the scourge of racism and racist violence. It pains us deeply that the officer charged with George Floyd’s murder is a union member, and that his union president chose to defend him and malign the memory of Mr. Floyd. This hatred is not the face of American labor. The only hatred our unions will tolerate is a hatred of injustice.

With sadness we must acknowledge that systemic racism still exists in sectors of our rank and file, and in our leadership. We acknowledge our failures and commit ourselves to working with the men and women of color in our own organizations to ensure greater transparency and representation.

Unions have shown the power of collective action to achieve great things. Our respect goes to the many organizations that are marching to achieve an America in which we are all safe, all free to live our lives and pursue our dreams.

We join our voices to shout that “Black Lives Matter. We shout so that this voice is heard in the halls of power, in our union halls, and at the voting booth. We march in step with our brothers and sisters who have long known that without justice, there will be no peace. Solidarity forever.

Ann Marie Taliercio, President