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Unions representing millions of Americans declared that the “status quo” of racial injustice is “clearly unjust” and pledged to increase walkouts just weeks before the November election.
Labor leaders who represent teachers, truck drivers, autoworkers and millions more in public and private sector unions released a statement over the weekend announcing they will be escalating planned protests and walkouts by members in order to force lawmakers to take action on police reforms and what they described as systemic racism.
“The status quo — of police killing Black people, of armed white nationalists killing demonstrators, of millions sick and increasingly desperate — is clearly unjust, and it cannot continue,” the statement issued ahead of the Labor Day weekend read, according to the Associated Press.
The message was signed by branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and affiliates of the National Education Association, whose members typically vote in higher levels for Democrats.
The union leaders cited the recent protests and boycotts staged by professional athletes over the shooting of Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was critically wounded in a confrontation with a white police officer last month. Demonstrations and protests followed months of the same that were sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“They remind us that when we strike to withhold our labor, we have the power to bring an unjust status quo to a grinding halt,” union leaders said in the statement, referring to the nationwide movements that have often turned violent, with rampant rioting and looting.
“We echo the call to local and federal government to divest from the police, to redistribute the stolen wealth of the billionaire class, and to invest in what our people need to live in peace, dignity, and abundance: universal health care and housing, public jobs programs and cash assistance, and safe working conditions,” the statement continued.
In Wisconsin, where classes were set to start on Sept. 14, unions representing public school teachers also expressed support of the announced plan to ramp up protests by members.
“We stand in solidarity with Jacob Blake and his family, and all communities fighting to defend Black lives from police and vigilante violence,” Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Association, told the AP.
“Are we striking tomorrow? No,” Angelina Cruz, president of Racine Educator United, said. “Are we in conversation with our members and the national labor movement about how we escalate our tactics to stop fascism and win justice? Yes.”
Hundreds of workers at more than 25 civil rights groups and think tank organizations are represented by the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union. That group also aligned with the statement, telling the AP that it signed the message because “the fights for workers’ rights, civil rights, and racial justice are inextricably linked.”
The calls by union leaders for social justice reforms comes as the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act which awaits action by the U.S. Senate. The legislation ends qualified immunity for police officers and bans police use of stranglehold maneuvers, among other changes.
This comes as many Democrat-run cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and New York have voted to defund their police departments.
A New York University professor told AP that years of alliances between labor and civil rights activists have resulted in getting the unionization of more black workers than any other segment of the workforce.
“That connection has only intensified because of the importance of workers of color, particularly African Americans, in the labor movement,” professor and civil rights historian Thomas Sugrue said.
An organizer in the Movement for Black Lives told the news outlet that growing support for the BLM movement backs public and private employers into a corner about picking sides.
“If I was a decision-maker that was considering whether or not to meet the demands of the unions, I would be scared,” Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said. “This movement is spreading. We’ve been on the streets consistently, we’re building on the electoral front, and now we’re seeing this conversation at the highest levels of labor.”
Columnist and Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce slammed the coercion as an “election strategy.”
“Like abusers everywhere, they pledge to hurt us unless we do as they say. Not about BLM, it’s an election strategy. Union members should be appalled & reject,” Bruce tweeted in response to the AP report.
Others also spoke out on social media.
Socialism on the march! Unions representing millions of workers are threatening to authorize strikes in support of BLM movement. -It’s time to do what President Reagan did to striking Air Traffic Controllers, be courageous & FIRE THEM ALL! Give their jobs to people who need them!
— Lt Steven Rogers (@LtStevenRogers) September 7, 2020
Have at it. There are enough unemployed that can take those nice jobs
— KDM (@kdmartin52) September 5, 2020
Unions don’t give a toss about their members and their livelihoods. All about politics and being woke
— Denham (@Denham0001) September 6, 2020
It’s been working great for the @NBA ratings…
— James Cooper (@JCoop821) September 6, 2020
Lol. This could prove to be ill advised, current levels of unemployment would indicate a glut of replacement workers. I doubt those at the top of these organisations are actually representing their members wishes in these economically uncertain times.
— Gravitas Lost (@GravitasLost) September 6, 2020
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