It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s one that needs to be had. There is still racism in America.
Like I said in my speech, some people might ask me why our labor movement should be involved in all that has happened since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And I want to answer that question directly. How can we not be involved?
Union members’ lives have been profoundly damaged in ways that cannot be fixed. Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother who works in a grocery store, is our sister, an AFL-CIO union member; and Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, is a union member, too, and he is our brother. Our brother killed our sister’s son, and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.
So I say again, how can we not be involved? This tragedy and all the complexities of race and racism are a big part of our very big family as they always have been. A union is like a home. And in any home, good and bad things happen. We have to deal with all of them honestly.
We as a movement have not always done our best to support our brothers and sisters of color who face challenges, both on and off the job—challenges that you don’t really understand unless you live them.
The test of our movement’s commitment to our legacy is not whether we post Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s picture in our union halls, it is whether we take up his fight when the going gets tough, when the fight gets real against the evils that still exist today.
Black and white, immigrant and native born, gay and straight, we have to stick together. Where your picket line is my picket line. And my picket line is your picket line. That’s how working people get ahead.
I hope you’ll take a moment to read my speech or watch it above. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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