On Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke to the Missouri AFL-CIO about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the need for labor to address racism and classism. He urges all working people to come together for economic equality and to confront issues of racism in our communities and in the labor movement.
You see, the question of unity brings up a hard subject, a subject all of us know about but few want to acknowledge—race. I’m talking about race in America and what that means for our communities, our movement and our nation.
Because the reality is that while a young man named Michael Brown died just a short distance from us in Ferguson, from gunshot wounds from a police officer, other young men of color have died and will die in similar circumstances, in communities all across this country.
It happened here but it could have happened—and does happen—anywhere in America. Because the reality is we still have racism in America.
Now, 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? …
I have a son. He’s not so young anymore but he’s not so old. I don’t worry about him. I don’t know, but I have a suspicion that like many of you, and certainly like me at that age, he may not always obey the nation’s traffic laws. So I worry he might wrap himself around a tree. But I never worry when he goes for a cross-country road trip or a night on the town that he may be stopped, shot to death by a police officer.
But for millions of mothers and fathers of young African American men and boys, men just like my son and boys who were as young as me and my friend Tommy—kids with promising futures in America, it is a constant fear, a constant fear.
And if you don’t feel that fear yourself, I’d just ask you, for a moment, to think about that. Think about what it would be like to watch your kid walk out the door and wonder, with good reason, if it’s the last time you’ll see him alive. Because you know it happens. If you haven’t had a close call yourself, you know people who have: friends, family, neighbors and people you worship with….
This is not somebody else’s problem. This is the reality of life for millions of our brothers and sisters. And so it is our problem. That is what solidarity means….
You can read the full speech on-line at the AFL-CIO website. http://www.aflcio.org/Press-Room/Spee….