The following is a statement from the Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon’s statewide federation of labor unions, in response to the death of George Floyd and subsequent wave of activism sweeping the United States.
Our hearts have been especially heavy this week. The murders of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the video of Amy Cooper in Central Park have further exposed the prevalence of racism and white supremacy in our nation and in our communities. Those of us in the long-term fight for social and economic justice, and especially those in communities directly impacted by police brutality, are grappling with the recognition that the killings of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of those sworn to protect our communities or by racist vigilantes are nothing new. Video footage of these heinous events may seem new to some, but the origins of this violence are the direct result of our nation’s history of colonialism that stole countless lives and futures from Black and Brown communities.
Our systems, our institutions, and our societal norms have all been built upon this racist foundation that gives some people privilege and intentionally takes it away from others based on the color of their skin.
As Trade Unionists, we are ever-mindful of the rigged economic system that picks winners and losers with a vengeance. In statistic after statistic, the losers in our nation’s economy are workers of color and women. Health outcomes are worse for Black and Brown communities. The Coronavirus is killing Black and Brown people at far greater rates than white people. Our economic and healthcare systems are already rigged for most workers, and they are disproportionately rigged for workers of color.
Further, pitting the threat of economic loss against the well-being of Black and Brown communities is not new to this country either. We see it playing out daily, amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, where workers are being pushed to go back to their normal work routines, despite the threat of a deadly virus. The economic harm caused by this weekend’s protests pales in comparison to the lives lost by a broken justice system.
The Oregon AFL-CIO and Oregon’s Unions have been on the frontlines in the fight for a fair and more just economy for decades. Within that struggle, we also recognize that change never comes fast enough for communities of color given the inequities upon which our systems and our structures have been built upon.
Oregon Labor is built upon the premise of solidarity. We recognize that there are Black members of our Movement who are reeling from a lifetime of injustice and continued trauma. We stand with you, in solidarity, because no one should struggle alone. Further, we will redouble our commitment to racial and economic justice at the same time we stand in solidarity with our sisters, brothers, and union siblings in Minnesota and around the country demanding change. Oregon’s Unions will strengthen existing partnerships, and foster new ones, with community-based organizations and allies to root out white supremacy and demand systemic change within all of our institutions, including within law enforcement, as a necessary step to achieve true economic equality for ALL working Oregonians. And Oregon’s Unions will never stop fighting for justice for Black and Brown workers, and those historically left behind by our economy, as a critical step toward our shared vision of justice. Black lives matter.