Statement from Ron Herrera, President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 396 on the protests happening across the country.
“Our hearts are heavy in Los Angeles after witnessing the events that have taken place here and across our nation.
The Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement are one and the same. Both work to dismantle oppressive systems that hurt honest people, be it a rigged system that allows the rich to get richer off of the backs of working people, or the systemic racism that has poisoned our nation for 500 years, and continues to shred the core of our societal fabric. The fight for racial justice must work hand in hand with the fight for economic justice.
Our nation mourns the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other unarmed people of color that have lost their lives. These killings are not random, isolated incidents. This is a harsh reality for our communities that must be acknowledged and confronted head-on.
It’s easy to forget that unions are not only workplace organizations; we are an institution to help working people. That means uplifting working families everywhere, even when we leave our workspace. When our Black sisters and brothers experience police brutality, it is organized labor that must take a stand and declare that Black lives matter, because Black workers matter in the workplace, and Black Lives matter when we return home to our communities.
The current anger we are experiencing is only a symptom of a much bigger disease plaguing America, racism. As the public, we can stare at the protests or point our attention to the underlying cause. The anger and frustration currently on display did not happen overnight; it’s decades in the making through constant indifference by those in power resulting in underfunding social services, such as housing and education, and lack of access to good jobs and healthcare.
This year alone we have seen over 100,000 people die from COVID-19, with our most vulnerable communities taking the brunt of the crises while those at the top make billions. Corporations place profits above the lives of our essential workers, who are predominately people of color, demanding the opening of businesses without adequate health protections. Workers are deemed essential yet are treated as sacrificial.
To move forward, we must have honest conversations and address the structural inequalities damaging our communities. Historically, the Labor Movement has done more to reduce the wage gap for Black families and has been critical for upward economic mobility for families of color. While we are proud of what a collective bargaining agreement can do for improving economic conditions for workers of color, we realize that we must stand tall and call out racial injustice, as the events that brutally took away the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor undermine any kind of gains that we have made. That’s why the Los Angeles Labor Movement is committed to advancing our struggle for economic, gender, and racial justice.”