Racism is one of the greatest evils of this country and around the world, and has always been a roadblock to building a strong labor movement. Racism is a specific form of discrimination based upon the false belief that some groups of people are inherently and biologically superior to others. It is a form of institutionalized systematic oppression and exploitation that is foundational to American capitalism, which blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and other people of color suffer under.
Racism and white supremacy around the world and inside the U.S. are the means capitalists developed for the purposes of exploitation and oppression, stealing the land and resources of indigenous peoples, as well as attempting to erase their history and culture. It is also a means of dividing the working class and justifying the brutal system of coerced labor called slavery, vigilante murders, and police brutality and killings.
The persistence of institutional racism affects all peoples of color, and is evident in the economic and social oppression and exploitation experienced by African Americans in particular. African-Americans suffer from disproportionately high unemployment, low wages, and poor working conditions. On average, African Americans are twice as likely to die from disease, police murders, accidents, and homicide as whites. African Americans are three times more likely to become prisoners once arrested, and serve longer terms. Racists and white supremacists blame the victims of these conditions, rather than blaming the capitalist system that creates these injustices.
People of color, especially African Americans, are more likely to be stopped by police, searched, arrested, and become the victims of police and vigilante violence. The murder of countless people of color by police is outrageous. This is not merely the result of individual racist police officers but of a widespread, systematic disrespect for the lives of Blacks and other people of color.
America has had a long history of racism, but former President Donald Trump poured gasoline onto the fire, appointing open white supremacists such as Stephen Miller to prominent roles in his administration and crafting policies explicitly intended to reduce the number of non-white Americans. The so-called “alt-right” — thinly disguised white nationalists — were a major part of his support, first descending on Charlottesville in 2017, and later openly attacking peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. White nationalist groups played a major, if not dominant, role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, with Confederate flags and other hate symbols marched through the halls of Congress.
Police brutality and state repression continues to deepen and broaden, being further encouraged by Trump allies who still hold power. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, continues to advance the police state and its ability to squash dissent. In April 2021, Desantis signed an unprecedented bill expanding the ability of police to brutalize protesters, and requiring that after arrest, protesters remain imprisoned and ineligible for bail.
In response to continued police violence against African Americans in recent years, Black Lives Matter has become a mass movement. After the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, polls in summer 2020 estimated that between 15 and 26 million people participated in the demonstrations in the U.S., making the Black Lives Matter protests the largest movement in U.S. history. UE members were a part of these protests, and marched and bravely stood up to white supremacy, hatred, racism, and violence.
The Durham City Workers Union, a chapter of UE Local 150, played a critical role in 2019 of getting over $2 million proposed to hire new police redirected to pay all part time city workers a living wage of $15 per hour. Raleigh City Workers, another Local 150 chapter, have called for reducing the city’s bloated police department budget in order to invest in workers and other crucial city services.
Working-class unity can never be taken for granted. Winning depends upon our success in the fight against racism. UE and the wider labor movement is not immune from racism. We must consciously work to overcome racism in our diverse working class.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 77th UE CONVENTION:
- Reaffirms UE’s policies of aggressive struggle against racism and in support of equal rights;
- Calls on locals to defend our members aggressively against racism and discrimination;
- Calls on locals to develop pressure campaigns against any employers that discriminate against people of color in their workplace, including in promotions, hiring practices, wages and otherwise;
- Declares its support of workers and their communities’ fight against divisive racist terror;
- Opposes the assault on affirmative action;
- Directs the UE Education department to continue providing workshops on racism and discrimination at all levels of our union;
- Calls for elimination of racial profiling, police brutality, and “stop-and-frisk,” and a repeal of “stand-your-ground” laws;
- Urges the union at all levels to support and work with local organizations like Southern Workers Assembly, Black Workers for Justice, NAACP, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Southern Movement Assembly, National Movement for Black Lives and other organizations fighting racism and discrimination;
- Condemns all attacks on the basis of ethnicity and religion, particularly those on Arab-Americans, Muslims and Latinxs;
- Calls on UE at all levels to make our members and communities aware of the increase of hate groups in our workplaces and communities, to provide information to help them to recognize and combat all forms of hate, and to expose racism in the media, and urges UE locals to regularly monitor such activities in their local communities;
- Urges regions and locals to set up unity councils on the model pioneered by Local 506;
- Demands strict enforcement and just punishment for violation of existing anti-discrimination and hate crime laws;
- Urges the union movement to expose and condemn racially biased and selective reporting which blames people of color for the poverty they are suffering as a result of government and corporate policies;
- Urges locals to study the Freedom Manifesto and mobilize their African-American members to attend National Assemblies for Black Liberation events;
- Urges locals to work with local municipal workers’ unions and community groups to reallocate funds from over-bloated police departments to meet the needs of city workers and community wellness.