Racism is one of the greatest evils in our nation, 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. Racism inside the U.S. developed for the purposes of dividing the working class and justifying the brutal system of coerced labor called slavery.
The persistence of institutional racism affects all peoples of color, and is evident in the economic and social disadvantages experienced by African Americans in particular. African-American unemployment remains disproportionately high. On average, African-American women workers are paid only 61 cents for every dollar a white man is paid, and Latina women workers are paid only 53 cents for every dollar. African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population but make up 27 percent of arrests. They are three times more likely to become prisoners once arrested and serve longer terms. Because of environmental racism, African American and other communities of color often face greater health threats, such as air pollution and water contamination. Racism blames the victims of these conditions, rather than blaming the system that creates these injustices.
Donald Trump has attacked working people and people of color throughout his business and political career. Trump’s racist scapegoating has made our nation a more violent and dangerous place for all working people, especially for Muslims, immigrants, and people of color. He has issued three executive orders banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S., even those with a green card, and refusing entry of refugees from Muslim-majority countries. He has terrorized the Latinx community with threats of aggressive deportation. His administration has placed migrants and asylum-seekers in degrading and inhumane detention centers, which are concentration camps, and it has forcibly separated children from their families. Trump’s immigration policy is clearly intended to reduce the number of non-white people in the U.S.
Since Trump’s election, racist violence has been on the rise. In 2017, murders by white supremacists more than doubled from the previous year. In 2018, every murder in the U.S. that was linked to extremism was committed by a perpetrator with ties to white supremacy. In February 2018, seventeen students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida were murdered by a former student who held white supremacist beliefs. In October 2018, eleven Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were killed by a white supremacist during a Shabbat service. That same month, two African American shoppers were killed by a white supremacist at a grocery store in Kentucky. In 2019, over 25 people have been killed in mass shootings by white supremacists, including in Gilroy, CA and El Paso, TX. In both cases the shooters explicitly targeted latinxs.
The Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and various other organized white supremacist groups operating under the guise of the “alt-right” embraced Trump as their candidate and have been emboldened by his victory. In August 2017, hundreds of these white supremacists descended on Charlottesville for a violent protest which claimed the life of a young woman, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. The white supremacists were in Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of a Confederate leader — a traitor — who believed African-American people should be enslaved, and which was erected in 1924, an era in which the symbolism of the Confederacy was used to promote Jim Crow segregation and Klan violence against African Americans, Jews, Catholics, trade unionists and others. Since Charlottesville, white supremacist groups have felt emboldened to hold more violent rallies across the country to spread their hate.
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, and the police officers who commit these killings are rarely held accountable. This is not merely the result of individual racist police officers but of a widespread, systematic disrespect for the lives of people of color. This disrespect is being further stoked by Trump and his administration. In a speech to police on Long Island in July 2017, Trump openly encouraged law enforcement to be violent with those they arrest, repeatedly referring to people suspected of crimes as “animals.”
In response to police violence against African Americans in recent years, Black Lives Matter has become a mass movement. Since the election of Trump, hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to oppose Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” his stepped-up war against immigrants, the detention and separation of migrant families, and the racist far-right. UE stands with all of those who have marched and bravely stood up to hatred, racism, and violence.
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 76th 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 on-the-job discrimination;
- Calls on locals to develop pressure campaigns against any employers that discriminate against people of color in their hiring practices;
- Declares its support of workers and their communities’ fight against divisive racist terror;
- Directs the leadership of our union to take affirmative action in the development and election of more leaders of color and the hiring of staff of color;
- 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, “stop-and-frisk,” and a repeal of “stand-your-ground” laws;
- Urges the union at all levels to support and work with local Black Lives Matter groups 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 the union at all levels to make our members and communities aware of the increase of hate groups in our country, to provide information to help them to recognize and combat all forms of hate, and to expose racism in the media;
- 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 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 of the National Assembly for Black Liberation.