Racism is one of the greatest evils 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.
Racism and white supremacy were promoted by capitalists to condone exploitation and oppression, the stealing of land and resources of indigenous peoples, and the erasure of their history and culture. They were 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 Black people in particular. Black people suffer from disproportionately higher unemployment, lower wages, and poorer working conditions. On average, Black people are twice as likely to die from disease, police murders, accidents, and homicide as whites. Black people 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 Black people, 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 Black people and other people of color.
America has had a long history of racism, The Republican Party now mainstreams racism directly or with dog whistles. Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville said, “They (Democrats) want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.” Former President Trump invited white supremacist Nick Fuentes to Mar-a-Lago for lunch. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar have spoken at the white supremacist America First Political Action Conference sponsored by Nick Fuentes.
The right-wing Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling on affirmative action is a continuation of over forty years of judicial attacks on the rights won by the civil rights movement. Republicans openly promote false hysteria on “critical race theory.” They fan the flames with the “great replacement theory.” Some southern states are banning the teaching of Black history in any public school, from elementary to university level. Even when the Supreme Court upheld an element of the Voting Rights Act, the state of Alabama ignored their ruling. In Tennessee, a supermajority of white Republicans expelled two Black state representatives for refusing to be silent regarding the mass murder of three adults and three children at Covenant House School.
Police brutality and state repression continues to deepen and broaden, being further encouraged by Trump allies who still hold power. In Circleville, Ohio truck driver Jadarius Rose was pulled over for a missing mud flap only to have automatic weapons trained on him. When Rose surrendered, with his hands up and on his knees, police released a dog to brutalize the man. In Brandon, Mississippi six officers known as the “goon squad” conducted an illegal raid without probable cause and tortured two Black men. They forced the men to strip; tased, waterboarded, and sexually assaulted them; and shot one of them in the mouth. In Memphis, Tennessee, six officers known as the SCORPION unit beat Tyre Nichols to death.
In response to continued police violence against Black people, Black Lives Matter became a mass movement. After the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, somewhere between 15-26 million people participated in demonstrations across the U.S., making the Black Lives Matter protests the largest protest 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.
Since our last convention, two cohorts of UE leaders have participated in the UE Leadership and Staff Development Program, designed to develop the leadership of UE members from racial and ethnic backgrounds who are underrepresented in UE leadership or on UE staff. The first cohort began in late 2021 and graduated 11 leaders from seven locals, three of whom joined UE staff, and two of whom were elected to the General Executive Board during the course of the program. The second cohort is on-going and includes nine leaders from eight locals.
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 78th UE CONVENTION:
- We must fight racism by first affirming that it exists;
- 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;
- Reaffirms the union’s commitment to developing the leadership of members of color, including through our Leadership and Staff Development Program;
- Calls for elimination of racial profiling, police brutality, and “stop-and-frisk,” a repeal of “stand-your-ground” laws and stands in opposition to the politicians that would support these policies;
- 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, religion, race, color, or creed, particularly those on Arab-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics/Latinos, Jews, and Asian Americans;
- 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;
- Calls upon the union at all levels to support political candidates that vehemently oppose racism and discrimination of all kinds and at all levels of government.