Cleveland labor launches campaign against racism

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Responding to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s call for labor to mobilize in the fight against racism, the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor has launched a campaign to support the effort.

The action came in a strongly worded “Resolution on Racial and Economic Justice” adopted overwhelmingly by about 100 delegates at their monthly meeting May 13. The resolution,  recommended by the Federation’s Executive Committee which had met earlier in the day, originated in the labor body’s Committee on Racial Justice and was later approved by its Political Action Committee and Retirees’ Council. It hailed the initiative of the National AFL-CIO and committed the local federation “to help carry out this effort in every way possible.”

Adoption came after delegates watched a video of Trumka speaking to the Missouri AFL-CIO convention in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Trumka’s speech “makes me so proud,” an emotional Meryl Johnson, a retired African American teacher, member of the Executive Committee and a leader of the Racial Justice Committee, told the delegates as she called for adoption of the resolution.

Roger Sikes, campaign manager for the federation, said he expected the resolution, along with a statement on racial and economic justice issued by the national AFL-CIO Executive Council at its February meeting in Atlanta, would be distributed to affiliated unions with close to 100,000 members. The text follows:

Resolution on Racial and Economic Justice

WHEREAS racism was systematically embedded in American society from our nation’s founding when slavery was the dominant base of the economy and, despite historic and heroic struggles and progress to destroy its basis in law, continues to pervade the social and economic life  of our country causing enormous harm and suffering to African Americans and other people of color, and

WHEREAS  racism continues to be used as a means to divide working people and weaken their political and economic power with the aim of imposing austerity, the destruction of unions and the crippling of all democratic institutions and rights, and

WHEREAS the recent series of shocking incidents of deadly police violence against African Americans throughout the country including in Cleveland, have outraged many decent Americans and provoked a mass movement for reform of the criminal justice system, and

WHEREAS, because of these incidents AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka made a powerful appeal to the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention in February and later that month, at a meeting of the Executive Council in Atlanta, the AFL-CIO issued a statement calling on union members to mobilize in the fight to overcome racism throughout society as key to the fight to raise wages, create jobs and defend the survival and effectiveness of organized labor, and

WHEREAS, to implement this policy, the AFL-CIO has established a National Commission on Racial and Economic Justice, with plans to travel to cities across the country and hold broad discussions on this effort with labor leaders and constituency groups,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor applauds, welcomes and endorses this important initiative of our national leadership and commits itself to help carry out this effort in every way possible, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the North Shore Federation of Labor invites the AFL-CIO National Commission on Racial and Economic Justice to hold its first session in the City of Cleveland, Ohio, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as soon as a date for this session is set, the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor will hold a press conference to publicize the aims and purposes of the labor movement in this regard, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the meantime and in preparation for the event, the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor will distribute the national AFL-CIO  statement to all affiliates and allied groups and encourage discussions at all levels on the importance of labor and its allies in playing a leading role in the national effort to overcome racism and  racial injustice.

Photo: Charles Krupa/AP



Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.