Labor leaders across the country are responding to the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police and reflecting on structural racism in the United States. Below find selections from some of their thoughts.
The AFL-CIO building, located a block away from the White House, was damaged during protests along with others on nearby streets. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a statement the next day.
My heart is heavy at the events of the past few days. I watched the video of George Floyd pleading for his life under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. No person of conscience can hear Floyd’s cries for help and not understand that something is deeply wrong in America. What happened to George Floyd, what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, what happened to far too many unarmed people of color has happened for centuries…Racism plays an insidious role in the daily lives of all working people of color. This is a labor issue because it is a workplace issue. It is a community issue, and unions are the community. We must and will continue to fight for reforms in policing and to address issues of racial and economic inequality. We categorically reject those on the fringes who are engaging in violence and destroying property. Attacks like the one on the AFL-CIO headquarters are senseless, disgraceful and only play into the hands of those who have oppressed workers of color for generations and detract from the peaceful, passionate protesters who are rightly bringing issues of racism to the forefront….
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) represents workers who drive buses and operate subway systems; although about one in eight U.S. workers are African-American, more than one in four transit workers are. During the protests following Floyd’s death, several bus drivers, starting in Minneapolis, refused to transport police and arrested demonstrators. ATU President John Costa released a statement on the tragedy and on ATU members’ actions in the aftermath.
We are deeply disturbed and angered by the tragic death of George Floyd, an African-American who was held, handcuffed, on the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” Those all-too-familiar words, first uttered by Eric Garner, an African-American who was suffocated during a 2014 arrest by a white New York police officer, come as a tragic reminder of the injustice inflicted on persons of color every day in the United States… Furthermore, as our members – bus drivers – have the right to refuse work they consider dangerous or unsafe during the pandemic, so too Minneapolis bus drivers – our members – have the right to refuse the dangerous duty of transporting police to protests and arrested demonstrators away from these communities where many of these drivers live. This is a misuse of public transit…
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) represents police officers in departments across the United States. Zealous defenders of their members, the FOP typically responds to charges of excessive force by police by urging a presumption of innocence. But the video of the Floyd killing inspired a swift denunciation by the police union.
Our thoughts and prayers today are with the friends and family of Mr. George Floyd, whose tragic death this week shocked and horrified our nation. Law enforcement officers are empowered to use force when apprehending suspects and they are rigorously trained to do so in order to have the safest possible outcome for all parties. Based on the bystander’s video from this incident, we witnessed a man in distress pleading for help. The fact that he was a suspect in custody is immaterial—police officers should at all times render aid to those who need it. Police officers need to treat all of our citizens with respect and understanding and should be held to the very highest standards for their conduct….