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What a year it’s been.

Working men and women all across this state are making their voices heard and seeing the results.

Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

Race-neutral policies simply will not address the depth of disadvantage faced by people this country once believed were chattel. Financial restitution cannot end racism, of course, but it can certainly mitigate racism’s most devastating effects. If we do nothing, black Americans may never recover from this pandemic, and they will certainly never know the equality the nation has promised.

Read the full article in The New York Times Magazine.

America is suffering under the crushing weight of three crises, which are a public health pandemic, an economic free fall, and structural racism. They are knotted together in that untangling one depends on how we untangle the others. For instance, structural racism is deeply ingrained in the share of black workers unemployed and dying from the coronavirus. Today, thousands of working people across the country will join together in a national day of action called the Workers First Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has demanded an investigation from Facebook and a public apology from founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after an online presentation touted the ability of employers to block the word "unionize" on the company's Workplace platform. "Blacklisting is illegal. Employers censoring their employees' speech about unionizing is illegal," Trumka, the leader of the largest federation of labor unions in the U.S., tweeted on Friday.

"We are very disappointed that three judges did not deem the lives of America’s workers worthy of holding an argument or issuing a full opinion," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a statement responding to the decision. "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s post-it length response to our petition acknowledges the 'unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic' but repeats the false claim by Big Business that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration already has done what is needed to protect workers," he added.

The ruling came as demonstrations continued Thursday in both Matamoros and Mexico City demanding the release of Susan Prieto, who faces charges that include inciting riot, threats and coercion. Her case has drawn attention beyond Mexico, including a call for her release issued Wednesday by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Wednesday. “Susana Prieto is a fierce advocate whose tireless advocacy on behalf of workers in Mexico’s maquiladoras has made her a thorn in the side of powerful companies and corrupt officials,” Trumka wrote.

In early January, before most people in the U.S. had even heard of Covid-19, Bonnie Castillo called a meeting with two trusted health care deputies at the country’s largest union of registered nurses. Castillo was alarmed by news reports about how a virus — so mysterious it didn’t yet have a name — was ravaging Wuhan, China, and asked the union’s director of health and safety and its industrial hygienist to go through some scientific reports. As she listened, Castillo, the executive director of National Nurses United and a former intensive care nurse, grew worried.

As an African American man who lived through the 1960s and now has two sons and three very young grandsons, the specter of systemic racism keeps me up at night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my sons during the past week — just to know where they are, to hear their voices, to make sure they are safe. Unless things change, my sons will have the same conversations with my grandsons when they are older. There should be no controversy in declaring that the lives of my sons and grandsons matter. Black lives matter.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discusses the George Floyd protests, police unions and unemployment on "Bloomberg: Balance of Power."