Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another black man shot. AFL-CIO's pathetic statement on the present state of affairs

By Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444, retired

Many of us have probably seen this recent video of a behavioral therapist helping an autistic man who was shot by the Miami police as he was laid on his back with his hands in the air. I have to say, the guy that was arguing with me the other day who wouldn’t back down no matter how sensible my argument was, that the proper slogan is not “Black Lives Matter” but “All Lives Matter”, please drop that and just tell it as you really feel it. Admit to the world what is behind this argument for you. That you have a real problem giving black people any credit for anything other than perhaps being good basketball players.

I might be an optimist but I believe people are generally polite and patient, especially black folks in the US, as they have a history here that gives them an outlook on the world that most of us don’t have. But stop insulting them, and the rest of us by arguing that the former slogan is wrong and the latter would be more politically correct, after all don’t all lives really matter? Of course they do, but I do not believe that it is a concern for “all” lives that is behind support for this statement.

Mind you, in most cases this argument is made by people who haven’t taken a political step their entire lives beyond sticking a piece of paper in a ballot box every four years to elect people in political parties that don’t represent their interests.  What lies behind it is their inability to give black folks credit for anything except athletic skills. They are threatened by their success, encouraged by their failures as it proves that the conditions that exist in the black communities are due to their failures and not centuries of racial oppression under brutal regimes.  Earlier this week, we likened the regime that ruled the South until the US Civil War to ISIS and that is not an exaggeration. After a decade of instability, the regime was reinstated inn the form of Jim Crow.

Maybe I’m being too hard on some people. But I ask those who argue for “All Lives Matter”, please think long and hard about it, talk about it with friends, talk about it with African American friends. . Don’t be afraid of history, real history, no one is asking for atonement, just recognition of history as it actually happened.

But what compelled me to write this (I hope not too long) commentary is to point to the pathetic public statement about the recent killings of black people culminating in the shooting of the cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge from Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.  For the young people and the millions of workers who are members of unions affiliated to the AFL-CIO and have never heard of it, it is the national body of organized labor in the US with 12 million workers in it. It has tremendous potential power, it could, if its members were mobilized and active, bring the US economy to a halt.

Here is what Trumka writes. I had to search for it on the AFL-CIO webpage which has a nice picture of a pilot on it to give the impression that it represents professionals rather than workers.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the Shootings in Baton Rouge

July 18, 2016
Our hearts are again heavy with grief. 

On Sunday, three of our brothers at the International Union of Police Associations were killed in another senseless act of violence: Mathew Gerald, 41, a Marine veteran and father of two daughters; Brad Garafola, 45, who had served three tours in Iraq and was the father of two sons and two daughters; and Montrell Jackson, 32, a new father of a baby boy whose last post on Facebook said: “Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”

This happened one day after the last slain Dallas police officer, Patrick Zamarripa, a 32 year old Navy veteran and father of a two-year old daughter was buried.

The other Dallas officers laid to rest last week included Lorne Ahrens, 48, a 14-year veteran and father of two; Michael Smith, 55, an Army veteran 27 years on the force and father of two daughters; Michael Krol, 40, nine years on the police force; and Brent Thompson, 43, a transit police officer, father, grandfather, and newlywed.  We honor the commitment of all these men to public service.

We mourn their loss to their families and our community. We pray for the swift recovery of our wounded brothers in Baton Rouge and Dallas. And we condemn the appalling and indefensible acts of violence that are devastating families and communities across our

Charity Jackson (202) 637-5018

This is childish yes, but it is worse than that, it is criminal.  There is a higher percentage of black people in unions than whites. He calls the police “brothers” despite the fact that for decades it is the police that break strikes, escort scabs through our picket lines and historically committed gross violence against working people as those before us struggled to build unions.

A child could have written this, a preacher most likely would have and they have preachers at all the international union conventions as a cover for their own inaction. There is no analysis. Nothing about institutionalized racism, systematic violence against black people and workers in general by the police throughout our history. Not a hint that while opposing such tactics as the indiscriminate shooting of police, we have to understand why it might happen, what is behind it all.

Along with this we have the KKK at the RNC in Cleveland. Where is the labor movement?  Why is the BLM movement not joined by mass participation by the trade union movement in a united action that could drive the Klan and the cops that protect them out of town? The KKK is an anti-union terrorist group. Trumka and every top leader in the AFL-CIO is to blame.

But if you are active in a union, if you are a leader in a local where the pressure of this moribund class collaborationist bureaucracy can be weaker, if you are not openly working to build fighting oppositions within our movement that condemns the role of the Trumka’s and others and working to replace them, then you too share the blame.  Every local should be passing resolutions supporting Black Lives Matter and linking the struggle against racism with the struggle for jobs, housing, healthcare and other social needs, racism undermines working class unity and that makes it harder for us to win these things..

 It is in the interests of white workers to do so. It’s not simply a moral issue; it’s a class issue, it’s about all of us, about the survival of all our families, children and grandchildren, and when we take foreign policy in to account, the survival of humanity.

Here is part of the problem, another pathetic statement from the AFL-CIO about the economy and jobs:

AFL-CIO Jobs and the Economy:

The AFL-CIO is ready to work with anyone—business, government, investors—who wants to create good jobs and help restore America's middle class and challenge policies that stand in the way of giving America the chance to go back to work. The union movement is partnering with such organizations as the Clinton Global Initiative to find innovative ways to create good jobs that support workers and their families.

Clinton’s Global Initiative Fund, business, government, investors, that’s the problem right there.  Working “with” these forces is why your leaders are betraying you, not the mafia, the legal gangsters. Working with and uniting the organized workers with all workers and our communities, the unorganized, the racial minorities, women, immigrants, those fighting the destruction of our environment and the struggle for gender equality, this is how we create “good jobs” for everyone and leave a society that can nurture our children not kill them.

My former union Afscme is having its International Convention in Las Vegas this week. I was at the last one there I think it was 1988. At the end of the week they walk down to a striking hotel, the president puts on a baseball cap to make people think he’s just a working slob like the rest of us and they chant about “we’re the union the mighty, mighty, union” and stuff like that.  But the bosses don’t fear that, they know it is fluff.  The union will be out of there in a day and things will be back to normal, strikers might be on the lines for another year until they lose all they have for that extra $2 an hour.

And Hillary Clinton will be there as her husband was when I last attended an International Convention, there to make sure the relationship her and her class has built with the heads of the union is safe, the members contained, labor peace intact.

I’ve said enough; I’m getting madder as I write. But my last bit of advice to the rank and file member is to stop whining. Stop trying to seek an individual way out through climbing the management ladder at work or through a cushy job in the union apparatus.

Things are not going to get better until you act.*

 *You can begin by calling the contact person inn the AFL-CIO statement and making your views known. Simply complaining that it is nowhere near adequate would be a start

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