Many readers have been following the case of Cliff Willmeng, the ER nurse in Minneapolis fired from his job for fighting for better safety equipment. Cliff has also been very active, as all union members and activists should, in the defense of working class communities and in particular communities of color in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
Cliff was elected to the board of the Minnesota Nurses Association, MNA, Board of Directors as he was in the process of fighting to get his job back.
Brother Willmeng is now facing further attacks not from his employer this time but from the leaders of the MNA and his own executive board as well as Democratic and Republic Party politicians. Cliff, along with other rank and file trade unionists turned up at the St. Paul Labor Center on West Seventh Street in St Paul to protest a building trades official’s decision to allow the National Guard to use the building as a staging ground. The National Guard’s purpose is to prevent any protests that might follow the verdict in the Chauvin trial and also in the wake of the murder of Duante Wright.
Brother Willmeng posted the following on Facebook today:
My message to the MNA Board of Directors this morning. Before then, I need to communicate that I am now receiving death threats and my wife is being contacted by the same individuals. I am being brought up on union charges by another MNA Board member that attempts to remove me from my elected position as an MNA Director. But finally, I need to thank the enormous support coming from frontline workers across the country for our actions to stand resolutely with our black and brown communities in Minnesota and oppose the police/military operation known as Operation Safety Net.
Brother Willmeng has responded to the MNA as follows:
I would suggest the Board carefully consider its actions at this time. For those of you on FB I would also ask that you watch the press conference yesterday held by U of MN physicians on the devastating harms of the “less lethal” weapons being used against people during the police/military operation in Minnesota taking place known as “Operation Safety Net”. The physicians are the same who did the study on the injuries police caused by the tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray last summer. They are currently working with the Minneapolis City Council as well as Brooklyn Center, each which has implored the police and military to stop using the weapons.
Because of the escalating and permanent harm to people of Minnesota participating in protest, and with the fact that police are killing unarmed black and brown Americans, the physicians are calling on the Governor now to end Operation Safety Net. This is, of course, the same operation that had National Guard troops and armored vehicles in the St Paul Labor Center this week
We are very close to bringing MNA into the camp and position of leading anti-union Republicans, who are using Operation Safety net as a level to divide the labor movement now. This, and the endorsement directly or indirectly of the military occupation of neighborhoods while the world is watching people of color being killed in Minnesota, will not be something that MNA will be able to morally stand by as these terrible events escalate. I do not expect to convince anyone here of this, but I did feel compelled to at least discuss it.
The MNA Board can be reached here:
We urge readers to
contact the MNA board at the linked e mail and demand it support Brother
Willmeng and the rank and file workers that defended the integrity of a labor
hall. The National Guard have been used on many occasions to break strikes and
back in the late 70’s Jimmy Carter the great peacemaker used them against the
miners. While many of them might be union members and we should always make
class appeals to them in these situations, we need to think seriously about a
situation where the National Guard is not sent in to protect workers especially black and
brown workers from being murdered by the police and protestors beaten for protesting state violence, but to defend the police and, as Cliff points out in the video, corporations
and bankers from workers. If the NG were there to protect workers protests would be more powerful and more peaceful.
Both Democratic and Republican politicians will oppose this action by rank and file union members, the folks that pay the dues, and so will the right wing union hierarchy.
Cliff has been attacked
on social media for being disrespectful in this video. But this is false. It is
disrespectful for the National Guard who are in this community to suppress justifiable
anger for being expressed and, in most cases directed at the perpetrators of
violence and their corporate backers. As Cliff says in the video, historically, there is a river of blood between these two institutions, the National Guard and organized labor.
Cliff and others in this situation are doing what the present class collaborators who head organized labor should be doing. As he says in the video, this should be the new labor movement.
Finally,, here is a statement on the occupation of the labor building by the National Guard that Cliff introduced to the MNA Board on Friday. This is what the MNA Board should release to the community and the media.
From Cliff Willmeng’s Facebook page.
This was the statement MNA was considering on Friday, which was written on myself after we had initial support for labor halls not being used by Operation Safety Net. It isn't clear at this time who wrote the current MNA statement.
"Minnesota Nurses Association Statement on the Use of Union Facilities by the National Guard
The Minnesota Nurses Association stands unequivocally with working class families and communities affected by ongoing and racially motivated police brutality and killings. As a diverse labor body representing 22,000 frontline RNs we additionally recognize and support the rightful and just actions being taken by community members and workers across the Twin Cities and Brooklyn Center to protest the racialized killing of George Floyd and Duane Wright by law enforcement. The protests and actions of working class people today align with the best history of the United States labor movement.
With this context, and after learning that the St Paul Labor Center had been used for a staging ground for the National Guard, MNA additionally takes deep exception to the permitted use of union facilities by armed force currently engaged in the repression of this legitimate dissent. We hold this position as a union informed by events taking place today, and by the history of the labor and civil right movements themselves. We have not forgotten the repressive role of the National Guard in labor struggles from the P9 Hormel Strike, to the brutal actions against coal miners during the Ludlow Massacre, and the attacks on workers during the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934.
As nurses from military families this position is not directed personally at the young men and women who are now compelled by politicians to leave their homes and are staged in a military deployment across the Twin Cities. We know these troops to be frontline workers themselves but understand they are not here in that capacity. They are here as soldiers and as such, are being directed by forces far outside and uninfluenced by our communities.
MNA offers our unequivocal support for our BIPOC members and the Black led and multiracial movement for justice in Minnesota. We believe that it is critical that the labor movement take unapologetic measures at this time to help our members and our wider working class communities build the power and influence that justice deserves."