(EDITOR’S NOTE: The AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., was set on fire Sunday, June 1, during a third day of protests in the nation’s capital over the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody last week, with video footage showed a now-fired officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd said he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Following is a statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka as to why fighting police reforms and addressing racial and economic inequality are Labor issues.)
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. The difference is now we have cell phones. It’s there for all of us to see. And we can’t turn our heads and look away because we feel uncomfortable.
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.
But in the end, the Labor Movement is not a building. We are a living collection of working people who will never stop fighting for economic, social and racial justice. We are united unequivocally against the forces of hate who seek to divide this nation for their own personal and political gain at our expense.
We will clean up the glass, sweep away the ashes and keep doing our part to bring a better day out of this hour of darkness and despair.
Today and always, the important work of the AFL-CIO continues unabated.