Workers United Upstate New York: Black Lives Matter

Workers World Party echoes the call from Starbucks Workers United and Workers United Rochester Regional Joint Board (RRJB) to expel police associations from labor union federations and remain in solidarity with anti-racist protesters. This statement, originally published by Workers United RRJB in 2020, was reshared by Starbucks Workers United after the killing of Tyre Nichols and remains critically relevant:

The Memphis 7, fired by Starbucks, in front of mural STARBUCKS WORKERS UNITED inspired by the city‘s 1968 sanitation workers strike. Credit: Starbucks Workers United

Workers United in Upstate New York stands with Black Lives Matter. We mourn for Rayshard Brooks, Michael Thomas, George Floyd, Dion Johnson, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all other Black people murdered by police [and white supremacists]. We commit to fighting white supremacy and fascism in all their forms.

As Angela Davis said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be anti-racist.” To this end, we reject allyship and call for solidarity. Now is not the time for performative gestures, like the statements so many union-busting companies have released, but for actions that demonstrate the truth that an injury to one is an injury to all.

At its proudest moments, the labor movement has united workers of all races and identities in the class struggle. This is what we must work toward. However, it is not an automatic result of organizing. Our history also reveals many times when unions have valued whiteness over class solidarity. In order to fulfill our mission of fighting for our members and for the entire working class, we must recognize and eliminate white supremacy within our own ranks.

We further believe that conflating our mission with that of police unions undermines our solidarity, the principle we must hold dearest. Modern police departments evolved from vigilante groups and slave patrols. White supremacy within policing cannot be blamed on individual “bad actors” but must be understood as central to the institution itself. This origin also exposes the fact that policing was always intended to protect bosses’ “property” — which then meant human beings — and to suppress workers’ rights. 

Therefore, we urge the labor movement to cut ties with police unions. The AFL-CIO has said it supports Black Lives Matter. We join the Writers Guild of America, East, and their supporters, including Association of Flight Attendants [-CWA] President Sara Nelson, in calling on the AFL-CIO to make good on its word, by expelling the International Union of Police Associations. We recognize that the fact that Black people are disproportionately working-class makes failing to be anti-racist and supporting police unions an even greater betrayal of working-class struggle and unity.

Finally, as the government attempts to designate anti-fascism as terrorism, and as police question protesters about their political beliefs, we want to make it clear: We are “Antifa.” Fascism seeks to ban unions and prevent workers from organizing. It entrenches white supremacy and class domination. It is the ultimate threat to the working class. We have no other option but to be anti-fascist. 

We exist to defend workers against bosses, whose “property rights” are backed by the power of the state. The real looters are not poor people; the real looters are the wealthy who steal our labor for pennies. When they try to crush our movements, we fight back. We were antifa when the bosses’ hired mercenaries and their police and National Guard collaborators murdered union workers and their families in places like Thibodeaux, [Louisiana;] Butte, [Montana;] Lawrence, [Massachusetts;] Ludlow, [Colorado;] and Blair Mountain, [West Virginia] — and when we resisted. We will continue to resist all efforts to destroy our solidarity, uphold white supremacy and weaken the power of the working class.

In solidarity,

Signed by over 130 WU-RRJB union members in 2020 and reposted by SBWU Jan. 28, 2023.

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