·  Labor Notes

How to Talk about Race in Your Union

Tensions over whether unions should join, oppose, or sit out the Black Lives Matter movement are drawing long-overdue attention to the simmering racial divides inside labor.

“Our brother killed our sister’s son,” AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said last summer after police officer Darren Wilson shot teenager Michael Brown, son of a Food and Commercial Workers member in Ferguson, Missouri. “How can we not be involved?”

But involved how? It’s an issue where union members are far from united. In a logical first step, several unions are launching national programs to get members talking to one another—and more important, listening to one another—about race.

One local that’s already gotten the ball rolling is AFSCME 3299, which represents 22,000 campus and hospital workers in the University of California system.

Executive board member Luster Howard, a truck driver for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is one of the most active members of the union’s new Racial Justice Working Group.

Ultimately he hopes the group will help the union contribute to a social movement for racial justice—and tackle on-the-job discrimination too.

But as a first step, he says, the group quickly realized “before we could mobilize, we had to clean up our own house.”

Complete article at Labor Notes

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