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MRLF passes ‘Resolution on Racial and Economic Justice,’ commits to action

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 26, 2015

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Delegates to the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO voted June 10 to pass a “Resolution on Racial and Economic Justice.”

The resolution commits the MRLF to support an initiative passed February 25 by the national AFL-CIO executive council to launch a “Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice.”

The national AFL-CIO executive council statement February 25 declared that “the demand for racial justice cannot be divorced from the fight for economic justice…”

The national AFL-CIO executive council statement continued: “We still live in a world divided in many ways by color lines. At the same time working people share a common experience of falling wages and rising economic insecurity. To build a different, better economy we need power that can only come from unity and unity has to begin with having all our voices be heard, on all sides of those color lines.”

The national AFL-CIO executive council announced that the Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice will conduct six to eight discussion sessions around the nation, examining labor’s own institutional biases and recommending how the labor movement can “become more inclusive as the new entrants to the labor force diversify.”

The resolution passed June 10 by the MRLF declares that “the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO applauds, welcomes and endorses this important initiative of our national leadership and commits itself to help carry out this effort in every way possible.”

The MRLF’s June 10 resolution committed the organization to participate in the national AFL-CIO’s Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice.

In addition, the MRLF’s June 10 resolution stated that the MRLF “will distribute the national AFL-CIO  statement to all affiliates and allied groups and encourage discussions at all levels on the importance of labor and its allies in playing a leading role in the national effort to overcome racism and  racial injustice.”

The MRLF’s June 10 resolution was modeled on a similar resolution passed May 13 by the Cleveland, Ohio area North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor.

The Cleveland resolution came to the attention of the MRLF’s People of Color Union Members caucus, which now is in a second year of organizing activity.
POCUM members rewrote parts of the Cleveland resolution and brought it forward to the MRLF executive committee, which passed the POCUM resolution and brought it to the MRLF delegate body, where the resolution passed unanimously.

“The POCUMs are really proud” of the national AFL-CIO’s action and the MRLF’s support, said Kerry Felder, MRLF community and education organizer, who staffs the POCUM caucus.

“It’s all about bringing people to the table and educating the community and opening doors,” Felder said.

“The discussion needs to take place,” she said. “It can only better us.”

The national AFL-CIO executive council’s February 25 statement came in the wake of ongoing nationwide attention to racial conflict  and racial disparities launched by the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri last year.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka delivered a notable speech in Ferguson, discussing the labor movement’s responsibility and saying “we as a movement have not always done our best to support our brothers and sisters of color who face challenges both on and off the job — challenges that you don’t really understand unless you live them.”

Trumka continued, “the real test of our movement’s commitment to our legacy is not whether we post Dr. King’s picture in our union halls, it is do we take up his fight when the going gets tough, when the fight gets real against the evils that still exist today.”

Click here for the full text of the MRLF’s June 10 “Resolution on Racial and Economic Justice.

Click here for the national AFL-CIO’s “Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice.”

For more information on the MRLF’s People of Color Union Members caucus,  contact MRLF community organizer Kerry Felder at 612-321-5669 or kerry@minneapolisunions.org.

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