FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 29, 2020
Contact: Jessica Felix Romero, Jobs With Justice, email@example.com, 202-393-1044 x104
Washington, DC – In response to the recently publicized targeting, attacking, and killing of Black Americans at the hands of both police and neighbors, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley gave the following statement on the toxic situations within local police unions and our communities:
“While Jobs With Justice supports all workers who wish to form a union and have a voice on the job, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police is yet another example of a local police union that spends more time nurturing a culture of white supremacy and violence than democratizing the workplace.
“Police officers should not be above the law, and should not be able to negotiate conditions that put them above the law. Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd, had 18 previous complaints against him — but his local ‘union,’ the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, helped prevent his removal.
“In the past, when a local union gets caught up in criminal activity, they’re trusteed by national union affiliates to democratize. How many times does Bob Kroll’s police union in Minneapolis — the makers of the ‘Cops for Trump’ t-shirts — have to murder Black people before they are held accountable? In addition to fairly prosecuting the officers responsible for Floyd’s death, this union must be ‘un-mobbed’ and held accountable for the benefit of both its members and the community it operates within.
“But make no mistake — the systemic racism in our society has infected much more than just local police unions. Black people are consistently managing the fear and anxiety of white people around them in everyday situations— many times, with their lives. As I recently collected take-out from a local business with my daughter, I simultaneously had to correctly guess the anxiety levels of the white woman in front of me who seemed to be following my every move. I was worried she might think I’d kidnapped my pale-skinned child and call the police. The same anxiety likely existed in Ahmaud Arbery, as he tried to jog around that pick-up truck, or in George Floyd as he tried to reason with police officers who automatically considered him a ‘dangerous’ suspect. Unlike them, I escaped the situation with my life.
“This pandemic has exposed our deadliest weaknesses — our lack of public health investment, our bankrupt healthcare infrastructure, an economic system that treats women and people of color as expendable, and of course our racist system of policing to uphold that economic system. But it is also making our calls for justice louder, and more unified, than ever. We can — we must — come out of this situation with a more just and equitable America. We the People demand it.”
Erica Smiley is the first Black woman to lead Jobs With Justice as Executive Director.
Founded in 1987, Jobs With Justice is the country’s leading nonprofit in the fight for workplace and economic democracy. Comprising of a national network of local affiliates in nearly every state, Jobs With Justice brings together coalitions comprised of unions, worker organizations, community groups, students, and faith institutions to win concrete improvements in people’s lives.