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News & Updates
Friday, June 12, 2020
Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee
Senate Concurrent Resolution 14- Proponent Testimony
June 9th, 2020 - Tim Burga, President, Ohio AFL-CIO
On Tuesday, June 9, I testified in the Ohio Senate in support of SCR14, to address racism. Attached, is the testimony I provided on behalf of the Ohio AFL-CIO. Thank you.
Tim Burga
President, Ohio AFL-CIO
Chairman Burke, Vice-Chairman Huffman, Ranking Member Antonio, and members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid committee, I am Tim Burga, President of the state’s labor federation, the Ohio AFL-CIO. The Ohio AFL-CIO represents over 1 million active and retired private and public sector union members covering a wide segment of the economy.

With the appalling death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, caught on video for the world to see, and the subsequent uprising of Americans to denounce racial injustice, the Ohio AFL-CIO will provide our voice and actions for this to be a turning point in American history. Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 (S.C.R. 14) is a needed step toward justice and we support its stated premise that the impact of racism on public health deserves action from all levels of government.

Racism plays a menacing role in the daily lives of working people of color. This is a labor issue because it is a public health issue and a workplace issue. As a labor movement, we will continue our role in the struggle for social and economic justice and will add our voice so that we move forward as a state and nation, together to rid society of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

As Ohio’s labor movement, we too are angered by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. What happened to them has happened to far too many unarmed people of color for centuries. The difference now is that we are seeing these tragic events play out on television and on social media. We can’t deny these killings are happening, nor can we look away because we feel uncomfortable. We stand strong today in the fight for dignity, life, and liberty for everyone at the intersection of economic justice and civil rights. Although not perfect, labor unions have been important allies of the African- American struggle for freedom and justice. I am proud to say that my home union, the United Steelworkers, and other industrial unions in particular were early supporters of the modern-day civil rights movement. These unions believed that workers of color and their fate was intertwined with that of white workers; that questions of economic security and anti-discrimination were joined at the hip. And, as a united labor movement, this continues to serve as a guiding principle of the AFL-CIO.

At the time of organized labor’s peak influence in the 1960s, race relations, voting rights and economic justice were converging in significant ways. In 1963, A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the namesake of AFL-CIO’s senior constituency group (APRI), and Marin Luther King, Jr. joined forces in the nation’s capital to execute the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Significant organized labor presence was on hand at the march with UAW President Walther Reuther playing a significant role in the planning and execution of the event.

After the march, Dr. King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson at the White House, where they discussed the need for bipartisan support of civil rights legislation. Though they were passed after Kennedy’s death, the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reflect the demands of the march. I am proud to say that many labor unions and their leaders, including my home union and my father who was a local union president at J&L Steel in Stark County publicly advocated for passage of these landmark bills.

Now, we must recognize it is time to reach another level in our ongoing pursuit for racial harmony and a more perfect union. The Ohio AFL-CIO stands in solidarity against the forces of hate that seek to divide this nation for their own personal and political motive. United in purpose we seek to advance the cause of peace, equality, and justice for all.

Let us come together at this moment in time to address and dismantle racism, and as a needed step, pass S.C.R. 14 to expand society’s understanding of racism and how it affects individual and population health. We stand in strong support and urge passage of S.C.R. 14 that authorizes the Governor to establish a working group to promote racial equity throughout this state.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify in support of S.C.R. 14.

AFL-CIO General Board Recommends Police Reform, Calls for Defense Secretary, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and President of Minneapolis Police Union to Resign
Today, the General Board of the AFL-CIO adopted a comprehensive set of recommendations to take concrete action to address America’s long history of racism and police violence against black people.

These recommendations include calling for the immediate resignations of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their roles in the misuse of federal military power to put down peaceful demonstrations (full statement below); supporting the call of the Minnesota AFL-CIO for the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis union to resign and backing the statement of MLK Labor in Seattle demanding changes from its police affiliate; recommending that every central labor council work with local unions to engage in community listening sessions modeled after the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention; recommitting the labor movement to continue acting on the findings of the AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice and the demographic recommendations of the AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions; and supporting recommendations put forth by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to crack down on police brutality while protecting the due process rights of all public service workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also announced a plan to convene a meeting of the approximately dozen affiliate unions with law enforcement units to discuss the development of a code of excellence to create systemic change from within organized labor, including a monitoring and enforcement mechanism ( full statement HERE ).
Action Alert: Workers First Caravan for
Racial + Economic Justice
Will you join us for the June 17 caravan, which will gather at 11:00 am before proceeding to the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.?

To find other events across the country  Click Here

America’s Five Economic Essentials are:

1) Keep front-line workers safe and secure- To ensure this, Congress must mandate that OSHA and MSHA issue emergency temporary standards that can protect all workers.

2) Keep workers employed and protect earned pension checks- CARES 2 must guarantee that millions more workers are paid for the duration of the crisis.
3) Keep state and local governments, our public schools and the U.S. Postal Service, solvent and working- Public service workers are front-line heroes; they must be defined as essential workers and supported financially throughout this health and economic emergency.

4) Keep America healthy-protect and expand insurance for all workers- Affordable care needs to be expanded, and the federal government needs to support 100% of COBRA extensions.

5) Keep America competitive-hire people to build infrastructure- Investment in infrastructure is key for job creation, and thus a \pillar of our nation’s economy.

To read more  Click Here
Tell Secretary Esper and
General Milley to Resign--Petition
Last week, the Union Veterans Council called for the resignation of the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, and the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Yesterday, the AFL-CIO’s General Board did the same. 

This moment in America requires moral leadership and courage -- we are proud to help lead the way.

Veterans know that service members are not obligated to follow unlawful orders. Deploying tear gas in the faces of peaceful protests was beyond the pale -- especially against Americans; especially on American soil. Actions have consequences and leaders must be held accountable. 


Secretary of Defense Esper and General Milley must step down, not as a point of shame but as an example of leadership. 

The Union Veterans Council is proud to speak truth to power, and our voices as veterans are powerful. At a time when our country’s leaders sow division rather than unity, when soldiers are asked to deploy against American citizens, it’s never been more important to take a moral stand. 

Join us and tell Secretary Esper and General Milley to resign. As Veterans, our voices must be clear: Our armed forces are meant to protect the constitution, not trample on it. 

In Solidarity,
The Union Veterans Council
Tell Your State Officials:
We Need Online Voter Registration!
We’re just months away from one of the most anticipated elections of our generation—but nationwide, potential new voters are having trouble getting registered.
 
To protect public health during the COVID-19 crisis, many voter registration hot spots—like Department of Motor Vehicles and town clerks’ offices—have been closed for months. And canvassing efforts on college campuses, at concerts and on streets have been completely shut down, too.
 
So how can states combat this threat to our voting rights? By offering online voter registration.
 
 
Online voter registration is a proven and secure way to modernize our voter registration systems. Letting eligible Americans register to vote (or update their registration) from home is convenient, safe—and it saves money for those states that have implemented it.
 
But this crucial option still isn’t available in several states, impacting tens of millions of Americans.
 
Experts say the loss of in-person registration opportunities this year will especially keep students, people of color and naturalized immigrants from the polls. Online voter registration can help—but states must act NOW so that voters will be ready in November.
 
 
In Solidarity, 
Team AFL-CIO
Labor Constituency Groups Statement on the Recent Protests
The Labor Coalition for Community Action, as representatives of marginalized communities of working people, recognizes that as members of our society and history will judge those who do not join this fight for a more inclusive and just nation. Today our duty is to amplify the message and demands of communities of color, therefore, we echo the demands of the Movement for Black Lives: 

  • We demand an end to the war against Black people
  • We demand a divestment from the police and an investment in Black communities
  • We demand local schools, colleges, universities, and all public institutions cut ties with the police
  • We demand repair for past and continuing harms
  • We demand relief for our communities
  • We demand economic justice for all our people
  • We demand the rights of protestors be respected
  • We demand community control

Close friends knew him as “Big Floyd.” He played basketball and football during his school years. He was a father of two who had moved to Minneapolis from Houston several years ago in order to find a job and start a new life. But on Monday, May 25th George Floyd, a 46-year -old black man, died at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement. He was brutally pinned down to the ground and asphyxiated, by Police Officer Derek Chauvin, another three officers stood by, doing nothing to prevent George Floyd’s murder. It took authorities almost 4 days to press charges against Chauvin and more than 10 days to hold the three bystanding officers accountable. George Floyd has since become the face of a movement aimed at dismantling a system that has legitimized racism, discrimination and oppression of communities of color across our nation.

That dynamic does not change without struggle, for example: the Civil Rights Act passed after 6 days of protests and conflict with police; Stonewall transformed a movement for the LGBTQ+ community because it was an armed conflict against police brutality; the cops who beat Rodney King weren’t arrested until there was confrontation with police forces; the armed conflict at Haymarket Square in Chicago was the spark for an 8 hour work day. America will not move or change unless we confront the institutions that suppress and oppress us. The senseless murder of George Floyd made this reality undeniable. His death was an attempt to kill the American Dream for future generations, nonetheless it has inspired our nation to come together, take to the streets and elevate our voices in defense of justice, equality and change.

This is not just a Black issue nor just a race issue. It is an institutional issue that has been built and maintained itself off Black exploitation and social division. The system is not protecting people or serving our interests, instead it protects property and serves corporate greed. But the way some police so flagrantly kill Black people, so indiscriminately murder them, so easily pull the trigger, highlights the disparity in treatment and the system that enables these behaviors, demands that we all say Black Lives Matter.

Under the Obama Administration we began to see policies and procedures implemented that allowed citizens better ability to hold police accountable. They were not perfect, but they were steps in the right direction. They were actions taken by our government that acknowledged the problem and was now willing to be negotiable on solutions. These were all undone by the current administration. If this president wants to restore any faith in our communities, he will re-implement them now. If Vice-President Biden wants to show he truly cares about us, he will campaign to re-implement and enhance Obama era policies. If the institutions that govern and monitor the police do not show they are committed to that function, we the people are forced to do it ourselves.

Elected officials need to know we will not forget where they stood in the face of this murder. Will we have a government that blatantly sanctions Black murder, as it once codified in the Bill of Rights? Will we have a government that returns to its racist roots by advancing white supremacy as it once did under the Wilson administration? We the people decide that fate now and in November. We demand public hearings on this issue. We call on the United Nations to sanction this moment as a Human Rights Violation. We force law enforcement to arrest their own for brutality instead of us. We demand to be able to march in the streets like the “I Want a Haircut” protesters did a few weeks ago. We can remember that people should not fear their government, government should fear the people.

As Labor, our voice must be heard in the streets at this moment. It is not in our nature to stay silent in the face of continued injustice. The Labor Movement is the only check to corporate greed. That greed has led to decades of policing policies that value property more than lives.

Our purpose as a labor movement is to protect, include and advance economic justice, equal treatment, and opportunities for all workers regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion. We will not remain silent as Black communities across our nation face growing racial discrimination, as their lives are robbed, and as corporate greed continues to fill the pockets of the 1% at the expense of the shameful exploitation of marginalized communities. We are committed to continue pushing for racial and economic justice policies capable of empowering black workers and elevating their voices in demanding equality. We will seek justice from our elected officials and hold them accountable for their actions - or lack thereof - toward rebuilding marginalized communities and ending racist policing practices that value property over lives. This is the work of the labor movement. We will do it in the ways we know best: to mobilize and organize our communities, get them to the polls in November, and elect candidates who will advance policies capable of uplifting this segment of the community. Our elected officials must be committed to eradicating the root problems marginalized communities face, such as mass incarceration, homelessness, health, education, and wealth disparities, and so much more
Saunders: Heal Our Nation,
Fund Front-Line Public Services
AFSCME President Lee Saunders  spoke with reporters from Politico about the three crises  our nation faces. Saunders said, “I’m not ashamed to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’” while talking about the need for action to end racial injustice that exists in America. He wrote a column for USA Today in which he stated, “ No union contract is or should be construed as a shield for misconduct or criminal behavior .”
 
Saunders also highlighted  AFSCME’s campaign for federal investment  in state and local governments during his interview with Politico. “If we don’t get that unrestricted necessary aid, then there will be many more layoffs and there will be major reductions in public services that will [have an] impact on our communities and small businesses….We’ve got to push every single day to make sure they have the money to operate,” he said.
Unemployment Remains High for Workers in the Arts, Despite Improving Jobs Numbers
The Actors’ Equity (AEA), which represents thousands of professional actors and stage managers on Broadway and throughout the country, pointed out that the arts and entertainment industry is still suffering. Despite last week’s jobs report, which showed unemployment declining for the first time since the pandemic began, many theatrical workers remain out of work. “[Last week’s] news is encouraging for those who have gone back to work, but also a  sobering reminder of the long road to recovery  for all of us in the arts and entertainment industry. While millions of Americans have gone back to work, our members and countless others in the service and hospitality sector are still facing record unemployment,” said Mary McColl, executive director of AEA.
Labor in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter in Washington, D.C.
Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 51 led a  Labor in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter rally  in front of the AFL-CIO building in Washington, D.C., on Monday evening. IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW), Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) International President Sara Nelson joined union members protesting to end racial injustice in America.
COVID-19 in Numbers
From  Johns Hopkins University  (as of publication time):
 
  • More than 7.1 million global cases and more than 400,000 deaths have been confirmed.
  • The coronavirus has spread to at least 188 countries/regions.
  • There have been at least 111,000 deaths in the United States.
  • More than 1.9 million cases in all 50 states, U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have been reported.
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