Labor Notes: How One Union is Advancing Racial Justice

Labor News

Employers often use race to divide workers against one another. At University of California campuses and hospitals, AFSCME 3299 members are prioritizing racial justice at the bargaining table. Photo: Michael Avant

Reprinted from Labor Notes by Luster Howard, Maricruz Manzanarez, and Seth Newton Patel on March 15, 2017.

“Employers often use race to divide workers against one another,” write Luster Howard, Maricruz Manzanarez, and Seth Newton Patel in Labor Notes. “At University of California campuses and hospitals, we’re seeing the problem get worse now that President Donald Trump’s administration is unleashing new waves of racism and attacks on immigrants.

“Our union, AFSCME 3299, represents 24,000 patient care and service workers. About half of us are Latinos, and a supermajority are people of color. Our co-workers report that they’re frequently attacked based on their race or nationality.

“One manager, for instance, calls Latino workers ‘slaves.’ Another told a worker, ‘If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.’ Workers recently overheard a supervisor characterize all African American custodians as performing poorly; another supervisor responded, ‘Give me the Black people, I can straighten them out.’ In January one of the authors of this piece, targeted as a Latina immigrant, received a death threat on social media. …

“[Our] first and most powerful action was asking members to tell their personal stories about racism and police violence. What moved particular leaders was hearing their fellow members share, ‘This is how my sister was beat up by cops without cause,’ or ‘This is how many times I get stopped in this rich neighborhood on my way to work,’ or ‘Here are the scars on my body from the bullets fired by cops.’ These stories really changed the tenor of the discussion inside our union. …

Labor Notes 3/15

About Jeffrey Burman 1896 Articles

Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.

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