During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.
The horrific and senseless death of George Floyd has left Americans reeling during an already uncertain time. Leaders of the labor movement are speaking out and fighting for equality, justice and civil rights. On the New York State AFL-CIO’s “Union Strong” podcast last week, state federation President Mario Cilento (TNG-CWA) and Secretary-Treasurer Terry Melvin (CSEA-AFSCME) addressed racial injustice in America and what the labor movement can do to change it.
“There is no contract that allows murder on the job. There is no contract that allows a worker to supersede any local, state or federal law,” said Melvin, who is also the president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). “What has to happen is long-term reform. Institutional reform to reflect the needs of the community. Reform that humanizes the citizens and devalues the problem….Our elected officials can do more than they want to do and are comfortable blaming the union and the contract.”
“I know right now there is so much pain, there is so much anger, there is so much frustration, there is so much tension,” Cilento said. “But our goal should be to match those feelings with an equal amount of hope, and that only happens if we stand united in our commitment to make real and lasting change. Let me start by being very clear, as a labor movement in New York state, we recognize, we believe and we know that Black Lives Matter.”