On a hot and drizzly summer morning, dozens of union members and civil rights activists turned out for the Black Lives Matter to Labor event by the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Rochester, New York. The rally showcased the unity of the local labor movement as members of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation and many others gathered as a community to speak out against racial injustice.
Shelly Clements (NYSUT/AFT-NEA), second vice president of the CBTU Rochester chapter, told those in attendance that the removal of Confederate statues and other symbolic changes are not enough. “Protest is vital, but we’ve got to have action,” she said. “It’s time to take the steps to be on the right side of history. It’s time to dismantle the oppression in our workplaces, our health care systems, our housing systems, our environment, our voting laws and our education system.”
Local elected officials and endorsed candidates also spoke at the rally. Among them was Demond Meeks, an organizer for 1199SEIU, who recently won a primary election for the New York State Assembly, with strong support from the labor council.