Press Release

AFL-CIO Launches Plan for Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice

Internal Labor Conversations Around Racism Will Begin in September

(Washington, DC, July 29) – This week as part of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the AFL-CIO Commission on Racial and Economic Justice held its first meeting. The meeting was an opportunity to gather the diverse group of labor leaders as well as academic advisors together to map out a plan for a series of internal conversations around the role of race in unions, workplaces and our broader communities and economic lives.  In addition, the recent activism of the Black Lives Matter movement has created a national and global conversation about the insidious role that racism plays in the lives of black people.

Since the death of Trayvon Martin the AFL-CIO has worked to open a constructive dialogue around the role of race. This has included a speech by AFL-CIO President Trumka in Ferguson and a discussion among local labor leaders in the wake of Michael Brown’s death.  In addition the AFL-CIO is working with affiliates, constituency groups and community partners to educate workers and analyze the way racism weakens the collective power of all working people and harms both people of color and white workers. Over the next few months the AFL-CIO will identify practices within local labor bodies that build solidarity among white members and members of color, and expose practices that undermine or obstruct solidarity and constructive relationships.

The commission hopes to expand the AFL-CIO’s work to address the challenges faced by all communities of color including new immigrants who face discrimination and hate on the job, and are also more likely to get trapped in the criminal justice system.

The commission was formed at the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in February this year:

The AFL-CIO named the following members of the commission:

President Marc Perrone, UFCW, Co-Chair
Vice President Fred Redmond, USW, Co-Chair
President James Boland, Bricklayers
President Tom Buffenbarger, IAMAW
President J. David Cox, AFGE
Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO
Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, AFT
Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes, AFSCME
President Kenneth Rigmaiden, IUPAT
Secretary-Treasurer, Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO
President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO

The advisory council will include:

Dorian Warren, Roosevelt Institute Fellow & MSNBC Host, Co-Chair
Ian Haney-Lopez, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley, Co-Chair
Ana Avendano, Vice President of Labor Participation, United Way
Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director, Advancement Project
Bill Fletcher, Labor Scholar & Consultant
Jack Hayn, Assistant to President, IUPAT
Courtney Jenkins, Young Worker Advisory Council, APWU
Terry Melvin, Secretary-Treasurer of NY State AFL-CIO, President of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Chair of Labor Commission for Community Action
Steven Pitts, Associate Chair, University of California at Berkeley Labor Center
Petee Talley, Secretary-Treasurer of OH State AFL-CIO, Ohio Coalition on Black Civic Participation
Robin Williams, Associate Director, Civil Rights and Community Action Department, UFCW

Contact: Amaya Smith (202) 637-5018