I have said many times that our diversity at UFCW 1776KS is one of our greatest strengths. We are 35,000 members strong and we are black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. We are straight, LGBT, young, old, single, and married. We are all brothers and sisters in one family, and yet we speak English, Spanish, Creole, and many more languages. We work in dozens of different industries and we live in small towns and major cities. But we speak as one shared and powerful voice - and that matters when we are fighting for a new contract or trying to organize a new worksite.
As our country reels from the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, I am asking you to take just a few minutes to think about how important it is that we stand together as one family because our country sorely needs the type of unity that I see every day at this Local.
Mr. Floyd’s death has generated massive protests, prayer services and vigils, and, unfortunately, the destruction of businesses in cities across America. We are witnessing more instances of police brutality daily, it seems, that have been caught on camera in one protest after another. In Washington D.C., President Trump ordered military police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters.
The National Guard has been called out and curfews have been imposed by mayors across the country. Yet our President continues to inflame the situation and put lives and our Democracy at risk. He has talked about turning tanks on American citizens who are exercising their right to peaceful free speech. One U.S. Senator called on our government to “send in the troops” on our fellow citizens.
The growing outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death has had a direct impact on our Local. Over the past 10 days, close to 2,000 of our members who work at grocery stores, pharmacies and at Pennsylvania’s wine and spirits shops have been put out of work due to damage to stores. We can never condone destroying property. We all understand that peaceful protests and picket lines are an important tool for our Local and all unions as we fight for our members’ rights. Still, we know that the vast majority of protesters have acted responsibly and within the law. We know that much of the violence was created by splinter groups who thrive on chaos. It is regrettable and it is wrong, but it is not the real story here.
The fact is that for far too long in our country, many, many black Americans are killed, beaten, arrested, or harassed because they are black. I am sure that many of you have witnessed it in some form or fashion in your lives. We can no longer ignore this systemic racism.
I cannot imagine the pain and anger that black Americans feel when they see that video. But I know that they are hurting, that they are rightfully frustrated and disappointed. I know that UFCW 1776KS has made progress in being more inclusive. We continue to work hard to open opportunities for black Americans and all minorities, whom are among our brothers and sisters at this Local.
I also know that we can all do more, here at the Local and across our nation. Our nation has to come together and address this issue head on. Again, I urge you to take just a few minutes and think about our shared strength here at the Local. I believe that our diversity is emblematic of what our nation should be. As we move forward, please remember that we are stronger when we stand together.