Dear UAW Member,
We are deeply saddened and outraged over the racist and brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. This murder marks yet another devastating manifestation of racist policing, consistent with the legacies of slavery, anti-blackness, colonialism, and racial capitalism.
Floyd’s death is no anomaly. We are reminded once more of the long line of systemically driven, unnecessary and violent deaths—disproportionately Black, Native-American, Latinx and male—produced and repeated by racist policing.
As a union of teachers and researchers, we fight injustice through our work, our collective bargaining, and our activism. We have joined with many other unions in centering our most vulnerable communities in this fight, to take on the policies that foster race and income inequality in education, housing, and health care. This includes participating in Seattle protests over the past weekend and speaking in solidarity with demands to aggressively prosecute and punish Floyd’s killers. However, we must not only react to racist killings. We must take action to prevent them.
The responsibility for Floyd’s death resides both with, and far beyond the individual officers who murdered him. Law enforcement is tasked with securing an unjust economic and social order that disproportionately does violence against black, brown, and low-wage communities. While anti-bias and de-escalation training are critical, they will continue to be insufficient without expanding our notion of police accountability to include the processes, policies and practices that lead up to these killings, not only the decisions made by individual officers in the terrifying final minutes of their victims’ lives.
Recently, police unions such as the Seattle Police Officers Guild have expressed outrage over Floyd’s death as well as a desire to rebuild lost trust in the communities they police. We view statements such as these with caution. Floyd’s murder was not the result of a few bad officers – it was the outgrowth of the classist and racist role of policing in general.
In the spirit of expanding and reimagining police accountability:
We call on SPOG and other police unions to join us in committing now to resist enforcing policies and engaging in practices that specifically endanger poor, working class and communities of color. Refusal to use our collective power as workers to resist racist violence amounts to complicity with that violence. Police officers must decide whether they are public safety workers or agents of injustice.
We call on national unions—especially those representing public safety workers—and their leaders to join us immediately in harnessing our collective power to refuse to enact or otherwise enforce racist policies and practices on both their members and the society at large, especially black, brown and low wage communities.
We also call on lawmakers and government agencies in Seattle to end all racist policies and practices that result in disproportionate incarceration, harassment, killings and poverty. This includes, but is not limited to, resuming work that has been underway for years to empower community-led accountability and oversight by communities most impacted by these policies. These communities have committed themselves, working to ensure more favorable relations to the police, but have often been ignored.
While we must prosecute those who have committed egregious acts, we also need to create the conditions that enable police officers to comply with anti-racist initiatives — and move away from policing to public safety — rather than enforcing the racist and classist policies that have devastated black, brown and low-wage communities. The time is now.
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UAW Local 4121 Joint Council
Monica Cortés Viharo