Statement from Tennessee Central Labor Council Presidents on Worker Solidarity and Racial Justice

Sisters and Brothers,

Central Labor Councils throughout Tennessee were planning to join union members and working people across the country for a national day of action this Wednesday, June 3rd. The purpose of this national day of action was to demand that local, state, and federal governments put workers first in this health and economic crisis. 

After the recent murders of black people and the overwhelming response of communities across the country standing up for justice, the AFL-CIO has decided to give space for the national conversation on racial justice and postpone this national day of action. Therefore, our actions across the state have been postponed. 

We stand with our brothers and sisters calling for the prosecution of all officers involved in the killings of George Floyd and Breona Taylor, and swift justice for Ahmaud Aubrey. We also mourn with those in our own communities who have lost loved ones in officer involved shootings who have yet to see justice. We believe that racial justice and economic justice are intrinsically tied. You cannot fight for one without the other. The harm caused to black communities through the underfunding of public schools, gentrification and real estate redlining, poverty wages, and voter suppression are as relevant today as ever. We cannot achieve economic justice without ending white supremacy. We cannot end white supremacy without winning a just economy for all. 

While our June 3 day of action is postponed, let’s be clear what is not postponed: The reconvening of the TN Legislature isn’t being postponed. Our cities’ budget processes aren’t being postponed. The fallout from the Coronavirus isn’t being postponed. Racial profiling and harrasment in our black and immigrant neighborhoods are not being postponed. State and Federal elections aren’t postponed. The attempts by corporate CEOs and big business special interests to put profits before people will not be postponed. As our communities continue to stand up and demand justice in our workplaces and in our streets, we are with you. The work towards justice takes many forms. Let us not forget that our own struggles to build our unions also at times involved mass demonstrations and civil unrest.  

We do not have all the answers in this moment (or ever), but here’s what we do know: Now more than ever, we must pay attention to and get involved in our local elections; We must be vigilant in passing local and state budgets and other legislation that confronts austerity, privatization, and layoffs, and undoes the legacy of white supremacy and poverty; We must build solidarity with other grassroots organizations fighting for our communities; and we must organize with our co-workers, both within and outside of our unions.

While our actions on Wednesday are postponed, we are not postponing our commitment and energy to fighting for justice for all. 

In solidarity,

Vonda McDaniel - President, Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle TN

Irvin Calliste - President, Central Labor Council of Memphis and West TN

Michael Starling - President, Chattanooga Area Labor Council

Sam Alexander - Knoxville-Oak Ridge Central Labor Council