The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (AFT Local 3544) condemns the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and David McAtee and the violent repression of protests by police around the U.S. We stand in solidarity with demonstrators around the country who are fighting for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
The GTFF takes seriously the longstanding labor motto from the Industrial Workers of the World that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Right now, we see Black people being grievously injured and murdered as a continuation of the racial subjugation and exploitation and colonial genocide that this country was built upon. We recognize that some members of our union are reeling from a lifetime of injustice and continuous trauma. Here in our own community of Eugene, Oregon, we’ve had recent incidents of police violence and repression, including in the last few days, not to mention other day-to-day experiences of racism and discrimination. We stand with Eugene Black Lives Matter organizers in calling for reform, accountability, and transparency locally.
The movement and protests are necessitated by the lack of basic protection for Black lives in the U.S. as they are subjected to systemic and interpersonal racism and racist police brutality. The attempt to portray the victims of the situation as the perpetrators of violence is an age-old tool of villainizing the oppressed. Such a move not only spreads false fears and apprehensions but also takes people’s attention away from the real issue, which is the continuing marginalization and dispossession of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the U.S.
This is a continuous struggle that requires difficult discussions and constant reevaluation in response to the input and needs of our members and community. We continue to examine and dismantle our own practices in our union that recreate inequalities among our members.
Our parent union, the Oregon AFL-CIO, which is part of the largest national federation of unions, acknowledges that “Our systems, our institutions, and our societal norms have all been built upon this racist foundation that gives some people privilege and intentionally takes it away from others based on the color of their skin.” Unfortunately, the national AFL-CIO has failed to contend with the ways in which police unions have perpetuated these same racist practices. We cannot in good faith support this contradiction of values.
The purpose of labor unions is to protect and advance the interests of workers and workers’ safety. Our position is that police unions too often use their power to protect individuals and institutions that contribute to the murder and oppression of the most margnialized people in our society and ultimately uphold white supremacy. The GTFF has resisted affiliation with campus and community law enforcement. We will continue to advocate for our members, students, fellow workers on campus and in the community.
This is our promise to you:
We will continue to push both statewide and national labor organizations toward a just labor movement for all workers, especially our Black union cousins. We call on AFL-CIO, our parent organization, to end affiliation to any police union in their federation and to commit to discontinuing union organizing of police.
Furthermore, we will pressure the University of Oregon to publicly address and work to rectify their own complicity in recreating the oppressive structures of white supremacy.
We see you. We hear you. We stand up and fight back with you, always.
Black Lives Matter.