Statement from the AFL-CIO Executive Council: A Call for Social and Economic Justice for Communities of Color

The labor movement gains its strength from our common belief that all people have intrinsic value and deserve dignity as their birthright, and that people of every race, religion, color and sexual orientation deserve access to the “American Dream.”

This dream of equality, fairness, and opportunity — the dream of raising a family, of having a home, and making a decent living doing work that makes you proud — is the beacon that attracts aspiring citizens from around the world.

That same dream – a dream that we all reach for – was snatched from a young black high school student named Trayvon Martin last February when he was shot and killed as he walked home one evening.

This tragedy and the sense of unrealized justice it left behind have been traumatic for many — particularly for those who have struggled to make their way in a stagnant and increasingly unequal economy.”

Trayvon’s death – and the subsequent trial — have reopened the deep and unresolved wound of racism in our country.  Nearly fifty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom we have made tremendous progress, but we still have a long way to go.  Racism remains deeply rooted in American society.  The Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act and weakened anti-discrimination laws.  Too many Americans are out of work and facing unfair and discriminatory barriers as they try to enter the workforce.  Racial profiling occurs far too often, creating distrust in communities at a time we need to be coming together.

The Trayvon Martin case is a painful wake-up call that much work remains to be done in the march toward opportunity and justice for all.  President Obama recently noted that we all need to do some soul-searching and start a conversation about race in America in families and churches and workplaces.  As we re-dedicate ourselves to continue this march, along with our allies, we will heed the President’s call to begin conversations about race with our leadership, members and staff to ensure that this tragedy leads to real action and tangible change.

The AFL-CIO will be deliberate in our commitment to advancing a full dialogue regarding racial disparities and violence in all our communities.

We shall encourage our national affiliates and our state and local bodies to participate fully in a dialogue with our partners and allies and work diligently to support policies at the federal, state and local level that eliminate discrimination, profiling and violence and to denounce Stand Your Ground laws that are advanced by the anti-worker, pro-voter suppression American Legislative Exchange Council.

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