Race and Labor

The WSLC continues its ground-breaking work on racial justice, equity, and the labor movement’s responsibility to tackle racism. That work began in 2015, but was spurred forward when union delegates from across Washington state approved the Resolution on Race and the Labor Movement at the WSLC’s 2017 Convention.

That resolution lays plain our history — that “race and the course of organized labor are inextricably bound and have been since workers made their first appearance on the shores of North America.” It enumerates our current challenges — that “organized labor needs to develop a robust counter narrative to that offered by right-wing populism and has yet to do so.” And it lays out the work we must take on — that “unions need to integrate racial justice into every area of their organization… to wholeheartedly combat the divide and conquer strategy of our enemies.”

The WSLC has worked with community partners, nationally acclaimed labor educator and writer Bill Fletcher, Jr., and the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center to develop a Race and Labor workshop that has been presented to hundreds of union leaders and rank-and-file members throughout the state.

“Like much else in America, workers of color serve as the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to changes in the economy,” writes Fletcher in Race to Labor: Can Organized Labor Be an Agent of Social and Economic Justice? (That important publication, produced by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, can be downloaded here, or you can order a printed copy by calling 206-281-8901.)

If you and your union are interested in conducting a Race and Labor workshop to discuss these critical issues, please contact the WSLC at 206-281-8901.


Race and Labor resolutions approved by the WSLC:

Resolution on Race and the Labor Movement 3.0  (2019)

Resolution on Race and the Labor Movement 2.0  (2017)

Resolution on Race and the Labor Movement  (2015)


ALSO at The Stand:

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting on” (by Cherika Carter and Sybill Hyppolite of the WSLC) — Sending Love: A letter to Black workers, organizers, and labor leaders. (June 12, 2020)

“We need you to fight for us to breathe” (by WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims) — Organized labor is a direct threat to white supremacy. We need to put that threat into action. (June 4, 2020)

ARCHIVE OF LABOR STATEMENTS: Labor decries George Floyd’s murder, urges action on racism — Union leaders’ profound words calling out racial injustice are important and necessary. We must also act — now and in the future — to end police brutality… We offer a collection of local and national labor leaders’ statements, and excerpts from each. Let this be an archive of organized labor’s sense of resolve at this difficult time in our history. Let this also be a reminder of our anger and our calls to action that we can refer back to in the future, as we hold each other accountable for fighting systemic racism in our unions and our country. (June 3, 2020)

“WSLC is always proud to stand on the side of justice and equality” (statement by WSLC President Larry Brown and Secretary Treasurer April Sims) — We raise our voices in solidarity with our sisters, brothers, and siblings who are putting their bodies on the line, calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. (May 31, 2020)

WSLC proudly backs racial equity bills, opportunities for all (by WSLC President Larry Brown) — Institutional racism and systemic policies that disadvantage people of color are such forces. I pledge to you that we will continue to combat them, both inside and outside the labor movement – including in Washington state government. (President’s column in the WSLC’s 2020 Legislative Report, May 12, 2020)

Washington state’s unions recommit to combating racism — At the 2019 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, delegates unanimously approved Resolution #30 — entitled “Resolution on Race and the Labor Movement 3.0” — the latest in a series of directives from grassroots rank-and-file union members to advance the WSLC’s ground-breaking efforts to educate union members about the origins and consequences of racism. (Aug. 5, 2019)

Black history informs the future of organized labor (by WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims) — This is a pivotal moment for organized labor. Our economy is changing once more. Without the leadership of unions, workers will once again pay the price. Without leadership from workers of color, we cannot stand united against the billionaires and bosses who threaten our livelihoods and our future. (Feb. 26, 2019)

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