Minneapolis labor unions call for justice for George Floyd

Minneapolis police station (David Joles:AP)
Protesters climb over the fence surrounding the 3rd precinct police station in Minneapolis on May 28. (David Joles / AP)

By ERNIE GOTTA

The streets of Minneapolis are on fire. A rebellion is underway demanding justice for George Floyd. On Thursday, May 29, protesters marched to the 3rd police precinct to raise their demands. The protesters forced an evacuation of the building and the building was set on fire.

Governor Tim Walz is set to send in the National Guard—whose presence will only create a more dangerous situation. Protesters are demanding the arrest and prosecution of the police officers. Why is the governor denying their demands, while instead, dozens of cops and National Guard troops are sent to protect the home of the officer who committed the murder?

(See newly released footage below, which shows three police officers hold George Floyd down as he moans that he cannot breathe.) 

The masses in the streets are hungry for justice, but instead all they are getting is rubber bullets and tear gas. As protests spread nationwide, members of oppressed communities and the working class in general are often setting aside considerations for their own personal health, risking exposure to COVID-19, in order to demand justice for George Floyd.

Demands and actions for other victims of police brutality, like Breonna Taylor, have hit the streets. The heroic efforts of frontline workers during the COVID crisis is now taking a political turn as the working class spills over into the arena of political struggle.

Minneapolis transit workers speak out

Virtually all transit operations were suspended in Minneapolis, as the drivers in ATU Local 1005 expressed their anger and frustration. Earlier, some drivers said that they would refuse to operate their buses to convey detained protesters to jail, as the police department had stated it would ask them to do. On Facebook, the union in a statement said, “Police brutality is unacceptable! This system has failed all of us in the working class from the Coronavirus to the economic crisis we are facing. But this system has failed People of Color and Black Americans and youth more than anyone else.

“More than ever we need a new Civil Rights Movement. A Civil Rights Movement that is joined with the labor movement and independent of the corporate establishment’s political parties, so all workers from every religion, race, and sexual identity can struggle together for a better future for people of color and for our collective liberation as working people—for economic justice, racial justice, and the end to all oppression and hate in all its forms…

“We say ‘NOT ONE MORE’ execution of a black life by the hands of police. NOT ONE MORE. JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD!”

Labor unions call for justice

Unite Here Local 17 in Minneapolis was the first to have a strong statement demanding justice. Local 17 wrote, “We stand in solidarity with George Floyd’s family. We demand justice for George Floyd. We demand a stop to the unnecessary violence at the hands of those who have sworn to ‘serve and protect’ us. … Our union stands on the side of justice. Our union stands for #blacklivesmatter.”

Shortly afterward, Unite Here put out a statement nationwide saying, “For months we have grappled with ‘the new normal’ of living in the midst of COVID-19. We’ve struggled with job loss, with wearing masks, with the need to socially distance. What we need to grapple with, and change, is the historic normal. The commodification and the brutalization of Black people. From Emmett to Trayvon to Sandra to Tamir to Eric to Philando to Botham to Breonna to George Floyd and too many others—it has become ‘normal’ to see our Black Brothers and Sisters being killed, and we cannot and will not stand idly by.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. Black Lives Matter, George Floyd’s life matters. Justice must be served, and our country must change, because this “normalshould not be normal.”

National Nurses United writes, “Even in the midst of a pandemic, societal racism continues to be a national plague, says NNU. That is seen in harassment and threats of Asian-Americans targeted by those blaming them for the virus, racist signs carried by some of those protesting sheltering policies, as well as disproportionate COVID-19 deaths of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans…”

At the NNU Convention in 2018, the statement points out, “NNU members cited ‘the pervasive problems of racial, economic, and social injustice that have so stained our nation and undermined the promise of democracy’ and re-emphasized that ‘as nurses, we are dedicated to prevent all forms of illness, protect health, and alleviate human suffering.’”

Connecticut Workers Crisis Response, a rank and file lead labor group writes, “The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and Breonna Taylor murdered by police in Louisville, Ky., is outrageous. CT Workers Crisis Response (CWCR) stands in solidarity with the movement to demand justice for Floyd, Taylor, and all victims of police brutality. The racism inherent in the so-called justice system has left numerous families grieving untimely and needless deaths. In Connecticut, our home state has denied justice in the case of the police murdering Jayson Negron, Zoe Dowdell, Anthony Vega-Cruz, Jose Soto, Mubarak, and others.”

The United Steelworkers Union writes, “Our union, the United Steelworkers, is great because of our solidarity, our respect for each other, and our unyielding commitment to justice, fairness and equality. The labor movement gains its strength from our common belief that all people are inherently valuable and have an undeniable right to a fair, just and dignified life, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

“Many of us, as a result, were not only appalled but distraught to witness the killing of a Black man in Minnesota, George Floyd, at the hands of Minnesota police officers while lying on the ground handcuffed. One of the officers kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he begged for his life with those now familiar words, ‘I can’t breathe.’”

The protest phrase “No Justice, no peace!” is being tested in Minneapolis right now. Governor Walz, instead of granting justice, has decided to shield police officers. This has stirred up memories of the past when Joe Biden’s now vice presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar, as Hennepin County attorney in 2007, refused to prosecute the same officer who murdered Floyd.

As the National Guard readies for deployment, labor unions should bring their workers out on strike and help lead the mobilizations on the street. Call for the National Guard to stand down and refuse to suppress the demonstrations! Demand that the National Guard show their solidarity by refusing to deny justice to the masses of oppressed working people and refusing to be a tool of repression like Amy Klobuchar and her buddies across the political spectrum.

Justice for George Floyd! Solidarity with the uprising in Minneapolis! End police brutality everywhere! Jail killer cops! Abolish the police!

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