Friday, June 5, 2020
On behalf of 45,000 state employees represented through SEBAC, many of them staffing the front lines in the struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to raise our voice in unequivocal condemnation of our nation’s oldest pandemic – racism. We proudly serve the people of this state – and that includes thousands of us who serve as first responders in health care, firefighting, and law enforcement. Law enforcement is meant to be a profession of public service, exemplified by the thousands of first responders who ran into the burning buildings on 9/11, and who run towards, instead of away from, so many dangerous events that threaten the public we serve. When policing is infected by the systemic racism and violence that sadly infects so much of our society, when not only justice but life itself depends upon the color of a person’s skin, policing becomes a mockery of its motto “to protect and serve.” State workers not only condemn that degeneration of what it means to be a public servant – we stand proudly in support of and alongside those who are struggling to change it.
All working families, black, brown and white, are diminished by a nation that over a century and a half after the formal elimination of slavery, still leaves black people and other people of color victimized by systems that institutionalize racism – criminal justice, education, housing, healthcare, and the economy. We know as union members, black, brown, and white, that we can only rise together, and that the divisions caused by racial oppression only help to sustain a system in which all working families, the vast majority of Americans, continue to fall behind, where most are only a paycheck away from bankruptcy, where economic insecurity is the defining characteristic of almost everyone except the tiny percentage of multimillionaires and billionaires who are thriving in today’s broken system. This system of unfathomable division by class and race, and the politics of hatred, bigotry and envy it supports, is nothing like the democracy we teach our children America is supposed to be. We must find a way to change it.
As public servants, we pledge to continue our fight to provide the critical services upon which all our communities and our economy depend, and to challenge in every way we can the myriad ways in which systemic racism impedes and degrades that effort. As union brothers and sisters, we pledge to stand with all of our brothers and sisters, black, brown, and white, as they struggle to realize the America we’ve all been promised – one that truly is one nation, with liberty and justice for all. If nothing else, watching the video of those men using the authority granted them by the City of Minneapolis to take George Floyd’s life tells us how far we are from that America today. If we have the courage to stand together and demand the change we all need, we will be much closer to that America tomorrow.