Federal Employees News Digest
Fed unions speak out against racial injustice
- By Nathan Abse
- Jun 15, 2020
More than a third of the federal workforce is minority -- either African American, Hispanic, Asian or other non-white employees -- and one-fifth of permanent employees identify as black. The great diversity of America’s civil service and its members’ ability to work together to accomplish government’s many missions and serve over 325 million people speaks to the strength and diversity of the nation as a whole.
Yet racial injustice still haunts this country, as demonstrated by statistics that show black men are arrested and killed by police at a rate far higher than white men – and most especially by the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man and father who was killed by Minneapolis police after being arrested on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill. A video uploaded to the internet showing an officer kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck quickly went viral and led to murder charges against the officers involved.
Floyd’s killing, which inspired street demonstrations across the world, brought strong protests and reflections from union leaders representing of federal employees.
“As an American, a part of my soul left me as I watched that beautiful young life leave Mr. Floyd on the pavement at the hands of those who were sworn to protect him,” American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said in a statement expressing the union’s support of the Black Lives Matter cause. “As a black man, husband, and father -- raised in the Jim Crow South and living in a nation where black bodies continue to be assaulted with impunity every day -- I know I am not alone in feeling the indignation, the anxiety, the rage that comes from knowing it just as well could have been my son or nephew that perished beneath that callous officer’s knee.”
“This must end here. This can never be normal again,” he said. “This generation -- the young men and women of all races thronging the streets across America -- are crying out for an end to racism once and for all. I too will dedicate every ounce of influence and fiber of my being I can muster to realize the dream of America for all my brothers and sisters to come.”
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, also spoke of the torture and death of Floyd at the hands of public servants.
“Like many of you, I watched the murder of George Floyd with disbelief, anger and deep sadness,” Reardon said in a statement. “It is heartbreaking and infuriating that so many of us, our loved ones, friends, neighbors and community members are still fighting for an equal chance to succeed, to be recognized, to be heard, and fundamentally, to be able to live.”
“As a labor union, we must stand up for those who feel voiceless by linking our arms with theirs and we must speak up and speak out in support of ALL those we represent,” Reardon said. “We must never stand by silently when we witness acts of oppression and inhumanity. That is not what we are about or who we are as a union.… We are united in our belief that every individual matters and in our shared humanity.”
“We must welcome all to our union because we recognize that we are truly strengthened by all,” he continued. “Federal employees are the backbone of this country and our country needs you now. Stay safe, stay strong and let us stand together. Because together we can -- we must -- build a better future for our federal government and our nation, and all people who live under our flag.”
Another union president spoke out on the killing, the resulting protest movement and the ongoing struggle for a better, more truly inclusive country.
The National Federation of Federal Employees “is proud to stand in solidarity with the millions of Americans around the country who have been raising up in protest of the racial and societal inequality that plagues our great nation,” NFFE President Randy Erwin said in a letter to union members. “We are at a seminal moment in our history when injustices that have undermined our country for far too long have been laid bare, and the opportunity to correct them is within arm’s reach. In this critical moment, NFFE will stand on the side of justice.”
“We must never forget: an injury to one is an injury to all,” Erwin said. “That is a core principle of our great Union and the Labor Movement as a whole.”