Sisters and Brothers,
These are unsettling times.
Over the last several months, we have been faced with an economy on the verge of collapse, 26% of the workforce out of work, and a global pandemic that has taken more than 107,000 souls — and to add salt to the wounds — the senseless and inhumane murder in broad daylight of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The level of anger, fear, and uncertainty is unprecedented, and it’s forcing us to face the fact that racism must be eradicated from our social fabric if we have any hope of moving forward together as a nation. It’s also become clear that public sector workers and other, often ignored, workers are integral to our society.
As president of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, I want to address the blatant inequalities in our society which are being ignored and, in many cases, perpetuated by our political infrastructure (for which I blame both Democrats and Republicans).
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are too often motivated by their own self-interest and not by what is in the best interests of those they serve.
On a national level, there has been no meaningful action or discussion to fix our broken health care system, our broken public education system, the growing wage gap, or the many other social inequalities that deprive people of opportunity and hope.
It’s no wonder why our nation finds itself in this dark hole or why people are angry.
Despite what we claim to value — liberty and justice for all — our actions as a nation prove otherwise. We are a nation of unequal liberty and unequal justice. And you, as public sector employees, are the ones tasked to manage the festering despair.
I began my career in public safety as a Correctional Officer, and later retired as a Deputy Sheriff. I know, firsthand, the unique challenges facing our courageous public safety members, and can proudly say that our Correctional Officers, Police Officers and Deputy Sheriffs are the finest you will find in these professions. I am confident that they agree that there is no justification for the abuse of individuals in their custody.
As I witnessed the killing of Mr. Floyd while begging for his life, I was repulsed and heartbroken. This was on top of the distress I felt after learning about the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
These senseless brutalities, the pandemic and its accompanying economic devastation have fallen most heavily on our black and brown communities, and are affecting many of the same people who rely on the essential public services that you deliver across the State of Maryland.
So now, more than ever, I want to acknowledge how important your work is to keeping our communities together. Thank you all for the risks you take and sacrifices you make to that end. Take pride in your work and the significant role you play in our communities.
As brothers and sisters in our Union, it’s imperative that we support one another as we work together. We are a diverse composition of ethnic and racial backgrounds, religious beliefs, age groups, political and social affiliations, and sexual orientations. But, despite all our differences, we are a Union family, and our strength is our diversity.
In these times, we need to look further. It’s not enough to speak out against injustice, oppression, and racism anymore just in our workplace. We need to acknowledge what our society has ignored, and we need to act together.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” said Dr. King.
It’s time to loudly reject discrimination and hate in all its forms.
As public employees and union members, you are on the front line of the battle for a better society. Things won’t be getting easier anytime soon, and as we continue to be challenged as a nation, your jobs will become even more important. You will be helping and protecting people, serving them, and making it possible for them to live better lives.
“There is no power in the world that can stop the forward march of free men and women when they are joined in solidarity of human brotherhood.” (Walter Reuther, UAW, 1970.)
As president of our Union, I am proud to be on the front line with you. We will work together, in solidarity, support peaceful protests, and oppose brutality of any kind as we continue to pursue liberty and Justice for ALL.
Stay safe and healthy and take care of one another.