After President Donald Trump’s disturbing and revealing response to a murderous mob of white supremacists in Charlottesville, the American labour movement has come together as a voice against racism and “alt-right” extremism.
RWDSU President and UNI Commerce Global President Stuart Appelbaum issued a statement saying, “The white nationalism on display this weekend has no place in our communities, our politics, or our workplaces. It is our responsibility to stand up against the hateful ideologies that have become alarmingly mainstream over the past year. My thoughts and prayers are with victims of these acts of terrorist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
On behalf of its membership, the CWA made clear it rejects “the vile actions and rhetoric of the white supremacists who paraded their hatred and bigotry this weekend in Charlottesville.”
Trump’s initial reaction to the death of anti-racist activist Heather Hayer on Saturday was to blame “many sides” for the violence, and during a freewheeling press conference on Tuesday, the U.S. President shamefully reiterated this false equivalency between Neo-Nazis and anti-racist counter demonstrators.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry’s response to Trump captured the mood of the movement stating, “President Trump’s remarks . . .were reprehensible. He doubled down on blaming ‘both sides’ for the hatred, bigotry and violence in Charlottesville instead of standing up to the white supremacists and their racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ views, and standing up for the Americans they attacked in Charlottesville and throughout history.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote in the New York Times, “We in the labour community refuse to normalize bigotry and hatred. And we cannot in good conscience extend a hand of cooperation to those who condone it.”
Trumka resigned from the President’s American Manufacturing Council because he “cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.”
Business leaders including Ken Frazier, the chief executive of Merck; Kevin Plank, the leader of Under Armour; Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel; and Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing joined Trumka in resigning from the advisory council.
“America’s leaders must honour our fundamental values,” said Merck CEO Ken Frazier in announcing his resignation, “by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”
After these defections, Trump disbanded the group.
As the controversy unfolded a growing chorus of executives and Republican leaders has expressed disapproval with Trump’s refusal to forcefully condemn white supremacists. However, some industry leaders, including Michael Dell of Dell Computers, have remained silent or neutral.
“There is no defence for racism, and silence in the face of Trump’s appalling response to terror in Charlottesville is cowardice at best. From apartheid to the alt-right, the global labour movement has a long history of resisting hatred and advancing justice. We will unite in our unions, in our jobs, in our communities, and in our streets to overcome the Trump administration’s agenda of division and the racism it has emboldened,” said UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings.