It’s a very interesting time to be in the labor movement, with a lot going on impacting us as workers seeking justice on so many fronts. Some people have questioned why we as a union get involved in current political causes and events and why we take stands on issues they believe are not connected to our jobs or our workplaces.
Let me share with you my viewpoint: as a union, we are so much more than just an organization advocating for workplace change. Unions have been, and always will be, a voice for the powerless and an advocate for change. By bringing together the collective voices of people who individually lack power, we are a fierce champion for equality, justice and change.
I understand that some causes may go against people’s personal beliefs or politics, and that’s the beauty of our union democracy. People are free to disagree and sit out, if they so choose. Still, as your union president, and on behalf of what our officers and I perceive to be in the best interests of the members, we must take a stand for those principles and issues that align with our core values.
And these days, there’s a lot to be taking a stand about.
We’ve got the economic fallout from the pandemic, which threatens to seriously diminish our public services and cut the jobs of the union members who provide them if we don’t fight hard collectively for needed federal aid.
We have the Black Lives Matter movement spreading around the globe attempting to right the wrongs of hundreds of years of oppression and inequality for so many of our brothers and sisters. Please understand that our support of equality for African Americans does not mean we are taking a stand against all law enforcement. We do not support defunding police. We simply believe that racism has no place in government or anywhere else and stand in solidarity against all oppression rooted in racial discrimination.
We also recently saw two great decisions in the Supreme Court that we proudly stand behind. The first, making workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression illegal. The second, taking away the administration’s ability to arbitrarily rescind protections for children with undocumented immigration status.
These are all issues our union can and should take a stand on. That’s why I was proud to direct our staff to fly a banner outside our Albany Headquarters bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” and our CSEA logo. I was also proud to issue a statement to support the recent Supreme Court decision against LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination.
This is only the tip of the iceberg on these issues. We have more work to do to address inequality for all workers. It’s what we do. I look forward to continued conversations with you about how we can unite around issues of fairness and equality.
Mary E. Sullivan, President