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Andy O’Brien
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RESOLUTION to Work for Racial Justice in the Maine Labor Movement

Passed by the Maine AFL-CIO COPE Convention

WHEREAS, racism in the United States developed as a justification for the enslavement of African-Americans in order for capital to extract wealth from their labor and build the foundation of the economy in early America; and 

WHEREAS, the dehumanization of African-Americans that was originally used to justify slavery continued long after emancipation, as Jim Crow laws, terrorism, lynchings, segregation, discriminatory labor laws, housing discrimination, lending discrimination and disenfranchisement were all designed to keep blacks as second class citizens and prevent them from accumulating wealth and equality; and

WHEREAS, the economy of Colonial New England was built by extracting wealth from land taken from indigenous peoples and from the bodies of Africans, which were transported in ships built by Mainers and traded for sugar that was sold to the rum distilleries in New England; and

WHEREAS, Maine has its own troubled history of racism with the destruction of the black and mixed-race fishing community on Malaga Island, where residents were forcibly evicted or incarcerated on specious grounds by the state in the early 20th century; and 

WHEREAS, the Ku Klux Klan surged to popularity in Maine during the 1920s, helping to elect a governor and attacking hundreds of immigrant loggers in Greenville for the crime of forming a union; and 

WHEREAS, black farm workers were assaulted and kidnapped by a white mob in 1929 for trying to start a union at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Togus; and

 WHEREAS, the arbitrary and artificial division of people into different races has always been used by wealthy elites to divide working people, preventing poor and working class whites and people of color from uniting in the spirit of solidarity to fight for freedom, dignity and a fair share of the wealth that they create; and 

WHEREAS, powerful elites have used the politics of fear and division to hijack government for their own benefit, using racial anxiety and xenophobia to inflame hatred against the government and distract voters from recognizing the threat posed by the concentration of wealth and power; and 

 WHEREAS, the enemies of the labor movement have long recognized that unions have the potential to promote racial equality, and thus our enemies have sought to destroy unions by fighting vigorously for the passage of so called “right-to-work” legislation, legislation which was originally pushed by white supremacist organizations in the South that sought to attack unions, weaken labor overall and prevent white and black workers from banding together in unions; and

WHEREAS, people of color in Maine are more likely to experience poverty or unemployment due to barriers to achieving wealth and higher education and are twice as likely as white Mainers to be unable to afford to see a doctor. At the same time, black Mainers are 24 times more likely to have tested positive for the coronavirus in large part because they are overrepresented in frontline essential industries such as grocery retail, health care, home care, nursing homes, warehouses, and building cleaning and maintenance; and

WHEREAS, numerous statistics and studies show that African Americans and people of color experience unjust and unfair treatment in our criminal justice system; and 

WHEREAS, we know that racism operates on multiple levels of interpersonal racism, institutional racism, structural racism and strategic racism; and

 WHEREAS, in order for all workers to obtain decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, retirement security, health care and education, the labor movement must mobilize to defeat racism because it destroys solidarity. But as racism can destroy solidarity, so can a true multi-racial labor movement defeat racism; now therefore be it 

RESOLVED, we will commit to confronting racism when we see it in our unions and will commit to have difficult conversations and not be silent when we hear or see racist comments or actions in the workplace; and be it

RESOLVED, we will continue to support the development of the Maine Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute to fight for racial justice and give workers of color a voice in our unions and our movement and also to bring unions to communities of color; and be it further

RESOLVED, we commit to integrate anti-racism education and racial justice within our unions, Central Labor Councils and State Federation and have honest conversations together so we can combat the divide and conquer strategy of our enemies; and now be it finally

RESOLVED, we commit to pushing forward and supporting policies that build worker power, dismantle structural and institutional racism and promote the understanding that Black Lives Matter.