Our union is built on one fundamental truth, when we stand in solidarity with each other we build power for everyone. The history of our movement has been plagued with places where solidarity failed because working class people allowed themselves to be divided by race, by gender, or by immigration status. The strength of Local 79 is dependent on each of us choosing solidarity in our words and in our actions.
This week a Local 79 member hung a monkey from a string at the Javits Center. My Black brothers and sisters went to a job and were confronted with a hateful reminder of some of the vilest actions in our country’s history. It doesn’t matter whether the man who hung the effigy understood the history or the incredible grief and anger his action dealt to his sisters and brothers. The measure of our collective power is determined by the love and solidarity we show for one another. That act was a violation of solidarity. That act also undermined our power, we cannot build a force mighty enough to take on the giants of real estate when our own family causes each other harm. An injury to one is truly an injury to all.
The job is a joint venture between Turner and Lend Lease who immediately shut the jobsite down and sent the workers home pending an investigation. I applaud Turner and Lend Lease for taking swift and decisive action and support them in whatever investigation is necessary. This incident tells me that we as a family must commit to better educating each other, better supporting each other and committing to a justice which would make an act like that unthinkable. When I imagine who we could be, I imagine a union where every member takes an injustice against a group they don’t belong to as deeply as an injustice against themselves. We are our brothers and our sisters keepers. We are as interdependent as the fingers that make up a fist.
The incident at the Javits Center has given me some, perhaps overdue, clarity. I have constitutional authority to dispatch Shop Stewards who represent this organization and the ideals it stands for. I promise you this, if you want to be openly racist on social media, have at it but you will have your Local 79 Shop Steward certification revoked and if you’re working as a Steward at the time, you will be replaced. You are a direct threat to our Union family and the solidarity that members have built up over the years and you do not deserve to be a representative of Local 79. Period. Only solidarity can build power. I know this post will anger some people but as I have said before “the only things in the middle of the road are white lines and dead animals.” I will not stand by and be silent to injustice.