Labor unions to join national civil rights conference with Angela Davis in November
Chicago, IL – Unions are on the march in defense of their members across the country, with the autoworker strike against GM and strike authorization votes by teachers and other city employees in Chicago. Unions are also defending their members when they leave work and find their lives in danger from the very people paid to protect them: the police.
Labor is joining a new effort to hold the police accountable for the killing, wrongful conviction, and even torture of young Blacks and Latinos. On November 22-24, veteran human rights activist Angela Davis will be in Chicago to re-establish the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR). This week, the 29,000-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 in Chicago added its name to the growing number of unions that have endorsed the conference.
Local 73 has a new president, Dian Palmer, its first Black principal officer. Last week, Palmer and Local 73 joined President Jesse Sharkey and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates of the Chicago Teachers Union in a rally with Bernie Sanders, who came to support the unions as they prepare to strike the public schools and parks to win contract gains. The 25,000-member CTU is a sponsor of the NAARPR conference as well.
Local 73 was moved to get involved in this cause because of the long list of their members who have been victims and survivors of crimes committed by the Chicago Police. Take the case of Armanda Shackleford, a lunchroom employee who retired from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Her son, Gerald Reed, is one of the men tortured into a confession by the Jon Burge gang of cops in the 1990s.
Other union members include Charlie Hernandez, a retiree from the City of Chicago parking enforcement department. Hernandez’s sons, Juan and Rosendo, were framed by Detective Reynaldo Guevara, who has been exposed for more than 50 such cases in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Regina Russell, an employee of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a member of Local 73’s executive board, is the mother of Tamon Russell, who was wrongfully convicted in 2001, framed when cops, working under another member of Jon Burge’s Midnight Crew, ignored the alibi for Tamon provided by Russell and her daughter.
Sherry Nickerson, a retired Special Education Certified Assistant (SECA) from CPS, is the aunt of Rekia Boyd, murdered in 2012 by off-duty cop, Dante Servin, who had been drinking when he fired into a crowd of young Black people in Douglas Park on Chicago’s Lower West Side, killing Boyd.
And Sable Russell, another SECA, is the aunt of Darien Harris, convicted in 2013 solely by an eyewitness who the police and the prosecutor knew was legally blind when he identified Harris in a murder trial when the young man was two months short of graduating from high school.
Other unions involved in the conference include the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1177; American Federation of Teachers Local 1493; and locals 526, 2822, and 3800 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Prominent trade unionists including Coraminita Mahr, Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 1199 are also supporting the conference.
Unions began taking a stand on the issues of racist police violence after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called for unions to rally for justice for Brown’s family. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).