Coalition Statement on Police Violence and Racial Injustice

Our country is very sick. Our society is on life support.

We don’t just mean the coronavirus. Black people are more likely to die both of COVID-19 and police violence. This is no coincidence; it’s proof that the racial injustice killing people of color in our country is not the fault of some “bad apples,” but runs both wide and deep throughout our society.

We join the family and friends of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and far too many others in their grief. No one should have to suffer as they do. Our hearts are truly with them, now and always.

But our grief must move us to action. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions absolutely condemns racism and violence, and stands — or rather, kneels — alongside Black Lives Matter and all people of good faith striving to create a more just society, free of racism, violence, and discrimination.

Why This is a Labor Issue

Police violence against people of color is a labor issue because it’s a community issue and unions are the community. As health care workers, we serve people of all colors and backgrounds because we are those people.

As union members, we must make our political leaders at all levels step up and address the real issues of structural racism in police departments and elsewhere.

They need to stop squandering taxpayer dollars on militarizing police departments, which only leads to escalation and casualties. Instead, we must commit resources to schools, health care, jobs, infrastructure, and other services that strengthen communities by creating opportunities for people. Only then can we begin to end institutional racism.

Law, Order, and Justice

We also remind the law enforcement community of its duty to protect and serve, not “dominate” our communities with war machines, unprovoked beatings, tear gas, and death by suffocation.

Police departments must be reformed from the top down, with leadership committed to real justice, not just law and order. Law and order without justice is a police state. Some police unions have forsaken labor’s ideals of justice and equality, and they too must be held accountable for their role in perpetuating violence against people of color.

No one should have to die at the hands of someone sworn “to protect and to serve,” but the sad reality is George Floyd was intentionally killed by a racist cop, and that is the responsibility of both labor and management to change.

Finally, we remember our obligation as union members to continue the labor movement’s historic commitment to social justice. Giving up is not an option. The struggles for economic and racial equality are one and the same. This is the labor movement’s fight because we cannot achieve economic justice without racial justice. Both are essential if we are ever to heal our society.