Black History Month 2022 begins as the rights of working people are under continuous attack. While we have made tremendous progress towards equality in some respects, white supremacy and racist economic systems have perpetuated or evolved other attacks to try and keep this country from fulfilling its promise of liberty and justice for all. We cannot be a democracy if communities of color are excluded from the ballot box. We will never reach true equality if people are forced to live in the shadows due to their immigration status. We are not ready for the “economy of tomorrow” while millions work for poverty wages or in unsafe working conditions – in too many instances, both.
For Black History Month to be more than a virtual learning experience, the labor movement must work to make racial and economic justice a reality. As civil rights activist and labor leader Addie Wyatt reflected, “Each of us is a link in this great union chain that stretches around the world. I will try every day to keep my link united, active and strong.” The California Labor Federation is uniquely positioned to link legislative advocacy, political mobilization and economic power that seeks the continual betterment of California’s communities.
“Each of us is a link in this great union chain that stretches around the world. I will try every day to keep my link united, active and strong.”
– Addie Wyatt, civil rights activist and American labor leader. Wyatt is known for being the first African-American woman elected international vice president of a major labor union, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union.
In the face of structural racism and economic oppression, communities of color have stood together to form ever stronger bonds of solidarity to lift each other up. Year after year, Black Americans and communities have taken the country’s foundational original sin of racism and slavery and found ways – through the arts and culture and countless immeasurable sacrifices – to build a better future for generations that follow us. Simply put: communities of color continue to strengthen our democracy when it wasn’t even built for them … because we know a stronger democracy will build a better future for all of us.
There have been difficult moments when the labor movement did not fulfill its potential to be a home to all workers. Yet we constantly find instances of solidarity that rekindle our hope in a more united labor movement, create more spaces to uplift Black voices and promote Black joy. During the next 28 days let’s dive deeper into the intersection of Black and labor history than we have in the past so we can internalize the lessons of Black History Month and foment brighter Black Futures. Let’s create a culture shift that permeates into our daily actions. We can achieve this more just and joyous future by heeding Addie Wyatt’s words and work every day to keep the links between us “united, active and strong.”