June 3, 2020
On Tuesday, June 2—the day after President Donald Trump authorized police to use tear gas and rubber bullets on passive protesters outside the White House so that he could walk unobstructed to a nearby church for a photo op—United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway issued a statement, deploring those actions and the POTUS’s ongoing threats of military force.
Conway’s statement also was issued in support of the protesters, in Washington, D.C. and nationwide, who were reacting to the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin last week.
“Our nation continues to be torn apart as a result of the persistent, unlawful and unchecked violence against people of color. Now our president finally decided to leave the safety of his White House bunker and address the nation in person instead of through his Twitter account.
“Yet rather than choosing to de-escalate the tensions or deliver a message of unity that recognizes the nation’s pain about the ongoing racism and victimization of our fellow citizens at the hands of the police, he instead decided to fan the flames.
“When a leader threatens to use the military to quiet our nation’s voice of protest, to quell our First Amendment rights, then we are all on shaky ground. We cannot tolerate this sort of intimidation, for those who would seek to quiet even a single voice will find any excuse to do so again and again.
“Our labor movement does not and has never supported the destruction of property that unfortunately has taken place under the cover of these lawful and righteous protests.
“But at a time when our economy is so troubled, when so many are dealing with the uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are all trying to safely get back to work while making sure our families are healthy, we deserve solutions. Instead we get threats.
“The history of our union is filled with similar incidents of guardsmen and police forces being used against workers. It’s not a far stretch to envision expanded use of the military against today’s labor movement if we stand by while it happens against these protesters.
“We cannot support a president who threatens such acts against his own citizens. These protestors are justifiably angry, and we share their anger. We will not turn a deaf ear in these desperate times during which so many need so badly to be heard.”
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and health care as well as in the service and public sectors.
Research contact: @steelworkers