ON SUNDAY August 13th AFL–CIO leader Richard Trumka made his initial statement on the Charlottesville clashes between neo-Nazis supported by the Ku Klux Klan and workers and youth who opposed them.
He said: ‘Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia the nation and the world witnessed the hateful views and violent actions of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. ‘This racism and bigotry is the worst kind of evil in our world and does not represent the true values of America. The true values of our country, values like equality and solidarity, are what have always overcome the most abominable prejudices.
‘Any response must begin with our leaders, starting with President Trump, acknowledging this for what it is: domestic terrorism rooted in bigotry. My heart goes out to the victims especially the family of those who lost their lives including a young woman named Heather Heyer and state troopers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. I pray for everyone’s safety. The labour movement condemns this domestic terrorism and remains committed to eradicating the despicable causes of hatred and intolerance.’
This was before Trump made his second statement openly equating the fascists and racists with the protesters. Trumka then made his second statement on Tuesday 15th of August. He quit President Trump’s manufacturing council Tuesday evening, with the labour leader saying he refused to accept any tolerance of ‘bigotry and domestic terrorism’.
‘President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis,’ Trumka said in a statement. ‘We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.’
Trumka announced earlier this week that he was ‘assessing’ his role on Trump’s bench of factory-job advisers after the president took two days to explicitly condemn a white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville. He chose to leave the council after Trump again said on Tuesday that the blame fell on ‘both sides’ for the violence that erupted.
On Monday, pressure started mounting on Trumka — the only labour leader on the president’s six-month-old Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, as it’s formally called — after Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant Merck, stepped down. Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plant and Intel Corporaton’s top brass, Brian Krzanich, soon followed, as did Scott Paul, who heads the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
The White House didn’t comment on departures from the group, which was designed to be an informal think tank without regimented meetings. Instead, Reed Cordish, an assistant to the president, pointed to signs of economic health. ‘Under this president, we’ve seen 70,000 new manufacturing jobs, record optimism among manufacturers and unemployment hit a 16-year low,’ he said. ‘With the stock market reaching record highs, this president is delivering for the American people.’
Frazier, whose grandfather was born into slavery, decided he could no longer work on the president’s manufacturing council because Trump let days pass before denouncing the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who flooded Charlottesville starting last Friday.
‘America’s leaders must honour our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,’ Frazier said in a statement. In his statement Tuesday, Trumka said he felt the president’s manufacturing council had not taken meaningful steps to help the blue-collar workers he represents.
‘It’s clear that President Trump’s Manufacturing Council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today were the last straw,’ Trumka said. ‘We joined this council with the intent to be a voice for working people and real hope that it would result in positive economic policy, but it has become yet another broken promise on the president’s record.’
Union after union has condemned the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, which took the life of a young woman who came to protest the white supremacy groups. This tragedy is a reminder that as a nation, we have yet to address the long legacy of racism and slavery that is deeply embedded in our history and experienced in our present day,’ came a statement from Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has roughly 1.5 million members.
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million workers, said he wasn’t satisfied with the president’s comparatively slow response. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s assassination while standing up for the freedom of Memphis sanitation workers to be treated as human beings, it’s disgraceful that it took two full days for the president of the United States to condemn white supremacists,’ he said in an email.
The Teamsters, a union of 1.4 million employees in the public private sector, urged everyone to denounce acts of racism. In the face of such ignorance and malice,’ the organisation said in a statement: ‘All of us must speak out and show unwavering resolve that makes it clear that all Americans are entitled to the same rights and protections.’
• The New York City subway system is occasionally full of corpses and union members know where they keep the bodies: in the same rooms where they work and take their breaks. That’s all according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100. The union claims Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates New York’s subway system, stores the dead bodies (and body parts) of people hit, killed and maimed by passing trains in employee ‘bathrooms, facility rooms, and break rooms’ until the medical examiner’s office finally gets around to picking them up.
TWU Vice-president Derek Echevarria said, in a statement: ‘You have pieces, you have blood spatter. It could be any contamination or disease.’ MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek conceded that dead bodies do make their way around union workers’ environs–by way of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit but are usually only there for a short while before being removed.
Tarek insisted that the dead bodies are only stored in ‘non-public’ spaces and that the medical examiner responds just shy of ‘instantly’ while train service is being restored. But the TWU was having none of that.
An unnamed union source told the New York Post that corpses are left ‘leaking’ in plain sight and placed in ‘whatever room happens to be nearest. If a lunch room is the nearest, they’ll put it in the lunch room’. And, according to the TWU, the corpses tend to remain and putrefy for over two hours.
Echevarria attempted to tie the dead body story to larger subway problems. He said: ‘And that is another part of ending the service, because they’re usually sent home by what they’ve seen, what they’ve touched.’
New York City subways are currently undergoing incessant delays, frequent derailments and various other issues mostly related to insufficient infrastructure. Dead bodies disturbing transit employees does not help matters.
In a separate statement the union said: ‘Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have failed to provide enough staffing for the Medical Examiner’s Office to quickly retrieve and remove bodies from the subway after these tragedies. It’s unacceptable that transit workers have to endure this on the job.’ Dozens of people are killed in NYC subways each year.