We at UCLA CARE at Work have a mission of engaging Black workers and economic justice advocates in facilitating innovative solutions that address the needs of Black working-class people.

We focus on advocating for Black equity, as we work with more than 30 unions and community organizations across Southern California to build strong Black Worker Centers that engage local workers, shape regional coordination, and promote resource-sharing and capacity building toward field development while co-producing actionable research and policy learning to fuel change.

We are horrified and saddened by the racist, anti-indigenous and homophobic comments from Los Angeles City Council members Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León along with former L.A. County Federation of Labor head Ron Herrera. Their hateful and divisive comments have no place in our communities, not least of which from the leadership of our diverse city.

What made these vile comments so disturbing and incredibly disappointing is that they were made by some of our city’s most powerful and trusted public servants.

Our city is in dire need of leaders who not only profess their commitment to unifying our multicultural communities, but also embody the character to do so, whether demonstrated in public or behind closed doors. 

These comments undermine the progress of the L.A. worker rights movement and makes us vulnerable to the divide-and-conquer tactics that seek to slow workers’ growing power, particularly as more and more young workers seek the right to organize as Black communities face a 10-year road to a real recovery from the pandemic.

To work toward healing and rebuilding solidarity among Black and Brown communities in Los Angeles, a far-reaching investment must be made in our city’s Black working communities. Thus, UCLA CARE at Work stands with unions and Black community leaders calling for a full overhaul and culture shift within the L.A. County Federation of Labor that will empower Black workers and promote strong experienced Black labor leadership who will drive a racial equity agenda.

When we look back to the history of the labor and Black mass movement in times of crisis, and we see Black workers rising for justice and dignity, we’re reminded of the power we have to create change. Black workers’ experiences are key to organizing for change in our communities and our society. Over the past two decades, Black and Brown worker rights advocates have planted the seeds of justice together, transforming L.A.’s political landscape.

Now more than ever, community organizations, universities and unions of working people are positioned to prioritize policies and practices that will expand the Black Worker Center network and lift up our communities from the inside out. Yet, these disparaging comments from high-ranking civic and labor officials drive young Black students and activists away from our movements, and they serve to reinforce perceptions of the labor industry’s institutional racism and discriminatory past.

We stand with the community, worker centers and unions who condemned these “Jim Crow conversations” and are prepared to work with unions, worker centers and the labor movement as a whole to begin racial healing through building the durable racial equity infrastructure we need to create the brighter future that all L.A. workers deserve.

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