Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Juneteenth:
On June 19, we commemorate the official freeing of the last enslaved Black people in the United States. This is a day of profound meaning to Black workers, as it should be to all working people who cherish and defend the freedom to live our own lives, speak with our own voices and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Juneteenth reminds us that we are independent of those who hire us, who seek to control us and who view us as objects with costs instead of as human beings with inherent dignity and worth.
The original Juneteenth celebrations happened on the Texas Gulf Coast, the childhood home of George Floyd. This Juneteenth will be celebrated around the country—from Galveston, Texas, to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C.—by people demanding justice for George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and far too many others. We will be in the streets, both celebrating and demanding our freedom—freedom from racism and all the poisonous fruit it bears.
On this Juneteenth, we especially call attention to the economic disparities that persist for Black Americans. Though explicit slavery has been abolished for more than 150 years, the exploitation of Black labor continues to this day through a systemically racist economy designed to promote wage disparity in the workplace and the chronic unemployment of Black people. At a time when unemployment in America is at record levels—with the official rate at 13.3% and the Black unemployment rate at 16.8%, with a disproportionate impact on Black women—we must fight more than ever before to ensure true economic freedom for Black workers. We will not allow workers to be perpetually divided by race!
America’s union members, fresh off our Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice, are eager to take part in Juneteenth this year, many for the very first time. We are grateful for the struggle of Black leaders and community members who have poured sweat and shed blood in the pursuit of a greater America. We recommit ourselves today and every day to be a voice for all who live and work in these United States and to say out loud the names of those who were taken from us by racist violence. Black Lives Matter.