AFL-CIO Demands Nikki Haley Take ‘Serious’ Action To Combat Racism
The AFL-CIO joined the chorus and demanded Republican Gov. Nikki Haley do more to combat discrimination Monday than just removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capital.
“While it is welcome news that Governor Nikki Haley has finally taken a public position to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State Capitol,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “It is far from enough.”
The demands come as a unique twist to the typical social justice exchange, with Trumka being a white man at the head of an organization with its own history of institutional racism and Haley being one of two sitting Indian American governors. Nevertheless, Haley led a bipartisan call for action following what appears to be a racially motivated massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capital, recognizing that though some see it as a symbol of heritage and pride, others look upon it as being racially charged. Trumka, however, doesn’t see the move as a serious stance against the problems of racism.
“If Gov. Haley is truly serious about change she will take a hard look at ensuring that South Carolina’s government works for everyone and not just the wealthy few,” Trumka said.
Though the union has since positioned itself as an advocate for equality, it wasn’t always that way. Back in February, the AFL-CIO noted its dark past when affirming its support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Racism has always been a key tactic of employers seeking to divide us,” Trumka said at the time. “But we also have an ugly history of racism in our own movement. Yet at the same time the labor movement has a proud history of standing for racial and economic justice.”
Gov. Haley on the other hand has actually been the subject of discrimination. In 2010, former state Sen. Jake Knotts, a Republican, attacked Haley during the primary election over her Sikh background.
Even with the modern perspective on race relations, the union still actively advocates for some policies which were originally designed to hurt minorities. Though organized labor as a whole has different reasons to support it now, among the most notable is prevailing wage laws which were originally used to keep blacks out of the workforce. A part of the Davis-Bacon Act, which was passed in 1931, some critics call it a lasting relic of the Jim Crow era still being used to discriminate today.
“When infrastructure investments are supported by federal resources, Congress should require prevailing wages and other labor protections, regardless of the funding mechanism used,” Trumka testified before the Senate back in 2011. “This will ensure that construction and transportation projects create and sustain good jobs and that these projects are done by a skilled, well-trained, local workforce, not by low-road employers.”
Though he didn’t elaborate on what policies South Carolina should pursue to promote equality, the state chapter of the union noted the tragedy is a reminder that victims like Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, believed that increasing the minimum wage could help promote respect and fairness.
Haley, who was joined by Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, promised to use executive authority to remove the flag if the state assembly doesn’t do it.
“We have changed through the times, and will continue to do so, but that does not mean we will forget our history,” she said during a press conference. “On matters of race, South Carolina has a tough history.”
“The flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past,” she continued. “Events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way, and today, we are here in a moment of unity.”
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