The labour movement knows well the oppression that government and police are willing to inflict on those demanding justice. Not long ago, our own union was painfully reminded that constitutional rights only exist as long as they don’t inconvenience the powerful. If we had dared to defy this authority, police boots and fines would be there to remind us of our ‘place’ in the world. Although individual police are often recruited from the working class, their group interests as an institution are unconditionally hostile to the empowerment of the rest of the working class and, especially, unions.
This punitive reality is even more dire for our cousins and comrades in marginalized and racialized communities. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police was a breaking point. It forced a confrontation with state institutions long known for their corruption and willingness to openly break laws they’re supposed to uphold. If any other groups of people behaved the way police do, and have during the resulting global protests, they’d be labelled as criminal organizations. Again, marginalized and racialized communities suffer this hypocrisy more deeply as they are harassed or killed by law enforcement at shockingly higher rates despite making up a considerably smaller portion of our population.
At our June 2020 general meeting, our Local voted to support the demand to divert funding from police to community services as well as make a donation to the Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter to amplify their advocacy of this inspiring cause. Defunding the police is a powerful first step in realigning the power dynamics influencing our communities and oppressing our most vulnerable. In 2020, Edmonton city council spent $383 million on police and only $38 million on community services. Our tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on criminalizing people who are non-white, poor or have mental health problems; instead, it should go to affordable housing, counselors, social workers, and other vital community services that seek to lift people out of hardship instead of punishing them for it.
The spirit of solidarity is strongest when it's acted upon. Our Local wants to encourage others in the labour movement, not already doing so, to support this important cause by joining the protests calling out corrupt law enforcement, donating to help amplify marginalized voices, and demanding more community investment through police divestment wherever you live. An injury to one is an injury to all!
[Link to Black Lives Matter (YEG) statement & petition on police defunding: blmyeg.ca/news/defund-eps-letter-template]
The struggle continues.
In solidarity on behalf of CUPW Edmonton & Affiliates,
President, CUPW 730