AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has announced his resignation from President Donald Trump's manufacturing council. Trumka said, "President Trump's remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday on the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America's working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups. It's clear that President Trump's Manufacturing Council was never a means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today were the last straw."
Trumka resigned behind the chief executives for the pharmaceutical giant Merck, Under Armour and Intel, as well as the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. His action also follows positive action by the Communication Workers of America.
Now, many of my friends and comrades are going to say that Trumka should never have joined the council to begin with. We felt betrayed when certain union leaders went to the White House, and we were furious when they issued statements either supporting Trump or green-lighting his infrastructure and manufacturing agenda. And people will say that Trumka should have been the first one out, and that this should have happened weeks or months ago and in solidarity with Standing Rock. These are legitimate points.
But if you organize workers and you're active in the labor movement you know that we usually have tremendous patience and restraint, we're analytical, we wait to see who's leading and who's following and what the most advanced and realistic paths forward are. Only some sections of the civil rights movement have the same sense of time and timing that we do. You learn that from the rhythms of production and from being vulnerable and from understanding something of the dynamics of privilege.
The questions for me are not about Trumka and the AFL-CIO leadership. I'm more interested in how Trumka's walking out of the council can be used to move our struggle forward. How does this touch workers, and particularly white workers who are wondering where their dog is in the race?
If people can go to work tomorrow and say, "Look, union leaders are walking out on Trump for some very good and legitimate reasons. We have two sides here: one is all about solidarity and sticking together and getting more on the plate for everyone, and the other is all about using one part of the working-class to fight the other on behalf of the wealthy. So which side are you on, sister/brother?" then Trumka did the right thing and it matters.
But if we're not having those conversations, it doesn't matter what Trumka did. It's totally on us to make this real and push it forward, way past Trumka and the AFL-CIO leadership.
That photo up above was taken in better days, when Black and white workers, and men and women, struck Massey and Pittston. At one point in West Virginia it seemed to me that we were shutting the state down as teachers, miners, phone company workers and hospital workers struck. I'll die proud of having been a part of that. C'mon, sister or brother, what's it going to take to get you on board?