AFGE Leader: Don’t Let Racism Distract Us from Real Issues

In these economic times, every American worker should be hopping mad. Working families have been left behind like never before. Gender bias, racism, they’re not free. The real issues—Wall Street, health care, jobs, Iraq, gas prices, Social Security—have serious financial consequences for all of us.

Gage says he is optimistic that union members will go beyond the divisive rhetoric and focus on the real issues:

We built the middle class and we’re not giving it up. There are a hundred good reasons for how you vote this year and only one bad reason—prejudice. Let’s talk about the real issues.

In a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gage said:

Some Americans, while viewing themselves as fair-minded, will subconsciously transfer unresolved issues about race into more comfortable zones like patriotism, experience or values … This election is too important to be decided by leftover biases. It is incumbent upon federal workers, as well as other union members, to help crack through racial barriers within our families, friends and neighborhoods.AFGE represents 600,000 federal and District of Columbia government workers nationwide and overseas.

Following a stirring speech last July at the United Steelworkers (USW) convention, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka sparked a nationwide dialogue on race and the election. Trumka spoke forcefully about the need for all of us to overcome racial prejudice when voting for president and cast our ballots for our economic interests and in support of America’s future prosperity.

Citing Sen. Barack Obama’s clear record of supporting working families and Sen. John McCain’s long record of opposing anything that would help workers, Trumka told USW members:

Brothers and sisters, there’s not a single good reason for any worker—especially any union member—to vote against Barack Obama. There’s only a bad reason: because he’s not white.

I don’t think we should be out there pointing fingers in peoples’ faces and calling them racist; instead we need to educate them that if they care about holding on to their jobs, their health care, their pensions, and their homes—if they care about creating good jobs with clean energy, child care, pay equity for women workers—there’s only going to be one candidate on the ballot this fall who’s on their side—Barack Obama.

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