The following letter was sent to the St. Paul RLF President today from the SPFE officers:
April 14, 2021
Dear President Peterson,
The officers of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators were deeply disappointed that a space that has been dedicated to worker solidarity, safety, and the protection of those that need it most, had been turned into a staging ground for the National Guard without discussion or the consent of the Regional Labor Affiliates.
The soul of the labor movement has always been about protecting workers, not just in the workplace, but in our daily lives. We fight to be free from want and from fear – in our jobs, in our schools, in our hospitals, our homes, our places of worship, in our streets, and in our union halls.
In our best moments, the labor community has lifted up the voices and leadership of those often deemed as “less than”; women, immigrants, Black, Brown, Indigenous and immigrant worker leaders. In our worst, we have helped to reinforce the norms and policies of white supremacy. Our community has much to be proud of, and so much more work to do to repair these harms.
The presence of the National Guard in our union hall was deeply traumatizing for BIPOC members of unions in both the public and private sector, especially those who lived with their presence in their communities over the past summer. The fact that the decision may have been made by individuals without consulting other affiliates, sent a message to workers that live in Saint Paul, BIPOC union members, that their lived experience has no value, and deserves no voice, in our labor community.
We would also like to be clear that the presence of the National Guard in our union hall was also deeply traumatizing to our many immigrant union members across the city of Saint Paul. We know that many of our newcomer community’s lives were disrupted and damaged by military occupation. The lack of consideration that some members of the RLF have shown to our union family by inviting the National Guard into our union hall sends the message that their lived experience, and their union membership has little or no value. This lack of care for our union family is unacceptable.
The labor movement is the most successful, and most powerful, when our community stands with us. Community stands with us when they see us fighting for them and with them. As we come out of the pandemic, and funds become available for new building projects, or for rebuilding after the Uprising, we should expect communities to make their voices heard on how those funds will be spent. Many of these communities have felt the presence of the National Guard as an occupation. Will these communities stand with us, as we ask their cities to hire union contractors, or prevailing wage requirements, if they also see us as aiding that occupation? Or will they say, “Why should union contracts matter, when unions don’t think our lives matter?
We also want to acknowledge that members of our Saint Paul union family came to the Labor Center to share their concerns, and that the National Guard is no longer in our union hall. We believe that this is the best possible resolution, and appreciate the work done to address this.
The fact that there are members of the RLF governing body that were not able to see how these actions would impact our members and our communities is an indication of the work this body needs to do to recognize our whiteness and privilege. If the RLF is truly interested in being an anti-racist organization, and we think it should be, its leaders must address their own biases and privilege. SPFE has been engaged in anti-racist training for our organization and we would be willing to share resources and ideas for next steps on doing this work with our labor family at the RLF.
It is the hope of the SPFE officers that going forward, the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation will adopt a policy requiring the approval of RLF affiliates to allow our union hall to be used as a staging area for the National Guard, and to allow the voices of impacted rank and file union members, especially those that live in Saint Paul to be heard before any such decision is made.
Nick Faber, President, SPFE
Yasmin Muridi, Director of Non-Licensed Personnel, SPFE
Leah VanDassor, Vice President, SPFE
Todd Marder, Treasurer, SPFE
Robyn Asher, Secretary, SPFE
CC: Don Mullin, Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades
Tom McCarthy, Plumbers Local 34
Denise Specht, Education Minnesota
Bill McCarthy, MN AFL-CIO