Updated: Jun 24
This year, as the historic mass uprising for Black Liberation commands national attention, the occasion of Juneteenth assumes a particularly momentous significance. As we honor the determination, sacrifice, and vision set forth by Black freedom fighters of generations past, we are also mindful of the tremendous work that lies ahead in the struggle for true emancipation from the tyranny of white supremacy.
To commemorate the spirit of Juneteenth, the Workers Center for Racial Justice has released a policy platform for Safety and Liberation.
For nearly a decade, WCRJ has invited local community members impacted by racialized police violence to come together and collectively reimagine what real public safety could look like in our own neighborhoods, on our own terms. These powerful conversations have served as the foundation for WCRJ's Safety and Liberation platform, through which we aim to amplify grassroots demands to end anti-Black police brutality and reinvest public resources in systems that foster universal equity and justice.
WCRJ’s platform for Safety and Liberation advocates the following state and city level policies:
Withdraw taxpayer funding from the Chicago Police Department and equitably invest in more effective public safety services. Significantly scale back operational spending on local law enforcement and reduce the police force commensurately. Replace dispatch officers with on-call city professionals - including social workers, mental health providers, human services employees, and mediators - who are better equipped to address public safety emergencies. Abolish private policing agencies.
Prohibit police unions from engaging in any collective bargaining activities outside of wage and benefit negotiations. Police union contracts have historically shielded officers from accountability for their actions, even in cases of racialized harassment, brutality, and murder. Such agreements serve as a driving force of police violence, by emboldening officers to exceed the limits of their power with the explicit assurance of impunity.
Establish a democratically elected police board to govern the Chicago Police Department. This entity will hold the exclusive authority to hire senior officers, investigate reports of police misconduct, discipline and terminate officers who are found guilty of wrongdoing, and determine department budgets and rules.
Even as we confront the challenges of a global pandemic and the practical limitations imposed by social distancing practices, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) has persevered in our mission to leverage the collective power of Black workers in the struggle for equity and justice in the labor system. Yesterday WCRJ celebrated a tremendous victory in this fight when our comrades at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School filed for their union.
Securing a majority of mental health counselors' support and signatures was no small feat, especially under the statewide shelter-in-place orders. WCRJ began organizing workers at the Orthogenic School after many employees witnessed significant cuts in their hours and felt coerced into not filing for unemployment amidst COVID-19 shutdowns. In partnership with Raise the Floor Alliance and attorney Celeste Ntuen, WCRJ held a virtual know-your-rights training, highlighting the recent changes to unemployment benefits, which kickstarted the union organizing drive.
These caring, passionate, and skilled workers are the engine that keeps the Orthogenic School running, but all too often, they face unjust working conditions and constraints on their ability to provide adequate treatment to clients. Employees of the Orthogenic School are seeking the power to negotiate equitably, believing that collective bargaining ensures more fair labor conditions for all workers.
Now under the representation of AFSCME, Orthogenic School counselors ask that the Leslie Shankman School Corporation board and management respect their right to form a union free from intimidation, coercion, or management interference. WCRJ stands with these workers in urging Orthogenic School management not to waste resources by engaging high-cost anti-labor lawyers, using paid work time to hold anti-union meetings, or distributing propaganda that undermines workers' organizing efforts.
In the weeks to come, WCRJ will continue to work in solidarity with counselors at the Orthogenic School, offering guidance and organizing assistance as they pursue full unionization. To stay updated on WCRJ's workers rights campaigns, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please contact us directly with questions or for more information about our organizing work.
This week, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WC4RJ) in partnership with Illinois State Representative Kambium Buckner hosted the Black Resilience Roundtable. At this virtual town hall event, we convened more than 150 community residents and members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for a public dialogue on the devastating toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the health and economic security of people of color across the state. Together, we explored long standing structural inequalities that underpin the disproportionate impact that this historic pandemic has on Black Illinoisans, and outlined WCRJ's racial justice COVID-19 policy agenda for the state.
You can catch full coverage of the event next week on CAN TV at the following times:
Tuesday, May 19th @ 6 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27
Wednesday, May 20th @ 8:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27
Thursday, May 21st @ 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27
WCRJ has put forth an assertive COVID-19 response plan that explicitly addresses the most urgent policy priorities of Black Illinoisans in the midst of this public health crisis. Your voice is essential to ensuring that these critical measures are implemented by our elected officials.
For more information about WCRJ's COVID-19 response agenda, please contact us directly.