We are in the middle of a pandemic and the beginning of a deep recession. At the same time, streets across our country are erupting in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The stark cover of this issue of Insight magazine reflects the tenor of this moment: anguish, outrage, and clarity. Economic justice does not exist without racial justice. This is nothing new. We are entrenched in over 400 years of systemic racism. Also, in this moment is an undercurrent of hope and possibility – but we must take action now.
PROTEC17 stands ready to meet this moment – united hand-in-hand with the many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) members and leaders who have led us here — to demand racial and economic justice, and a world in which we can all be safe and healthy. It is my commitment that PROTEC17 will not be complicit in perpetuating systemic racism. We will move forward with actions and sustainable change through the work we do and the power we have as an organization.
Recently, PROTEC17’s delegates to the Martin Luther King County Labor Council unanimously voted along with Council majority to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) from the Council. This was not an easy decision. But challenge and discomfort force change — we know this well in the labor movement.
We continue to support our members in the Seattle Police Department and at the Washington State Patrol, as well as other public safety workers who provide essential services to our community. We continue to believe that police officers, like all workers, deserve the benefits of a union. And when the Guild commits to pursuing racial justice, we will be there as partners.
Unions, including PROTEC17, need to take direction from our BIPOC members and community leaders who have carried the weight of racism for far too long. We also need to engage in a dialogue about what a fair, equitable and thriving community looks like and feels like. We need to move these discussions to action – something I will be doing along with labor partners, employers, and community groups in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Internally, PROTEC17 adopted as a three-year strategic planning priority to elevate race and justice initiatives last year. We have started this work through staff and member training and are now examining many of our processes through a lens of racial justice including negotiations, grievances, and member-leader training and recruitment, among others. We also plan to target structures at our workplaces that perpetuate racism within areas like hiring, layoffs, promotions, and employee development. And we are developing a related hub of resources, information and opportunities that will be an ongoing part of our website.
Until we change as a union – intrinsically linking racial and economic justice – we are giving up power. We are fighting for wages, benefits, dignity, and respect in a racist system that divides and harms us, especially our BIPOC siblings. Until we can unite in true solidarity and rid our own processes and workplaces of even the residues of racism, we will always be leaving something on the table.
We will know when racial and economic justice flourish in our workplaces because we will all thrive there holding equal power, truth and solidarity. Getting to this point will be a challenging journey, but a vital one. If you’re moved to action – and I hope you are – I invite you to reach out to your co-workers, your friends and your union as we move forward together.
PROTEC17 unequivocally supports fairness, equity, and opportunity for all working people. Black Lives Matter. My hope is that in time we will no longer need to say this because it will ring true in all of our hearts, workplaces, and communities.
With hope, gratitude, and determination,
Karen Estevenin, PROTEC17 Executive Director