This weekend, SEIU Local 1 members and staff from Ohio participated in the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening. Over 1,500 people of color gathered in Cleveland for this historic event representing groups including labor, human rights and others.
The SEIU Local 1 members, including Executive Board Member Sandra Ellington, Cleveland Janitor Mary L. Jones and Columbus Security Officer Greg Singleton, along with staff members Yanela Sims, Northern Ohio Coordinator, and Tarik Watson, Organizer, participated in the event, billed by organizers as an event featuring “hundreds of Black freedom fighters from around the country” coming together.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to attend, and I was honored with the invitation to be a panelist along with several other labor representatives,” said Yanela Sims. “We participated in workshops, met new people, and more importantly went out into our community and did some work.”
The event highlighted the issues people of color are facing, including unabated police violence, increasing criminalization, a failed economic system, a broken education system and the loss of communities to gentrification and development.
“It was a beautiful experience…the love was felt,” said Sandra Ellington. “This shows that we can come together as a people and learn from each other and that when we work together, we can accomplish many things. We shared thoughts, ideas, challenges and solutions around the movement. This event inspired and energized u all, and we came out of the weekend ready to move forward in our fight for working people and racial justice!”
As a result of their participation in the weekend event, both Ellington and Sims were featured in this week’s issue of Cleveland Scene magazine. In the article, Ellington and Sims discussed the intersection of the labor movement and the black lives movement, and labor’s role in the on-going conversations.
“In a lot of cases, when we talk about ‘black lives matter,’ we don’t really look at the labor component of that,” Sims said. “Racial inequality is often linked to low wages. They almost go hand in hand. When you’re at the bus stop waiting to go to to work or come home from work, when you’re being harassed by the police, that’s a problem. If you don’t have a job and you have to find other outlets to take care of your family, that’s an issue. SEIU is lending a voice to that, and I think labor in general is kind of moving toward acknowledging that they’re not separate issues. When you talk about race and black lives, you’re also talking about low-wage workers and the disparity between other groups of people. It’s common knowledge that lower-wage workers tend to be people of color and women, so when you have that discussion you have to talk about both of them.”
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