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A Statement Regarding the Death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter By Paul Barton, Secretary-Treasurer

2020 has been a year of change, a year of adapting to a new reality, with COVID-19 and quarantines and self-isolations, Social Distancing, canceled travel and vacations, job loss and/or layoffs, family separations and, in addition to all of that, the effects of the virus itself on friends, colleagues and loved ones.

 

Many people are scared, many people are suffering and then, in the midst of all of this upheaval, Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over 8½ minutes, asphyxiating him and kicking off a surge of protests throughout the US and around the world.

 

Many have tried to make excuses by referencing Floyd’s prior convictions and an allegation of using counterfeit money, the reason for the call to Police, but the last I checked, neither warranted a death sentence without trial.

 

To me and many others, the scene was surreal.  There was no chase, no violent struggle, no other way to see the matter other than to watch with horror as Officer Chauvin dispassionately, calmly, sapped the life out of a fellow man while onlookers pleaded with him to release his hold on a man who was clearly not a threat and allow him to breathe.  After struggling to tell Police he could not breathe, Floyd’s final words were to call out to his late mother.

 

As an Officer of the Teamsters Union and a Representative of many, many people of colour, I am appalled at these events.  I am stunned by a system that treats people of colour as “less than” another human being.

 

By no means was this sort of event an isolated incident in America.  I say the names to give tribute to those who were involuntarily drawn into this struggle:  Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd, Teamster Brother Philando Castile, and so, so many more.

 

I’d like to believe that we don’t suffer racism in Canada, but I have come across it many times in my years, both as a worker and as a Union Representative.  I want to be clear, we do not tolerate racism within our Union ranks nor our employers.

 

It should be noted that the Teamsters Union represents some 30,000 Police Officers across North America and have received an outpouring of support for George Floyd, his family and BLM from among these Union Brothers and Sisters along with condemnation of the actions of the Police in these incidents.

 

As we continue to encourage the peaceful protests that have sprung up around the world, we pray for change and that cooler heads will prevail.  I hope for the day that all of us can see the differences in ourselves as something to celebrate, not something that breeds hate or division.

 

The Teamsters Union has a very long history of levelling the playing field through equal pay and equal rights for all, regardless of race or gender.  It’s time we held our Legislators, protectors and each other to the same standard.  It’s time to ask ourselves if there’s anything we can do better.

 

 

The links below provide a perspective from Teamsters in the USA:

 

A statement by General President James P. Hoffa:

 

https://teamster.org/2020/05/teamsters-statement-on-murder-of-george-floyd/

 

A statement by Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174 in Seattle:

 

https://teamsters174.net/teamsters-local-174-statement-on-civil-rights-labor-rights-from-local-174-secretary-treasurer-rick-hicks/

 

From the New York Daily News, a statement by Sean T. Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813 in New York City:

 

https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-put-in-our-place-again-20200610-ewycfwwsrbg7xdd2iv4merbqce-story.html

News Archive

Testimonial

For 35 years I have been a Teamster and a Dairyworker, I was a young kid needing a job in tough economic times. I found a place to work and make a living, I learned to work together with others having varying and different backgrounds than my own.

Much has changed for me personally and professionally, I got married to my beautiful wife of almost 25 years and we have raised two amazing children, both of whom are presently studying abroad. Both of my children were recipients of Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Funding.

So much of my success I can credit to having a well paying union job. The Teamsters have been a great union for me, negotiating strong collective agreements that held good wage and benefit packages as well as the cornerstone beliefs of seniority and workers’ rights. The Teamsters gave me a good wage and a voice.

I have always been an active Teamster, and now I sit on Local 464's Executive Board.

There can be a great degree of personal feelings when the word union is mentioned, but so often I look at professional associations and realize the name may be different, but the thought is the same...strength in numbers.

As I get toward the end of my career, I look forward to the thought of receiving the Teamsters Canada Pension Plan, and I am so grateful for the belief others had before me that Teamsters deserved a good and decent retirement...thank you.

Drew


- Drew Speirs

"I was employed for many years at a Teamster company that was shut down due to the economy. Because of my age, I was worried about starting over. Bobby, Bob and Paul not only negotiated a much better severance package than was in the contract, but they also went the extra mile and got me on at one of their other companies with an even better contract.They continued to help me even though it wasn't their job to."

- Armando Borean

"I was a Shop Steward and was also on the contract negotiation team. The Union took the time and trouble to learn all about our industry and what we do. This means they are better able to fight for us whether it is on the job or at the bargaining table. We have the best contract in our industry. Thanks guys!"

- Gerald Price - Agrifoods