A Special Letter to the UNITE HERE Family: Our Commitment to Justice
May 1, 2015
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon and which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our Union is among the most militant in America.
Our members are people of all colors and immigrants from around the world. They’re brave people who left everything behind—whether escaping segregation in the Deep South; political persecution in Cuba and Central America; war in Africa; economic degradation in Haiti, the Philippines and Mexico; or old factory towns destroyed in our countries.
We are fighters. We are a union of people who fight for every inch of progress and against all forms of repression. We led the historic Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. We were the first to endorse an African American candidate for President. We were the Union to demand African American hiring in our Union Contracts and an end to bigotry against our sisters and brothers in the LGBT community.
Police violence against unarmed African American men only reminds us of the images of Selma. And mass incarceration of men and youth of color exposes the travesty of the current criminal justice system.
But violence in response to violence is both unacceptable and counter-productive. It always leads to loss of those who are oppressed and reinforces the view of the oppressor.
We must all be reminded that militancy does not mean violence. And non-violence does not mean weakness.
Most of our Union’s leaders have taken to the streets, been arrested, but always held their ground: hands and fists raised in protest, but never in acts of violence.
We have an unfulfilled obligation to teach young and justifiably angry women and men how they can practice our kind of militant non-violence. Because we win. It works.
I am calling on our Union’s leaders throughout the United States and Canada to reach out in the communities we represent and share with all who want to learn from us and form a more just society.
Our Union stands strong in the face of injustice and exclusion and racism and sexism. Black lives matter. Immigrants’ lives matter. LGBTQ lives matter. Women’s lives matter. Workers’ lives matter. This has been our defining purpose as a Union all along: to fight for basic human rights and human dignity. And we must be more strongly committed to this fight than ever.