The Worker Rights Consortium strongly condemns the violent anti-democratic invasion of the US Capitol building by racist and other far-right groups that took place in Washington, DC last week. As an American organization headquartered in DC with a global presence, we have seen the impact of these despicable actions reverberate throughout our community, the United States, and the wider world, amplifying fears of political violence and rising authoritarianism.
We also recognize the context from which this event has emerged, specifically, the pernicious and persistent legacy of white supremacy in this country. This was apparent in last week’s assault on the Capitol which saw a largely white mob emboldened and incited to murderous violence and destruction of public property, while Black public safety officers were specifically targeted for racist abuse and mainly Black and brown service workers left to clean up the Capitol after the riot. The rioters’ goal was to disenfranchise and deny the democratic voice of millions of voters—and, in particular, hundreds of thousands of brown and Black voters—in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
As a labor rights monitoring organization, we also see how these same dynamics of inequity are reflected in contemporary global supply chains—which rely on a poorly-paid, frequently abused, and racially stratified workforce—to deliver products and profits to corporations here in the United States and in Europe. These dynamics reinforce inequities and imbalances of power, both within and between countries, that are a product, in no small part, of the legacy of colonialism.
Our investigations into labor rights violations over the years have taught us that authoritarian attacks on human rights and democracy inevitably lead to heightened attacks on the rights of workers, especially when they belong to marginalized communities. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we have seen many governments and employers use the crisis as an opportunity to dismantle democratic institutions, attack union leaders, and further weaken workers’ basic rights in the workplace.
Those who are responsible for inciting and committing the kind of racist and anti-democratic violence seen last week should and must be held accountable. Their ideas and their actions have no place within a just society. For all of us committed to the basic rights of workers, in the workplace and as members of a democratic society, it is vital to recognize the aspects of systemic racism that were reflected in last week’s events. The Worker Rights Consortium strongly affirms the rights of workers and all people to have their democratic voices heard and rights respected, free from violence, authoritarianism, and racism, on the job and in our broader society.