By voice and vote, Communications Workers censure Trump’s racism
Line of delegates waiting to speak in favor of a motion censuring President Donald Trump for his racism at the CWA convention. | Hyungwon Kang / CWA

LAS VEGAS—By voice and by vote, in statements from leaders and members and in a blistering resolution, the Communications Workers convention strongly censured GOP President Donald Trump’s racism.

Trump’s “naked appeal to white supremacy” is “dividing the country in ways we haven’t seen in half a century and probably haven’t seen since the Civil War,” union President Chris Shelton declared during his keynote address on July 29 to the convention’s 2,000 delegates.

The blast at Trump was one of several highlights of opening day of the union convention, held in Las Vegas. Another was exhortations to build on past political momentum, and victories, in the run-up to the 2020 national election.

“It’s not just the president,” Shelton explained, after citing the need to beat Trump next year. “We also have to hold the (U.S.) House. And nationally, Senate races won’t be easy. But the road to a majority runs through North Carolina, Maine, Georgia, Arizona, and Colorado.”

Vulnerable GOP senators from those states, along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and 16 other Republican senators, are up next year. Democrats hold 45 Senate seats, plus two Democratic-leaning independents, and are defending 12. A five-seat Democratic gain would turn over the Senate.

“We must do everything we can to win the Senate and ask American politicians to serve the American people again.”

And the union’s women’s committee – whose report noted a dearth of women in top posts at CWA, in unions and in politics — pledged to put a woman in the White House and add so many women into top ranks that CWA would have to set up “a men’s committee” to tackle their problems.

But Trump’s racism, especially his vitriolic “go back where you came from” attacks against progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, were the focus of ire, and not just from Shelton.

“In times like these, we need to be united as a union and as a country,” said Diane Bailey of Local 4310 in Columbus, Ohio, during the brief discussion. “Division only works against us. We must not go backward; we can only move forward.”

“White nationalism is wrong. Racism is wrong,” declared Local 4123 President Charles Daniels of Pontiac, Mich. “The president of the United States telling four women of color to ‘go back where they came from’ is wrong.”

“We stand up to bullies and we have to stand up now because it is the president of the U.S., so it’s incumbent on us to say ‘no.’ As powerful as he is, it’s wrong,” Daniels said of Trump’s statements.

The resolution was in a similar vein.

After citing the Statue of Liberty’s poem by Emma Lazarus, the resolution said, “that is the America we believe in. Apparently, the president of the United States does not share that belief.”

The resolution says Trump’s attacks on the four first-year lawmakers, all women of color and all Democrats, are “offensive, demagogic, dangerous and racist.”  Trump’s language “poses a particular danger to Omar, given the barely hidden networks of armed white supremacists whose hatred of Muslims hardly needs to be stoked by” Trump.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim American women ever elected to Congress. Omar is a refugee from the Somalian civil war. Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, and Pressley are native-born.

CWA not only denounced Trump but demands other unions, legislatures and community groups do so, too. Earlier in July, the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, did so. But CWA also demanded Trump’s GOP colleagues to “denounce his un-American rhetoric.”

“All too many have been silent in this controversy,” it notes. As a matter of fact, the number of elected GOPers nationwide – senators, representatives, and governors – who have blasted Trump’s racism can be counted on fewer than the fingers of two hands.

Though the delegates censured Trump, impeaching him did not come up in either in the convention resolutions committee or on the floor. That seemingly runs counter to continuing grass-roots sentiment among rank-and-file Democrats. But the party’s leaders, in Congress and in organized labor, either oppose the move (Congress) or are silent so far (labor).

The union’s denunciation of Trump “is about his racism, not necessarily his policies,” one speaker said, attempting to reassure those CWA members, and other workers, who voted for Trump in 2016.

“Real leaders unite us so we can move forward, build unity around the American dream and fulfill the bold promise of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,’” quoted Shelton, a New Yorker and former New York Telephone lineman, whom delegates re-elected that afternoon by acclamation. They also re-elected Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, a News Guild member, by acclamation to the union’s #2 post.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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