"No Union For Fascists": Why The Sioux Falls AFL-CIO Banned White Supremacists
Editors Note: In May of 2018 the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO passed several amendments to thier Constitution. Among those changes were the words," No individual shall be eligible to serve as an Officer, member of The Executive Board or Committee, or other governing body, or any committee of, or as a delegate from, or as a representative, agent, or employee of this body who is a member of any Fascist or White Supremacist organization. Or who consistently pursues policies and/or activites directed toward the purposes of any Fascist or otherwise White Supremacist Ideology."
The following is a message from Sioux Falls AFL-CIO President Kooper Caraway.
As we approach the 1 year anniversary of the atrocity in Charlottesville, Virginia, it seems to be an appropriate time to reflect on the historical role of the Labor Movement as an inherently Anti-Fascist Movement and on the future role of Labor in combatting the growing threat of Fascism, Bigotry, and White Nationalism.
On a late night in 1924, in Greenville North Carolina, 40 masked members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) approached organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World International Union (IWW) and ordered them to leave town in the next 24 hours. In response over 170 Union Members, mostly Woodsmen from the local Lumberyard, began patrolling the streets, keeping an eye on the KKK threat. When asked by a local a reporter why the KKK would oppose them, the local Union Organizer responded, "Because we want good wages, eight hours a day in the lumber camps and clean linen on our bunks.". The Greenville KKK had been bought by the local bosses and were acting as Union Busters on behalf of the Lumber bosses.
In 1934 the CIO was working vigoroulsy to organize Citrus Growers in the South. Committed from the begginning to Racial Justice, the CIO, through their organizing campaign was bringing workers of different races together into 1 united local. When the Florida branch of the KKK heard about the CIO's organizing efforts the local KKK leader declared that they "Will Fight Horror, With Horror". On April 11th, 1934 three members of the KKK, dressed as local Sheriffs Deputies, abducted Union Organizer Frank Norman. Our Brother, Frank Norman, was never seen again. The union presented mountains of evidence including witness testimony tying the KKK to the murder, but the case was swept under the rug by State Officials that had been paid off by the Citrus bosses. Our Brother Frank Norman, at just 37 years old, would join the ranks of hundreds of union organizers and members murdered by the Ku Klux Klan during that time.
One year ago, as Fascist and White Supremacist organizations united in Charllotesville, union members traveled from all over the country to stand in opposition. One of those Union Members, Heather Heyer, was murdered when a Fascist organizer drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors. This weekend those same groups are gathering in Washington DC.
It is our duty to let our fellow workers know that Fascism, White Supremacy, and its organizations have only ever existed to divide us as workers and do the dirty work of the Boss Class. The White Nationalists have always been bought and paid for by those in power, they exist not to fight for any ideal, but to destroy the progress made by us as working class people. That is why the SIoux Falls AFL-CIO voted to Ban all Fascists and White Supremacists from our organization.
It is our duty to hold our Brothers and Sisters accountable. We must dispute and disrupt any attempt at advocating or agitating for Fascist and White Supremacist Causes in our workplaces.
It is our duty to organize. We must confront and defeat the ongoing attacks by so called "Alt-Right" organizations on our Working Class communities.
Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings, we live in historic times. Future generations will study our time as a watershed moment in the history of the Working Class struggle. We can either be remembered as those who were fooled by our bosses into joining or supported "Alt-Right" organizations. Or we can be remembered as those workers who stood in solidarity and defeated the forces that would threated our Movement, Our Communities, and Our families. We have the numbers and the resources to build a world in which all workers can live peacefully. But we must be cautious and aware of who is organizing in our backyards.
Kooper Caraway was elected President of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO in January of 2018.