In the days since Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been an outpouring of anger and grief across the nation. My own reaction is simultaneously one of deep sympathy for his family, a prayer that the justice system works so that a fair investigation and adjudication occur, and an understanding of the righteous anger felt by members of his community who have been protesting in the streets.
“Everybody in the labor movement understands why ‘peace’ in communities like Ferguson is so fragile. Ferguson is like so many once-stable and prosperous towns that have been ravaged by decades of economic decline caused by ‘free-trade,’ globalization and winner-take-all economic policies that led to the disappearance of good union jobs. Ferguson may be suburban, but 22% of its residents live in poverty and 13% are unemployed; median household income is just $37,000.
“What we see in the streets of Ferguson is not just the understandable sorrow over a young man’s life cut short, but the equally understandable rage over far too many experiences of racism, economic insecurity, political disenfranchisement, and the ever-widening gap between the rich and everybody else.
“I strongly support the decision to have the Justice Department conduct a full civil rights investigation of this case. We in the labor movement recognize that our struggles – for economic justice, for social justice, for political equality, and for dignity for every American – are represented in the streets of Ferguson too, and we stand in solidarity with this community in its insistence that justice be served.”
J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)