It was Tuesday, May 26, the same day the video of George Floyd’s murder by four Minneapolis policemen surfaced. James Curbeam was walking to his car outside a Lowe’s store not far from where he lives in Nashville, Tennessee, when a white woman approached him demanding to know, “Why are you following me?” Curbeam, who is chairman of the Teamsters National Black Caucus, told Truthout his immediate sinking thought was: How can I defend myself to the police when they come?
Fortunately, he de-escalated the mistaken encounter, but he remains shaken by how vulnerable he was, and is, by dint of being a Black man in the U.S. “I didn’t say anything to my wife about what happened until that Thursday,” he said.
Organized labor has a fraught role in relation to policing, to say the least. Since the inception of police departments, police have played a role in repressing worker uprisings. Yet the strength of police unions — including those within the Teamsters and other large unions like the AFL-CIO — is a major barrier to any kind of fundamental change.
However, an increasing number of workers are speaking out about policing and demanding their unions’ attention in the current moment.
“While working people of America have had a knee on our neck for generations, for Black people, it’s worse,” Curbeam added.
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