In hopes of pushing the AFL-CIO to expand its agenda, we want to address here why the two issues of police targeting of African Americans and Black (un)employment are intertwined. This is more than a theoretical exercise given the aforementioned Black unemployment rate—which is higher in each state than the overall rate—and the fact that African Americans have a higher arrest rate, a higher imprisonment rate, and a disproportionate number under some type of community supervision than other racial groups. While the AFL-CIO is of course not the only labor organization in the United States, we purposefully address our concerns to the federation as it involves 56 national and international labor unions representing 12.2 million people in a country with only 16 million people represented by a union (those who are union members or have jobs covered by unions or employee association contracts). Thus, the AFL-CIO is one of the largest and most powerful labor organizations in a country and world experiencing one of the worst financial crisis in decades.
This position statement addresses four issues related to the criminalization of African Americans and Black (un)employment: 1) arrest and conviction records and what this means for job applications and licensing; 2) surveillance on the way to work; 3) the health impact of criminalization and what this means for Black employment status; and 4) mass incarceration and prison labor. Our goal is to synthesize some of the ways the criminalization impacts African Americans’ efforts to seek work or maintain employment and also encourage the AFL-CIO to prioritize addressing the Black unemployment crisis.Read the full story »