Americas Labor Coalition: 20-Year Champion of Racial Equality

More than 60 people from Latin America—including the Dominican Republic, Chile, Colombia and Honduras—along with U.S. representatives met last week in Brazil to affirm labor’s continued commitment to racial equality through a broad-based economic justice movement, mark the 20th year of trade unions’ efforts to eliminate race-based economic inequality in the Americas, and call for Colombians of African descent to be included in peace talks in that country.

“There is a persistent, violent and dehumanizing racism in our societies. As Afro-descendants, we must continue the fight for our dignity,” said Francisco Quintino, president of the Inter-American Union Institute for Racial Equality (INSPIR), a labor coalition dedicated to fighting for racial justice in the Americas.

“This is an issue of humanity,” he said.

INSPIR has worked with trade union partners and like-minded allies across the Americas to combat racial and ethnic discrimination in the workplace and give union leaders tools to promote equality in their organizations and society since its founding by the AFL-CIO, three Brazilian national centers (CUT, Força Sindical and UGT) and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) in 1995.

“The tie… is our common cause of fighting racism, within the labor movement, and hopefully, too, as part of a broader social and economic justice movement for racial equality,” said Joslyn Williams, general secretary of INSPIR, who also represented the AFL-CIO at the conference as D.C. Metro Labor Council president and a trustee for the U.S.-based Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).

Fred Redmond, vice president of the United Steelworkers (USW), also attended on behalf of the AFL-CIO and CBTU.

Delegates to the Continental Conference passed a resolution calling for Colombians of African descent to be represented in peace negotiations and post-conflict implementation in that country.

More than 150 people attended the opening ceremony of the 20th Anniversary Celebration and Continental Conference, held August 17–19, 2015, in São Paulo. Brazil’s Minister of the Promotion of Racial Equality Policies, Nilma Lino Gomes, keynoted the event.

The Solidarity Center works with INSPIR in Brazil to empower Afro-descendant workers to fight for their rights and overcome the tragic legacy of the more than 400 years of slavery, through education, collective bargaining and policy advocacy.