As caregivers, working people, and participants in our American democracy, we will remember January 6, 2021, as the day when the contrasting realities of our nation came into indelible focus: when working people unite and organize, we win—and when white supremacist rage threatens to topple our democracy, there are many in positions of power who will work to ease their path.
Members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW joined union members across the country in working for the election of Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff to the Senate for Georgia. Their election, and the certification of the Electoral College results yesterday in favor of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, are part of the transformation of our country into an inclusive, multi-racial democracy where all of us belong.
Our joy in these victories was dampened, however, by the acts of domestic terrorism and sedition in our nation’s and state’s capitols. We condemn in the strongest way possible the acts of the current U.S. president to incite this violence, and we similarly condemn those in positions of power in government, media, and advocacy who have sought to sow division, used untrue information, or failed to seek the truth in their pursuit of power.
It was impossible to watch the breach of the United States Capitol or of the gates of Governor’s Mansion in Olympia without taking note of the way these pro-Trump agitators were treated by law enforcement. Those who have marched for Black Lives, for the rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare, for immigrant rights, for clean water, have frequently faced brutal treatment at the hands of local and federal police forces. Those who break a window of a retail store seemingly face swift, violent punishment, while those who would seek to overturn a lawful election are allowed, weapons and all, to break in and take what they want. State troopers took nearly no action while rioters were allowed right to the front porch of the Governor’s mansion in Olympia and occupied the property while issuing violent threats while armed.
As working people, we are no strangers to attempts to divide and vilify us. We have seen greedy corporate CEOs and unscrupulous politicians doing everything they can to divide workers and scapegoat immigrants and people of color in order to make a buck or score a point. But we know better. It was essential workers like us who did the job of putting things right after the invasion of the capitol. It is essential healthcare workers like us who are keeping our communities healthy and safe during COVID-19. And it is people like us, coming together, who will hold all of our institutions of government accountable—including the police.
Law enforcement must change, and change radically. Today, we call on law enforcement individuals and organizations to publicly admit to the bias and discrimination inherent in our current system of policing, and to acknowledge what we all saw on January 6, 2021—that biased policing infringes on the rights of the public and sows ugly and dangerous divisions. Next week, in the Washington State Legislature, we and our community partners will call on lawmakers to do everything in their power to dismantle the systems of oppression that underlie policing in our state.