STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union | 11/24/2016, midnight
We’ve just been through what has been the most divisive, exhausting and unsettling presidential election in our lifetime. Many people—especially immigrants—are apprehensive or even terrified. Anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents are happening online, in schools, in workplaces and on the streets with more frequency. Swastikas and Nazi graffiti have appeared on more college campuses and storefronts. The entire world is worried.
We are facing incredible challenges, but we cannot succumb to pessimism or despair. If we do, the worst of what this election has unleashed will be normalized and grow in power. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to strengthening our movement for social and economic justice and defeating the forces of hatred and bigotry in our society.
It will take hard work, meaningful dialogue and sustained action to build a country that is fairer and better for all working people, especially those who have been left behind and harmed by globalization and the current economic order. Many immigrant workers, white workers, women and people of color feel trapped in an economy that fails them and only seems to reward those at the very top.
Yet, too often working people today who share common interests but come from different backgrounds speak past each other, not to each other. We must bring working people together across their differences and help them understand their common interests and why it’s so crucial to fight and organize as a unified 21st century labor movement. And we have to press upon our political leaders and representatives—not only Republicans but also Democrats—that they must improve economic fairness, close the widening economic gap, improve the job prospects of working people and make it easier for unions to organize so they can represent their members in the halls of power and influence.
We have done it before, and now we must now do it again.
None of us have all the answers. But we do know that it is a different era, and there are both new challenges and new opportunities for connection that didn’t exist in previous decades.
Together, we must create new ways of bringing working people together, and new ways of showing those who may be misguided, angry and misinformed that racism and prejudice are not the way forward, that a growing economic gap is not the way forward. We must transform and rebuild our country from within and bring all communities into a larger progressive movement that lifts up all working people: a larger progressive movement that takes the energy and learns the lessons from the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter and the Sanders campaign and the Fight for Fifteen, a larger progressive movement that is inclusive and diverse.
And we must remind ourselves over and over again what Dr. King so eloquently taught us: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.