ASEA Supports Racial Justice & Equality

Dear ASEA Members and ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 Allies—

The horrific killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers is difficult to witness on video and more difficult to comprehend. It is not a stand-alone incident, which speaks to the utter frustration fueling protests. Too many black people and people of color, are dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country. This must stop.

The past ten days have been as tough a time in our country as I can remember. There is tragedy in our cities almost every night. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and the death toll mounts. This all seems too much. 

Yet every day, the 8,000 state, borough and city employees represented by ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 get up, go to work, and get the job done so Alaskans have the public services they need. ASEA members work as wildland firefighters, public safety officers, nurses, child advocates, office assistants, accountants, and much more. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 members are diverse and reflect our country; ASEA is no more and no less complicated than the individual employees who make this union remarkable. We care about each other, our communities, and our fellow citizens.   

As the father of two bi-racial young men, the systematic racism in our country hits home every day. It also scares the hell out of me. I’ve had the talk many times with my sons about how they need to act around police. Like many Americans, my sons have participated in peaceful protests. I’m proud of them for doing that. However, with more tragedy and injury to protesters happening every night, this creates even more parental fear.

As a former executive director of Alaska’s largest police union, I know that Alaska’s first responders reject the criminal murder of George Floyd. They understand that nothing justifies this senseless act and the tragedy it caused. They also know how much this conduct put officers at risk, as well as the rule of law and our democracy.

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52, like other labor unions, rejects statements made by the Minneapolis police union president. We join unions across the county in requesting his resignation.     

Like those who came before us and created our great country, state, and union, we have an obligation to do better and make our country safer and more prosperous for everyone. I’m proud to work for a labor organization like ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 which has always been committed to improving the lives of all public employees in Alaska. To quote AFSCME President Lee Saunders, “As both a union that represents several thousand law enforcement officers and a union that has long been in the vanguard of the struggle for civil rights, AFSCME believes we cannot be forced to choose between racial justice or effective policing. A free, healthy society can and must have both.”

To get to where we need to go, we must demand that our elected leaders and policy makers end systematic racism. We are done with lip service. First, let’s recognize and deal with our original sin of slavery. We can atone for that sin by doing the following: end poverty, establish a universal health care system to serve us all, provide real mental health and addiction services, end our country’s massive income disparity, improve and modernize our public education system, build more affordable housing, and reform our criminal justice system-including how we police.

To do this, we all have to VOTE. We must elect leaders who commit to change. We must also reject those leaders that want the status quo or worse.

More immediate, we all have a right to live and work in an environment free of discrimination. I know that, unfortunately, this isn’t everyone’s experience. We must call out hateful acts when they arise and stand in solidarity with each other, and with the communities we serve and to which we belong. Black lives matter.

In Solidarity,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director