A lot of times if you have a conversation about race people will say well, I’m not racist or well, don’t get mad at me because it was my fore-parents or it was my grandparents or my aunts and uncles or whoever.
That’s Kenneth Rigmaiden, president of the Painters union, on the latest episode of the AFL-CIO’s “State of the Unions” podcast, where he details his journey from a floor-covering installer to the highest ranks of the labor movement, his experiences with racism and discrimination, the opportunities he seized and his commitment to the next generation of union members, activists and leaders.
But I also had a friend of mine who told me, he just had a little picture, and it was a picture of black young babies, young kids, white kids, brown kids playing together just as kids. And the quote that he wrote under the picture: nobody knows anybody is different until someone tells them. I mean to me it’s that simple and that complex. But if more people understood that because people say things and do things and they are impressed on our youngsters. Now they may say well, I was just kidding. Well just kidding is not right. And the only way you can get past that is by addressing it head on. And that’s what we’re trying to do in the IUPAT, the notion...I say it over and over again...look this is an organization that has opportunity for all. If you can do the job, if you’re capable of doing the job, if you want to do the job, let’s see if you can get an opportunity to do that.
You can hear the whole interview on the AFL-CIO’s “State of the Unions” podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
On today’s labor calendar, tune in at 1 o’clock this afternoon for this week’s edition of “Your Rights at Work” when Ed Smith and I will take your calls on worker rights and get updates on the latest labor news. That’s 1 o’clock this afternoon right here on WPFW 89.3 FM. And of course for all the labor events, go to dclabor.org and click on Calendar.
In today’s labor history, on this date in 1938, a fifteen-week strike in San Francisco by members of the “Chinese Ladies Garment Workers Union” was started against a National Dollar Stores factory and three retail stores. Two weeks after white retail clerks struck in support, the strike was won. Workers received a pay increase, enforcement of health and safety regulations, and guarantees of work. Although the company closed a year later, the union later helped Chinese workers get positions in previously white-only shops, and some moved into leadership positions in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
Today’s labor quote is by actress Hattie McDaniel at the 1940 Academy Awards, where she accepted the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.” McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award. (audio)
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests, this is one of the happiest moments of my life and I want to thank each one of who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards; for your kindness that has made me feel very, very humble. And I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel and may I say thank you and God bless you.
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