Chicago Federation of Labor calls for peace, issues anti-violence statement

The organization, which includes 300 labor unions across the city, says many union workers have become part of crime statistics.

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Don Villar, Secretary-Treasurer for the Chicago Federation of Labor, stands in front of union members at a Friday press conference. The CFL announced an anti-violence statement that has been in the workers for two years.

Don Villar, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, discusses the group’s anti-violence statement.

Mariah Rush/Sun-Times

The Chicago Federation of Labor on Friday called on union workers citywide to “work for justice” and help tamp down violence.

“In the labor movement, we say that an injury to one is an injury at all. and the violence that happens around us impacts us all in some way or another,” Don Villar, the federation’s secretary-treasurer said during a news conference.

“That’s why we came together to issue this call to end the violence.” 

It’s the first time in the federation’s 126-year history that it has issued a statement about area violence on behalf of the organization’s over 300 labor unions and over 500,000 workers.

“So many workers find themselves part of the crime statistics,” said Keith Hill, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241. “Our members have been shot, punched, kicked and stabbed by doing their job. Enough is enough.”

The anti-violence statement has been in the works since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Villar said.

CFL leaders said work on the statement was sometimes difficult because “everybody has a different solution or what they prioritize,” and the unions had to agree on the final product.

“The violence that we see everyday impacts workers,” the statement said. “First responders, health care workers and city workers tend to the victims and deal with the immediate aftermath. Violence has touched union members on their jobs, turning workers into victims through no fault of their own.” 

This federation issued its statement one day after Ken Griffin, the richest Illinois resident, announced he is moving his family and his businesses to Miami because of Chicago’s ongoing battle with violence.

Chicago has experienced a spike in homicides since 2019, according to the Sun-Times daily tracker. 

Nine CFL members spoke Friday about the violence permeating many facets of their lives. Some spoke of how violence has impacted their family, and their feelings of safety on the job. Others discussed the violence their union members — from CTA workers to postal carriers — experience out on the field.

The CFL is supporting organizations like HIRE360, which looks to connect people of color to union jobs, and United Way, which helps to “rebuild communities and struggling families.”

“If you want peace, work for justice,” the statement said. “At the root of violence we find generational poverty, decades of racial inequality, abuses in the justice system and heavy-handed policies that have destroyed families and communities of color.”

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