Joe Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), issued a statement in support of the family of Michael Brown, a young African-American killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden is a member of UFCW Local 88.
“We stand in solidarity with our sister Leslie McSpadden and join her call for a fair investigation and justice under the law,” said Hansen.
Hansen also said that systemic problems such as “abject poverty, the lack of good jobs, and the lack of diversity in the halls of power” are to blame for the days of public rage that followed Brown’s death.
In a related development, a report by a group that provides legal services to the poor in the St. Louis metropolitan area said that the legal system in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, engages in illegal and harmful practices that targets African-Americans and helps perpetuate poverty.
Hansen is his statement said that society needs to address the problems that led to Brown’s death and its aftermath.
“We need to address these challenges head on–and (the labor movement) has a role to play by offering workers the opportunity for a better life,” said Hansen.
CWA also issued a statement on Brown’s death and the protests that followed.
“CWA activists are supporting protest actions and voter registration drives and exploring how the labor movement can better engage in the fight for racial equality,” reads the CWA statement.
CWA also said that at one time Ferguson was a thriving community, but that has changed.
Ferguson was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and during the last two decades good paying manufacturing and service jobs have been shipped abroad.
As result, the unemployment rate in Ferguson is 14.3 percent, twice as high as the unemployment rate in St. Louis (6.4 percent) and Missouri (6.6 percent).
For young African-American men in Ferguson, the unemployment rate is 47 percent.
Social services in Ferguson, whose population is 67 percent African-American, have also been reduced by state budget cutters.
According to ArchCity Defenders, a group whose members “represent indigents on a pro bono basis in both criminal and civil legal issues,” the legal system in Ferguson has contributed to the problem.
ArchCity recently published a report examining the Municipal Courts in the suburbs of St. Louis.
According to the report, Ferguson is one of three St. Louis suburbs where ArchCity’s clients “are jailed for the inability to pay fines.” These instances of incarceration lead to lost jobs and housing, which in turn makes it more difficult for those arrested to climb out of poverty.
The report goes on to say that fines and court costs are a major source of revenue for the City of Ferguson. They totaled $2,635,400 in 2013 and were the city’s second biggest revenue source.
The threat of incarceration for the non-payment of fines, according to the report, ensures that this revenue stream continues to flow at maximum force.
The report also says that African-Americans appear to be the target of racial profiling in Ferguson. Eighty-six percent of vehicle stops in Ferguson involved African-American motorists, while African-American comprise just 67 percent of Ferguson’s population.
Out of all those stopped, searches took place for 12.1 percent of African-Americans and 6.9 percent of whites.
However, searches resulting in found contraband occurred 34 percent of the time for whites and 21.7 percent for African-Americans.
The ArchCity report says that these practices have created animosity toward and distrust of the local legal system among African-American residents of Ferguson.