MoveUP calls on employers to join unions’ lead to combat anti-Asian racism

June 3, 2020

MoveUP President David Black has issued the statement below calling on employers to follow the lead of unions in combatting the rise in racially-motivated acts of hate particularly directed towards the Asian community especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“As a union, we are concerned about our members who have been affected by these hateful and hurtful acts. If they occur on the job, we have procedures in place through negotiated collective agreements that outline the responsibilities of the employer, as well as the support they can receive from our union.

“But we know these hurtful acts are not just taking place during working hours at places of business. They are happening in different settings and far too often – whether it is on the streets, on buses, or in grocery stores. Unions are also employers and, together, we need to do more to show that we stand with members of the Asian community, we stand against racism, and we stand together as a community against those who perpetrate these cowardly acts.

“As we witness the latest fallout from what has been long history of violence being directed towards the Black community in the United States, specifically the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, we need to recognize that this systemic discrimination does not happen overnight. It has been happening to the Black community for decades. Our society has failed the Black community in this regard. We need to learn from those mistakes and step up now for those in our Asian community now before it goes down a similar, violent path.

“It pains me when I hear stories from our own staff members about how they or their family members have experienced hateful behaviour because they happen to be Asian. On top of worrying about our staff’s health from a COVID-19 standpoint, I also find myself concerned about certain staff members’ well-being from a safety and security. Will they be exposed to danger if they stop at the grocery store for food, or if they need to get on public transit? Will anyone stand up for them if they are confronted?

“Over 25 per cent of our members self-identify with an Asian background. We are proud to have these individuals as our members, as we are of members of all races, religions, and backgrounds.

“Through the collective agreements we have negotiated, many of our members have access to Employee Family Assistance Programs to support people going through difficult times. We are spreading the word across workplaces, encouraging visual displays that speak out against racist behaviour. We will also be approaching our employers to explore further opportunities including offering racial sensitivity training available for all workers.

“Our union has made an ‘anti-racism’ poster available for our members to download on our website and put up in their work spaces. We encourage our employers to display anti-racism literature aimed at the public, and to explore options for education such as racial sensitivity training for all workers.

“If we don’t take action to stop racism and we allow racist behaviour to become normalized, we open the doors to even larger-scale violence as we have witnessed recently across the United States. The violence and systemic discrimination that African Americans face every day needs to end in the United States, and too many Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) also face violence and systemic discrimination right here at home which also needs to end.

“We will continue to work with our members, our staff, and our employers to make other resources such as access to anti-racism educational programs and support services available. We urge all employers, whether you are a large, mid-sized, or small business, to do the same.”

Speaking out

“The rise in anti-Asian acts of violence has forced me, a Taiwanese-Canadian woman, to make a conscious choice not go out on my own or take public transit. Since hearing more about these issues in the news, I have also made the choice to get my essential needs from Asian grocery stores exclusively. As someone who is proud of growing up here in B.C. and Canada, I never thought these would be choices I would be forced to make.”

Anny Chen, MoveUP staff, Taiwanese background

“As an Asian growing up in Canada, I’ve never felt like my safety was in danger but recent anti-Asian racist incidents have me worried for my family. As a mother with a newborn, I am worried to bring my baby to places. I hope people remember that Canada is a multicultural society that embraces the values and dignity of all Canadians regardless of race and background. I hope to raise my child in a Canada that is free from racism, and a country that is a safe haven for all families.”

Brenda Chu, MoveUP member, Hong Kong background