Statement from SEIU 49 President Meg Niemi on the Derek Chauvin Verdict

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The conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, presents us with a moment of collective relief, deep grief, and somber reflection. As we come to grips with the outcome of what will be a defining and traumatic event in our lifetime, it’s important that we remember that, above all, George Floyd’s life mattered before he died–and his life still matters now.

George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests that, in many places, are still going on today after nearly a year. The list of Black men and women and children killed by police officers has grown impossibly long over the last decade.

And yet, far too many police officers who have gone to trial for killing unarmed Black people have been exonerated and remain on duty. This has eroded trust in our country’s legal and judicial system, and exposed the racist hypocrisy in our society that allows white people in positions of authority to hurt and destroy the lives of Black people and people of color with little or no repercussions.

The inescapable truth is that this conviction won’t bring back George Floyd, and it will never erase the pain that his loved ones will live with for their rest of their lives. Americans have been called on to re-evaluate our relationship to our criminal justice system following the events of the past year and consider what “justice” could and should look like. No matter where we fall as individuals on the spectrum of how much policing we believe our communities should have, two things should be abundantly clear to everyone: that Black Lives Matter, and that George Floyd–like Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Quanice Hayes, Atatiana Jefferson, Duante Wright, and countless others–should still be alive today.

I’m personally grateful that former officer Derek Chauvin will be held accountable for murdering George Floyd. I acknowledge that there are Black and brown people in our Union family who have been affected by police brutality and racism, and I’m so proud that our strong Union movement is taking on racism head-on by working to negotiate contracts and pass legislation that addresses and redresses racism in our workplaces and communities.

If we truly believe that “an injury to one is an injury to all”, we must recommit ourselves to a daily practice of anti-racism, call out injustice when we see it, and continue to stand in unshakable solidarity with each other. SEIU Local 49 members will continue working in coalition with our community, and we call on Oregon and Washington lawmakers to continue the important reform work necessary to bring justice and accountability to our criminal justice system.

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