Statement from IUPAT General President, Ken Rigmaiden on the Passing of Civil Rights Icons, Congressman John Lewis and C.T. Vivien:
On Friday, July 17th, this country suffered the devastating loss of two unflinching advocates for civil rights, whose mantra of peaceful protest in the face of racial violence, served as a template for millions of soldiers in the fight for social justice throughout the United States.
Today, we celebrate the legacy, lives, and impact of Congressman John Lewis and one of the staunchest activists, the social justice movement has had the honor to call an ally, C.T. Vivian. Two men who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King in the fight for equality, equity, and justice for those plagued by institutional, structural, and explicit racism.
What we are seeing in our world today, is a parallel struggle to what people of color experienced back on March 7th, 1965 when protesters were attacked and beaten by law enforcement for marching peacefully across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
John Lewis, known as the “conscience of America” and for delivering the term “good trouble” to the American lexicon, once said, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.”
That has to resonate with us as a labor movement regardless of background, regardless of demographic and most importantly, regardless of color. As workers, whose fortunes depend solely on unity, we must stand together as allies, as soldiers in one army against the injustices that are happening currently all around us. We must recognize that the politics of division come not from those who call out racism but from those who call out the whistleblowers and choose comfort over action.
The fact that the fight for civil and labor rights rages on, highlights the power of those still in opposition to every American’s right to freedom. Freedom to vote. Freedom to collectively bargain. Freedom to live outside the shadow of fear.
Rest in Power John Lewis. Rest in Power C.T. Vivian. Our fight rages on, may we never tire.
General President, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)