The following statement is attributable to Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, which represents over 20,000 Black and immigrant essential workers in the D.C. area, including a relative of Karon Hylton:
“32BJ SEIU stands in solidarity with the family of Karon Hylton and the community in which the tragic event took place. His loss is felt deeply by a close relative represented by our union and we join the demand for the release of body cam footage, transparency and accountability as a part of the broader call for justice that is long-overdue for the men and women murdered by the police and for immediate, systemic changes help end this dark and shameful reality. We strongly condemn the police’s handling of the matter, which did not have to end tragically. There is no doubt that Karon Hylton could and should have survived the encounter.
As a union representing mostly Black and Brown workers, our members cannot escape a dangerous, daily reality, through no fault of their own. They fear brutality at the hands of law enforcement and are on the frontlines as essential workers who clean and secure buildings. Many have to travel to and from work during off-hours and fear being harassed and brutalized by the police.
We have consistently condemned the over-policing, excessive use of force and the systemic racism that too often leads to the murder of a Black person, weather armed or unarmed. Regardless of the circumstances, we have seen time and time again via undeniable video the unforgiving and unyielding punishment that awaits Black people who come into contact with the legal system. Unfortunately, too many times Black people are not given the same assumption of innocence as is enjoyed by white suspects but are instead swiftly judged and executed.
People of color need and deserve to feel safe from police brutality. That’s why we must speak up and speak out against further injustices. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the long list of Black people murdered by police deserve our outrage and a solution to this crisis. It’s clear we must end the structural and systemic racism that creates and perpetuates the social, economic and policing disparities that have sparked this outrage and unrest. Our communities deserve justice now, not later.
As a union representing mostly Black and Brown workers, standing up for justice is in our DNA. The labor movement grew out of protest. We support everyone who is standing up to make their voices heard to bring about the change we desperately need.
We call upon the community at large to make your voices heard in next week’s election. Although we know that elected leaders won’t solve all of our problems, voting for the right candidates will solve some. In these trying times, it’s important to incorporate every tool at our disposal and voting is just one tool among many others that must be used to further the fight for black existence.
With over 175,000 members in eleven states, including over 20,000 in the D.C. area and Baltimore, MD, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.