We at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers University SMLR express a deep level of grief and anger surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Jamel Floyd, and thousands of others who have been taken from us by the police, white supremacists and the carceral state. To the Black leaders, organizers, educators, scholars, students and communities that we support and organize alongside - we see your exhaustion, grief, anger, and pain. We see how your unrelenting demands for justice and safety and freedom are met with state sanctioned resistance. We are fighting alongside you to win a world without police violence and racial injustice. 

Police killings reflect a history of violence against black communities rooted in our country’s inception and they come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. 

COVID-19 death and infection rates are significantly higher in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities and four in ten frontline essential workers are people of color. “Essential” workers of color who are going to work in the midst of this pandemic are too often being treated as an “expendable” workforce. Limited if any protections or paid sick days are offered, limited personal protection equipment (PPE) are provided, poor sanitation measures are in place, and employer retaliation is a common response when workers demand a safe working environment. COVID-19 has resulted in mass unemployment with previously employed black communities facing close to a 50% unemployment rate; 60% of these layoffs being experienced by women and the Latinx jobless rate also at historic levels

As states head into deep recession, adopt austerity budgets, and lay off thousands of workers, it is important to recognize that so many Black and Brown workers who have been deemed essential, like homecare workers, had already been earning low wages despite doing the sacred work of caring for our elders.

This moment calls for mass collective action and accountability. 

This is a deeply challenging time but it is also being met with unprecedented action. We are so inspired by people standing up against the violence that has long been happening in their communities: the violence of racist housing policy, the violence of criminalization of the mentally ill and homeless, the violence of the criminal justice system, the violence of state-supported poverty, and the violence of health disparities, gender violence, domestic violence, & trans violence. All Black Lives Matter.

At CIWO, we believe that the protesting and organizing to address structural racism, police brutality, and economic inequality is going to lead to change. We believe that when communities come together and bargain for the common good - they can achieve wins that never felt possible. 

This moment also calls for real accountability from the labor movement, from our Center and University, and from us - as individuals - to take direct action against any ways that we have benefited from a racist state. CIWO recognizes that the school that makes our work possible, Rutgers University, like so many, was built on stolen land from Lenni-Lenape people and built by enslaved people. While this racist past and origins have been acknowledged, we must do better to ensure that power is equitably distributed and restored and that reparations are made. It is no longer enough to not be racist. We need to become “anti-racist.” We need to call out racism, prejudice, and discrimination wherever and whenever we see it or hear it. CIWO urges the University administration, in the midst of the pandemic and recession, to recognize the contributions of all workers at Rutgers, especially low wage workers and workers of color. 

CIWO is focused on the intersection of the three pandemics we are facing: COVID-19; mass unemployment/worker exploitation and austerity; and white supremacy/state violence. We are working to support leaders to engage in the trauma and resilience work necessary to rise to the moment. We are working to support economic justice organizations to do the urgent work of radical reassessment and adaptation of their programs. We are bringing groups together across the movement to discuss and debate the organizing strategies that are needed, and to forge the unity required to fight for them collectively.

As a Center, we also know how important it is that change-making leadership have a network and support system. The more that we can support one another, speak up and stand up for All Black Lives, and trust and take leadership of BIPOC women leaders in our movements, the more that we can win. 


With support and love,


CIWO Staff:

Sheri Davis, PhD
Legna J. Cabrera
Marilyn Sneiderman
MaryGrace D. DiMaria
Mary Kate Marasco
Janice R. Fine, PhD
Ludine Daux
KB Brower


CIWO Fellows:

Maria Elva Maldonado
Javier Morillo
Felicia Griffin
Jenn Round
Cailin Dejillas
Aquilina Soriano Versoza
Todd Vachon