Remarks Delivered Before A Rally In Support Of The Shell Boycott Sponsored By The Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid "Get the sHELL out of South Africa!"

by Richard L. Trumka, United Mine Workers of America
Chicago, Illinois, United States
November 19, 1988
12 pages
Remarks by Richard L. Trumka, President, Union Mine Workers of America at a rally at the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Hall. Trumka says in my six years as President of the UMWA, I've spoken to many meetings of union members and supporters; but I've never felt more privileged -- or honored -- than to be asked to occupy this platform for a few minutes today and speak to those who understand that true labor solidarity cannot be limited by national boundaries or the color of a person's skin; my opposition to apartheid comes not only from my personal beliefs and values, but is also deeply rooted in the history of my union. Trumka says for 99 years, the United Mine Workers of America has fought for social justice and human rights; from our very beginning, we have firmly and strongly opposed racism and discrimination. Trumka says our support in the battle against apartheid represents a reaffirmation of the historic principles on which the UMWA was founded; and we have always understood that solidarity-- true solidarity, not lip service solidarity -- is the foundation upon which the house of labor is built. Trumka says the sad irony is that even though Chicago was founded by a black frontier-man, Jean Du Sable, many of the workers who forged this city out of a trading post on the Chicago river were involuntary immigrants who were brought to America's shores by slave ships from Africa. Trumka says today, the South African government and its allies --like the giant multinational Royal Dutch/Shell Company -- are using the same old divide and conquer tactics to keep us from supporting our black brothers and sisters in South Africa. Trumka says today, to pit workers against workers -- to play us off against one another -- multinational corporations like Shell use profit, trade and national boundaries. Trumka says by using slave-labor conditions to undercut prices on the world market, Shell and other corporations that operate in South Africa have put tremendous pressure on companies which pay decent wages and maintain good working conditions. Trumka says Shell's drive for profit pits workers against workers as it searches the world labor market for the lowest possible wage; lower labor standards in countries like South Africa help create a climate for employers to demand a lower standard of living for Americans as well. Trumka says that's why our union joined with the Free South Africa Movement, the AFL-CIO, and nearly 100 other national unions, churches, civil rights and community groups to launch the boycott of Royal Dutch/Shell. Trumka says Shell supplies oil to the South African military and police; without Shell, the apartheid government could not deploy its troops to shoot down protestors and detain strikers and political activists. Trumka says Shell is the largest multinational corporation in the world -- and despite the loud and clear demand of the black majority that foreign corporations get out of their country, Shell remains where it is not wanted. Trumka says Shell freely chooses to side with the white majority government which uses Shell's oil to fuel the wheels of racist oppression in that troubled land. Trumka says I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for being here and for the work you are doing to make Chicago a "Shell Free" community; I also want to thank the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois State AFL-CIO for their resolutions of support for the Shell boycott. Trumka says it is only through grass-roots actions like the Shell boycott and the divestiture and sanctions campaigns that Congress will be moved to take stronger action against apartheid, and corporations -- motivated by lost profits -- will move to stop investing in apartheid. Trumka says and by being here today -- by standing up for freedom, justice and equality -- we honor the black trade union movement in South Africa which provides us with an example of hope sustained in hard times. Trumka says only 12 days ago, our hopes of electing a president who would be sensitive to the needs of working people and the unemployed were dashed. Trumka says our goal must be to raise the living standards of workers in South Africa and other countries and prevent governments and multinational companies like Shell from dragging our standards down to theirs! Trumka says yesterday, four black anti-apartheid leaders were convicted of treason after a three year trial; they were convicted because they made speeches and held demonstrations that denounced apartheid; if treason is the wrong in South Africa, let all mankind know that the Botha government and their conspirator, Shell Oil are the perpetrators of the treason. Trumka discuss the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), UAW (United Auto Workers) AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), Sidney Hillman, John L. Lewis, the Pullman strike, class warfare against the brutal greed of the bosses, Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, union buster, security guards, rubber bullets, tear gas, the South African police, Eugene Debs, Joe Hill, the black majority, political rights, treason, hanged, sanctions, demonstrations, ACTWU (Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union), and Botha (P.W. Botha).
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers