Letter Urges AFSCME President, Lee Saunders, Not to Punish Struggling HBCU Students Due to Opposing Political Views with the Koch BrothersCommentary, Felicia Davis
The letter below was written in response to articles on TheRoot.com and The Washington Post about the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) accepting money from companies owned by the infamous Koch brothers.
It appears that The Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries made a $25 million donation to UNCF. Of course, UNCF accepted the contribution and is receiving criticism from progressive groups. The president of AFSCME, Lee Saunders,sent a letter to UNCF’s president, Michael Lomax, announcing that AFSCME will withdraw financial support from UNCF for accepting the Koch money and appearing at a summit hosted by the Koch brothers.
Following is a letter submitted to AFSCME:
July 18, 2014
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
1625 L Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-5687
Dear Mr. Saunders,
I recently read in the TheRoot.com that AFSCME has made a decision to withdraw support from UNCF simply because the organization accepted a large contribution from the Koch brothers and Dr. Michael Lomax apparently spoke at their conference. As Ms. Goff pointed out in her article, your position suggests that AFSCME only supported UNCF to advance a labor agenda rather than to help needy students complete their education.
While I do not know what Dr. Lomax said in his remarks, I am positive that he did not waste time speaking against labor unions. It is likely that he shared information about how such a large contribution would benefit worthy students. Had you been fortunate to have had an HBCU experience, you would have learned first-hand of the unique contribution that these institutions and their students make to their communities, our nation and even to the labor movement. Where would the labor movement be without A. Philip Randolph and where would he have been without Bethune-Cookman?
Like you, and many other accomplished African Americans, I am proud to have come from a union household. In most union households higher education is emphasized along with a strong work ethic and a healthy regard for labor. Both are important to move our community forward. Even if AFSCME was prepared to offset the Koch contribution, the thought that AFSCME would withdraw support from our private historically black institutions at a time when they (and the communities and students that they serve) are severely challenged financially is absolutely reprehensible.
As one of the highest ranking African Americans in organized labor your decision to withdraw support from UNCF, essentially punishing students because of your opposition to the political agenda of the Koch brothers is terribly short-sighted and ultimately just as narrow-minded as the positions that you oppose. There is nothing progressive about your decision and it is sad to think that the mighty AFSCME has descended to such a low level.
It is my hope that you will move expeditiously to reverse this decision. Energy would be much better spent educating HBCU students about the labor movement and organizing support for progressive agendas among bright students attending UNCF institutions.
Felicia M. Davis
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