Working People Respond to Elementary School Mass Shooting in Uvalde, Texas

Working People Respond to Elementary School Mass Shooting in Uvalde, Texas

After another mass shooting, this time at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, working people across the country are saying enough is enough and are calling for action by the U.S. Senate that would prevent gun violence and protect children, working people and everyone else from this scourge. Here’s what working people are saying:

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler:

America’s labor movement is absolutely devastated by the loss of 19 children and two teachers who were shot and killed in their classrooms yesterday afternoon at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

On a day when the teachers and students of Robb Elementary School were planning to gear up for summer vacation, they instead faced the unimaginable. Classrooms should be the safest place for a child to learn and for educators to teach.

Yesterday’s horrific tragedy occurred just 10 days after the racially motivated shooting of 10 Black people who were grocery shopping in Buffalo, New York.

These mass shootings are a stark reminder of why the Senate must stop hiding behind arcane procedures to avoid preventing gun violence and take action. Because working people deserve safe workplaces without fear of a mass shooting. And America’s children deserve to learn and thrive in safe schools.

Our hearts are with the family members, friends and loved ones of the victims, the Uvalde community, and educators and school staff everywhere.

Texas AFL-CIO:

The Texas AFL-CIO reacted to the news of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“Our hearts are broken—yet again,” the state federation said on Tuesday. “Fourteen children and a teacher at Robb Elementary in Uvalde died today, reportedly at the hands of an 18-year-old shooter. Unspeakable tragedy, repeated endlessly. We mourn in solidarity with Uvalde.”

News outlets are reporting that as of today, the death count has risen to include 19 students and two teachers.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

Once again this week, we are grieving the loss of innocent lives, including 19 children, in a mass school shooting. We extend our deepest condolences to the families enduring unimaginable heartbreak and to the entire community of Uvalde, Texas. Now, we must also turn anguish into action.

AFSCME has long supported common-sense measures to keep our children safe and to keep deadly firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. We renew our call today for bold measures like expanded background checks and restrictions on the sale of guns to suspected terrorists and others who pose a danger to our communities. We need much bigger investments in mental health services and substance abuse treatment. We need enhanced school security measures – better infrastructure; more School Resource Officers; improved readiness training for teachers and school staff; and more.

The only way we will make change on this life-or-death issue is through the political process. If you are feeling anger and despair, the answer is to hold politicians accountable. The answer is to vote. The answer is to organize your neighbors. The answer is to support candidates at the federal, state and local levels who will take this crisis seriously, who will take the steps necessary to protect our children and our communities.

AFSCME members serve as school employees, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement officers and behavioral health professionals. In other words, we are on the front lines of this crisis. We have a lot at stake. We have expertise to bring to bear. And we will no longer tolerate a failed status quo that has tragic and deadly consequences.

It is long past time to treat this gun violence epidemic like the urgent public health problem that it is. We can balance the rights of responsible gun owners with the right of students, teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, crossing guards and others to walk through the schoolhouse doors without fearing for their lives.

Across the country, we will observe moments of silence this week to remember those who were murdered at Robb Elementary School, just as we did for the victims of the recent supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York, just as we do seemingly every week. But when we engage on these issues in the political arena, we cannot be silent. We must speak out with clarity and conviction, with passion and resolve, to save the lives of our children.

Amalgamated Transit Union International President John Costa:

The Amalgamated Transit Union is shocked and saddened by the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 children and 2 teachers and injured dozens.

Our hearts and condolences go out to the victims of this senseless act of violence, their families, and friends, along with our praise for the heroic first responders who brought a halt to the savage murder, saved many lives, and treated the injured with their quick action.

The ATU knows all too well about gun violence after losing our Local 265-San Jose, California, members to a mass shooting at a railyard a year ago tomorrow, Thursday, May 26.

Our country once again mourns for another community devastated by gun violence less than two weeks after mass shootings in Buffalo, California, and Houston. Families are forever changed. Survivors are left to heal both physical and mental wounds.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. We must find the courage to come together as a nation to take serious action to ensure that these unspeakable acts of violence never happen again.

American Federation of Musicians:

Our emotions are still raw from the senseless mass murders in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. We grieve with the families of those killed and the communities affected by these events.

As we mourn those who have lost their lives, we must also stand up and demand better for children, parents, educators, and for communities across the nation. Whether racially motivated or an attack on innocent children, there is no way to make sense of this type of tragedy. It’s clear it’s time for action to be taken to prevent further gun violence.

The AFM International Executive Board extends our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and to all who are dealing with unfathomable pain due to gun violence.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten: 

Within the span of a week, our country has witnessed two mass shootings, the gunning down of innocent people in what should be our community’s safest spaces. As we await further details, some things are clear: These are despicable acts of hatred designed to terrorize us all. The communities of Buffalo and now Uvalde will join a long list of places that will never be the same. Our hearts are with all of them.

Only in America do people go grocery shopping and get mowed down by a shooter with hate in his heart; only in this country are parents not assured that their kids will be safe at school.

Gun violence is a cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer. We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.

Communications Workers of America:

Once again our country is in mourning over a mass shooting. Once again children and teachers have been injured and killed in a senseless, preventable act of violence. Our thoughts are with the grieving families in Uvalde, Texas, a community that will be marked forever by this tragedy.

National Nurses United/New York State Nurses Association:

As we witness yet another mass shooting, this one taking the lives of at least 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, the registered nurses of National Nurses United (NNU) and New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) are deeply disturbed by Congress’ refusal to reduce gun violence and ensure safe schools, workplaces, and all areas of society by enacting desperately needed gun control laws. Shamefully, Tuesday’s shooting is the 213th mass shooting in the United States this year alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization, and comes just 10 days after a white supremacist shot and killed 10 Black people in Buffalo, N.Y.

“It’s clear that gun violence is a deadly threat to public health in this country,” said Jean Ross, RN and president of NNU, the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses. “People can’t go shopping at the supermarket or send their kids to school without fear of getting shot and killed. We all need to be able to feel and be safe: at school, at work, in places of worship, everywhere.”

NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, said, “The trauma of gun violence and especially the mass shootings we have witnessed in recent weeks deeply impacts the victims, survivors, families, first responders, medical professionals who treat the victims, and the entire community. Across the country, nurses, workers, and parents all feel the pain of loss and the despair of knowing too little has changed since the last tragic mass shooting. We need our political leaders to offer more than empty rhetoric — we need real change. Gun violence is a public health emergency, and we need to use every tool possible to remedy it.”

In keeping with nurses’ commitment to promote the health and well-being of all people, NNU has called since 2019 for the ban of assault weapons.  

“Assault weapons are incredibly lethal,” said Ross. “These weapons are designed with only one purpose in mind: to kill human beings.”

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the United States, the American Public Health Association notes. Guns killed more than 45,000 people in the United States in 2020, a 43 percent increase from 10 years earlier. As of 2020, gun violence became the leading cause of death for children and teens up to the age of 19, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

“Our community is still reeling from the racist mass shooting and the bomb threat at the Erie County Department of Health clinic in Buffalo,” said Murnita Bennett, RN, a NYSNA member at Erie County Medical Center. “Now our schools are tightening security in the event of more copycat gun violence. How can we heal from violence when our communities still feel under siege? As a society, we must prioritize saving lives and creating safe, healthy communities for everyone, regardless of zip code. We need our elected leaders to take action.”

Nurses who care for gunshot victims say it is hard for lay people to imagine the damage bullets cause to the human body. Angela Alvarez, a registered nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif. says it is especially difficult for nurses and other medical professionals when a gun victim is a child.

“They haven’t really lived their life yet,” said Alvarez. “It’s just pure sadness. I remember standing in a trauma room, everybody just stood there and cried and held each other. It is such a sad and devastating thing to witness.”

The number of firearms in circulation now stands at nearly 400 million, according to news sources, a number that has nearly tripled since 2000 and that has spiked sharply in the past three years. So-called “gun rights” groups spent nearly $16 million lobbying in 2021. While Gov. Greg Abbott has bragged about Texas having some of the most lax gun laws in the United States, Republican lawmakers in Congress have routinely blocked even moderate federal gun control legislation.

“Nurses advocate for our patients’ health and for public health,” said Ross. “We will be joining efforts to win the gun control reforms we need to make our society safe. This means confronting the extremist agenda of far-right politicians and their gun lobby backers, and it means holding them accountable for disregarding the health and safety of our communities.”

UAW President Ray Curry and UAW Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith:

Our union grieves today over another senseless and violent tragedy. Nineteen children were taken from their families in Uvalde, Texas yesterday. Two educators who devoted themselves to their profession are gone. UAW members will stand with the community of Uvalde both today and tomorrow.

UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor:

Another day in America, another mass shooting tragedy. What actually needs to happen for there to be reform? UNITE HERE joins the overwhelming majority of this country in calling for comprehensive background checks as a first step to tackle these senseless murders.

These are kids we’re talking about here. Black grandparents and workers at the grocery store. Church goers. Who are we as a labor movement if we don’t join the fight to end this nonsense?

We cannot become numb to this. And we cannot let ourselves feel powerless against this. We have everything it takes to hold politicians accountable for this—and as a labor movement, we have the organizing chops to move mountains when we try.

UNITE HERE sends much love and solidarity to the grieving families today and every day.

Alliance for Retired Americans President Robert Roach Jr.:

The members of the Alliance join with all Americans who were devastated by this most recent, terrible gun violence in Texas in calling for an end to the heinous bloodshed. Our thoughts are once again with the deceased, the injured and all of their loved ones. We send our deepest wishes for healing to everyone affected by this senseless attack, this time at an elementary school.

We need the United States Senate to take appropriate and aggressive action on gun safety immediately. We must protect American citizens, families, workers, teachers, and especially children, from this incessant violence. And we must act without delay to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

John Durso, President of Long Island Federation of Labor and RWDSU/UFCW Local 338:

Earlier this month, we watched another tragedy develop in which a gunman entered a public space and took innocent lives. This time, Black employees and shoppers were targeted at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, where 10 people, including four Tops employees—one of whom was a member of UFCW Local 1—were shot and killed in an act of racist domestic terrorism.

Grocery workers have already had an incredibly challenging two years navigating their own health and safety on the front lines of the pandemic. They are the people we rightly hailed as heroes, the essential workers we depended upon to make it through the worst of the pandemic. The last thing they should have to worry about now is an armed individual with a motive coming into their workplace.

This shooting was another preventable act of gun violence. In 2021, there were at least five separate incidences of gun violence in supermarkets across the country. The deadliest shooting of 2021 left 10 dead at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. My union, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, lost one of our own last April, after a gunman opened fire at a Stop & Shop in West Hempstead and killed longtime member Ray Wishropp.

People shouldn’t go to work thinking there is a chance they won’t come home. They shouldn’t have to think about the possibility of deadly violence occurring at their workplace. It is critical that this trend does not continue. We need to be doing more to protect working people.

I’m not saying we must take guns away—but more needs to be done to monitor extremism, misinformation, and people who pose a risk to the safety of our society. The Buffalo shooter had already been investigated for making threatening statements about wanting to carry out a mass shooting last year. Statements like that should have been a clear sign that this was someone who should not have been allowed to legally purchase a gun.

Gun violence is endemic in our country. We must call on elected officials on the state and federal level to establish common sense gun legislation, including universal background checks, and we must do a better job of policing ghost guns and high-caliber assault rifles. According to the FBI, there were 40 active shooter incidents in 2020, the highest rate in two decades. Twenty-four were in “commerce-related environments” including supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.

We cannot continue to stand by and allow these senseless, preventable acts of violence to occur. Our elected officials must listen to the constituents who voted them into office and move to ensure that no more lives are taken because people who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase guns can walk into a gun shop and buy a deadly weapon without an issue.

Our hearts break for the families of those who lost their lives in the Buffalo shooting, and our brothers and sisters at UFCW Local 1 whose members worked at the Tops supermarket and provided a key service to their community. We know that moments of senseless violence will leave an impact on their families and communities for a long time to come.

Kansas AFL-CIO Executive Vice President John Nave:

On Tuesday, our nation witnessed another mass school shooting. Working families sent their children to school, not knowing it would be the last time they kissed their cheeks or hugged them. Teachers who unconditionally committed their lives and love to students and profession, not knowing this would be their last day to teach.

I don’t know a single person in this country – who has not been affected – by the senseless act of extreme violence against innocent children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

It is beyond my imagination that an 18-year-old, on his birthday, had the ability to purchase weapons, ammunition, and then react to his world this way. It appears that he hated life, himself, and took his anger out on his community and innocent people and innocent children of his community, which didn’t deserve it.

Uvalde is a community made up of working families, much like the communities across Kansas and our nation. These communities are working to create the American dream. Sadly, these families now endure unimaginable pain that will never go away.

Many will look to their elected officials for answers. All will ask questions: Are the laws and regulations on the books being followed? Are they strict enough! Are they appropriate for their State, City, and community? Now is not the time to point fingers,

Now is the time to learn and understand all aspects of this tragedy. Then work together to ensure it never happens again. That it can not happen again.

As a labor leader, I have witnessed sad days, yet, nothing in my memory can compare to the pain my family recently experienced. Last month, my granddaughter graduated from the Marine corps and, while home, became an innocent victim of a drive-by shooting. Gratefully and by God’s grace, she survived and lives with the impeded bullet as she continues to serve our country. While I can not honestly know what the families in Ulvade are going through, I understand it.

Today, as I share my thoughts and sadness, I speak for the Kansas AFL-CIO and our close-knit members as we mourn and offer our prayers to the Uvalde community and other communities who have also experienced senseless violence.

We the People must, as a whole, accept the responsibility to address hate, bigotry, racism, and discrimination in all forms. It is time to use our voices to eradicate and prevent this from happening ever again.

We, the People, can look at what we can do to prevent this. We, the PEOPLE have the opportunity to be part of the solution! We, the People have to work together to protect our communities. We, the People need to do whatever is necessary to stand up and make sure our laws and regulations are more effective, so our communities can prevent this type of tragedy.

The clock is ticking for the people of Texas and our nation. The time is now to call upon our officials and our citizens to set aside politics and work together to come to the proper solution, no matter what that may be!

We, the people must and can do this! We, the people must and can do better!

Nebraska State AFL-CIO President Susan L. Martin:

Yesterday, we learned of yet another senseless, preventable shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. I can’t begin to imagine the horror and feeling of loss this community is dealing with right now. Our hearts and prayers go out to this community and to all communities that have been affected by these senseless actions.

It is time to pass common sense laws to keep these assault weapons out of the hands of those who are not responsible enough to use them. It is time to approach our elected officials and hold them accountable to our citizens and not to lobbyists.

Oregon AFL-CIO:

Yesterday, yet another tragic and completely preventable loss of life occurred in Uvalde, Texas.  Oregon’s labor movement sends our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the 21 people who died in this unspeakably horrific incident. School should be the safest place for our children to learn and educators to teach. The terror caused by another violent act in a school must lead to meaningful action from lawmakers to ensure no more families have to face the mountainous grief and sorrow that far too many have already experienced. 

The tragic events at Robb Elementary School occurred just 10 days after the racially motivated shooting of 10 Black people grocery shopping in New York.  These most recent mass shootings remind us of why the Senate has to stop hiding behind their arcane procedures which allow them to avoid taking real action to prevent gun violence.  Working families deserve safe schools and workplaces, without fear of mass shootings. 

We must do better for our kids, for our educators and school employees, and for our communities.  Our hearts are with the families, friends and loved ones of the victims and with the entire Uvalde community as they mourn and grieve.

Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO: 

Hate fueled gun violence in our society is a terrible scourge. We must act with courage and decisiveness. Gun violence destroys people, families, and whole communities. It shatters our liberty and freedom. Who is free when children cannot go to school safely? What are our freedoms worth if we can’t send our children to school or shop in a grocery store without fear of mayhem, injury, and death? The recent mass killings in Buffalo, New York last week appear to be inspired by racial hate. Ten killed and three wounded for the simple crime of shopping while black. As of now, we do not know the precise motive for the killings yesterday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This much we know, it was a manifestation of evil. There is no motivation that can explain the killing of over a dozen innocent children.

The last two weeks have made it crystal-clear that there are people among us that would do us all harm. They were given an operational assist by a poor public safety system and the ease with which bad actors can acquire extremely deadly weapons of mass destruction. What else can you call a military style rifle with enormous ammunition capacity? 

Gun accessibility and weaponized hate has made us all unsafe. We must take steps for an immediate passage of legislation for universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who are unworthy of gun ownership and have a history of potentially dangerous conduct. Certain types of weapons need to be banned. Let’s return the 1990’s assault weapons ban and eliminate the high-capacity magazines that fuels such deadly rampages. Owning a gun is a constitutional right, owning a weapon of mass destruction is not. We can decide what is responsible, legal, and constitutionally protected gun ownership in our nation. We must define it. Unregulated, uncontrolled gun ownership is not liberty, it is license for a few to terrorize and kill, and ultimately to destroy our communities. Those who allow this to continue, will be solely responsible for the continued threats, injuries, and murders. 

The alleged killer in the Buffalo shootings was known to police – he was questioned and released a month before his killing spree. We need a national background check system to flag people who have a history of violence, have been tagged and tracked as dangerous, or with severe mental illness that would make them a danger to themselves and others. These people should not be able to purchase weapons. 

Lastly, something must be done to compel social media platforms to stop the spread of misinformation and broadcasting of violence and hate-filled communication. Criminal statutes should allow civil authorities to pursue criminal facilitation and accessory charges against social platforms which spread violent images and others whose actions support hate crimes and mass violence. 

In the words of Mother Jones: “We mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living.”

Kenneth Quinnell
Thu, 05/26/2022 – 11:07

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Updated: June 1, 2022 — 10:27 am