Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Statement of Solidarity from the Center for Healthy Work in Support of Black Lives Matter

We at the Center for Healthy Work at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health remain committed to dismantling systemic barriers that impact the health and safety of workers and communities. We are disheartened, enraged, and moved to action by the recent events that have taken place. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, a historical pandemic of systemic racism was brought to the forefront. The lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor remind us of the many others before them that unjustly suffered a similar fate at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us.

The UIC School of Public Health released a statement on the murder of George Floyd and the resultant protests, providing resources and a guide to advocacy and anti-racist praxis. Students and faculty at UIC have released a list of demands to University Administration.  The UIC Center for Healthy Work fully supports those demands.

The Center for Healthy Work is a CDC/NIOSH-funded research center whose mission is to eliminate barriers to the health and well-being of low wage workers. We aim to identify and promote employment programs, practices, and policies that will improve the health of workers and the communities they live in.

Through our research and outreach, we work closely with residents, workers, worker advocacy and community organizations, and employers across Illinois to ensure the safety and health of workers, their families and communities.  As public health researchers and practitioners, we know that systemic racism and police brutality are public health issues.  Additionally, unsafe and unhealthy work disproportionately affects communities of color as they experience an inequitable share of traumatic workplace injuries and are at increased risk for work-related illness, including workplace transmission of COVID-19.  A 2015 University of Illinois at Chicago study shows that these workers, and other persons employed in dangerous jobs, are likely to cluster in low-income neighborhoods (Forst 2015). Police are also more likely to use deadly force in these low-income communities of color.

The Black Lives Matter movement is calling for a redistribution of resources to fund public health initiatives and is challenging many of us to imagine a criminal justice system based on restorative justice principles, as opposed to punitive measures.  These demands deeply resonate with the core values of the Center for Healthy Work.

As a Center within the University of Illinois Chicago, we recognize the historical harm that UIC as an institution has been complicit in, particularly playing a role in the displacement of communities of color.  We are committed to making amends in an effort to serve justice.  We firmly recommit to action in the following ways:

  • To continue to investigate structural racism as a fundamental determinant of health inequities (Gee 2015) and identify mechanisms to disrupt structural violence.
  • To ensure the community-based participatory research we are engaged in facilitates equitable partnership in all phases of research, recognizes the inherent value and wisdom that our community partners bring, and promotes co-learning for all.
  • To ensure an anti-racist and a trauma-informed approach to our work, including an examination of how we structure our research projects.
  • To ground our research in community priorities related to employment and commit to implementation science that is in line with the struggle to dismantle racism in the wider community.
  • To assure that the relationship between the Center for Healthy Work and our partners is characterized by mutual trust and respect.
  • To assess and build equitable structures and processes in our own Center and institution to support inclusive decision making and other forms of power within our research projects by prioritizing the hiring of people of color from communities we serve, such as Greater Lawndale.
  • To support the voices of Black and Latinx workers in demanding healthy and safe work through our research and outreach.