Suspect in murder of Black transgender woman has bail increased, JBS union begins inclusion efforts

by Belle Townsend

Imanitwithago Zachee (pronounced Za-shay, known as Zachee to friends) was a Black transgender woman gunned down outside of her work on February 3. In addition to being murdered outside of her workplace at JBS plants in Butchertown, Zachee was murdered by one of her coworkers. 

The suspect, who turned himself in and now is pleading not guilty, is Edilberto Lores Reyes. His bail is now set to $150,000, implying that the District Attorney may have considered him to be a flight risk.

Caitlin Blair, the Communications and Political Director at United Food and Commercial Workers, represents the union in contract with JBS plants. The murder of Zachee started conversations as a union, and Blair shared the history of the LGBTQ+ community and unions.

Blair explained, “Many people in LGBTQ+ communities get the value of unions in the workplace. This is because union contracts historically guaranteed job security for the LGBTQ+ community, despite rampant workplace oppression for how they identified or who they loved.”

Unions represent workers to leadership, where they are able to advocate on the workers’ behalf. This historically has allowed workers to fight for their rights to higher pay, safer working conditions, and raise other workplace concerns without fear of retaliation. 

Blair continued to share the history of UFCW and its mission to advocate for all members of their diverse workforce. In response to the murder of Zachee, Blair said that the union is focusing on, “partnering with Outreach to provide union activist training where everyone belongs, intentionally developing LGBTQ+ workers as leaders, and ensuring that LGBTQ+ workers feel supported.” 

In addition to these next steps for UFCW in addressing what happened at JBS, Blair mentioned that Outreach partnered with them to start the Creating Change scholarship program. This program focuses on “meaningful ways to support workers, raise awareness, and continue saying her name.”

Blair continues to utilize the union contract to see if any other funds can be appropriated to support the solidarity among their diverse workers in light of such a tragedy.

We will continue to say her name as we fight to tangibly change the realities of Black trans women in Kentucky, because they deserve so, so much better. 

In honor of Zachee, we recognize the historical class struggle of LGBTQ+ workers and their rights to a safe working environment. Solidarity forever.

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