RWDSU Becomes First Union to Join JustleadershipUSA’s @CloseRikers Coalition


Today, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced the union will join JustLeadershipUSA’s #CLOSErikers coalition, making RWDSU the first union to support the long overdue closure of the violent and corrupt jails on Rikers Island. RWDSU has been on the front lines of several historic civil rights and political battles and criminal justice reform is no different – and as a #CLOSErikers coalition member RWDSU will be a forceful voice for the long overdue closure of this violent facility.


“For far too long Rikers Island has been a point of no return for so many young people. Their days, weeks, months and sometime years of violent and needless detention there irreparably changes the course of their lives forever – it’s a place that needs to close and we need to take the money wasted there and reinvest it in local communities,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “No one should be detained in a facility like Rikers and we should work to build programs that reduce incarceration instead of building facilities that foster violence like the jails on Rikers Island. The RWDSU is joining JustLeadershipUSA’s #CLOSErikers coalition to actively change the criminal justice system and reduce crime and incarceration by helping people earn fair wages and build communities that offer real opportunities and meaningful alternatives to incarceration.”


JustLeadershipUSA is a national, member-driven advocacy organization that seeks to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030 by empowering people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to drive criminal justice reform. Their #CLOSErikers campaign is an ongoing effort to push for the closure of the notoriously violent and inhumane jails on Rikers Island.


“We’re honored to have the support of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU),” said Glenn Martin, founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA and founder of the #CLOSErikers campaign. “RWDSU forcefully advocates for real solutions to the challenges facing working men and women across the country. We see a lot of commonality between our work and the people we serve. Together, we will unapologetically push for real solutions to the problems in our criminal justice system, and we will not rest until Rikers is closed for good. The RWDSU is the first union to join our coalition and I am confident that their leadership will encourage other unions to recognize the value of our work to their memberships and to the nation as a whole.”


The #CLOSErikers campaign has the support of prominent leaders and figures including musician John Legend, author and activist Piper Kerman, and author and activist Kerry Kennedy, as well as the support of over 160 other advocacy organizations. RWDSU will play an engaged role in #CLOSErikers’ future actions, which will include rallies, protests, and supporting legislative proposals. For more information on #CLOSErikers, visit