From janitors and Uber drivers to nursing home aides and servers, tens of thousands of Americans either walked off or are expected to Monday as part of the “Strike for Black Lives,” a massive show of collective action meant to draw increased attention to systemic racism in America’s workplaces.
The strike was organized by dozens of labor, political and racial advocacy groups, including the Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and American Federation of Teachers, reports The Washington Post.
These demonstrations were held in more than two dozen cities. There were also a variety of actions workers could take.
From the Washington Post:
In Washington, strikers are expected to gather at noon on Capitol Hill in support of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or Heroes Act, as talks intensify over a fourth coronavirus relief package. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is set to join strikers in New York outside Trump Tower. Health workers at a nursing home outside Los Angeles are planning walkouts during multiple shifts. Other workers in the city are planning a car caravan down President Barack Obama Boulevard, a major thoroughfare on the city’s west side.
If workers can’t leave their jobs for the rest of the day, organizers encourage them to at noon take a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, killing him and leading to a wave of protests nationwide — hold 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence, or walk off the job for the same length of time.
“The Strike for Black Lives is a moment of reckoning for corporations that have long ignored the concerns of their Black workforce and denied them better working conditions, living wages and health care,” Ashlee Henderson, an organizer for the Movement for Black Lives and co-executive director of the Tennessee-based Highlander Research and Education Center told the Associated Press.
Some of the top concerns shared by workers in the various industries are raising wages, which have remained stagnant even as housing prices have surged in recent decades, and allowing workers to unionize so they can negotiate better health care, sick leave, and child care benefits.
Among the specific workplaces being called out is McDonald’s, which was the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in Florida last Friday. A group of workers at the fast-food behemoth claimed managers at a corporate-run store in Lakeland created a “racially hostile work environment” and mistreated its Black customers. As the AP reports, when these workers flagged the problems to the chain’s corporate leaders, their managers cut their hours and adjusted their workplace responsibilities, the suit alleges.
“McDonald’s, if you really believe Black lives matter, it’s time to stop with the lip service and start with real action: treat your Black employees like our lives matter,” said Faith Booker, a Black woman among the plaintiffs of the McDonald’s lawsuit. She told the AP she planned to join Monday’s strike.