Respect Equality

‘Strike for Black Lives’ to call out worker inequality

george floyd minneapolis death police brutality protest riots black lives matter black lives movement for strike worker inequality unions labor organization AP USA Today July 20
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Story at a glance

  • On July 20, Black and Hispanic workers will protest across the country to demand better wages and benefits.
  • Organizers tell outlets that racial justice and economic justice go hand-in-hand, explaining that the U.S. has a history of exploiting Black labor.

Guided by the same principles of the Black Lives Matter protests, workers across the country are set to strike later this month to call for an end to the systemic racism and inequality both in their workplaces and communities. 

The event, called the Strike for Black Lives, is organized by at least 14 labor unions, worker advocacy groups and other organizations, including Service Employees International Union, United Farm Workers and the American Federation of Teachers. 

The strike will take place on July 20 in more than 25 cities, according to USA Today

The official website of the protest describes the event as “a day of reckoning.”

“Across the country, workers will rise up to strike for Black lives,” the statement continues. “Together, we will withhold our most valuable asset — our labor — in support of dismantling racism and white supremacy to bring about fundamental changes in our society, economy and workplaces. Join us in walking out for justice.”

The movement is looking to reform corporate structures and workplaces in an environment that has historically marginalized and redlined Black and Hispanic workers, further perpetuating cycles of poverty and leaving Americans of color disadvantaged. 

In exclusive coverage by The Associated Press (AP), the organizing groups say they will be demanding legislative and corporate reform to provide higher wages, comprehensive benefits, the right to unionize, and better sick leave, especially during the pandemic when the majority of frontline workers are people of color.

“We cannot achieve economic justice without racial justice,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “Today, in this national moment of reckoning, working people are demanding fundamental changes to America’s broken system… Until Black people can thrive, none of our communities can thrive.”

Workers from multiple industries, such as fast food, health care and airports are planning to take the day to demonstrate. Those who can’t participate a full day will participate for around eight minutes — the approximate time a white police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck before he died. Floyd’s death has been ruled a homicide. 

Speaking to reporters, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a strike organizer for the Movement for Black Lives and co-executive director of Tennessee-based Highlander Research and Education Center, said large companies who support the Black Lives Matter agenda tend to profit off Black culture without financially uplifting Black American workers.

“They claim to support Black lives, but their business model functions by exploiting Black labor — passing off pennies as ‘living wages’ and pretending to be shocked when COVID-19 sickens those Black people who make up their essential workers,” Henderson said.  

“Corporate power is a threat to racial justice, and the only way to usher in a new economy is by tackling those forces that aren’t fully committed to dismantling racism,” she continued.