Thousands of workers in more than 25 cities will walk off their jobs for eight minutes and 46 seconds on July 20, 2020, to go on Strike for Black Lives, major unions and civil rights groups announced in an emailed press release on July 8. These workers from fast food, nursing home, rideshare, airport and other industries, will stop working to demand the government and corporations abolish systemic racism.
The timing (eight minutes, 46 seconds) is significant, as this was how long George Floyd pleaded for his life while former police officer Derek Chauvin, from the Minneapolis Police Department, killed him while kneeling on his neck. The coalition of racial, social and climate activists will converge to confront the current trifecta that’s harming Black and Brown communities—white supremacy, the public health emergency and a broken economy.
“Companies like McDonald’s cannot on the one hand tweet that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and on the other pay us poverty wages and fail to provide sick days and adequate PPE,” Angely Rodriguez Lambert, an Oakland McDonald’s worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union, said in an emailed statement. “We’re going on strike because McDonald’s and other fast-food companies have failed to protect us in a pandemic that has ravaged Black and Brown communities across the country. We’re going to keep joining together and speaking out until McDonald’s and other companies respond with actions that show they really value our lives.”
How some industries and cities plan to strike include:
- Missouri: Along with Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-Mo.), workers will rally at the McDonald’s in Ferguson, then march to the memorial for Michael Brown, who was killed by police in 2014.
- Detroit: Fast-food and nursing home workers will rally to call out the industry’s neglect in protecting its largely Black workforce from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Twin Cities: In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, nursing home workers will strike in a caravan that will head to the airport to protest with airport workers—from wheelchair attendants to cabin cleaners—who are demanding $15 an hour and a safe return to public travel.
And it’s not just higher wages and safe employment that people want; they’re also calling for an end to racist policies, with specific demands for:
- Justice for Black communities and an unequivocal declaration that Black Lives Matter.
- Elected officials and candidates should use every political power within their authority to “rewrite the rules” and reimagine our economy and democracy for all.
- Corporations should take immediate action to demolish racism, white supremacy and economic exploitation everywhere, through child care support, higher wages, healthcare, sick leave and expanded healthcare coverage to the uninsured or unemployed, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
- Every worker, at any job, should be able to form a union.
“We must show the nation that if you scratch a liar, you find a thief. If you scratch a racist, you find a thief who will steal health care, steal living wages and give those to corporate interests, treating corporations like people and people like things,” Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign said in a statement. “We can’t talk about racial justice in this moment without addressing income inequality. We must push toward economic uplift for everybody—poor and low-income Black people, white people, Brown people, Indigenous people, and Asian people. In other words: everybody in, nobody out.”
And practically everyone is in. The strike coalition includes Service Employees International Union; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; American Federation of Teachers; United Farm Workers; National Domestic Workers Alliance; Fight for $15 and a Union; Movement for Black Lives; Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; March On; Future Coalition; U.S. Youth Climate Strike Coalition; Center for Popular Democracy; Jobs with Justice and One Fair Wage.
“We are living in a time of three great crises—a health crisis, an economic recession and systemic racism, all made worse by a president who fans the flames and wants to divide, not heal. The global health pandemic, racism and the recession are exposing and exacerbating long-standing and persistent inequities,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The AFT supports our sisters and brothers who are Striking for Black Lives. We cannot turn a blind eye to the deleterious impact of structural racism, and we will stand with our allies to demand justice and to build a more equitable future for all.”
Find more information on the Strike For Black Lives here.