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Striking workers from the SEIU for Monday's action. (Photo: Sen. Ed Markey)

'A Moment of Reckoning': Thousands Across Country Take Part in #StrikeForBlackLives

"When we come together in our union and with our community, we have power."

Eoin Higgins

Thousands of workers in over 100 U.S. cities on Monday are on strike for Black lives and racial justice as demonstrations against the American economic and political system and the abuses of law enforcement continue into their second month since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. 

"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 healthcare," Tennessee-based Movement for Black Lives organizer Ash-Lee Henderson told the Associated Press.

"We're risking our lives going to work and still getting the same poverty wages, and I don't think that's fair," said Adriana Alvarez, a striking McDonald's worker in Chicago. "I'm raising my eight-year-old son on my own, and I shouldn't have to choose between our health, or having food on the table for us."

The strike movement claims over 50 groups in support, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which was the lead organizer of the action along with the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). SEIU president Mary Kay Henry joined M4BL national field director Karissa Lewis in an opinion piece for Salon Monday explaining "Why We're Striking."

As Lewis and Henry wrote:

The current pandemic of Covid-19 and the generational pandemic of violence against Black lives have brought some truths into sharp relief. As tens of millions of people have worked without personal protective equipment or paid sick time, it has become clear to us all: Workers, those we have recently taken to calling "essential," are the cornerstone of our social and economic well-being. These are disproportionately Black and brown workers.  As we enter further and further into an economic depression, it's become clear that for so many communities, it is time to take action that pushes elected officials and CEOs to dismantle racism and white supremacy in the workplace. Our fights for racial, economic, health care, gender, climate, and immigration justice are all connected. We are connected, as well. 

"We're on strike for racial justice and economic justice in society and at work," striking Detroit nursing home worker Trece Andrews said. "We can't have one without the other. They go hand in hand."

The Labor Network for Sustainability said in a press release supporting the movement that it was important for Black workers to come together to withhold their labor as a check on corporate power.

"Until Black people can thrive, none of our communities can, which means we cannot succeed in our movement toward a society that is economically just and ecologically sustainable," the group said.

The strike calls for four major reforms:

  • Justice for Black communities in policing and healthcare accessibility;
  • That elected officials at every level of American life work to improve material conditions in the economic and political spheres for Black communities;
  • Corporate accountability for and action to dismantle racism and economic exploitation in American workspaces; and,
  • A universal right to unionization in U.S. workplaces.

"When we talk about racial justice it's not just a call for diversity and inclusion, or to send out a tweet that 'Black Lives Matter,'" Cherrell Brown, lead organizer for strike-supporting organization 350.org, said in a statement. "It's about disrupting and dismantling all the ways racialized violence harms our communities, whether at the hands of fossil fuel companies, greedy CEOs and corporations, or police and prisons."

Progressive politicians expressed support for the movement as well, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joining striking workers from the SEIU.

"Workers are rising up across the country to say that economic justice is racial justice," tweeted Markey.

Other progressive lawmakers, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), also weighed in on Twitter.

Guillermo Garcia, striking farmworker, said in a statement in Spanish that he joined the strike to show solidarity.

"Today we are joining the Strike for Black Lives to demand an end to racism," said Garcia. "We face racism as well; often while we work alongside the main road, passersby yell racial slurs as we harvest the vegetables. I feed the world. Black and Brown division is created and perpetuated to make profit. Our collective liberation is linked, and together we will win. Si Se Puede—yes we can."


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