Workers Protest Racial Inequality Across America

On Monday (June 20), workers rallied with organized labor to protest systemic racism and economic inequality.

Tens of thousands of employees from the service industry, fast-food chains, and the gig economy in 160 cities walked off the job for the “Strike for Black Lives” in order to seek better treatment of Black Americans in the workplace.

Support came largely in the form of protests that drew in people from the health care, transportation and construction industries, which largely have prevented their workers from working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“What the protesters are saying, that if we want to be concerned — and we should be — about police violence and people getting killed by the police … we have to also be concerned about the people who are dying and being put into lethal situations through economic exploitation all over the country,” Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, an organization that helped organize the strike, told the Associated Press.

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Barber said Monday’s protests were a powerful reminder of people’s sacrifice to work during a national pandemic.

“Sadly, if they’re not in the streets, the political systems don’t move because when you just send an email or a tweet. They ignore it,” he said.

The “Strike for Black Lives” was organized and/or supported by more than 60 labor unions and social and racial justice organizations.

In workplaces where a stoppage was not possible for a full day, participants picketed during a lunch break or observed moments of silence while kneeling to honor police brutality.

“Black people are dying, Black communities are in danger, and workers of all races have had enough,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union — which represents almost 2 million service workers — said in a statement, according to CNN. “With the Strike for Black Lives, we are uniting the interconnected fights for racial and economic justice.”

A study in May found that Black Americans, who make up a disproportionate percentage of essential workers, have been more likely to die from the coronavirus. They represent 60 percent of the deaths despite making up only 13.4 percent of the population.

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