Tens of thousands of workers in 160 different cities across the US participated in the “Strike for Black Lives” on Monday.
The strikes were organised by The Movement for Black Lives. Trade unions including the United Farm Workers union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) supported them.
Campaigns such as the Fight for $15 and the climate strike movement also backed the strikes.
Workers either went on strike or stopped work for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s how long police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for before Floyd died.
Service industry worker Linda told Socialist Worker she was taking part to “make a stand”. “I have a chance to be with a collective movement of people who are equally furious as to why black people do not deserve basic rights,” she said.
Around 1,500 janitors in San Francisco, California, struck early in the morning according to Fight for $15.
And 1,400 food market workers held a work stoppage in the Bronx. Hundreds of workers from New York also rallied outside Trump Tower.
In the Yakima valley in Washington, hundreds of grape workers stopped for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Workers from five care homes in Detroit, Michigan, walked off the job.
“Thousands of workers and residents have needlessly lost their lives,” explained nursing home worker Trece Andrews.
“I’ve seen how this virus is devastating the black community, exposing the systemic racism that has always existed.”
Across Florida, fast food workers stopped work. And at an Oakland McDonald’s, strikers climbed onto the roof to put up banners demanding justice for black lives, PPE and dignity. Lecturers and other education workers took action to demand that Valencia college—in the same state—allow them to join a union and to organise.
Symone from California, who works in the not for profit sector, told Socialist Worker why she didn’t work on Monday.
“Because of the pandemic, many people are noticing the ways the economy is broken, and especially how the economy exploits and burdens black people,” she said.
“A strike for black lives is using our power as workers to bring attention to racist police violence and the many other ways that racism kills us.”
The inspiring action shows that it’ possible for workers to strike over oppression. And when workers are united against racism, they can gain more confidence to fight for better wages and conditions.
The action came as US president Donald Trump sent federal forces to attack anti-racism protesters in Portland, Oregon. He has threatened to do the same in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland.
Workers’ strikes can play a key role in resisting this repression.