Socialist Worker

Trade unionists plan to take the knee on anniversary of George Floyd’s murder

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2756

Workers at Islington council, north London, protest for Black Lives Matter last summer

Workers at Islington council, north London, protest for Black Lives Matter last summer


Anti-racists across Britain are preparing to take the knee on the one-year anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd next Tuesday, 25 May.

The action, organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and the TUC union federation, will highlight the institutional racism of the British state and police.

Over 250 trade unionists joined an online meeting on Monday evening as part of a push to see workers take the knee in workplaces next Tuesday.

TUC race relations committee chair Gloria Mills opened the meeting saying we must “hold the state and individuals making decisions to account”. “We need solidarity resisting workers’ oppression—with our solidarity and actions we can move forward together fighting racism,” she said.

Roger McKenzie, Unison union assistance general secretary, slammed the disproportionate deaths of black and Asian workers from coronavirus. “The racism black workers face has got to stop,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death—enough is enough.

“We need to take a knee and remember those who gave their lives in public service against Covid-19, but were put in harm’s way deliberately by this reckless government.”

He added, “The challenge for us is to organise—not just to say black lives matter, but to win black liberation.”

NEU union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney urged trade unionists to mobilise for next Tuesday. “We’ve seen huge mobilisations on the streets, now can we get them into our workplaces?” he said. “Since the murder of George Floyd we’ve seen black and white people on demonstrations demanding change.

“Trade unions live or die by the unity of workers, black and white people together. Anti-racism has to be struggle and mobilisation in the workplace.”

Common

Amit Malde, the FBU black members committee chair, added that the biggest threat the working class faces is “the phoney culture war”. “We need to reunite workers facing a common enemy—those who divide and keep us down for personal financial gain,” he said.

And RMT black members committee chair Glen Hart added, “The Tories sought to deny institutional racism as an everyday reality.

“Taking the knee is more than just a symbolic gesture. It’s led to conversations that were simply not happening before.

Racist police system killed George Floyd—not just one bad cop
Racist police system killed George Floyd—not just one bad cop
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“But we still require active and continuous opposition to racism with working class solidarity.”

Julia, a Unison rep from Manchester, told the meeting, “We need to emphasise being visible in the workplace. As a black woman working in the care sector, I am treated like rubbish.

“We can only win when we mobilise in big numbers.”

Laila, a member of the Usdaw shop workers union, added, “When Boris Johnson scapegoats minorities and immigrants we’ve seen a spike in racist abuse on the shop floor. One colleague working in a big supermarket chain had a manager fostering a culture of racism.

“We took leaflets about demonstrations into the workplace and made it clear the trade unions were linking up to a wider movement. It made them sit up and see how organised we were.”

Workers and anti-racists must mobilise for 25 May to say no to institutional racism in Britain and globally.

Find out more about the SUTR and TUC week of action here. Tickets to international rally on 22 May at 5pm here.

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