Written By Bruce C.T. Wright
Building off the momentum achieved from global protests against racism and police violence, activists have organized a nationwide labor strike to continue to bring awareness to the economic disparities that are drawn along racial lines in the workforce.
The “Strike for Black Lives” is scheduled to be held on Monday and encourages participants to stop working at noon in all time zones for nearly nine minutes, a symbolic time period that is the same as how long a police officer used his knee to deliver deadly force to George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man killed in the Memorial Day insistent that helped spur the worldwide protests.
While workers across all industry sectors were invited to take part, the strike will focus on those who are deemed as essential workers in the pandemic. They include people such as health care workers and delivery drivers.
According to the “Strike for Black Lives” website, organizers were looking to achieve four results from their demands: “higher wages, better jobs” that include healthcare for all, elected officials using their power to make that happen, businesses doing their part “to dismantle racism, white supremacy, and economic exploitation wherever it exists including in our workplaces,” and supporting unions and “the immediate implementation of a $15/hour minimum wage, fully-funded healthcare coverage and paid sick leave for all.”
More than 50 labor unions and groups supporting them have signed on to support the “Strike for Black Lives.”
Participants are being asked to either walk off the job at noon for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds wherever they are at noon, or hold 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence.
The national strike follows Blackout Day, which was held earlier this month when Black people, in particular, were encouraged against spending any money except with Black-owned businesses to show just how much dollars from Black communities are worth to the nation’s economy. Some people were calling on the same thing to happen Monday, as well.
Like the “Strike for Black Lives,” Blackout Day also came with its own set of expectations and demands from its organizers, including: “that we stop being shot down in the streets;” “that racist legislation be purged from the books, and the cancerous ideology that this country was founded upon be rooted out; “that we have equal opportunity to access funding so that we can conduct business and practice group economics amongst ourselves;” “that we are allowed to build our own communities and industries and be left alone; “that you stop murdering our leaders when they attempt to unite us as a people.”
The strike is taking place just a few days after Georgia Rep. and civil rights icon John Lewis died following complications from pancreatic cancer. Lewis was a major proponent for workers’ rights and has over the years championed the same demands that organizers of the “Strike for Black Lives” are calling for.