On the picket line
Workers stage 540 wildcats in support of BLM in June
As of June 19, Payday Report’s “Strike Tracking Map” showed 540 wildcat strikes in support of Black Lives Matter in the first three weeks of June. The week of June 8, #ShutDownStem strikes saw academic scientists go on strike at 109 locations across the U.S. The Washington State General Strike saw workers participate at over 250 locations across the state on June 12. Between March and May, Payday reported 260 strikes demanding personal protective equipment, hazard pay and other working conditions needed to cope with the pandemic. A total of 840 strikes have been recorded since early March.
Communication Workers statement against racism
An example of statements made by many unions opposing racism and the murder of George Floyd is that of the Communication Worker (CWA) issued on May 29: “The bosses, the rich and the corporate executives … have used race as one of the most effective and destructive ways to divide workers. Unions have a duty to fight for power, dignity and the right to live for every working-class person in every place. … If we are to make progress, we must listen to the experiences and stories of Black CWA members, Black workers and the Black community. We must join together — every one of us — to dismantle this system of oppression. This means every white union member, Black union member, Latino union member and every ally, must fight and organize for Black lives. … We must move to action.”
On June 11, CWA members nationally “took a stand against racism by stopping work and reflecting for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.”
Bay Areas unionists march against racism and for police reform
At least 3,000 union members took part June 13 in a march from Oakland, Calif., to Berkeley in support of Black Lives Matter. They called for funding to be redirected from the police to community services and for holding police accountable for their actions.
The protest was organized by Service Employees Local 1021 and other local unions and organizations, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the Alameda Labor Council, Ryse Youth Center and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
Dwight McElroy, chief steward of Local 1021, explained that all unions need “to make a massive contribution toward the elimination of systemic racism, beginning with police reform. We are not only people of color; we are also people of consciousness, and people of consciousness can no longer stand by.” (dailycal.org, June 13)
AFL-CIO out of touch with member unions
The AFL-CIO showed just how out of touch it is with the vast majority of its member unions, when its board issued a statement June 8 that it would work with its law enforcement members to bring about change: “We believe the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them.” (The Intercept, June 18)
Calling out McDonald’s racist hypocrisy
When the McDonald’s corporation released a tweet after the vicious murder of George Floyd and other Black people, Deatric Edie, a Black worker in Florida, issued a powerful response to “the racist and offensive tweet.” Calling out company policies that “force hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown workers to live in poverty,” Edie wrote, “You cannot claim to be against ‘inequality, injustice and racism’ while lobbying against paid sick days during a pandemic, putting profits ahead of workers’ safety, ignoring sexual harassment and fighting efforts of Black and Brown workers to join together in a union.”
Edie denounced the multibillion-dollar global company for “denying us a living wage, hazard pay during a pandemic, personal protective equipment to keep us safe and paid sick leave to protect our co-workers and customers.” To sign a petition calling for $15 an hour and union rights, visit fightfor15.org/.
Seattle health care workers demand COVID protections
University of Washington Medicine staff and workers from the UW campus rallied at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on June 14 calling for better protections from COVID-19 and protesting planned furloughs and lay-offs, after UW Medicine claimed $500 million losses during the pandemic. The health care workers, represented by Washington Federation of State Employees, accuse the university of failing to implement “basic public health guidance designed to flatten the curve, including proper notification to staff regarding exposure, the installation of sneeze guards to protect staff and the public, and the distribution of personal protective equipment.” (Associated Press, June 14)