“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.”
Workers from the service industry, fast-food chains, and the gig economy rallied with organized labor Monday to protest systemic racism and economic inequality, staging demonstrations across the U.S. and around the world seeking better treatment of Black Americans in the workplace.
Organizers of the Strike for Black Lives said at least 20,000 workers in 160 cities walked off the job, inspired by the racial reckoning that followed the deaths of several Black men and women at the hands of police. Visible support came largely in protests that drew people whose jobs in health care, transportation and construction do not allow them to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Participants nationwide broadly demanded action by corporations and the government to confront racism and inequality that limit mobility and career advancement for many Black and Hispanic workers, who make up a disproportionate number of those earning less than a living wage.
The demands include allowing workers to unionize to negotiate better health care, sick leave and child care support.
“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,” said the Rev. William Barber II, co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, one of the organizations that partnered to support the strike.
Barber told The Associated Press that Monday’s turnout showed the importance of the issue to the people willing to come out during a pandemic to make their voices heard.
“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.