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TENS of thousands walked out in US cities today in protest at systemic racism and a deepening structural inequality that has worsened due to the country’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Strike for Black Lives saw care staff, cleaners and delivery drivers down tools in a 24-hour stoppage, while others stopped work at noon for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minnesota cop knelt on George Floyd’s neck, killing him.
Ash-Lee Henderson, spokeswoman for the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of 150 organisations, said: “We are … building a country where black lives matter in every aspect of society — including in the workplace.”
Strikers include members of the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, United Farm Workers and the Fight for $15 and a Union campaign.
Speaking ahead of today’s action, airport wheelchair attendant Glen Brown insisted that action was necessary, with the recent global uprising prohibiting a return to the status quo.
“Even before George Floyd’s life was so horrifically taken, the ‘normal’ everyone keeps talking about going back to wasn’t working for us.
“From racially motivated attacks to being forced to go to work without protective equipment or hazard pay in the name of the economy, our lives have not been valued. We cannot go back to that. We must move forward,” he said.
The killing of Mr Floyd in May triggered mass protests against structural racism and inequality, with statues of historical oppressors being torn down.
Strike organisers are targeting big business and corporations, including Walmart and McDonald’s, for their exploitation and mistreatment of black workers.
They want to “dismantle racism, white supremacy and economic exploitation, including at work,” with every worker given the opportunity to join a union.
On Friday McDonald’s staff in Florida filed a lawsuit claiming that managers at a Lakeland restaurant had subjected them to a “racially hostile working environment” and abused black customers.
Instead of taking employees’ concerns on board, bosses slashed their working hours and stripped them of responsibilities, the staff alleged.
McDonald’s insisted that it is taking the case seriously and stands with black communities across the world in its “commitment to address unacceptable racial injustices.”
But one of those bringing the lawsuit, Faith Brooker said: “McDonald’s, if you really believe black lives matter, it’s time to stop with the lip service and start with real action: treat your black employees like our lives matter.”
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