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Ahead of Labor Day, unions representing millions in working-class sectors are upping protest tactics to force local and federal lawmakers to take concrete action on police reform and systemic racism, according to a report.
In a statement first shared with The Associated Press, labor leaders said they would organize walkouts for teachers, autoworkers, truck drivers and clerical staff, among others.
FILE – In this July 20, 2020, file photo, Audrey Reed, 8, holds up a sing through the sunroof of a car during a rally in Los Angeles. Ahead of Labor Day, major U.S. labor unions say they are considering work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
“The status quo — of police killing Black people, of armed white nationalists killing demonstrators, of millions sick and increasingly desperate — is clearly unjust, and it cannot continue,” says the statement from several branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and affiliates of the National Education Association.
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AFSCME, SEIU, and NEA include liberal membership that typically votes Democrat by margins as high as 80%.
FILE – In this Aug. 28, 2020, file photo, a woman holds a "Black Lives Matter," flag during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech. Ahead of Labor Day, major U.S. labor unions say they are considering work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
The latest development comes after a summer of protest nationwide from youths to athletes. Some of the protests have turned violent, with rioting and looting in several cities.
“They remind us that when we strike to withhold our labor, we have the power to bring an unjust status quo to a grinding halt,” the union leaders said in the statement.
“We echo the call to local and federal government to divest from the police, to redistribute the stolen wealth of the billionaire class, and to invest in what our people need to live in peace, dignity, and abundance: universal health care and housing, public jobs programs and cash assistance, and safe working conditions,” the statement reads.
FILE – In this July 20, 2020, file photo, Eddie Perkins takes a knee during a protest rally outside Hartford Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Detroit. Ahead of Labor Day, major U.S. labor unions say they are considering work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
The Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, which represents several hundred workiers at more than 25 civil rights groups and think tank organizations, told the AP it signed onto the union statement because “the fights for workers’ rights, civil rights, and racial justice are inextricably linked.”
The calls for justice include more police accountability; acts that would ban police use of chokehold maneuvers and end qualified immunity for police officers, among other reforms; and the reallocation of police money to address mental health, homelessness and education services in communities.
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FILE – In this July 20, 2020, file photo, holding flowers and a sign, Blair Toles, 30, attends rally in Los Angeles, on Black Strike Day. Ahead of Labor Day, major U.S. labor unions say they are considering work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Companies are faced with a “Which side are you on?” moment due to growing support for the BLM movement, said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and a leading organizer in the Movement for Black Lives, a national coalition of 150 Black-led organizations.
“If I was a decision-maker that was considering whether or not to meet the demands of the unions, I would be scared,” Mitchell said. “This movement is spreading. We’ve been on the streets consistently, we’re building on the electoral front, and now we’re seeing this conversation at the highest levels of labor.”
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