Thousands of essential workers were set to walk off the job Monday to demand corporations raise wages, provide health care and paid sick leave, and grant employees the right to unionize — part of a larger effort to pressure businesses to confront systemic racism.
The walkout, called the Strike for Black Lives, will take place in more than 100 cities in the United States. Protesters include Black and brown fast food workers, home health aides, janitors, and others in industries where Black workers are disproportionately represented.
The Movement for Black Lives is organizing the protest, alongside the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Fight for $15 and a Union, the Poor People’s Campaign, and other labor advocacy organizations.
“Black people are dying, Black communities are in danger, and workers of all races have had enough,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU — which represents almost 2 million service workers — in a statement. “With the Strike for Black Lives, we are uniting the interconnected fights for racial and economic justice.”
Alongside striking workers, organizers expect thousands more to walk away from their jobs for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time listed in the initial criminal complaint that a Minneapolis police officer suffocated George Floyd in May.
Government leaders are also joining the walkout, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said he would join a rally in front of the Trump International Hotel.
The strike is particularly targeting large businesses such as Amazon (AMZN), Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT), and McDonald’s (MCD), among others. “If you’re concerned about life, you have to challenge corporations that will put up a hashtag or slogan but do nothing about workers having health care or a living wage or decent employment,” Rev. Dr. William Barber II, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, told CNN.
One McDonald’s worker in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says she was forced to quarantine without paid sick leave for two weeks after testing positive for Covid-19.
“When I told McDonald’s that someone I had been in contact with tested positive for Covid-19 and I had also tested positive, the manager told me ‘get out of my store and don’t come back,’” Deatric Edie said. “It’s very frustrating being treated like nothing, because I work hard.”
“We are confident the vast majority of employees are covered with sick pay if they are impacted by COVID-19,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business. “To further show appreciation, franchisees have awarded bonuses and raises to employees and provided additional health and financial resources.”
A study in May found that Black Americans — who make up a disproportionate percentage of essential workers — have been more likely to die from Covid-19, representing 60% of deaths and only 13.4% of the population.
CNN Business’ Chauncey Alcorn contributed reporting.