Above: Watch the livestream from the July 20 Strike for Black Lives on the Service Employees International Union Facebook page.

On July 20, national unions and labor and political groups took part in an unprecedented “Strike for Black Lives.” The action was led by the Service Employees union (SEIU) and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Union supporters included the Teamsters’, the American Federation of Teachers, the United Farm Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and UNITE HERE.

The action focused on four demands: Justice for Black communities, that elected officials use their authority to rewrite the rules so that Black people can thrive, that corporations dismantle racism, white supremacy and economic exploitation including at work and that every worker has the opportunity to join a union. Participating workers often added their own demands for better pay and COVID-19 safety measures.

While organizing for the action focused on 25 cities, actions occurred in 200. 1500 janitors struck in San Francisco.6.000 nurses picketed 85 nursing homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Outside St. Louis McDonald’s workers marched for higher wages. In Detroit they marched for better coronavirus protection. In Memphis, AT&T call center and logistics workers demonstrated. In New York, 100 UPS workers demonstrated in front of their workplace to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest growing inequality. In Washington, DC strikers demonstrated at the Capitol to support the HEROES act.

Labor historian and LNS research and policy director Jeremy Brecher commented that “This may be the first time in history that major American unions have called for strikes and other workplace action to affect broad social issues.” It was also unusual in its spread “across industries and occupations,” and in “combining strikes and other forms of protest action.” Read more»