Immigrant workers and supporters spent the night outside of Jeff Bezos’s Manhattan penthouse, calling for a state tax on billionaires.


Workers protested across the U.S. Monday, going on strike, walking off the job and, marching on city hall to demand an end to systemic racism in both the workplace and their communities.

The Strike for Black Lives, organized by a coalition of unions, social justice and civil rights groups, was set to take place in more than 200 cities, including New York, San Francisco and St. Louis, linking the fight against police brutality to a broader call for racial equity.

The planned actions ranged from day-long strikes by fast-food workers to nursing home aides, custodians and others walking off the job at midday for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time a white Minneapolis police office pinned down George Floyd, whose death sparked a nationwide movement to protest police killings of African American men and women.

It was not immediately clear how many people participated Monday, but organizers said they were expecting thousands of workers, from Uber drivers to farm workers to take part.

The Strike for Black Lives is calling on companies to increase pay, offer benefits like paid sick leave and allow workers to unionize as part of a broader effort to root out bias that hinders the ability of Black people to achieve economic and social equity.  

In New York City, Sen. Chuck Schumer addressed protesters gathered in front of Trump International Hotel demanding better protections for essential workers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers said that 1,500 janitors in San Francisco went on strike early Monday and will rally with other workers around city hall.

And in Chicago, fast-food workers planned to call for better pay and benefits by marching and riding through the city in a car caravan.

“With the Strike for Black Lives, we are uniting the interconnected fights for racial and economic justice,’’ Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Unions said in a statement. “Workers from across the country are coming together because we can no longer ignore the deadly impacts of structural racism in America’s economy, especially in the middle of a pandemic that is devastating communities of color.”

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The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and numerous other African Americans, along with the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black and brown communities, have spurred an intense national conversation about the presence and impact of systemic racism. 

A wide range of organizations and unions are supporting the effort including the SEIU, United Farm workers, the Fight for $15, MoveOn, and the American Federation of Teachers. 

Some organizers made a point of calling out businesses like Walmart and McDonald’s, which they say express support for Black lives while exploiting African American workers by paying low wages and offering few workplace protections or benefits.

Black employees at a corporate-owned McDonald’s in Lakeland, Florida filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last Friday, saying they were subjected to a racist and toxic work environment, and then retaliation like reduced hours and grueling work tasks when they complained.

“We want to build a country where Black lives matter in every aspect of our society including our workplaces,” Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a representative of the Movement for Black Lives, said during a media call. “These same companies whose profits are made form the exploitation of Black workers have not changed their policies.’’

This week’s walkout is just the beginning, some protesters say.

“We’re risking our lives going to work, and still getting paid the same poverty wages,’’ said Adriana Alvarez, a Fight for $15 leader and McDonald’s worker in Chicago who staged a one-day strike with her co-workers to demand hazard and sick pay.

“As far as I know (the strike’s) for today,” she said. “But if it goes longer, it goes longer. Whatever it takes.’’

Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter@charissejones

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