Hundreds of workers rallied Monday outside the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan and in cities across the U.S. to protest systemic racism and economic inequality, joining a nationwide demonstration demanding improvement of Black Americans’ experiences in the workplace.
Organizers hoped the effort would grow into a strike inspiring tens of thousands of people to walk off the job. But visible support for the effort came largely in the form of smaller protests that drew people whose jobs in health care, transportation and food service do not allow them to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The “Strike for Black Lives” protest was organized by labor unions and social and racial justice organizations, which planned a range of actions in more than two dozen U.S. cities. Where work stoppages were not possible for a full day, participants picketed during a lunch break or observed moments of silence to honor Black lives lost to police violence, organizers said.
About 1,500 janitors in San Francisco walked off their jobs and planned to lead a march to City Hall later in the day, according to Fight for $15, a labor group that supports raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15 an hour. McDonald’s cooks and cashiers in Los Angeles and nursing home workers in St. Paul were also striking, the group said.
Participants in local rallies included delivery men and women, fast food employees, ride-share and airport workers.
Glen Brown, a 48-year-old wheelchair agent at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for nearly five years, said his job does not give him the option of social distancing. Brown and fellow workers called for a $15 minimum age during an event in St. Paul, and he said workers were “seizing our moment” to seek change.
“We are front-line workers, (and) we are risking our lives, but we’re doing it at a wage that doesn’t even match the risk,” Brown said.
In Manhattan, more than 150 union workers rallied outside Trump International Hotel to demand that the Senate and President Donald Trump adopt the HEROES Act, which provides protective equipment, essential pay and extended unemployment benefits to workers who cannot work from home. It has already been passed by the House.