Ahead of Labor Day, unions representing millions of workers are threatening to authorize strikes in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Labor leaders who represent teachers, autoworkers, truck drivers and clerical staff, among others, issued a statement on Friday signaling a willingness to escalate protest tactics.
They said walkouts, if they were to move forward with them, would last indefinitely.
“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,” the statement said.
It was signed by several branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and affiliates of the National Education Association.
The union leaders said they are following the lead of professional athletes who last week staged walkouts over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Professional basketball and baseball games had to be postponed.
“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.
Among the supportive unions are ones representing Wisconsin public school teachers.
“We stand in solidarity with Jacob Blake and his family, and all communities fighting to defend Black lives from police and vigilante violence,” Milwaukee Teacher’s Association president Amy Mizialko told the AP.
“Are we striking tomorrow? No,” according to Racine Educator United president Angelina Cruz, who represents teachers in a town that abuts Kenosha. “Are we in conversation with our members and the national labor movement about how we escalate our tactics to stop fascism and win justice? Yes.”
At the federal level, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which would ban police use of stranglehold maneuvers and end qualified immunity for officers, among other reforms. The measure awaits action in the Senate.
A Republican-authored police reform bill, introduced in June by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, failed a procedural vote in the Senate because Democrats felt the measure didn’t go far enough to address officer accountability.
Meanwhile, officials serving on governing bodies in more than a dozen major U.S. cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and Austin, Texas, have voted to slash their police budgets.
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