Memphis unions gather for a change to protect Black workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Saturday morning, Memphis unions gathered between city hall and the federal building.

They demanded immediate reform from the local and federal governments to protect Black workers.

“Our message is simple,” said Kermit Moore, President of A Philip Randolph Institute. “Whether it’s COVID-19 and healthcare, poverty and the recession, or policing - Let Black People Live.”

Union leaders said it is the mostly Black workforces that are forced to take the brunt of the COVID-19 exposure, according to a release.

“We need protection,” said Wanda Abertson, a Shelby County Schools bus driver and chair of the Teamsters women’s committee. “When schools open up, there is no clear plan to protect school workers and bus drivers like me.”

Unions said that the local government has taken virtually no action to force employers to protect workers, saying tax breaks and contracts are dolled out with no knowledge of an employer’s workplace health and safety record, the release stated.

“If the Senate doesn’t pass the HEROES Act, city budgets will crater and millions will be kicked off unemployment,” said Jeffrey Lichtenstein, Labor Council executive secretary. The pain will be tremendous.”

“But passing it isn’t enough. If city leaders decide to pad their budgets and ignore the mandate to spend on new COVID related expenses, working families will still be screwed.”