Labor unions rally outside city hall for Black workers, join forces with protesters

Updated: Jun. 27, 2020 at 5:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis labor union leaders gathered at Civic Center Plaza on Saturday, joining forces with protesters who've been camped out for more than a week and a half.

The protesters say they’re pushing city leaders to adopt police reform policies. They say they also want more money spent on other public services, like transit, libraries, housing and education.

Union leaders like Wanda Abertson, a school bus driver, say they share common goals focused on saving black lives.

“We are out here to stand in solidarity,” said Abertson, who is also chair of the Teamsters Women’s Committee

Abertson says because of the COVID-19 outbreak, she hasn’t worked since mid-March and is concerned about going back to work amid the pandemic.

“I don’t think we’re ready to go back with COVID-19 being as strong as it is,” said Abertson.

That's why union leaders are calling on lawmakers to make sure workplaces are safe from COVID-19.

They’re also urging the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act. It would provide a second round of stimulus payments. Each member of a household, including children this time, would receive $1,200.

Union leaders say it would provide much-needed relief to everyone, especially essential workers.

"If the workers are so essential to the economy of this United States of America, why aren't they receiving heroes pay?" said Kermit Moore, president of A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

The HEROES Act would also provide relief to local governments to help them deal with revenue

Union leaders say in turn, that will help save the jobs of those who work in the public sector.

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

On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council is expected to decide how to spend about $10 million in CARES Act money, which was provided from the first major COVID-19 stimulus bill.

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