A coalition of unions, as well as the Movement for Black Lives, is organizing the “Strike for Black Lives” on July 20 to demand that business and government leaders confront systemic racism.
“Justice for Black communities, with an unequivocal declaration that Black Lives Matter, is a necessary first step to winning justice for all workers,” according to the Strike for Black Lives website.
The coalition is asking workers who can’t strike to be silent or “take a knee” at noon for eight minutes and 46 seconds, on behalf of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody.
“It goes without saying that any employer reaction or approach to this event will require extraordinary sensitivity and that there is no one-size-fits all approach that will handle the concerns of all employers,” according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw.
We’ve rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.
Many Workers Expected to Participate
Thousands of workers in more than 25 cities are expected to participate in the strike. Organizers are focused on certain industries in which Black workers are disproportionately represented, such as the gig economy, fast-food restaurants, airports, and nursing and home health care. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents about 2 million members, is among the unions that have joined the movement. “Workers are demanding solutions from government and corporations that center communities of color and dismantle racist policies to make sure every family is healthy, safe and secure, no matter their race, immigration status, job or where they live,” the SEIU said on its website.
Legal Issues for Employers
Employers may be confronted with a variety of legal issues stemming from strikes, such as concerns about diversity and inclusion initiatives, the implications of opposing or supporting perceived political speech in the workplace, and whether employee action is considered protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Strikes may also raise wage and hour issues and other policy concerns.
[SHRM members-only HR Q&A: Are all types of strikes protected under the National Labor Relations Act?]
How to Talk About Race with Your Employees
The conversations that organizations need to have with their employees must start by demonstrating empathy and respect in word and deed, said John Page, general counsel and chief diversity officer at Golden State Foods in Irvine, Calif., during a webinar that was co-sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). Page was among four panelists participating in “A New Understanding of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion,” the first of a two-part presentation by SHRM and the ACC. The partnership brings together chief human resources officers and chief legal officers to examine workplace policies and support more inclusive workplaces.
Open and Honest Dialogue
When driving open and honest dialogue, HR professionals and people managers should emphasize that the purpose of getting together is discussion, not debate or disagreement. “Set up discussion rules,” said Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SHRM’s chief knowledge officer. “Articulate that the point of the conversation is to chart a course for future actions to eliminate racism from the workplace. Listen to people’s varying perspectives and find ways to shape future actions.”
Visit SHRM’s resource page on overcoming workplace bias.