The question is, will organized labor recognize their collective power and step up in this moment to propel the movement forward? In Minneapolis, bus drivers organized under the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 provide an example of what that looks like. After protests erupted, they refused to transport police officers and instead made it clear that they stood with the broader working class.
Bianca Cunningham, an organizer and staff writer at Labor Notes, recently sat down with Doni Jones, bus driver and president of the black caucus of the ATU’s Minneapolis local, to discuss policing and how to bridge the gap between Black Lives Matter and the labor movement.
We are not receiving hazard pay and have not been this whole time. This is making tensions twice as high — they are expecting us to do too much.
All of this led us to refuse to transport the police. The transit authority tried to say we had to use our personal or vacation time if we refused to bus the police. The Metropolitan Council, who runs metro transit, got $226 million from the federal government for COVID relief, and yet we still aren’t being paid, and we are out here in the streets taking the risks.
Now that the National Guard is gone, there are no police buses. We held our stance while they were here and decided to just use our own time.
It’s a tool that we use to educate and get engagement from union members. There are black issues that need to be addressed on the job site. There is racism on the job. We are the last hired and the first fired. We also experience more extreme discipline than our white counterparts.
But I have tried to instill the idea that we are all in this together.
What I meant by that is money equals power, and since we don’t have money, we have to take our power in the streets. We have numbers, but it takes a long time to build power without money.
Right now, we have no ownership or power within the current institutions. I look at George Floyd, and he got murdered over a supposed fake $20 bill. It always comes down to money. We all have the same interests at the end of the day. We are fighting for our lives against people with money and power.
We grew up with the idea of “it takes a village.” We’ve gotten away from those principles. The culture has turned so individual.
We need to be talking about how we can support one another and uplift one another. We have to stand up and stick together. We have to start holding ourselves and our electeds accountable: Amy Klobuchar was a DA and has zero police convictions — do you think we wanted her to be president? No! She is a part of the system.
Many unions in Minnesota were out passing out food, water, and supplies to the protesters. This is a simple way to show solidarity. We also need more political education in our unions on these issues. The goal is to get people educated so that they will turn into active members.