Union members caravan for worker protections

Locals participated in a national protest organized by labor unions

Local union members and their supporters organized a small caravan to drive through downtown Juneau Wednesday, as part of a nationwide day of action.

More than a dozen cars decorated with pro-union and anti-racist slogans snaked their way through downtown, honking and waving at passers-by. They were local participants in nationwide caravan events sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the blanket union that covers most labor unions in the country.

The rally, known as the “Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice” had participants in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, according to the union.

A caravan of union workers and their supporters drive through downtown Juneau on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, as part of a nation protest in support of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

A caravan of union workers and their supporters drive through downtown Juneau on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, as part of a nation protest in support of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

“We’re trying to draw attention to frontline workers and racial inequality at the same time,” said Shannon Adamson of the Juneau Central Labor Council, which helped organize the event locally.

Adamson works for the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, the union representing deckhands and other staff working on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

[State reports 20 new COVID-19 cases, 1 in Juneau]

“The union has a whole lot of workers that have a whole lot of diversity,” Adamson said. “We want to support those workers while social distancing, hence the caravan.”

Adamson said caravans had been planned for Fairbanks and Anchorage as well.

Though ferry workers are not on the frontline in the same way as nurses or firefighters, Adamson said, they were still providing a service during a pandemic. Adamson pointed to the ferry Tustumena, which recently had seven workers test positive for COVID-19 according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, as an example of the dangers service workers face.

A caravan of union workers and their supporters drive through downtown Juneau on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, as part of a nation protest in support of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

A caravan of union workers and their supporters drive through downtown Juneau on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, as part of a nation protest in support of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Shortly after noon cars and trucks bearing signs reading “union members for black lives” and “state and local funding now” made their way from the base of the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tram through downtown, taking a circuitous route past the Alaska State Capitol and State Office Building before completing their circuit down Egan Drive.

One of the participants was state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau.

“I think it’s really important to join these folks and stand up for workers and for immigrants and for people of color, and I think it’s important that people from every walk of life join in,” Kiehl said. “When you look at people who have representation in the workplace, you have more equal pay, you have more equal promotion, you have more equal treatment and that’s what we’re all after.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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