General Motors to recognize Juneteenth, George Floyd with moments of silence

General Motors will hold moments of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Friday, Juneteenth, as a sign of solidarity and support for the Black community, according to an internal memo.

The time frame, as referenced in the Tuesday afternoon message by GM President Mark Reuss, represents the length a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd before he died in police custody. The incident, which was videotaped, has led to weeks of protests and rallies around the world, particularly in the U.S.

The moments of silence, according to the message, will occur at 8:46 a.m. local time for workers on first shifts and 8:46 p.m. for second shift workers. Timing for third shift workers and other global employees will be determined individually. U.S. salaried workers are encouraged to participate in the moment of silence in the morning, a company spokesman confirmed to CNBC.

“I really believe eight-plus minutes of solid reflection will benefit everyone,” Reuss wrote. “I’m sure many of you have felt the same glut of emotions I have while watching recent events unfold … disbelief, anger, shame, grief, and ultimately heartbreak. This is not who we are as humankind, nor as a country. We can and must be better than this.”

If moments of silence aren’t “culturally meaningful” for employees outside of the U.S., Reuss encouraged people “to take the time to reflect on diversity and inclusion in their own way.”

Some companies and organizations such as the National Football League, Nike, Twitter and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, have made Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of Blacks from slavery in the U.S., a paid holiday.

Reuss’ message is the most recent communication to GM employees following Floyd’s death regarding racial injustice. GM CEO Mary Barra wrote to employees two weeks ago about how she was “impatient and disgusted” following the unjust deaths of Floyd and other Black Americans. She announced the company would form an “Inclusion Advisory Board,” which she will chair.

GM employs about 180,000 people globally, including 100,000 in the U.S.

Here is the full message from Reuss to employees:

Global Workforce Moment of Silence

This Friday, June 19, we’re asking the global workforce of General Motors to observe 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence as a sign of solidarity with the Black community and our support of the struggle against continuing racial injustice. That represents the length of time George Floyd lay prone on the ground with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck, before he died, in a videotaped killing that led to protests and rallies around the world. Tragically, it’s not even the most recent videotaped death of an unarmed Black male at the hands of a white police officer we’ve seen.

The United States, along with the rest of the world, needs to change, and we want to do everything we can to help make that happen, from donating our money and time to aiming to be the world’s most inclusive company to reminding all our employees of our goals and values every day. Friday’s event is one way to do just that.

The day is no coincidence, of course, as it’s Juneteenth, which marks the date that the last enslaved African Americans learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform them of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued more than two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.

The Juneteenth holiday commemorates the end of slavery in America, but the events of the past few weeks, and beyond, have clearly shown we are still a long way from equality. To stand in solidarity and to show our commitment to advancing the cause of equality and justice, please join us in observing the 8:46 of silence Friday, wherever you may be.

At our plants in North America, the first shift will pause at 8:46 a.m., local time. The second shift will pause at 8:46 p.m., local time. Third shift timing will be determined by the plant and our other global teams will observe as appropriate when appropriate. I realize moments of silence aren’t culturally meaningful everywhere around the world, so if some of our global team members would like to take the time to reflect on diversity and inclusion in their own way, I encourage you to do so.

I really believe eight-plus minutes of solid reflection will benefit everyone. I’m sure many of you have felt the same glut of emotions I have while watching recent events unfold… disbelief, anger, shame, grief, and ultimately heartbreak. This is not who we are as humankind, nor as a country. We can and must be better than this.

Like everything else, that starts with us. Every day. We effect change from within, where we live, where we work. And it grows from there. I believe in the men and women of General Motors, and I believe you want to see the same change in the world that I want to see. That’s why we’re asking you to participate in this observance Friday. That’s why we’ve designated $10 million for organizations that support this change and we’ll give more in the future. That’s why we’ve created the Inclusion Advisory Board.

These aren’t empty gestures, and the reason they aren’t, is you.

You embody the spirit of General Motors that underpins every action we take. And the values behind that spirit are reflected in our behaviors, and how we treat one another, every day. I know that this company, at its core, believes in fairness and equality, and believes that racial injustice is wrong and must be eradicated. I know this company, at its core, is about inclusion, togetherness, teamwork and respect for one another.

In that spirit, I wholeheartedly encourage you to participate Friday. Do it for the memory of George Floyd. And Rayshard Brooks. And Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And far too many others, whose memories we honor. Do it, also, for your colleagues, your Black teammates, for one another.

We are at our best when we remember who we are as a company, and when we take care of one another. This is an opportunity to remember that, and celebrate it, and use it as a stepping stone on the path forward toward the kind of change that will make the world a better place for all. Thanks for reading.

Mark

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