I’ve often wondered why I was led to name my blog Quakers, social justice and revolution. Or rather, what was the Revolution about? Some things I’ve been involved in, like draft resistance, Quaker Social Change Ministry, the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, #NoDAPL and the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March all held some hints of revolution. But I think my revolution might have finally arrived with these Global Mass Strikes.
Just when it was beginning to look like all might be lost to an authoritarian police state, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought global political and economic systems to their knees.
On Friday, May 1, an ongoing General Strike campaign begins. This campaign could become the most powerful movement in the United States and reset the national agenda. It comes when the failures of the US political system have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered an economic collapse in a presidential election year. The General Strike campaign will be ongoing with actions on the first of every month. Strategic strikes of workers, students, consumers, prisoners, and renters will also continue.
This new era of mass strikes builds on successful strikes by teachers, healthcare workers, hotel workers, and others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the last two years, there has been the largest number of major work stoppages in 35 years with more than 400,000 workers involved in strikes in both 2018 and 2019. This continues in 2020 with a wave of wildcat strikes.
People must commit to an ongoing campaign of strikes starting now and continuing after the election. FDR faced more than 1.4 million people striking after he was elected, which forced him to put the New Deal and workers’ rights legislation in place. The next president should be subjected to continuous strikes with specific demands. Striking is the most powerful tool of the people. We need to learn to use it effectively.FIRST DAY OF GENERAL STRIKE CAMPAIGN By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance, April 26, 2020
COVID-19 exposes the fact that essential workers who provide food, healthcare, and deliveries to our homes are mistreated and underappreciated. Workers are underpaid and are not being provided with protective equipment or allowed sick leave. The COVID-19 rescue laws have given trillions in funding to investors and big businesses while leaving people and small businesses with crumbs. Twenty-six million people have filed for unemployment but states are not processing claims quickly and the COVID-19 rescue only provided an inadequate one-time $1,200 payment. Millions of the newly unemployed are losing their health insurance.FIRST DAY OF GENERAL STRIKE CAMPAIGN
The #GeneralStrike has five demands:
- Protection from Covid-19
- Safe Housing
- Living Wages
- Medicare for All.
- Equal Education.
We would add a sixth urgent demand – saving the postal service.
Here is the YouTube recording of the #GeneralStrike2020 May Day call.
With a campaign of strategic and general strikes very likely going on until 2022, people can take control of the country and put the necessities of the people at the top of the agenda. Jane McAlevey points to three areas where workers have decisive power. These include logistics, healthcare, and education.
- Logistics includes providing food, delivery, transit, and other services that keep the economy functioning. Workers disrupting these areas makes the country ungovernable by creating economic dysfunction.
- Despite being essential, healthcare workers lack protective equipment and basics such as tests. Healthcare workers have stood against the dangerous so-called “Liberate” protests Donald Trump is encouraging to prematurely re-open the economy. Nurses have protested the lack of protective equipment and been fired for doing so. These acts of defiance must be supported as we also demand national improved Medicare for All so everyone has access to high-quality healthcare. We must build our public health system so never again will the country be unprepared for a pandemic.
- Teacher’s unions have developed the model for all unions to follow, strikes for the common good. Teacher strikes have been successful because they have represented the interests of students and the communities where they live. Poverty, inadequate housing, brutal policing, and ICE raids undermine the ability of teachers to do their jobs. Making demands for the common good unites us to work for what we need.
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A Global Crisis
The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic is exposing critical flaws in the institutions we rely on for our daily lives. The wealthiest nations in the world are failing to protect citizens from this deadly disease, shamelessly neglecting the needs of the people. In the USA, too little is being done too late to protect us from the disease. Countless working poor people are having to go to work with symptoms because we can’t afford to take time off.
The federal government has been slow to respond, and the stimulus packages they have cobbled together are woefully inadequate to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. President Trump and capitalists across the country are expressing interest in workers going back to their jobs even before the pandemic is safely dealt with, callously proving that they put their own profits ahead of the lives and wellbeing of the working class.
This situation is, quite simply, unsustainable.
People are dying, and the wealthy elites are demonstrating that they value their profits more than our lives.
#GENERALSTRIKE2020: HOW TO PARTICIPATE ON THE MAY DAY LAUNCH
By Popular Resistance. April 30, 2020 | RESIST!,
On May Day, the first of May, the #GeneralStrike2020 (and beyond) campaign launches across the country. Learn more about the overall campaign in our most recent newsletter, “The Era of Mass Strikes Begins On May 1; First Day of General Strike Campaign.”
This prolonged and broad campaign will organize around a list of basic demands, as outlined here. Not on the list, but included is the demand to save the US Postal Service. The campaign will follow a three-prong strategy – resistance through noncompliance, mutual aid and building alternative systems in our communities rooted in cooperation, solidarity and participatory democracy.
On May Day and extending through the weekend, there will be many activities. Read through and decide how you can best participate in the actions. There is something for everyone to do. Be creative!
Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Fedex, Target, Instacart and more are planning to walk off the job in a call for protection of their health and hazard pay. If you work at a facility that is striking, take photos and share them on social media or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share them. Remember to include basic details about where you are, what is going on and how people can support you. If you don’t work at a striking facility but you do work for a corporation that exploits its workers and arent ready to strike, consider slowing down your work of using “work to rule” – following the rules in such detail that it slows the work. You can also stop working for an hour or for half a day or set up a meeting with other workers to talk about what you can do in the future. If you are not working, you can show up at one of the targets of the strike and hold a sign in solidarity with the workers. Bring some friends. Bring a car caravan of friends with signs on your cars. Remember to respect physical distancing, wear a face mask (even a bandanna or scarf) and practice good hygiene. You could give personal protective equipment to workers (masks, hand sanitizer or cleaning wipes) or notes of solidarity to the workers. If you can’t do any of that, then raise awareness of what is going on by talking about it with your family and friends or putting signs of solidarity on your windows. See below for more ideas.
People around the country are calling for rent to be canceled until the pandemic is over. They are targeting large corporations that own large amounts of properties. If you are in that situation, talk to your neighbors about not paying your rent. Some people who can pay their rent are withholding payment in solidarity with their neighbors who can’t. Everyone can call their local or state government or Members of Congress and urge them to place a moratorium on rent and stop evictions. People must be protected until the pandemic is over and they are on solid financial footing. Follow #CancelTheRent on social media.
An easy action for all of us to take is to buy nothing on May Day and throughout the weekend (unless of course, it is an urgent need). Don’t shop in stores or online.
College students are going on strike by refusing to pay tuition or register or attend classes over the ways the universities failed to protect them by closing student housing and dining halls. Students lost their jobs, housing and food security. Look around to see if students at a university near you are going on strike.
People are refusing to pay their student debt. You can learn more about that effort at StrikeDebt.org and DebtCollective.org. People are also refusing to pay water, electric and other bills until the crisis is over. Call your legislators and tell them to cancel student debt and to place a moratorium on the shutoff of services such as water and power.
Boycott Corporate Meat
Meatpackers are joining with farmers and environmentalists to take on the giant agriculture industry that exploits workers, strangles small farmers and pollutes the land, air and water. Many meatpackers are planning to strike. They ask you to boycott (don’t buy) eat from large corporations like Tysons and Smithfield Farms. They are callling it Meatless May. Turn to your local farmers if you require meat products or try vegetarian dishes.
Save The US Postal Service
The USPS is struggling because of reduced business during the pandemic but Congress and the White House refuse to help. We may lose the USPS by this summer if nothing is done. This is exactly what big corporations like UPS and Fedex want so they can privatize mail delivery and make more profits. Tell Congress to bail out the USPS. Visit APWU.org you sign the letter to Congress and learn more. On May Day (and every day), let your postal carrier know you care about them.
On May Day, the Peoples Strike coalition is holding a 24-hour broadcast from 12 am to midnight to cover what is happening. You will find that on their Facebook Page or website. Watch and share it with your friends by emailing them about it or sharing it on social media. If you have Facebook, you can share the live stream to your own page. Look for where it says “share” (usually underneath or to the right of the video).
Wear red on May Day and share of a photo of you holding a sign either by sending it to us at email@example.com or sharing it on social media. Tag us @PopResistance so we can share it too.
Put signs on your windows or in your yard supporting the General Strike and the various demands that are most important to you.
Call your local media to tell them what is going on and/or call your legislators and tell them about the demands and why you support them.
Be the media – Write a blog about the General Strike or a letter to your local paper, take photos or videos of what is happening in your community.
Tell any friends or family you speak with on Friday and over the weekend about the General Strike campaign that is starting.
Share the word on social media – If you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform, look for posts/tweets about the General Strike and share them and/or create your own. Here are hashtags that will be used: #GeneralStrike2020 #MayDay2020 #CoronaStrike #PeoplesStrike #StrikeSelfie #RedForEd #MutualAid #RentStrike #WeDecide #StopShopping #SchoolsOut #NoBorders #ReleaseThePrisoners #NoShopping #NoWork #NoRent #NoPrisons #NoSchool
This campaign will begin on May Day and continue for possibly years. There will be nationwide actions on the first of each month and targeted actions in between. All of the above actions are connected through this campaign.
Other parts of the strategy are building mutual aid networks and building alternative systems.
Mutual Aid – This is as simple as helping your neighbors in tough ties by providing food medicines, running errands or other forms of support. You can learn more about mutual aid at MutualAidDisasterRelief.org. Look for mutual aid efforts in your community and join them or start one. It is easiest to start one through existing groups such as community associations, churches or other organizations. Mutual aid will be essential to support each other as we build power in this campaign.
Alternative Systems – People around the world are building ways of organizing our societies based on solidarity, cooperation and participatory democracy. You can learn more about these efforts on our Resource Page, the Create section of our website and the New Economy tag. Start by joining a local group working on these efforts or start one in your community. We will have speakers on future calls to talk about this. You could start simply by gathering friends and neighbors and talking about what you need in your community and how to meet that need. Maybe it is a tool sharing effort or a childcare cooperative or a community garden.
Monthly Calls – We will hold monthly calls for educating ourselves, sharing information and planning how to support the monthly actions. Register for those alls at bit.ly/MayDayMeeting.
As we wrote above, there is something for everyone to do in the General Strike campaign. Think about what talents and skills you have and how you can best use them to participate.