Choice: Mass Strikes or Chaos?

I’m as weary as you probably are of yet another effort to mobilize. But I think it is clear that if significant changes aren’t made in our current situation, chaos will ensue. There will be more gun toting people attempting to intimidate lawmakers and the public. Shocking and yet unsurprising, the president calls these “very good people” and the (Michigan) governor should “make a deal with them”. Will we see more soldiers in our streets, more arrests of peaceful protestors, and martial law? Who knows what happens after that?

Mass strikes haven’t been experienced by most people I know, living in the US today. And yet, what else is there to do? We won’t be returning to what we thought of as normal.

Our economy has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The vast majority of us are staying home to reduce the spread of the virus
  • People aren’t paid because they can’t work
  • People are losing their health insurance
  • People can’t pay their rent and bills
  • Children no longer leave the house
  • Parents need to homeschool
  • There isn’t anywhere close to the capability of testing who is infected, or who has antibodies
  • People in essential jobs are forced to work under intensely stressful conditions, both physically and mentally
  • Healthcare workers don’t have adequate personal protective equipment. They understand and are experiencing the consequences of infecting themselves and their loved ones
  • People with essential jobs, with minimal pay, are put at risk with inadequate support and personal protective equipment. Are getting infected and dying.
  • Many politicians are relaxing restriction like social distancing way too soon. “Opening up” while the numbers of infections continue to climb, or at least haven’t declined to a reasonable level.
  • That will lead to new spikes in the rate of infection and death
  • Many healthcare workers have already been pushed to the limit of what they can do, so One of the worst problems in fighting these new spikes of infection will be the lack of people willing to go through this all again
  • Hospitals and nursing homes that are already overwhelmed won’t have the resources to continue
  • People are outraged by the incompetence of the Federal government and the White House.
  • People are outraged as they see billions of dollars going to corporations, and receiving little or no support themselves
  • People are re-evaluating their jobs
  • People are re-evaluating what the political and economic system should be doing for them
  • People are re-evaluating their lives

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.

Happy May Day! On this May 1st, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re finding ourselves in a very different world than we imagined two months ago and it’s very clear that we need solidarity and mutual aid to meet the challenges of the time.

Across North America, groups are fighting the corporate bosses and politicians that continue their drive for power and profit despite the precarious and desperate times. Essential workers are walking out of their jobs demanding safety and benefits, prisoners are fighting incarceration, tenants are going on rent strike and community-based mutual aid groups are providing support to those in most need.

These Groups need your support, now more than ever.

All of these fights are connected. We’re asking you to support these groups listed below with a donation (large or small), so they can continue their important work of mutual aid and solidarity.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund

Venceremos

Stay Safe! Stay Healthy!
Love and Solidarity, Rising Tide North America

Workers for a number of large companies are striking Friday to demand coronavirus hazard pay and better work conditions.

The protest, dubbed the “People’s Strike,” takes place on May Day, a holiday dedicated to union and workers’ rights demonstrations. AmazonWhole FoodsWalmartFedExTarget, Shipt and Instacart workers are staging walkouts or “sickouts” Friday. Trader Joe’s employees are boycotting, requesting customers do not purchase anything from the store for a day.

The strike was organized by former Amazon warehouse worker Chris Smalls, who was fired after staging a March 30 walkout at a Staten Island facility, where multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers were reported.

Amazon, Walmart, Target hold May Day strike, demand coronavirus hazard pay. Workers are demanding better coronavirus protections and benefits like hazard By Audrey Conklin, 5/1/2020,FOX Business

In the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in America, the country has come to redefine essential work and to appreciate that essential often means vulnerable. We’ve watched the people who pack online orders, stock grocery stores, and deliver takeout assume unprecedented risk, often for low pay in unsafe working conditions. Some who’ve protested have been silenced; some who’ve carried on have been infected.

But will the country remember its newly essential workers once the social and economic shock wears off? That hopeful and haunting question will be on many people’s minds leading up to the presidential election in November, and in the months after. Covid capitalism could see the country extend the privileges of the wealthy, of monopolistic corporations, of the insured, of anyone who’s had the luxury of keeping their jobs while working from home. Or it could see the country finally rewrite its increasingly one-sided social contract.

….

Roosevelt grabbed these forces and tamed them. The coal strike and antitrust fight gave him momentum. Labor activists and government reformers, populists, and socialists pushed him to stand up for the working class. His changes seemed too timid to some, too radical to others, including some in his own party. But they set a precedent for a more progressive society and a moral tone that soothed an agitated nation.

Today’s labor activists and union leaders hold less sway; with the advent of the gig economy, work has become even more provisional and fragmented. Joe Biden just beat Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary. Yet ideas that were once unfeasible are now up for discussion: universal health care and child care, a living wage, paid sick leave and parental leave. Calls to renegotiate the social contract have gotten louder, and polls suggest that more people are listening. Essential workers at some of the country’s biggest companies plan to strike on May 1 for more protection and compensation. There will be an election; there could be a new president.

What a 1902 Coal Strike Tells Us About Essential Workers Today
Thousands of miners showed Americans the dangerous, low-paid nature of crucial labor. It helped forge a new kind of social contract—could it happen again? by Susan Berfield, Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/29/2020

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