We are witnessing the ‘Great Strike of 2021’ and it’s composed mostly of millions low paid non-unionized workers
We are witnessing the ‘Great Strike of 2021’ and it’s composed mostly of millions low paid non-unionized workers
LabourStart headline – Source: CLB
Following a year of relative dormancy, the international youth climate strikes are back in the streets and online this week. During the first year of the pandemic, young people who had skipped school to demand that elected officials curb the climate crisis and otherwise worked protests into their weekly routines had to curtail some of their organizing in response to shelter-in-place guidelines of varying strictness. But some climate agitation continued, and many activists also joined fights for racial and economic justice as Black Lives Matter protests swept the world and COVID-19 exposed the failures of existing social programs.
On Friday, March 19, young people in over 800 cities and towns across the world will again join forces to call out world leaders for their failure to act on the climate crisis, urging them to treat it with the level of urgency that many nations have conveyed in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jon Bonifacio is a climate activist from the Philippines. For many living in the Global South, he said at a press conference today, the climate crisis is as much an immediate existential threat as COVID-19.
“It is a matter of life and death,” he said. A February 2021 study found that 8.7 million people died prematurely due to pollution linked to the burning of fossil fuels, nearly double what was previously estimated. The climate crisis, of course, has not paused during the pandemic. Since the last in-person international youth mobilization in February 2020, 100 people went missing in India after a glacier burst and swept away a dam; and Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines, burying 300 homes under debris washed down from quarry sites on a nearby volcano, killing 16 people. The risk of destructive typhoons is increasing as global temperatures rise, since warmer water evaporates faster and syphons more force into storms.
“I spent many nights last year in the dark, without electricity, as the Philippines was ripped apart by an unprecedented typhoon season,” Fridays for Future Philippines activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan said in a statement.
While world leaders have tapped top scientists and joined forces to produce and distribute a vaccine in under one year, governments have not demonstrated a similar commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, world leaders have issued a flurry of plans that establish net-zero emissions goals by 2050 or 2060. “We need concrete and urgent action from governments and businesses, not more empty ‘net-zero’ loopholes,” Tan said.
While world leaders have tapped top scientists and joined forces to produce and distribute a vaccine in under one year, governments have not demonstrated a similar commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Young activists’ issue with “net-zero” targets is based on the latest climate science. According to a March 16 article in Nature, “net-zero” is often a mirage. Without providing more specific information, it is impossible to evaluate the efficacy or ethics of a given country’s plan. “We can’t take comfort in vague targets,” co-author of the article and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate scientist, Joeri Rogelj, said at a press conference. Rogelj says limiting warming to Paris Agreement standards requires an aggressive commitment to reducing emissions and removing a small share of lingering emissions. “But how much we remove versus how much we reduce has important impacts,” he says. Any “net-zero” commitment implies the passing off of responsibility — or burden — elsewhere.
Genesis Whitlock is a climate activist in Antigua. She worries about what impact that “passing off” will have on Black and Indigenous communities in the Global South. “Some solutions coming from the Global North already perpetuate green colonialism,” she said, describing renewable energy projects spearheaded by business interests in more wealthy countries that fail to benefit people living nearby, such as the Noor Ouarzazate solar complex in Morocco. “This practice displaces Black and Indigenous communities, creates food scarcity and overall, further exacerbates inequality,” Whitlock said.
In accordance with the Paris Agreement, parties to the agreement are due to submit updated “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) — detailed plans mapping out how each government will adhere to domestic policies in line with each country’s emissions goals — ahead of the next global climate convening, COP26, in Glasgow in November.
Any “net-zero” commitment implies the passing off of responsibility — or burden — elsewhere.
When asked if any country’s nationally determined contribution was ample to curb emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, Rogelj pointed to the United Kingdom’s target of 68 percent economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as “not too bad.” But the U.K. has no plan in place to actually meet that target, he said.
“I want July 1, 2021 climate goals and 2022 climate goals from them,” San Diego-based climate activist Edgar McGregor posted on Twitter. “I don’t want 2050 climate goals,” he said.
In line with Rogelj and other climate scientists’ recommendations, on March 19, youth activists will urge world leaders to submit nationally determined contributions with ambitious, detailed emissions reductions targets with an equity lens and detailed steps outlining how they’ll get there.
In 2020, global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4 percent, with striking drops in major industries like aviation, which plummeted 43 percent from 2019 levels. But in week 20 of the pandemic, emissions began to climb. Data from the International Energy Agency shows global emissions were 2 percent higher in December 2020 than the same month in 2019.
Some solutions coming from the Global North already perpetuate green colonialism
At an average warming of 1.19 degrees Celsius, the world is presently on target to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius by February 2034, according to modeling by the Copernicus Climate Change Service. 1.5 degrees Celsius is the level of warming IPCC scientists like Rogelj suggest as the limit on warming that would potentially avert some of the most harmful impacts of the climate crisis, such as exposing 420 million fewer people to extreme heatwaves.
“Targets that delay emissions cuts for 10 or 20 years are a death sentence for countries like Uganda,” climate activist Vanessa Nakate and founder of the Rise Up Movement said in a statement. “People here are already suffering from unprecedented drought, famine and flooding at 1.2 degrees of warming.”
In the U.S., as with elsewhere in the world, organizers committed to climate action have continued waging targeted efforts to push officials on climate throughout the pandemic.
The Sunrise Movement has launched its “Good Jobs for All” campaign, which is pushing the Biden administration to launch a jobs program that employs 18 million people currently out of work in the U.S. to build a clean energy grid and healthier communities overall. Continued organizing by Indigenous activists and allies in opposition of the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota has caused Enbridge to temporarily halt construction on the project, as of March 18. In India, activists have opposed a major waste incineration venture in Bandhwari.
But the youth climate strike movement — which burgeoned into an international force in 2019 and drew an estimated 7.6 million people into the streets in September of that year — has largely been on hiatus. Whereas the WhatsApp and Slack chats that Fridays for Future USA organizer Kat Maier was looped in with in 2018 were an endless flurry of notifications, they mostly fell silent mid-pandemic, Maier told Truthout.
In recent weeks however, a crackdown on protests across the world, including the arrest of 22-year-old Fridays for Future activist Disha Ravi at her home in Bengaluru, India, in February; and the resistance movement amid the military crackdown in Myanmar, have reinvigorated some climate activist circles.
“People immediately sprung up, the chats went crazy again,” Maier said. “I think those kinds of crackdowns have had the opposite effect of what the people who are cracking down wanted.”
Young people in over 50 countries will host events on Friday, which will adhere to local COVID guidelines, including in-person protests in Portland, Oregon; Montijo, Portugal; Luanda, Angola; Capetown, South Africa; and Sitapur, India. Youth organizers say the attempt to bring back the climate strikes is intended to give young people a push to figure out what collective action might look like in their backyards and to tune back in to the cicada storms, polar vortex, historic flooding, and other impacts of the climate crisis that people in much of the world have continued to experience.
Bonifacio said that during the pandemic, the Fridays for Future movement has poured more energy toward centering activists who face the climate crisis in their everyday lives. “Because we were forced into these online spaces, we had an opportunity to interact with a lot of people around the world,” Bonifacio said, adding that as a result “there was a privilege check” that was missing in some of the early climate strikes.
Global emissions were 2 percent higher in December 2020 than the same month in 2019.
In addition to demanding meaningful emissions reductions plans from world leaders, young people in 20 countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya and the United Kingdom, will also focus March 19 actions on urging London and Hong Kong-based Standard Chartered Bank to defund fossil fuel infrastructure it currently backs. The Bank has invested $24 billion in coal, oil and gas operations since the Paris Agreement took effect in 2016, according to a 2020 report by the Rainforest Action Network, all the while posturing as climate-conscious.
Fridays for Future organizers in the U.S. say they’re focusing on building power to support local and state-level climate policy changes. Representatives of other youth climate activist groups, including local chapters of the Sunrise Movement and Zero Hour, will also be supporting the U.S. strikes. International organizers say March 19 is intended as the first in a return to regular ongoing protests — local health conditions permitting.
“What you saw in 2019,” Mitzi said, referring to the swelling youth climate strike movement, “that’s just the beginning.”
A federal judge in Nebraska issued a temporary restraining order last week to block a December 28 strike by thousands of Union Pacific Railroad (UP) workers over unsafe conditions, the lack of protective gear and the failure to pay workers who are quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A strike by 8,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWED)—a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—would have quickly disrupted the operations of the second largest railroad in the US, which employs a total of 32,000 workers. The judge’s restriction lasts until January 8 and will be reviewed for extension on January 5.
The post Federal Judge Blocks Strike By Union Pacific Railroad Workers appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
In recent weeks, dizzying statistics have circulated on social media about Amazon’s pandemic-era boom and the obscene wealth accrued by its CEO, and Earth’s richest man, Jeff Bezos. The company reported revenue of $96.1 billion just last quarter, which, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, means Bezos could personally pay Amazon’s 876,000 workers a bonus of $105,000 each — and would still be as filthy rich as he was prior to the pandemic. Warehouse workers in the U.S. and U.K., who have been forced into perilous proximity while dealing with the surge in orders, have been offered a $300 holiday bonus. Many who toil in other areas of Amazon’s vast supply chain will receive far less, if anything at all.
Activists of Sammilito Garments Sramik Federation stage a protest procession against the world’s leading digital retailer Amazon.com, demanding fair wages and union rights for all Amazon supply chain workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Nov. 27, 2020.
Photo: Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Numerous business publications framed the trillion-dollar empire’s bonuses as a generous offering. “Amazon spends another $500 million on bonuses. Some of its workers are still going on strike,” read a CNN Business headline. The notion conveyed apparent incredulity that low-wage employees would fight for more from a corporation famed for worker abuses, such as pressure for productivity that saw warehouse employees reportedly urinating in bottles so as to avoid bathroom breaks.
The incredulity is misplaced. Yes, Amazon workers are escalating the ongoing struggle for their rights, protections, as well as fair pay — and, for the first time, the strategy is international.
Black Friday saw the launch of a new wave of organizing by a global coalition of warehouse workers, trade unions, and activists under the banner Make Amazon Pay — the first such coalition of broad international scope. Coordinated strikes, work stoppages, and protests of varying size have taken place in Bangladesh, India, Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain, France, the U.K., the U.S. and beyond. The workers and organizers deserve vigorous support: The stakes of leaving Amazon’s power and practices unchecked — from the further decimation of the global working class, to irreversible environmental degradation — are intolerable.
“Amazon is able to build power by operating on a global level without opposition,” said Casper Gelderblom, a Netherlands-based trade unionist and coordinator with the Progressive International, one of the groups organizing the Make Amazon Pay effort. “We have to match the transnational scope of its organization with an internationalist strategy.”
Make Amazon Pay brings together worker collectives — from hawkers in India to warehouse workers in Poland — with large international union federations. The coalition also includes major nonprofits such as Greenpeace to address stunning facts like the scale of Amazon’s carbon footprint, which is larger than two-thirds of the world’s countries.
On Thursday, the coalition published an open letter signed in solidarity by over 401 politicians from over 34 countries, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y, from the United States. The letter, which pledges support for the Make Amazon Pay effort, is addressed to Bezos. It begins, “We, elected representatives, legislators, and public officials from around the world, hereby put you on notice that Amazon’s days of impunity are over.”
It’s easy to see that Amazon is too powerful, that its carbon footprint is a travesty, that it intimidates workers, lowers wages, busts unions, and ensures precarity. The corporation also pays scant tax bills. In 2019, Amazon paid just 1.2 percent federal tax on its U.S. profits; the prior two years, it paid none. It’s harder to know what a successful multifront, international resistance to Amazon’s hegemonic power would look like.
Make Amazon Pay’s demands to the company are broad but no more than fair: permitting workers to organize; ending surveillance and harassment; improving pay and health and safety conditions; ensuring job security; committing to zero emissions by 2030; ending Amazon Web Services contracts with fossil fuel companies; ending partnerships with the forces of racist state violence, like police and immigration authorities; and paying taxes in full.
Amazon is best understood not as a retailer but a monopolist empire: a 21st century East India Company, and no less colonialist in its practices.
The coalition has developed a robust policy platform, rich in references to existing laws and precedents, intended to guide lawmakers to use legislative tools to make the demands a reality. In the face of Amazon’s might, however, the campaign can, on paper, look like a fair-minded wish list. Anyone who cares about working people and life on this planet can commend it; realizing the proposed changes and diminishing the corporation’s planetary death grip is a different question.
Coalition organizers see a necessary first step in recognizing the expanse of Amazon’s supply chain operations, often obscured to the consumer. The company is best understood not as a retailer but a monopolist empire: a 21st century East India Company, and no less colonialist in its practices of exploitation and resource extraction. Amazon’s infamous warehouses are “the nearest site where customer comfort and worker exploitation come into contact,” wrote political economist David Adler and organizer James Schneider, both members of the Progressive International secretariat. “But,” they argue, the fight against Amazon “must stretch across the global economy and the regulatory archipelago that runs through it.”
While coordinated, the recent worker actions around the world have reflected the current labor concerns specific to different regions of Amazon’s domain. Garment workers in Bangladesh staged a protest outside an Amazon supplier in Dhaka, behind a bright red “Make Amazon Pay” banner. The company has reportedly not paid its Bangladeshi suppliers for completed orders that were canceled in the pandemic. Workers in Germany went on a three-day strike, an escalation in a yearslong battle with Amazon for better pay and working conditions; approximately 2,500 people took part.
In Poznań, in the west of Poland, workers brandished the same “Make Amazon Pay” signs during a coordinated work stoppage. Polish workers have been organizing for weeks — including staging wildcat strikes — to have their minimal holiday bonuses raised to match the amounts workers in other countries will receive. Warehouse workers told me by video conference that employees in Poland had been paid four times less than their counterparts in Germany; through union organizing, that discrepancy has shrunk to three times less, while the cost of living is by no means three times cheaper. In the U.S., workers are taking historic steps just to unionize.
In every jurisdiction, especially at this time of mass unemployment and global economic devastation, organizers are at a disadvantage against Amazon’s ability to attract precarious, unprotected employees ready to take any available work. Contracts are often fixed-term, zero-hour, and unstable. Bogus self-employment contracts for de facto Amazon employees are common, even in countries where many workers are unionized.
“This is Amazon policy, rotating workers. It’s extremely difficult to organize,” said Jan Pękala, a forklift driver and union shop steward from southern Poland. “With every new worker, you have to start again.” His colleague from the warehouse in Poznań, Roman Lupiński, agreed: “It creates fear, people on unstable contracts feeling like they can lose their jobs.”
Amazon relies on the same strategy globally. “Covid has really chilled workers,” said Sheheryar Kaoosji, director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, who spoke to me from Ontario, California. “They brought in a lot of people desperate for work. We have to meet people where they’re at, to build a long-term strategy.” Kaoosji organizes in and around San Bernardino, where one of Amazon’s largest facility clusters is expanding. The corporation employs 30,000 in the area alone; the asthma rates in the Amazon-occupied region are twice as high as the national average. “This is the year that Amazon really consolidated power,” Kaoosji said, offering that this made the imperative to organize stronger. “It’s the right time to be doing this.”
Amazon workers participate in the Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft union strike in Werne, Germany, on Nov. 27, 2020.
Photo: Courtesy of Make Amazon Pay Coalition
One of the keys to the Make Amazon Pay policy platform are guidelines to regulate the sort of contracts Amazon offers to workers, like making it more costly for the company to rely on “self-employment” contracts. These precarious agreements have become normalized in the neoliberal labor market, and regulating against Amazon’s use of them would have a knock-on effect for labor rights in general.
“The situation at Amazon is a look into the future of labor, the future of our economy, and the future of the planet,” said Tlaib, the House member from Michigan and letter signatory, told me by email. “The results of the experiment are clear — left to their own devices, giant corporations like Amazon will ruthlessly extract every last dollar from their workers and the communities they exploit, enriching executives while grinding workers to the bone and putting their profits before the livability of the planet.”
“The situation at Amazon is a look into the future of labor, the future of our economy, and the future of the planet.”
Tlaib stressed that it is possible to force Amazon to change its practices, as was evidenced when it raised its minimum wage in the U.S. to $15, following sustained pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., among others. Likewise, the push last year by left-wing lawmakers in New York, working alongside local organizers, thwarted Amazon’s seemingly unstoppable plans to open up a second headquarters in Queens.
Tlaib told me that “there are already bills in Congress that would help us fight back against this staggering corporate greed, and there are some other important interventions that will need to be drafted.” The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, for example, passed the House earlier this year, and would dramatically weaken decades of anti-worker, anti-union labor laws in this country.
Make Amazon Pay’s international lens makes crystal clear the need to empower workers to unionize and enable unions to be effective for workers. “We have a lot more control as unionized workers,” Natalia Skowrońska, a packer in the Poznań warehouse, told me. She noted that while Amazon regularly finds ways to bypass the union, the workers’ “capacities are far greater as an entity that the company has to contend with.”
The success of Amazon workers in France in forcing Amazon to address concerns about Covid-19 safety shows the necessity of pro-worker legislation combined with strong unions. Mass protests, strikes, and union complaints led to a Parisian judging order that Amazon develop improved health and safety measures with the unions. Noncompliance would come with a penalty of over $1 million per day and per violation. The corporation announced in fury that it would suspend all of its French operations, but workers continue to receive full pay and the company says that it plans to follow the judge’s decision.
Piotr Krzyżaniak, a former warehouse worker and a lawyer representing the Polish workers’ union, referenced the French example to stress the importance of permitting workers to strike. In Poland, workers have had to engage in wildcat work stoppages, because formal strike procedures are prohibitively complex. “We need the freedom to strike regulated on a European level,” he told me, “If Amazon workers go on strike in Germany, for example, we need to be able to join them.”
Following revelations in September that Amazon had engaged in widespread surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of workers in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere who had attempted to organize, Amnesty International released a report calling on Amazon to “let workers unionize.” The report also cited how French labor unions and regulations had served to protect Amazon workers during the pandemic. The corporate leviathan should have to reckon with such constraints on its power and its abuses in every country it operates.
A Joe Biden presidency, especially if a Republican-led Senate remains, with a far-right judiciary, does not offer great promise for radical legislative shifts away from the neoliberal norms. Labor-friendly politicians like Tlaib and other members of the Squad are in the minority. The belief that Amazon needs to be reined in, however, is a popular one: Polling agency Survation found that 70 percent of people believe that the company is too powerful.
Amazon, of course, is not capitalism gone wrong, but capitalism doing as it’s supposed to. We don’t need every lawmaker to appreciate this to want to curb the company’s monopolistic control. “Even if you believe in free markets, it’s not healthy,” Gelderblom, of Progressive International, told me.
In October, the House Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee — hardly a left-wing body — released a far-reaching report on how Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon capitalize on and abuse their market power to benefit themselves.
The Make Amazon Pay coalition is clear that it wants to shift Amazon’s power structure too: among its demands is a plan to give workers robust voting rights in Amazon management. This is not a far cry from the proposal made by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a believer in so-called “accountable capitalism,” to give workers representation on company boards. This management model, known as “co-determination” is already common in the European bastion of capital, Germany; the coalition argues the Europe’s co-determination models need further strengthening.
Radical and necessary change to the great empire of Amazon is a tall order, but the global plan to Make Amazon Pay should be considered common sense.
Welcome fellow antifascists! We have a mammoth sized column for you today! First up, we look at far-Right militias threatening to harass voters on election day, Proud Boys acting as security at a Trump rally in Florida, labor unions calling for a general strike, more arrests of neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, and militia members plotting violence… Read Full Article
The 100,000-member MLK Labor Council, an AFL-CIO regional body of labor groups representing more than 150 unions in the Seattle, Washington, area, passed a resolution Wednesday that calls for a general strike if President Donald Trump does not respect the outcome of the November 3 election.
“MLK Labor will call on to City and County governments to pledge to protect the protesters defending democracy and commit to not using police action or curfews to curtail these activities and to use all available resources to stand up against any effort by the Trump administration to steal the election,” the resolution states.
“MLK Labor, in collaboration with other labor and progressive forces, will take whatever nonviolent actions are necessary up to and including a general strike to protect our democracy, the Constitution, the law and our nation’s democratic traditions.”
The resolution was adopted during a special executive board meeting and will be brought before the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington branch of the AFL-CIO. There has already been discussion at the state level about creating a strike committee to start preparing for the possibility of a general strike, says Karen Strickland, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Washington, who helped draft the resolution.
“It’s not, we’re going to do a general strike; it’s, if our democracy is threatened then we’ll move toward that,” Strickland told Truthout. “And if our democracy is threatened, and we’re not willing to do it then, you have to ask what circumstances would make us do a general strike?”
The resolution comes after the 70,000 member AFL-CIO Rochester Labor Council became the first regional AFL-CIO body in the U.S. to call for a general strike last week if Trump rejects the results of the election and attempts to hold on to power. The MLK Labor resolution closely resembles Rochester’s.
“The Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO, stands firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome of the 2020 Presidential elections,” the Rochester resolution states.
“If our democracy is threatened, and we’re not willing to do it then, you have to ask what circumstances would make us do a general strike?”
Rochester AFL-CIO President Dan Maloney, who just last year helped lead a six-week-long United Auto Workers strike at General Motors, told Truthout that the Rochester Labor Council hoped for just this kind of outcome: that its resolution would spread to other regional councils and across the labor movement.
In fact, he tells Truthout that he was contacted by an AFL-CIO regional director who asked him to join AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on a call this week to discuss the possibility of the national executive committee adopting a position similar to what the Rochester resolution calls for.
In late September, Trumka said that labor should “stand ready to do our part to ensure [Trump’s] defeat in this election is followed by his removal from office.” A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO did not respond to Truthout’s request for comment on the national body’s consideration of a general strike or to confirm the planned call.
The AFL-CIO Constitution suggests the move is well within the executive committee’s purview and could even be argued as necessary to fulfill its Article II, Section 12 obligations, which instructs the federation:
“To protect the labor movement from any and all corrupt influences and from the undermining efforts of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and all other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedom of association and oppose the basic principles of our democracy and of free and democratic unionism.”
After Rochester passed its resolution, the Seattle Educators Association, a member union of the MLK Labor Council, likewise passed a resolution calling for an emergency board meeting to be held within seven days of the election to determine whether there has been election interference. Upon that finding, the board would then call a meeting of the union’s representative and general assemblies as soon as possible to vote on a work action.
“We need to be ready to pull the plug and get everybody out in an effort to have our Congress grow a backbone, find their spine and take on this imperial president and aspiring despot.”
In Detroit, Michigan, union activists with the American Postal Workers Union created a flyer with a pledge to take to the streets and shut the country down if necessary to prevent a coup. Members have printed more than 1,000 copies of a shortened version of the pledge on the union’s letterhead to distribute at post offices and the area’s main sorting plant.
On Monday, the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation also approved a resolution calling for a general strike and pledging to take nonviolent action to defend the democratic process “if Donald Trump and his GOP enablers attempt to obstruct, subvert, sabotage, overturn or reject a fair and complete count of presidential ballots.”
According to Area Labor Federation President Jeff Jones, the resolution “aims to get us thinking about how we as a labor movement intend to respond in the case of an attempted coup. The labor movement must be ready to defend our democracy and use our collective power to ensure that every vote is counted.”
For Rochester’s Maloney, the time for labor to act is now. “It’s very dangerous what Trump’s been doing,” he says. “He’s been so over the top that he’s shown he’ll stop at no lengths to keep power, and with that we just wanted to have a plan in place in the event something happens where we can act, rather than try to put something together and let it drag.”
The aim of a national general strike, according to Maloney, is to raise the stakes while pressuring Congress to act a proper check “to maintain our democracy and keep tabs on a wannabe tyrant.” Still, he cautions that a national strike is a tactic of last resort.
“A national general strike is a nuclear option for us,” he said. “You can’t pull that card every time, but this is great enough where our American democracy itself is at risk. We need to put [plans] in place and be ready to pull the plug and get everybody out in an effort to have our Congress grow a backbone, find their spine and take on this imperial president and aspiring despot.”
“There are immoral laws that on occasion you have to break in order to make it right for our society, and this is one of those times. Labor recognizes that.”
It’s imperative, Maloney says, that unions work now to support and encourage workers who may be risking their job if they were to go out on strike. “The thing is, there are immoral laws that on occasion you have to break in order to make it right for our society, and this is one of those times. Labor recognizes that. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s a necessary thing,” he told Truthout.
During a Tuesday night webinar hosted by the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee titled “What Can Workers Do to Stop Trump from Stealing the Election?” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson imparted lessons from her union’s largely successful strike during the government shutdown last year. Nelson’s repeated threats of a general strike proved instrumental in ending the shutdown.
She told more than 300 labor organizers and activists Tuesday that her union is working nonstop to pressure Congress to pass a new COVID-19 relief package, saying, “What we need to be doing to lock in this relief bill is critical for the fights forward, and if we are all taking part in that and coming out for relief-now actions and locking this in; this is going to be a large part of building the broad base support for the fact that it’s … working people who demand that our government work for us.”
Responding to a question about economically strategic locations for strikes, Nelson said, “If we can control when and where [we strike], and we think about how we can strategically place pressure in places that are going to have a major impact, we actually don’t have to have a general strike across the entire country. We can have a major impact if we know that we can shut down one specific place, and it doesn’t even have to be for a very long period of time. If we take control of the schedule of the country, we can have a tremendous effect.”
“If we take control of the schedule of the country, we can have a tremendous effect.”
Progressive groups are also organizing toward a national general strike. Organizations including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition in Detroit, the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement, and the People’s Alliance-Bay Area have put out calls to organize a broad-based People’s Committees to Defend Democratic Rights that would call upon union locals to conduct a vote on authorizing a general strike in the event of a coup attempt.
The growing calls to organize a general strike come as strike activity in the U.S. has reached levels not seen since the end of World War II, as frontline workers struggle for protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic and take action in solidarity with the movement for Black lives. There have been at least 1,160 strikes since March 1 of this year, according to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker.
Still, AFT Washington President Strickland warns that preparing for a general strike is going to be a heavy lift for many unions, with so little time left before the election.
“We should have been having this talk six months ago, but we will mount a big show of force if circumstances are such that the military is in the street.”
“I don’t want to sound like a naysayer, but the fact is, we’re not prepared. We should have been having this talk six months ago, but we will mount a big show of force if circumstances are such that the military is in the street, if there is an attempted coup,” she says. “I do think we can get there…. We are getting great momentum from younger folks. I think that we can effectively make things happen.”
Member unions of MLK Labor were already preparing for the possibility of mobilizing for a general strike even before the resolution was drafted and brought before the labor council. In addition to unions’ get-out-the-vote organizing, many members are also offering workshops designed to prepare area activists for safe participation in mass mobilizations in the days after the election, including designating safe spaces for protesters in the streets.
AFT Washington is discussing ways to support and guide educators and faculty members at college campuses that could serve as touch-off points for protests. Educators are already worried about attendance issues amid the potential for student-led, pro-democracy protest movements in the period after the election.
“Labor has to take a leadership role and use all the institutional power and leverage that we have while also taking leadership from younger people and Black Lives Matter.”
Communication across the labor movement is another huge concern. “In order to be effective, we have to have a full-on, coordinated communications plan that should be happening right now,” Strickland says. “General strike or not, I think our coordinated communications plan has to be full speed ahead, because that’s what’s going to help us prevent the terrible actions that Trump might try, or if that’s not successful, then prepare people for taking action.”
One thing Strickland is certain of is that labor won’t be able to do this alone.
“[Progressive groups] have to come together. It can’t just be labor. Labor needs to take a strong role, but we’re all in this together,” she said. “Labor has to take a leadership role and use all the institutional power and leverage that we have while also taking leadership from younger people and Black Lives Matter.”
This week, the 70,000 member Rochester AFL-CIO Labor Council became the first regional AFL-CIO body in the United States to call for a General Strike if Trump does not respect the outcome of this year’s election.
“Therefore, now be it resolved that the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO, stands firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome of the 2020 Presidential elections,” read the resolution passed by the 70,000-member strong Labor Council this week.
Rochester AFL-CIO President Dan Maloney, who in the fall of 2019 helped lead a 6-week-long strike at GM in Rochester, said the Council hoped the resolution would spark a national conversation.
“We hope to encourage other labor groups and get the discussion started now about possible action strategies if Trump and his supporters do not follow the Constitutional transfer of power,” said Maloney. “The voice and vote of ‘We the People’ must be respected.”
The call for a General Strike comes at a time when high strike activity levels, a result of the pandemic and the growing energy of the Black Lives Matter movement, have not been seen since the end of World War II. According to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker, there have been at least 1,160 strikes since March 1 of this year.
The National AFL-CIO did not respond to requests for comments if they plan to strike if Trump doesn’t respect election results. However, in Rochester, workers say they are beginning to prepare a strike that would help push Trump from power. A General Strike could hurt the bottom line of many large corporations, putting corporate pressure on Trump to leave office.
“The extreme risk currently posed to the historic institutions of democracy in our nation may require more widespread and vigorous resistance than at any time in recent history,” said the Rochester Labor Council in a statement. “The most powerful tool of the Labor Movement in our history has been the power of the General Strike.”
The post Rochester AFL-CIO Calls for General Strike if Trump Steals Election appeared first on Payday Report.
There is an out-of-fashion quote that goes something along the lines of: “For Evil to flourish good people need only to do nothing.” The notion of “evil” has been banished from the supposedly sophisticated discourse of the “woke” liberal classes. But for 99% of human history, evil was very much a material reality, namely the grotesque arbitrary power of the rich to rape, starve and murder. The modern evil is the plan by the corporate elite and their political administrators to willingly, in the full knowledge of the science, engage in putting greenhouse gases into the air to the point of locking in what is euphemistically called social collapse, namely that old trinity of rape, starvation and murder, on the scale of billions of people.