Friday, March 31, 2017

A West Coast May Day Strike? Really? Sí, se puede!

We have been urging everyone to participate in the May Day rally and march in Salem this year, and I have been saying that I know that it's hard to ask and expect people to take a day off from school or work and participate on a weekday---BUT we really need thousands of people with us on the streets this year. Thousands turned out after the Sensenbrenner Bill moved forward, and our situation today is more difficult than it was in 2005, and Trump and his party have more opposition. So---we need you. Please join the May Day rally and march in Salem.

I was recently contacted by a media worker who heard that I'm organizing a May 1 strike. That isn't quite the case. The ask that people take a day off to rally and march does not mean that we will be picketing employers (although that seems like a good idea) or that strike funds are available. No one here will be taking a strike vote. Some workers in our region can probably use their legal rights to engage in collective action with some creative planning, but for most of us this will mean staying away from work or school for all or part of the day, ignoring the bosses and demanding justice from the politicians. This is a stay-away, as in just stay away from work, school shopping, labor and emotional labor, and the "normal" activities that you do in the formal and informal economy to the extent that you are able to for one day.

We may lose some pay or class time, but it will be worth it. You will see thousands of others taking the same risks and making the same statements you are if you join us. You will be making a positive contribution to social change. You will be living out an important labor history event. You will be standing alongside of people who most need your solidarity right now. Salem's rally and march will have the necessary permits, security and the numbers of people needed to make this successful and one more step forward. You will come away from May Day feeling stronger and more optimistic.

Lenin said that there are no lost strikes because each action educates and prepares us for the next critical step. Coming together after May Day and evaluating our collective situation with others will be crucial.

Many workers will be striking on the west coast, of course. That is to say that they will be engaging in collective action at work, shutting some workplaces down and perhaps engaging in mass picketing and honoring picketlines. A great article running in Labor Notes and in In These Times says:

The janitors of SEIU United Service Workers West felt driven...“to strike with the community” against the raids, threats, and immigrant-bashing hate speech that the Trump administration has unleashed.

“The president is attacking our community,” said Mejia, a member of his union’s executive board. “Immigrants have helped form this country, we’ve contributed to its beauty, but the president is attacking us as criminal.”

Following the Los Angeles vote, union janitors elsewhere in California have also voted to “strike with the community” on May 1. As the meetings gathered steam, Mejia reports, workers in schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and farms started talking about joining the walkout too.

And the strike is going on the road: SEIU-USWW is partnering with the human rights group Global Exchange, worker centers, the Southern Border Communities Coalition, and faith groups to organize a “Caravan against Fear” that will tour California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in April, staging rallies, cultural events, direct action trainings, and community strike votes leading up to May Day.

In recent years, May Day has seen demonstrations to support immigrant rights. This year’s mobilizations will center on defending immigrants, but weave in other issues as well, such as climate justice and the de-funding of public education.

Up and down the West Coast, we are likely to see the largest May Day strikes since hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers walked off the job in 2006...leaders of the unions representing Seattle public school teachers, graduate employees at the University of Washington, and staff at Seattle’s community colleges have called for a strike to protest the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, workers, women, and members of the LGBT community. The public school teachers and UW graduate employees are scheduling strike votes in the coming weeks.

A March meeting organized by the county labor council and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant brought together immigrant community leaders and representatives from two dozen Seattle-area unions—including Laborers, Teamsters, Boeing Machinists, stagehands, hotel workers, and city and county workers—to plan a May Day of mass resistance. Participants acknowledged the need for creativity rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

A week later, the labor council committed its support for an immigrant-led May Day march, in a resolution urging unions “to consider all forms of action on May 1, 2017, whether striking, walking out, taking sick days, extended lunch hours, exercising rights of conscience, organizing demonstrations or teach-ins, or any other acts of collective expression that builds solidarity across communities.”

Labor Council head Nicole Grant described May Day as just the beginning of a “summer of resistance,” showing that working people can and will respond to Trump’s attacks with disruptive action. “We won’t take down this president in one day,” added Sawant. “But on May Day we are taking our resistance to another level.”

Climate justice activists are also folding into the May Day movement. In Washington state, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are calling for an “Earth Day to May Day Action Week,” blending Earth Day April 22 and a “March for Science” into a full week of workshops and protests culminating in a big May 1 mobilization.

Read the entire article here.

There are shortcomings in our collective approach here. A mass strike or stay away is a tactic and should derive from a strategy held by a mass movement and we do not yet have mass movements in place. Strikes and stay aways should derive from these mass movements; they don't organize movements. They are a means forward, not ends. We are also too rigid in our attachment to coalition politics, and we are not grasping real united front strategies and tactics. With these shortcomings will come advances for anarchism and social democracy if we do not correct our course. It will be too easy for people to hand over responsibility for our movements to bureaucrats or ultra-leftists if we do not put democratic united fronts built from below in place. On the other hand, we are not going to build a mass movement between now and May 1, or develop fully democratic and participatory structures between now and then, and there is a need and a demand to act.    

But can we really organize mass strikes and stay aways? Can we really build an inclusive and democratic movement with one strategy and many tactics? Can this be done?

Sí, se puede!

If you're not good with this...

then try this as a first step...

An important womens' statement on striking on May Day reads in part as follows:

The violence of ICE against immigrants is part of the systemic police violence against Black people, Latinx and Native Americans, and the mass incarceration of people of color. This violence and systemic sexism and racism oppresses and humiliates women of color, including Native women and immigrant women, every day of our lives. To those who want to narrow down feminism, we say feminism cannot be narrowed down only to demands over reproductive rights and formal gender equality. Feminism is a struggle against poverty, racism and immigration raids. The women who are part of or aspire to be the 1%, rely on the rest of us, especially immigrant women and women of color, to do the caregiving and service work for low pay or no pay. This is why we will strike on May Day.

To those who dismiss the work that women and non-binary people do in the formal and informal economy, starting with mothers, we say that feeding, clothing, housing, and educating whole communities, providing more unwaged health care than all health care institutions combined, cleaning and maintaining everyone’s homes, is real work and fundamental to sustaining society despite being unrecognized and invisible. Also hidden and disrespected is the work of immigrants, especially women. This is why we will be striking on May Day.

To those who say immigrants have no right to be here, we say that we have fled countries that were bombed, occupied and impoverished by the US military industrial complex and the brutal governments they imposed or supported. U. S. wars are stealing land and resources, exploiting, raping, imprisoning, and torturing people – from Afghanistan and Iraq to Egypt and Syria, from Palestine and South Sudan to Haiti and Honduras. On May Day we strike to reclaim the wealth we immigrants helped produce and to establish our right to be here.

Read the full statement here.

From Viewpoint Magazine

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