GENERAL STRIKE! GENERAL STRIKE! GENERAL STRIKE!
We are now on Day 34 of the longest government shutdown in American history. Workers across the country are going without food, lining up at soup kitchens, going without insulin and other medical necessities while still being expected to show up every day and continue to work, unpaid. Lara Trump, who is not going without anything in the least and has probably never gone without anything in her entire life, thinks these workers ought to be very glad to be sacrificing in this way so that Donald Trump might have his precious wall -- a thing that will cost a lot of money and not impact any of their lives in any way whatsoever. Unlike, you know, a paycheck.
But that is the way of America. Workers have been expected to sacrifice for the greater good of the job creators, for the rich to become richer. Because, you know, if they are not willing to make this sacrifice, how will anyone ever be inspired to become a rich person? Rich people are notoriously delicate, and the smallest inconvenience will cause them to crumble into pieces and leave us for greener pastures. Even if those greener pastures do not actually exist.
The capitalists have wealth; they have money. They invest the money in machinery, in the resources of the earth. They operate a factory, a mine, a railroad, a mill. They will keep that factory running just as long as there are profits coming in. When anything happens to disturb the profits, what do the capitalists do? They go on strike, don't they? They withdraw their finances from that particular mill. They close it down because there are no profits to be made there. They don't care what becomes of the working class. But the working class, on the other hand, has always been taught to take care of the capitalist's interest in the property. -- William Heywood, founding member of the IWW
It is safe to say that this attitude is becoming less and less appealing with each passing day. People want enough money to live on, they want things like health care and the ability to afford to simply live, and they don't care as much if that hurts the feelings of the rich people who profit off of and benefit from their labor. People also, shockingly enough, do not want to work for free.
This week, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, accepted the 2019 AFL-CIO MLK Drum Major for Justice Award -- and upon doing so, called upon workers across the country to consider a general strike to force the shutdown to end, so that federal workers can go back to being able to collect a paycheck and put food on their families.
Dr. King said that "With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together."
Now listen to me… We can end this Shutdown together.
Federal sector unions have their hands full caring for the 800,000 federal workers who are at the tip of the spear. Some would say the answer is for them to walk off the job. I say, what are you willing to do? Their destiny IS tied up with our destiny – and they don't even have time to ask us for help. Don't wait for an invitation. Get engaged, join or plan a rally, get on a picket line, organize sit-ins at lawmakers' offices.
Almost a million workers are locked out or being forced to work without pay. Others are going to work when our workspace is increasingly unsafe. What is the Labor Movement waiting for?
Go back with the Fierce Urgency of NOW to talk with your Locals and International unions about all workers joining together - To End this Shutdown with a General Strike.
We can do this. Together. Si se puede. Every gender, race, culture, and creed. The American Labor Movement. We have the power.
And to all Americans – We've Got Your Back!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tactic, a general strike is when eeeeeeeeveryone in a city or county or country or trade or class goes on strike -- or at least all of the union workers -- to force some kind of change. It can be labor-related, it can be political (as in the general strike that happened to protest the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti), to ameliorate industrial strife in general, or it can be for the purposes of instigating a full-on revolution. It can also be something like May Day -- a day when workers across the world except for America do not go to work, simply to remind everyone of how reliant they are on their labor and how powerful a real general strike would be.
Nelson's suggestion is that all unionized workers -- not just federal workers, but private sector workers who wish to express solidarity -- go on strike until the shutdown ends. It's a smart idea. The only reason Trump is able to continue with this shutdown is because the only people who are truly being inconvenienced by it are the workers who aren't being paid. The only way to stop it is to make it inconvenient for everyone else as well. Particularly those who are unaccustomed to being inconvenienced. Because while the Trumps sure as hell are not going to listen to workers who are angry about not having food or insulin, they will probably listen to their friends who have been inconvenienced by having their vacation plans interrupted during resort season.
A strike like this would be fantastic not just for ending the shutdown, but for workers in general, who would do well to remind the world that all the capital in the world means nothing if there is no labor.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse