WSA 2020 Labor Day Statement —— The Time is Now
Over a hundred years ago a frightened President Grover Cleveland pushed congress to recognize Labor Day as a federal holiday in 1894 (the September holiday was first observed in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York). In the wake the Pullman railcar strike that saw workers murdered at the hands of U.S. Marshals and Soldiers, Cleveland moved to throw the masses a crumb, Labor Day. In what was perhaps a wise move, he made sure that the holiday did not land on, or even near the already existing International Workers’ Day. On the First of May workers worldwide commemorate an event that took place in the very heart of the United States (Haymarket, May 3, 1886 and adopted internationally in 1889 by an international congress of socialists, anarchists and radical workers) and often call for radical change and even revolution. As sure as water flows downhill, the crumb of Labor Day only teased the empty bellies of workers demanding a better life. On through today, an entire history of struggle has been written with its newest chapters happening before our eyes.
Throughout this history workers have wielded the weapons of Solidarity and Direct Action in order to protect and advance their own interests. With strikes, sabotage, sit-ins and sit-downs and other actions workers have stood up for each other ever since the bosses started exploiting them in the first place. Often during these struggles, the workers would be abandoned and condemned, oftentimes by their own Union leaders and left demoralized and forced to either carry on the fight by themselves, or capitulate to the boss.
2020 has been a particularly hard year for workers. The Coronavirus has hit service workers, food service, meat processing, agricultural, retail, manufacturing and transportation hard. Low wage workers especially hard. Whole segments of the economy, such as hospitality, have been put on hold or gutted. Healthcare workers, be they lower paid home health attendants, housekeeping, nurses and even doctors have been stressed to the limits and placed in harm’s way. Unemployment has skyrocketed, with millions still unemployed and many soon to run out of unemployment insurance. Parents, especially mothers, are seeing the precarious state of childcare as daycare centers and preschools are closed or decreased their availability. Older children have been staying home as well. Parents, especially mothers, must balance childcare with work or decrease their working hours in order to care for their children of all ages. The invisible nature of childcare is perhaps becoming more visible during this pandemic. But the unpaid and underpaid care-work is still overlooked and in danger of becoming future collateral damage because the problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. “All across the world, women, especially working class women, women of colour, migrant women and women living in rural communities perform the largest share of underpaid, or completely unpaid, social reproductive labour.” (Varsity, Cambridge, UK September 2020)
Over the past six months, workers, be they in the meatpacking plants or hospitals have oftentimes self-organized struggles for safe working conditions, and personal protective equipment. Workers’ direct action and mini-strikes have largely, though not exclusively, spontaneously broken out across the country. Even in the wholly unorganized Amazon chain, there were a number of struggles and small actions against the behemoth’s drive for productivity and output. While not massive, not strikes per se, the workers even the 8:30 minute strike called to join in the Black Lives Matter’s struggles, while limited, was strong in message. For those of us who are sports fans, much respect to those basketball players who essentially organized a wild cat strike against the heightened racism and racist deaths happening across this land.
The workers crisis is not just limited to the workplace. The many tens of millions of unemployed workers are also struggling with rent, mortgages and their inability to pay, either in whole or in part, their rents and mortgages. With each week, landlords are getting ready to squeeze them out of their apartments and homes. Pressure of lack of work, pressure in meeting rent or mortgage payments will ultimately lead to a major crisis. Temporary rent or mortgage holds will to last forever. And when the dam breaks, the human costs of homelessness will be immense.
2020 has been a particularly brutal and racist year. Men and women of color gunned own or suffocated at the hands of the men in blue across this land. Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, slain in bed by mad dog cops on a hunting expedition. Stoked on by the Klansman in Chief aggressively trying to show who’s in power and control, turning the streets into war zones with his unidentified federal military shock forces. Furthermore, the Klansman in Chief has been giving more than a more than a wink and a nod to racist and fascist vigilantes and militias.
If ever there was a time for the creation of new movements, from below, for workers and community control, the time is now. The time is now to help develop anti-racist social movements from below that capture the best of spirit of direct and mass action.
The time is now to rekindle the spirit of working class combativeness. We seek to organize and build an independent, militant self-managed and self-organized workers movement. One which is directly democratic, free and non-bureaucratic and promotes anti-discriminatory, pro-ecological and anti-capitalist goals. As the threat of climate change looms, the need has increased for a militant workers movement that can demand a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards more ecologically friendly employment. Along with this the need has increased for the eventual replacement of markets with an economy self-managed by everyone, since market cost-shifting and negative externalities are not ecologically sustainable. We believe this can eventually be fulfilled via a libertarian socialism where everyone has a voice in economic decisions to the general extent they are affected by them.
This kind of movement cannot be instituted from the top-down, and cannot have bosses. The movement will only defend the interests of the rank and file workers for as long as the rank and file control it from the bottom-up, democratically. In order to grow strong roots it will need room to include not just current wage workers, but all those that where, those that will be, and those that labor without pay. Simply put, all those folks who find themselves powerless in this chaotic society must work together to forge a new one. It must mirror in its’ structure the kind of society we wish to build, one empty of hierarchy and full of democracy.
Perhaps you’ve found the crumbs, however frequently dropped from marble tables, never seem to fill your empty stomach. Let it be known that others have tired of the crumbs as well, and wish to get the whole cake instead.
Feel free to contact us to learn more about how to fight your boss at work, to find out more about libertarian socialism and working class struggle, or just to discuss the situation further.
The time is NOW!
Workers Solidarity Alliance