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April 2017

May Day 2017: The giant stands up

Doug Barnes, FSP National Secretary

When I was about 11 and picking beans with other school kids and farmworker families near Salem, Oregon, the farmer did us wrong. The field was already picked over before we got there and the farmer lowered the amount paid per pound. So the farmworkers encouraged us kids to walk off the job with them. We enthusiastically agreed, and went on strike together to the chagrin of the irate farmer. Those farmworkers, many from Mexico, taught us the power of withholding our labor.

This May Day the same forces across the U.S. are showing the way forward for the whole labor movement. Hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, food processers, janitors, and restaurant and fast-food workers are hitting the bricks in a general strike, called A Day Without an Immigrant. Organizers from coast to coast are mobilizing at dozens of workplaces to walk out in defiance of the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants and refugees, and in favor of full citizenship rights for all. They are consciously defending others under attack including Climate Justice and Black Lives Matter activists.

Meanwhile resolutions in support of the strike (such as the one posted at organizedworkers.org) are being discussed in dozens of unions and some labor councils. These include AFSCME, SEIU, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, teachers’ unions and more. While some within organized labor argue they can’t violate “no strike” contracts, others such as the ILWU Local 10 and SEIU United Service Workers West are valiantly withholding their labor. Other unions have passed resolutions encouraging support for the general strike, and are relying on workers taking an unpaid or vacation day to take part.

However we get out in the streets, labor needs to be there in support of those risking everything to resist the powers-that-be. Given that the bosses have set their sights on breaking unions through passage of devastating right-to-work legislation, these brave souls are indeed showing the way forward for the entire labor movement. We must resist and organize together, the organized and unorganized, the documented and undocumented, to defend those most vulnerable and those who are shouting the loudest for all our rights!

¡Sí se puede!