Momentum Grows for May Day Strikes and Protests
Millions have protested since Trump’s inauguration, yet the Billionaire in Chief has relentlessly pursued his racist, sexist, anti-working class agenda. Now his latest budget and health care proposals declare war on everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to Medicaid to public schools, while handing out major tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Trump can be defeated, but it is a question of social power. Whether or not the administration can carry out its agenda is linked to how broad and militant a movement can be built to oppose it. Many right wing governments throughout history have been forced to change course, or brought down altogether by revolts of ordinary people.
But symbolic protest alone will not be enough. We will need to engage the real power working people have through mass civil disobedience and strike action. If strike action is wide enough this will affect the profits of the corporate elite, large sections of which have been happy to go along with Trump because of his agenda of deregulation and regressive taxation. This will put real pressure on them to back away from Trump.
International Workers Day
May 1, also known as “May Day” or “International Workers Day,” is historically a day of global mass action and major immigrant rights protests in the U.S. The time has never been more relevant to return to May Day’s roots, and to launch a summer of resistance against this dangerous right wing administration.
Trump’s brutal attacks on immigrants have been front-and-center in his first two months in office, and already they provoked immigrant protests and strike action on February 16, which while organized rapidly, involved thousand of immigrant workers in cities around the country.
The mass protests at the nation’s airports in response to Trump’s anti-immigrant ban dealt the president his first humiliating blow, as sections of the ruling class pushed back on him over growing concerns at the resulting “chaos” of mass civil disobedience.
Now, immigrant workers around the country are preparing for what are likely to be the biggest May 1 demonstrations since hundreds of thousands walked off the job in 2006 on “The Day Without an Immigrant.”
Strike Plans in California
The most important May Day developments so far are in California, where 340,000 service workers are preparing for strike action, led by a coalition including SEIU United Service Workers West (USWW) and immigrant workers centers.
“The president is attacking our community,” said Tomas Mejia, a member of USWW’s executive board. “Immigrants have helped form this country, we’ve contributed to its beauty, but the president is attacking us as criminal.”
A “Caravan Against Fear” is also being organized by the coalition, to travel throughout the state of California during the month of April to build for May 1 action.
The president of United Teachers Los Angeles, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has called on superintendent Michelle King to shut down schools district-wide on May 1.
In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Labor Council issued a issued a statement on March 7 endorsing worker solidarity actions on May 1 and asking that their be “no retaliation against any worker – union or non-union – who chooses to exercise their civil rights” by taking the day off.
Momentum around May 1 has also been growing in Washington State.
In Martin Luther King County, which includes Seattle, the county labor council voted to urge its affiliate 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.”
This kind of flexibility has been stressed by organizers around the country who want to minimize retaliation against workers, while building for the broadest and most powerful possible May 1 actions.
A number of other unions in the Seattle area have also passed May Day resolutions, including WFSE Local 304, representing workers at Seattle community colleges, and IBEW Local 46, representing electrical workers.
At the University of Washington, the largest university in the Northwest, 6,000 graduate student workers represented by UAW Local 4121 will be soon voting whether to go on strike on May 1, following a strike resolution passed by the union’s Executive Board.
As a member of the City Council, I have used my platform here in Seattle to call on the city’s mayor, Ed Murray, to allow all city workers to take May 1 off without retaliation (Washington State law already allows all public employees to take 2 days off each year for reasons of conscience or religion).
But the biggest developments in Seattle are with the Seattle Education Association (SEA), where 5,000 teachers will soon be voting on whether to shut down the city’s public schools for the day, in response to longtime unconstitutional underfunding of schools in Washington State. “We have tried the same thing for years,” said SEA educator Kit McCormick. “We’ve been writing our legislators and we’ve been going to Olympia and it’s time to take a bigger step.”
“We’re fed up,” said Socialist Alternative and SEA member Justin Vinson. “Educators have been fighting to defend our schools and now we have Trump and Betsy DeVos setting their sights on major education cuts. But there is a larger principle at stake here as well, with the administration going after our immigrant sisters and brothers, women, Muslims and LGBTQ people. An injury to one is an injury to all.”
It’s Not Just About Trump
In Illinois, SEA’s sister organization, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), is also weighing whether to hold a one-day strike on May Day in protest against ongoing, brutal cuts to the public education.
Other unions around the country, such as the Minnesota Nurses Association, have also passed resolutions in favor of action on May Day.
It is still too early to say how much this momentum for strike action will continue to grow, but the need to fight back against Trump is a clear and present danger.
We must recognize that our movement will not continuously grow in a straight line that there will be setbacks also. And while we will not defeat Trump in one day, we should build for the broadest and most powerful possible actions on May 1 to take our struggle to another level.
Going forward, we need to engage broader and broader sections of working people and youth to resist Trump and the Billionaire Class. We can do so by fighting for positive changes that can make a real difference in people’s day to day lives. With healthcare under attack, we must not only defend against the Republican plan, but fight boldly for Medicare for all. With workers and union rights under attack, we must not only oppose right-to-work-for-less legislation, but demand a federal $15 minimum wage.
And it’s not only about one president or one political party. Trump was assisted in his election victory by the anger of working and middle class people at being sold out over decades by the brutal, bipartisan neoliberal policies. We need to build a new political party that will fight for socialist policies, and declare its independence from corporate money and power.
Because our fight is not only with Trump, it is with the broken system of capitalism, which is the underlying basis for this dangerous rise of right populism and vicious attacks on working people.
On May 1, we will strike back.
May 1 & Beyond: Toward a Summer of Resistance
We can defeat Trump’s agenda. But to do so we will need to build a powerful movement that both stands up against his right wing policies, and fights for positive change for working people and all those under attack.
- No ban, no wall, no raids! Not one more deportation. For real sanctuary cities.
- Stop Trump and Ryan’s assault on healthcare. Defend Medicaid and Planned Parenthood.
- Defeat Trump’s vicious anti-working class budget. No cuts to public education, mass transit, or affordable housing.
- We need Medicare for all, with free and accessible reproductive care.
- No to Trump’s military build-up.
- Stop the Republican war on the labor movement. No right-to-work-for-less legislation.
- Stop the war on the environment! For a massive expansion of renewable energy.
- Defend the right to protest.
- Pass a federal $15 minimum wage.
- Tax the rich! Fully fund human services.
- Free college for all. Cancel student debt.
- Black Lives Matter! End the mass incarceration state.