While states and cities firm up restrictions and generally fumble to prevent the spread of COVID-19, working class people are looking for ways to fight back. Despite “social distancing,” workers who remain in workplaces are organizing and fighting for safer work environments, adequate safety supplies, and a say on the job. Reacting to this changed situation means organizing in different ways and Socialist Alternative is pushing forward with virtual town halls, online petitions, and the political education of our members.
To tell the stories of the workers who are organizing for safety and to share the struggles of working during the Coronavirus crisis, Socialist Alternative has launched a blog: “Workers Speak Out: Coronavirus Lockdown” at WorkersSpeakOut.com. We invite you to read, watch the testimonies, and share your story as well! It shows that everywhere bosses are still making decisions based on what is profitable instead of the health and safety of workers, clients, customers, or the community. It is a graphic and visceral reminder that this system of capitalism makes pandemics worse and causes health care and economic crises.
Thanks to video meeting technology, we can continue meeting each other without risking spreading COVID-19. On March 22, Socialist Alternative organized a “virtual town hall” that brought together 6,000 people to talk about a socialist response, featuring speakers from Seattle to New York City and as far as Italy and Hong Kong.
Seattle City Councilmember and Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant kicked things off by talking about the clearing out of some stores, “You wanna talk about hoarders? Let’s talk about the billionaire class. That’s not an isolated example, this is a feature of capitalism.” New York State Senator and Democratic Socialist of America member Julia Salazar pointed out that “In NY state we have the most positive cases of covid-19 of anywhere in the country. This crisis is generating popular support for socialist policies and economic justice.” Initiator of the #RentStrike petition, and a socialist candidate for congress in Washington State Joshua Collins spoke to the reasons over two million people signed his petition.
For those of us who are still going into work, the lack of safety supplies and regulations are angering workers everywhere. Amazon warehouse workers in many locations have gathered signatures on petitions asking for readily available hand sanitizer. The back page of this paper details the struggle at Amazon. Nurses and hospital employees are begging for the proper safety equipment, not to mention ICU beds and supplies. Testimony to this effect was powerfully given by Socialist Alternative members Marty Harrison (Philadelphia nurse) and Eljeer Hawkins (NYC physicians assistant), you can read more of Marty’s analysis here. Socialist Alternative aims to help build these fightbacks in our workplaces and communities through online petitions and public meetings to discuss the way forward.
Even though we can’t meet in person, there’s still space to win! Pressure through petitions and organizing forced Seattle to be one of the first cities to declare a moratorium on eviction for the extent of the crisis. Now, Councilmember Sawant is pushing to pass an emergency tax on big business to fund COVID-19 emergency response.
Socialist Alternative is hosting regular virtual meetings in cities all over the country. We’re organizing study groups on topics from the economic downturn to the history of workers struggles. If ever there was a time to get involved with Socialist Alternative, it is now. Reach out and get involved today!