This week, the Supreme Court of the United States opened hearings on Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, a direct challenge to the right of public sector workers to engage in collective bargaining. Close observers of the court expect an anti-union ruling, and for this reason, Jobs with Justice, AFSCME, and others preemptively mobilized thousands of workers across the United States in rallying for union rights.
Labor organizers are preparing for the worst, but what does the worst look like?
On April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.
The state of the planet is unraveling all around us because of our addiction to fossil fuels,” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez said at the steps of the US Supreme Court this week. “For the last several decades, we have been neglecting the fact that this is the only planet that we have and that the main stakeholders in this issue (of climate change) are the younger generation. Not only are the youth going to be inheriting every problem that we see in the world today — after our politicians have been long gone — but our voices have been neglected from the conversation.
This month’s Liberty Tree News focuses on Earth Day to May Day – organizing around 10 days of action taking place April 22 through May 1 this year as well as analysis lifting up the important convergence of labor and environmental activists as we push back against policies detrimental to our survival. You can help make #ED2MD a success this year by sharing actions and events you are participating in, as well as organizing your own demonstrations, marches, talks, direct actions, trainings and more in support of people, planet and peace over profit.
As union members, we know that the #1 priority for working Americans is good jobs and economic progress. That is one of the major reasons why we strongly oppose the construction of any dirty fuel pipelines, including Dakota Access and Keystone XL. Oil, coal and gas are relics of the old economy that create few permanent jobs while costing Americans billions of dollars related to health problems from pollution and clean-ups from spills.
It will not be enough to play defense. As millions ask “what will it take to stop Trump?”, a discussion about strike action has been rapidly developing. The “chaos” we created at the nation’s airports gives a hint of what’s possible. In spite of the protests being rapidly pulled together protesters won the immediate release of detained immigrants and even pushed sections of big business into coming out against Trump and his Muslim ban.
But we need to think deeply about where our strength lies and how to create disruption on an even greater scale. Working people have enormous potential power to shut down the profits of big business by taking action in their workplaces like slowdowns, sickouts, and strikes.