Below, we present a statement by the Young Workers Committee of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Socialist Action believes that this statement is an excellent contribution to a discussion in the labor movement of what to do next in the fight against Trump’s government shutdown. One real strength of this statement is that it does not emphasize electoral action as the solution to Trumpism.
Some 800,000 federal workers are currently locked out, with 420,000 of them being forced to work without pay. A union leader told the Philadelphia Inquirer that members in federal government jobs have to choose whether to feed their “children or pay for gas to go to work.” Trump dismisses the impact on federal workers and accuses them of being Democrats. The government has advised locked-out workers to barter odd jobs, like yard work or carpentry, to landlords in exchange for rent.
We understand that some of these employees are part of the national security apparatus. We have no sympathy for FBI agents, ICE agents, or Border Patrol goons, but the character of these forces should not distract us from solidarity with federal workers. Many of those affected by this shutdown are charged with tasks like safeguarding our food supplies, keeping our waters clean, and ensuring that our workplaces are safe.
The unions must take action in solidarity with the locked-out federal workers. The AFL-CIO at the local, state, and national levels should immediately open union halls as centers for mutual aid, with meals and other support provided to workers and their families. This would include legal advice and taking action to stop foreclosures or evictions.
Another urgent step would be organizing a mass action to call for “Money for workers, not racist walls!” A Million Worker March on Martin Luther King Day, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of workers, would help shift the terms of debate in Washington, and the balance of class forces. The teacher strikes in the U.S. in 2018 and the yellow vest protests in France point to the potential for radically shifting the political situation through mass mobilizations independent of the bosses.
Such a mass-action approach would put labor at odds with their “friends” in the Democratic Party. The temptation among the union bureaucrats would be to moderate demands, or demobilize workers, to appease the Democrats. During the Wisconsin protests against Gov. Walker’s union busting, union tops diverted the energy of the movement into a disastrous recall campaign.
In truth, the Democrats have not been friends to workers and oppressed people. From mass incarceration, to union busting and austerity, to imperialist war, Democrats can be counted on to support Wall Street first. A fighting Labor Party, based on the unions and organizations of the oppressed, would chart an independent course forward for working people.
Money For Workers, Not The Wall!
The Young Workers Committee of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with the nearly one million federal government workers who are paying the price for Trump’s government shutdown as he demands $5 billion for a border wall with Mexico.
420,000 federal workers are being forced to work without pay, with another 380,000 currently laid off without pay, and with no guarantee that they will receive back pay when the shutdown ends. Most of these dedicated public servants are union sisters and brothers. Ernie Johnson, a furloughed federal employee, went to Twitter to say “If no backpay, I’ll likely be evicted by Feb 1,” using the trending hashtag #ShutDownStories.
Billionaire Trump has put hundreds of thousands of families in a financial bind to pay rent and bills, but ironically, under US law it would be unlawful for the same government workers to strike and shutdown the government for any reason. This is a sad illustration of the anti-worker laws championed by the likes of Trump and other employers that make the collective action of unionists difficult or unlawful. We support the inherent and fundamental right of federal government workers, and all working people, to go on strike. No worker should be forced to work without pay, or denied the right to strike.
Trump’s demand for a border wall is a major piece of his anti-immigrant and anti-worker agenda, which includes the mass detention of children, raids and deportations, increased border militarization, and stoking of racist fears of immigrants and minorities. Trump’s agenda works to undermine solidarity by pitting workers in the US against each other and against workers from other countries looking for employment and a better life.
The refugee caravans headed toward the US border are made up not of terrorists as Trump claims, but of working families that have been devastated by corporate policies like NAFTA. We stand with workers fleeing violence and poverty created by US foreign and economic policies, and therefore strongly oppose the border wall and border militarization targeted towards these refugees.
We can make the world a better place by spending that $5 billion not on a wall and border militarization, but on good union jobs and education programs that actually lift up working and oppressed people. This country has more than enough wealth to take in refugees and invest in wages, benefits, and resources for working people.
- We oppose Trump’s attacks on workers, immigrants, and refugees.
- We support the right of federal workers to strike
- We demand Trump end the shutdown and pay all federal workers
- We call for five billion dollars to be allocated to programs that help working people, not to attack refugees looking for a better life.
We call on unions everywhere to pass similar statements in order to strengthen the fight against Trump’s attacks and build a united, fighting worker’s movement. “Working Class, Unite & Fight!”
Young Workers Committee, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, YWC@MilwaukeeLabor.org
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