Worker solidarity was in the air at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s Terminal 2 on Thursday, December 8th. Union members, with help from TCDSA, were directing rally traffic, handing out SEIU Airport Workers United hats and rally signs and circulating sign-in sheets. Things were buzzing. Smiling workers seemed excited but a little apprehensive.
It was an impressive show of solidarity, especially among unions with members at the airport, including SEIU Local 26, UNITE-HERE Local 17, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Association of Flight Attendants. I was also fortunate enough to share space with Take Action MN, which was involved in planning the rally.
We made our presence known walking from the parking lot to a gathering area outside the terminal with our voices chanting in unison, megaphones announcing our demands, drums tapping in unison and well-prepared marshals leading the way. We coalesced and listened to speakers before entering the terminal. Most of the speakers were rank-and-file union members with a large presence of East Africans and Spanish speakers. Pledges of solidarity were expressed from various sectors, including flight attendants.
It appeared that the Metropolitan Airport Commission was put on notice and prepared for our event. What this meant was a dozen armed Airport Police officers who were no more than 6-8 feet from us at any given time. When we stopped to hear guest speakers, the officers faced all of us in military fashion, forming a line in which they were 3 feet apart. Numerous law enforcement vehicles rotated through and were always present.
The rights to free speech and peaceable assembly felt tenuous at best. I quickly realized our rights under the First Amendment to freely protest and be in community with other workers could be taken away at any time. In these moments, the police are given the authority to act with impunity, and our fate rests solely with them.
The Metropolitan Airport Commission and other vested interests attempted to intimidate us that day. Who were they there to protect? Surely not us. They would argue the airport is private property, but really whose property is it? In actuality it is the homeland of the Dakota and will always be indigenous land. Despite their attempts to intimidate, it felt like everyone was enjoying the strength we created together.
The current class struggle is taking many forms, including a surging labor movement. As in the past, todays’ workers are fighting for better wages, more time off, more sick time, better healthcare, decreased workloads and respect from the ruling class. Please join us in the labor struggle over the next few years and bring your voices, creativity, drums and heart. It is now more important than ever that we express class and worker solidarity.
– by Melanie W.