It is indeed shaping up for a long hot labor summer. Just in the past week workers at the UPS Northeast Minneapolis warehouse walked an informational picket with hundreds of supporters to protest the company’s stonewalling at the bargaining table. On deck, the UPS workers at the Eagan warehouse will do the same on Saturday, July 22. (Details forthcoming). Beginning August 1, 340,000 UPS workers may be hitting the bricks and going on strike for the first time in 27 years.
Last Tuesday, Starbucks workers staged an energetic picket and strike at the 47th and Cedar Minneapolis store. The same day, they launched from the Twin Cities a four week bus tour to pressure members of the Board of Directors in over 10 cities across the nation. Starbucks has refused to bargain for over a year; baristas are demanding fair and productive contract negotiations.
Then, on Thursday, dozens of Half Price Books workers jammed the negotiating room to protest a 1% pay increase offered by the company. The company simply refused to show up. Friday, all four union stores in the metro went on strike to turn up the heat and make HPB realize that the business can’t run without them.
Then on Friday, Delta Air Lines ramp workers, flight attendants and mechanics joined forces at MSP airport to protest Delta’s harassment and intimidation of those who are trying to form a union. This joint campaign involves over 45,000 workers nationwide and several thousand at MSP.
In the middle of all of this? You know it! TCDSA! We have been laser focused on the resurgent global labor movement. We have comrades who are in these workplaces or heavily involved in all these fights. We need a lot more. We are on the verge of having a number of workers join TCDSA. This will start to transform our organization into a multi-racial, working class, fighting machine.
We have had significant success electorally in the last several years. In the long run this success means nothing if it is not connected to and serving the fights that workers are waging in places like UPS, Starbucks and Delta. We are fortunate we have truly outstanding electeds who have responded to the rise in working class struggle by visiting picket lines, speaking at union organizing events and helping to pass very pro-worker legislation. This connection to working class movements helps to counter the pressure that all of our electeds feel from the ruling class and the DFL.
This is true of the fights we are engaged in for rent control and the East Phillips Urban Farm as well. Working class organizations, workers and organized labor were key to winning a victory at the Roof Depot and will be key to winning strong rent control in the Twin Cities. Unions can push our social struggles all the way to victory, including the fight against climate change.
What does this mean for our work in the next year? We will certainly throw substantial resources and time into electing 5 socialists to Minneapolis City Council and 2 more in St. Paul. But we must devote a huge amount of our time and see as our central focus participating in the frontlines of the class struggle forming at UPS and Amazon, Delta and Starbucks. In 2024 over 30,000 workers in the Twin Cities will have contracts that expire around March. They have formed a coalition to coordinate their efforts.
This is where much of our energy must be spent. These union and workplace organizing fights are not just about contracts. This is where we most efficiently find and activate the multi-racial working class. The fight for racial, gender and economic equality, against climate change and for an economy that works for the vast majority MUST be led by the working class. This will mean making sure our workplace groups meet regularly, that we create more of them, and that we get more comrades into union jobs and organizing campaigns.
One lesson we learned from the EPNI campaign was how to effectively use all the tools in our tool box to score a win: demonstrations, direct action, mutual aid and legislative work. We were able to bring unions into the fight and this proved to have great impact, but we could have done much more in this regard.
We need to stay singularly focused on building collective power. So it’s important to resist the guilt trap that neo-liberalism sets to keep us focused on individual acts of kindness and good deeds. That’s what non-profits are for. As socialists we must be disciplined about building the kind of power that can take down the capitalist system. We must act quickly and decisively if we are to have any hope of avoiding the exponentially increasing inequity that climate catastrophe will bring.
By Kip H