Every Day Is Labor Day for DSA
|Twin Cities DSA|
|Courtesy of Ian Ringgenberg|
By Dan DiMaggio
We have two Labor Days in the United States: one in September (first celebrated in 1882) and one in May (commemorating the Haymarket Massacre of 1886). For members of DSA chapters throughout the country, support for labor goes on all year round. Here’s a round-up of recent local activity.
Washington, D.C.: The chapter has been supporting a campaign by the workers’ center Many Languages One Voice to get five workers reinstated to their jobs. Matchbox Pizza fired the workers for organizing to address low wages and conditions in the kitchen. DSA members have picketed the restaurant with them and participated in dinnertime disruption actions. The chapter also co-sponsored a DC Jobs with Justice training along with the DC Metro Labor Council, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, and the Washington Teachers’ Union. Trainees learned how to develop and run campaigns with community and labor allies.
Burlington, Vermont: The Burlington Organizing Committee has rallied with teachers against attacks on their collective bargaining rights, marched with the immigrant worker organization Migrant Justice as part of the Milk with Dignity campaign, and picketed with AT&T strikers.
New York City: The New York City chapter has established a labor solidarity working group that is focused on a solidarity campaign with Latino warehouse workers at B&H Photo Video. The 300 workers voted to join the United Steelworkers in November 2015 and are still fighting for a first contract. In January the company announced plans to shut down its two Brooklyn warehouses and move them to New Jersey. DSA members have organized weekly pickets in front of the store on Friday and Sunday afternoons with signs that say, “Keep Jobs in NYC” and “No Contract, No Peace.” Members have also disrupted press events and the Optic conference in early June, of which B&H was a major sponsor.
Organizers from the Laundry Workers Center, which led the initial organizing drive at B&H, have spoken at several of our chapters and participated in a panel on union organizing at the Left Forum along with NYC Labor Chapter co-chair Bianca Cunningham, who was part of the successful campaign to unionize Verizon Wireless stores in Brooklyn in 2014. NYC DSA members also organized benefit screenings of Harlan County, USA and The Hand That Feeds. The latter film covers a union drive by the Laundry Workers Center at local deli chain Hot & Crusty. Chapter members also organized a comedy fundraiser for the B&H workers in June.
Columbus, Ohio: In addition to organizing a presence on the picket line for all three days of the AT&T Mobility strike, in late May the chapter joined a picket by Teamsters Local 413 at the 7-Up plant, where 68 warehouse and delivery workers struck over efforts to undermine their grievance system and put them on an inferior health insurance plan.
Chicago, Illinois: Chicago DSA held a teach-in on May 13 titled “Labor 101: What is the labor movement?” The workshop provided an overview of U.S. labor history, basic information on what unions do, the relationship between organized labor and the rest of the working class, and why socialists see unions as critical vehicles for working-class power. Fifty people attended. Organizers and workers involved in several campaigns also spoke, including a charter school organizer and an editor from the Chicago Reader, where workers are embroiled in a contract fight.
Chicago DSAers are also supporting Illinois public-sector workers who are fighting for a new contract with the state. The chapter had a brief seminar during which AFSCME members explained what’s at stake in their contract battle and have followed up by distributing flyers outside of Department of Human Services offices to ask people who rely on public services to call Governor Rauner’s office and demand that he return to the bargaining table.
On International Women’s Day in March, chapter members supported the Amalgamated Transit Union locals by handing out flyers at eight El stops asking commuters to call the president of the Chicago Transit Authority board. Reports are that the call-in day crashed the switchboard.
Los Angeles: The Los Angeles DSA Sanctuary Working Group is working closely with workers centers to reach out to defend immigrant workers rights.
Hundreds of activists joined DSA-LA outside Mayor Garcetti’s celebration venue to protest his inaction, and some DSA-LA members were able to interrupt Garcetti during his victory speech on multiple occasions. As Garcetti’s security forcibly removed DSA-LA members, the socialist organizers began to chant “ICE out of LA!”
This action was widely covered by local media, from the Los Angeles Times to Variety magazine. And just two weeks after the DSA-LA action, Garcetti signed Executive Directive No. 20, a progressive executive policy document that begins to address some of the problems that immigrant rights groups in Los Angeles had been trying to bring up to the mayor for years.
The scale and effectiveness of the Garcetti action drew the attention of local immigrants’ rights organizations and workers’ centers. Since March, our members began to support community partners like the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) to continue plugging in DSA-LA members to local actions and rallies for immigrants’ rights.
Eventually, the working group members were invited to the planning meetings of the ICE Out of LA coalition, composed of Los Angeles community members, immigrants’ rights organizations, legal advocates, and workers’ centers, devoted to fighting deportations and criminalization of immigrant workers. Participation with the coalition has allowed the DSA Sanctuary Working Group to develop closer connections with these community partners.
Bay Area: DSA in the Bay Area is working closely with the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United to gain a single payer health care system for California. Although blocked temporarily in the legislature, this effort will probably go to the ballot in 2018.
California: DSA chapters in East Bay, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and others joined with Cosecha and workers in the strikes, boycotts, and other actions for immigrant rights on May 1. The strike in Los Angeles was smaller than in 2006, but still drew some 30,000 people into the streets. ϖ
Dan DiMaggio is a member of the South Brooklyn chapter of NYC DSA and is the assistant editor of Labor Notes. You can reach him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the Labor Day 2017 issue of Democratic Left magazine.
Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.