Planting Seed for Strikes in the Trump Era, #Strike4Democracy Sweeps Nation
"It's a moment we're in, where all the typical rules don't entirely apply"
Planting the seed for future large-scale walk-outs, hundreds of events are taking place coast-to-coast on Friday as part of a national "strike for democracy."
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Strike4Democracy describes itself as "a broad umbrella for coordinated national actions on Friday, 2/17, which will serve as an opening blow in a campaign to stand up for America's democratic principles."
Galvanized in response to the Trump administration's attacks on immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, and the environment, Friday's action "amplifies a new chapter of nonviolent resistance ushered in over the last six weeks by calling for strikes that grow in number and power," the statement reads, pointing to other strike actions planned for March 8 and May 1, as well as "a heightening resistance throughout the summer."
And in a piece published this week at YES! Magazine, senior editor James Trimarco posited that "Feb. 17 is just the beginning."
While "[i]t's not the American way for workers across industries to stage a one-day walkout to make a statement," as columnist Shirley Leung wrote in Friday's Boston Globe, she wondered: "Could that change in the Trump era?"
After all, as Rutgers University professor of labor studies Janice Fine told the Globe, "It's a moment we're in, where all the typical rules don't entirely apply."
Indeed, whereas such large-scale strikes used to depend on union organizing with clear workplace-oriented demands, the new wave of strikes is being organized outside those traditional channels and with different, broader aims. As Andrew Thornebrooke, a graduate student at Fordham who is involved in organizing the February 17 event in New York, told the Village Voice this week, "We're redefining our demands to be targeted toward [New York] senators and representatives to reaffirm that their office will uphold the Constitution and actively oppose any attempt by [the Trump] administration that contradicts that."
Reporter Alexandra Neason wrote for the Voice:
A number of people who have pledged to strike this Friday will do so in nontraditional ways. Michelle Rodino-Colocino, 47, an associate professor in media studies at Penn State and Strike4Democracy organizer, rescheduled meetings set for Friday, delayed an afternoon class to give students a chance to participate in demonstrations, and won't make any purchases on the day of—an alternative form of protest those who cannot safely miss work are being encouraged to participate in. At Penn State, campus demonstrations are planned during students' lunch hour.
"I think you're going to see a significant turnout of people who are gonna do a variety of actions. It will show that there is reason to continue building the strike as a means to stand up as citizens," said Rodino-Colocino.
Tithi Battacharya, a professor at Purdue University and one of the co-authors of the March 8 call to strike, told Trimarco that she "doesn't call it a 'general strike' because anti-striking laws and low union density currently block that possibility—and retaliation against strikers would likely hit vulnerable women of color the hardest."
"She prefers the term 'mass strike,' a notion that's designed to be more inclusive," Trimarco wrote.
"We are calling for demonstrations, walk-outs, sex strikes: a range of actions that will be a show of collective resistance by women, which will take different forms depending on the local context," Battacharya told him, calling to mind other recent women's strikes in Argentina, Poland, and Iceland.
In this Democracy Now! segment, watch Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee speak on how a sex strike effectively propelled "silent men into action":