WAAR Workers Assembly celebrates dynamic victories and challenges

New York City

What was originally planned in New York City as an Oct. 1 Union Square protest — supporting unionizing workers and demanding an end to union busting — was transformed by stormy weather into a dynamic indoor workers assembly, with leaders participating from several consequential labor battles.

WAAR meeting, Oct. 1, New York City (WW Photo: Sara Flounders)

Tristan Dutchin, an Amazon Labor Union leader illegally fired for organizing, opened and closed the assembly with his unique guitar performances — starting with “Our Union is a Lion” and closing with “Strike.” Oct. 1 was the six-month anniversary of the victorious ALU vote at the Staten Island warehouse — the first unionized Amazon facility in the U.S. Amazon bosses are still refusing to recognize the union; if the bosses continue to stall, strike may indeed be on the table.

Calling into the meeting by telephone was Beto Sanchez, Starbucks worker/leader and one of the Memphis Seven. Targeted in February by racist firings, the people of color-led organizing committee fought back. They won the store’s union election, and they won reinstatement to their jobs at the Memphis, Tennessee, store. Sanchez credited mass street actions and solidarity from Memphis unions with winning this stunning victory, which Starbucks bosses were unable to stop, even with high-priced, union-busting lawyers.

The fighting Laundry Workers Center was represented by three members of the Cabricanecos Campaign. Through a Spanish translator, they reported to the meeting on their fight to unionize city construction and demolition workers forced to work in dangerous and harsh conditions. This struggle, begun May 2, has forced management to begin to talk to workers, after the bosses’ original stance of refusing to even respond to them. The workers still need solidarity at their weekly Friday picket line, at 139 Tompkins Street, Brooklyn.

Lorraine Lirriano, of Call to Action on Puerto Rico, reported on the situation on the archipelago after the devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona, with the people’s suffering made much worse by colonial subjugation and looting by Wall Street-connected forces. Tens of thousands of people in Puerto Rico are still without energy. The power grid actually went down before the hurricane struck, as has happened off-and-on, ever since privatization in 2021 by Canadian company LUMA Energy.

Residents of New York’s outer boroughs reported to the meeting on difficulties in their communities, exacerbated by the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine. The Russian-speaking residents in southern Brooklyn are facing increasing discrimination, while Bronx residents report a catastrophic lack of educational and health resources, with money being drained into a Pentagon weapons budget at the national level. 

Richie Merino of the Bronx Anti-War Coalition announced an Oct. 15 rally at 1:00 p.m. at the Bronx’s Fordham Plaza, to feature the slogan “Money for Health care, Jobs and Housing! No to NATO, War & Racism!”

Because WAAR’s Workers Assembly coincided with the original date for the National Day of Action to End Violence and Genocide on Transgender People, organizers of both groups issued solidarity statements. Because of the weather, the Trans Day of Action was rescheduled from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, at 1:00 p.m. in Union Square. 

The Trans Day of Action statement reads in part: “The National Organizing Committee of the Oct. 1st National Day of Action to End Violence and Genocide on Transgender People stands firmly with Amazon and Starbucks workers on Oct. 1, 2022, the six-month anniversary of the historic Amazon Labor Union victory.”

 An excerpt from the WAAR solidarity statement affirmed: “Fighting for workers rights means fighting for trans rights. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made that clear when he decided to exclude unionizing stores from gender-affirming health care, as well as abortion travel coverage and other benefits.”

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