2022 – The year of the workers

This is the year of striking, fighting workers in the U.S. — coal miners, warehouse workers, nurses, baristas, prisoners, teachers and more. You’ve seen the numbers.

On Jan. 1, there was one unionized Starbucks store — on Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo, New York. By Dec. 9 — the one-year anniversary of when the Buffalo workers voted — there were close to 270 unionized stores. 

Amazon Labor Union scored a historic victory by unionizing the first Amazon warehouse ever in the U.S. on April 1 in Staten Island, New York, with an impressive multilingual, multicultural, everybody-onboard campaign.

In Alabama, 25,000 majority-Black, incarcerated people at 17 separate prisons mounted a Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, withheld-labor strike to protest killing conditions in the jails. In their letters from the inside, organizers signed themselves “Alabama’s slaves” and said that the strike is “in protest of the continued institution of neoslavery.” (tinyurl.com/2bk43x3a)

In the last three months, education workers rising up for a union or improved contracts totaled more than 18,000, including graduate students at the University of California, Boston University, Northwestern, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Alaska and Yale. (More Perfect Union) At the New School in New York City, after a three-week strike, adjunct workers were victorious in securing a contract that provided significant back wages.

These are a few highlights of a very long list of actions — from school bus drivers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, who went out on a one-day strike for fair wages and won, to picketing Teamsters in Boston reinforced by other Teamster local members showing up at dawn with big-rig self-defense.

Revolutionary intransigence and cross-union solidarity infused a Clarksville, Indiana, Starbucks worker’s statement: “Educators are among those who have kept organized labor alive in this country for the last several decades, and we wouldn’t be on the line today without them!” This tweet with a photo from a 1930s teachers’ strike sign bearing the question: “Is a pledge to city employees less sacred than an agreement with bankers?” (Twitter, Mila Wren@milawren, Dec. 17)

Yes, that is the question! What is our sacred pledge — to each other as workers or to the bosses?

The showdown between the capitalist “democracy” and workers came to a head Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, when Congress denied railway workers any sick days.

That’s right. Not one single sick day.

Coming from legislators who get luxury-level health care from the state, this was a decision that left even a mainstream news commentator calling for workers to “Shut it down!” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 4)

Corporations have bitterly opposed the workers through brutal union busting: harassment, firings and court cases. Capitalist owners and investors are desperate to pile up more profits within an economic system teetering on the brink of collapse — and to push workers to the edge of survival.

But when the district manager threatened to call the cops on striking workers at Nottingham Square Starbucks near Baltimore, the workers replied “WE DO NOT CARE!” (Twitter, Lee Lee @RosaLeah_, Dec. 17)

These are the multigender, multinational, defiant, wisecracking, dancing, shouting, militant workers with signs that say “Seize the beans of production!” Infused into this year of class struggle is the left-forward, socialist-leaning, proletarian-rooted, revolutionary outlook of millennials and Generation Zers. 

When one is fired by the company for wearing an anti-suicide pin, “You are not alone,” then workers at stores from Oklahoma, Washington, Arizona, Vermont, Kansas, New Jersey to Tennessee wear the same pin.

Solidarity is their middle name. 

And this is the strength it will take to choose ourselves — us, the workers and oppressed — over the death-dealing demands of the bosses. Because, as Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto:

“And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule, because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slaves within their slavery, because it cannot help letting them sink into such a state, that it has to feed them, instead of being fed by them.”

The worker unionization drives continue to accelerate. Resistance continues and imaginative actions flourish. Cross-union solidarity is increasing.

Not only are we on the cusp of a new year. Collectively, we may be on the cusp of another massive leap forward for our class.

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