A letter to Oakland’s striking workers

Oakland, California

Posted by Oakland Strikes

A letter to Oakland’s striking workers,

This Monday, BART workers, Oakland city workers and potentially some AC
Transit drivers will strike. Our first reaction to this news is to rally up
solidarity, come out to the streets and flex our muscle with a huge show
of force. Together we can shut down the city. After all, the workers
struggle is our struggle for we are workers too.

Oakland General Strike Nov, 2nd, 2011

Oakland General Strike
Nov, 2nd, 2011

But let’s be clear about a few things. The 99% is a myth. An illusion that
needs shattering; we’re not a monolithic body of people with identical
struggles. The poor, unemployed and precarious class struggle is connected
but not the same as that of the folks with jobs, pensions, and private
health care. We take these symptoms of austerity seriously, but you need
to recognize that while we talk about what your life looks like tomorrow,
we do not have food to eat today.

Our support for workers shouldn’t be confused with support for SEIU and
ATU. U.S. unions continually deflate radicalism and militancy by making
empty promises, substituting the agency and strength of workers with
toothless campaigns, and propping up the Democratic Party which commits
atrocities globally and sells us out locally.

So this letter is not addressed to the unions. We know they are in the way
of liberation and most workers will tell you union leadership is not to be
trusted. And we do realize that workers are not all the same: sometimes BART
workers turn their heads when folks take the emergency exit; a handful of
workers have fought with us in the street and spoken up when black and
brown men are slain by police.  You’ve provided porta potties, food,
water, and strategic information and skills. Some of you are our very close
comrades who have our respect.

But when we think of the labor struggle as a whole—which is still being led
around by the power-hungry union bureaucracy focusing on austerity and
benefits– we cannot continue to go to your rallies, meetings, permitted
marches, and pickets just so you can have a better contract, continue to
call the police on fare-evaders, turn a blind eye to attacks against
immigrants, ignore environmental crimes that pollute poor neighborhoods
and overlook our financial struggles. The days of us being your rent-a-mob
are over.

We write this letter to the workers– the rank & file– because we have a
simple question: When you call on us to fill the streets in your support,
what’s in it for us? The demands we continually see articulated are very
counter to our interests. For example, BART workers requested more police
for worker safety. Let’s be clear: calling the police endangers all of us.
Oscar Grant and Kenneth Harding are clear examples of this. You ask for
more benefits and income, but again, what does that do for us?

Don’t be confused: in spirit, we are in solidarity with workers. We want
safe conditions, not just for bus drivers, but for the riders. We want
livable wages.

Port shutdown - Oakland General Strike 11/2/2011

Port shutdown – Oakland General Strike 11/2/2011

However, there are things you *can* do that benefits all of us.You can add YOUR bodies, resources and skills to our struggles.Longshore workers, for example, shut down the port against the Iraq War and then again when Oscar Grant was killed. You can support us as we resist fare hike and route cuts–or even be so bold as to demand fare-free transportation(which by the way, would de-escalate many conflicts that are used to
increase policing). You can join Denika Chatman, the mother of Kenneth
Harding—the young man killed over a MUNI fare—on the second anniversary of
his death (July 16 [LINK HERE} by helping shut down MUNI. BART workers
could stop working  with BART police, who have a history of brutality and
harassment of the homeless and the poor. You can also stand in solidarity
with immigrants, and speak to workers around the country who often allow
the state and the boss to pit US-born workers against vulnerable immigrant
workers. Your collective strength could be used to bolster support around
the CA prisoner hunger strike  to end torture– a campaign coming up on
July 8th. In short, we’re behind you and hope to continue to support you,
but something has to change.

We call on the rank and file to lead, seize control or dismantle their
unions as they exist today. Don’t let union leaders put the lid on your
rage or limit the boundaries of the global struggle against capitalism.
Around the world, the working class and the poor are tearing down the
existing models of power (remember South Africa & Bangladesh. Keep in mind Brazil). This is the time where the wrath of the people
should be unleashed. What we’ve been hearing from the rhetoric around
Monday’s strike runs the risk of being an isolated issue that brings short
term benefits to some, to the long-term detriment of all.

We are telling you that if you take agency, stage wildcat strikes, occupy
your factories, get in the streets, do other creative things, and stand in
solidarity with the unemployed and poorer classes, we will join you in the
streets and we will win together.

The call has been made. Gather at 1:30pm at the corner of 14th & Broadway- Oscar Grant Plaza!

We ask that everyone participate: Union member or not. Workers or the unemployed.

However, we specifically extend this call to the most marginalized and oppressed:

the poor and working poor, people of color and gender queers.The houseless and the forgotten.

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