Letter: A COVID-19 general strike

Graphic by Lori Deaton

What if President Trump orders the country to go back to work after what he contends is the end of the virus crisis, but enough governors and/or people refuse to do so? Won’t the stock market renew the Corona Crash that began with the crisis?

Then won’t President Trump and Congress maybe be ready to negotiate with the states and workers to find out under what conditions they’ll return to work?

For centuries, workers’ rights activists have tried to organize an effective general strike. These include the Roman Empire plebeians’ strikes as well as the efforts of the Wobblies of America, the Chartists of England and the May Day movements almost everywhere.

Due to the virus crisis, we already have a rough equivalent of a general strike. It’s a chance for workers to declare they will not go back to work unless America, and then hopefully all the countries of the world, agree to something like the following:

1. Health care for everyone regardless of ability to pay.
2. A Worker’s Bill of Rights, including:
a. A guaranteed living wage.
b. A 30-hour workweek.
c. Increased safety regulations and decreased boredom.
d. A guaranteed humane job.
e. Option to join a union with no firing repercussions.
3. The end to Wall Street controlling whether the economy is in recession or progression; the end of all derivatives; other reforms that wrest most political power from Wall Street.
4. New corporate laws that require corporations, in exchange for limited liability, to first maximize good working conditions and wages and minimize damage to the ecology — before maximizing profits.
5. Total conversion of the economy to nonpolluting energy.
6. A national effort to end war and bring home all U.S. troops, to be replaced by U.N. troops, but only if it is obviously needed.
7. End to all sex, race, nationality, etc., discrimination.
8. An Elizabeth Warren billionaire tax and a return to tax rates of the Eisenhower era.
9. Etc.

Of course, this general strike will have to be supported by food-production workers who could supply food for free until the strike is over, and rents and mortgages will have to be suspended until the goals are accomplished. To some extent, that is what’s already happening, in a far too limited way, with the congressional $2.2 trillion relief package, food stamp provisions and other state laws preventing foreclosures and other such acts that are obviously counterproductive during the ravaging of COVID-19.

Unsurprisingly, there are many local organizations trying to achieve the goals listed above. These include (listed in the above order): 1. HealthCare For All WNC; 2. Just Economics and the local AFL-CIO. 3. What’s left of the local Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard campaigns; 4. Asheville Socialists; 5. NC GreenPower, North Carolina Biotechnology Center; 6. Local Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the United Nations Association of WNC, more; 7. WNC Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry, The Human Relations Commission of Asheville; 8. Bernie, Elizabeth, Tulsi campaigns; 9. Etc.

Workers of the world, rise in virus crisis unity! You may have nothing to lose but your ventilators — and maybe a world of peaceful, humane, fulfilling work to gain.

— Bill Branyon
Asheville

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2 thoughts on “Letter: A COVID-19 general strike

  1. WNC

    You can strike as long as you don’t want
    *Food
    *Gas
    *Electricity
    *Rental property
    Might as well strike against using internet as well

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  2. B Schadenfreude

    Bill, Thank you for the comments. I think in times like these we all need a good laugh. I particularly like how you, who don’t want to work more than 30 hours a week and want us to spoon feed you humane and interesting work, expect someone who worked 24hr shifts, spent 8 years in college plus residency to subjugate themselves to you because you expect the best in healthcare. You have the best, the best you can afford for your work ethic and lifestyle. There are so any people waiting for you to get out of the way so they can take your job under the existing conditions. Perhaps you would consider moving to Brazil, where they embrace your delusion?

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