Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to share information with our members and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Local 509
Ten Ways to Support Workers on Strike and One Don’t
By Chaumtoli Huq, Editor
Union membership in the private sector has declined. Many people may have grown up in non-union households and do not know what it is like to strike or to have a family member be on strike. I believe that most people are well meaning and want to do the right thing, but they may need some help with ideas. Inspired by the Marriott hotel workers who are on strike, I began to tweet information about their strike on twitter to show support. I created this list of ways people can support workers on the picket line and one thing not to do. It is by no means an exhaustive list and it isn’t anything that any organizer would not know, but I think pulling them together in one place helps folks to be a good ally.
I am a professor of Labor Law at a public university in New York where I am a proud member of Professional Staff Congress- CUNY and a daughter of a retired union member. I personally benefitted from unions as a child, including a scholarship to college, and now as a parent myself with access to benefits that allow me to provide for my family. Even if you are not in union, we should all care as Meagan Day and Bhaskar Sunkara persuasively write in their New York Times Op-Ed:
“Collective bargaining affects pay standards across entire industries, meaning even nonunion workers benefit. Unions also secure legislation that protects all workers, from workplace safety guidelines to a guaranteed weekend. And they reduce gender and racial wage gaps across industries, which contributes to broader equality in society.”
(1) SHARE INFORMATION about the strike to your friends and inform them of the issues that workers are striking for. You can obtain this information from the union’s website. The decision to strike is not easy, and when workers make that decision, it is because there are some real issues they care about. Learn about them and ask them about it.
(2) HONK – If you drive by a picket line, tap on your horn, give thumbs up. A friendly beep shows support and encourages workers who may be walking on the line since early morning. My first strike was as a legal services lawyer and member of LSSA 2320, it was December 2003 and I was pregnant with my first son. It was hard but we were fighting for health care for me and my future son. Honks and other words of encouragement can lift the spirits. It can be hard to stand there all day.
(3) WALKWITH WORKERS – Attend a rally or walk with workers on the picket line. Find out when and where they are striking and join them for an hour during your break. Martin Luther King Jr knew the power of walking together.
(6) SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow their # like, tweet, retweet, and share links on your favorite platform in support of the strike.
(7) Provide CHILD or ELDER CARE: Many workers need to take care of their kids and elderly while on strike. Help arrange collective caregiving.
(9) Bring FOOD to the picket line and/or to the union’s office. Snacks, coffee, lunch or dinner. Donate groceries for striking families.
(10) FUN(d)RAISE If workers are on strike they are not earning money. Even if there is a strike fund it does not cover all costs. Raise money, donate groceries so workers can remain on strike. Make it fun. Be creative.
And, FINALLY, DO NOT CROSS THE PICKET LINES. Even if you do not support their cause, or agree with it, try to find an alternative way to seek services you are going to the employer for. Ask the union they can usually provide alternative services. It is demoralizing to see people walk pass you as you are on the street fighting for basic benefits or to be treated with respect.