Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) members drive buses, sell groceries, counsel families, and advocate for tenants. They are students, teachers, plumbers, mechanics, doctors, retirees, and more. A number are considered essential and must stay in dangerous jobs, part of the frontline labor force that is chiefly women, people of color and immigrants. Together with co-workers and comrades, these FSPers are raising necessary demands and fighting for working-class safety and economic security.
In New York City, the virus has killed over 100 transit workers. FSP there produced an online interview about the dangers to healthcare workers who lack adequate protective equipment and work long hours in stressful conditions with little backup.
The party branch followed this by initiating an online petition demanding that elected city leaders provide full emergency protection for all essential workers, regardless of immigration status. The petition also calls for reducing individual work hours with no cut in pay (“30 for 40”) to reduce stress and potential exposure to the virus while employing more people. And it addressed the need for free healthcare for all and for workers’ councils with the power to determine how job sites can be run safely.
Battles also erupted over safety at Seattle grocery stores and King County Metro Transit. Transit workers including FSP members circulated an open letter calling for safety gear, physical barriers to protect drivers, and hazard pay. Now with thousands of signers, the letter demands no more management cover-ups of positive Covid-19 tests; 30 for 40; and an end to the race and sex discrimination that make jobs even more dangerous.
Jumping into the fray was Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), a multiracial, cross-union caucus that FSP worked with others to found. OWLS held an online press conference at which workers blasted management for endangering public safety, and then turned up the heat with a May 9 “Emergency Motorcade for Workers Rights” through downtown Seattle.
The colorful caravan of 60 cars delivered petitions to Metro Transit offices and circled dispute sites like Harborview Medical Center and a QFC grocery, where clerks came outside to cheer. Thumbs up and honks along the route greeted signs declaring “No Safety, No Work” and defending the right to strike and immigrant rights. A rally with hotel employees concluded the action.
At the San Francisco water utility, plumbing is an area that brings in revenue for the city, and the plumbers are forced to work full-time, unlike other department employees. But they lack safety gear in a job where physical distancing is impossible. The city also classifies plumbers who are in fact permanent as “temporary,” and they have no safeguards against being fired. Plumber and FSP leader Amy Gray collaborated with co-workers to circulate a petition demanding equal treatment for department workers, a shorter work week, safety gear, and the reclassification of temporary workers as permanent.
In Los Angeles, the End Homelessness Now campaign co-founded by FSP participated with hundreds of tenants’ rights supporters in a “honk-in” circling the mayor’s mansion in a protest of his broken promises to the unhoused.
In Melbourne, Australia, organizers with FSP and its sister organization, Radical Women (RW), cooperated with the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union to mobilize 800 workers to demand job safety at an electronic retailer where an RW member works.
At the University of Sussex in England, lecturer Sam Solomon is organizing with other union members to fight the administration’s attempt to use the crisis to permanently lay off low-paid staff and reduce aid for students.
At the same time that FSP tackles hazards and needs on the job, the party is making the case for the socialist feminist change that ultimately is the only solution for workers and the oppressed. Statements and videos have addressed the economics of the pandemic, the unequal effect of the crisis on people of color, and the need to nationalize healthcare and all key industries and services with workers in the driver’s seat making the decisions.
In addition to releasing its own position papers and videos, FSP is collaborating with Latin American comrades in the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment to issue statements addressing conditions globally and drawing out the connections among workers of different countries. (RW is also collaborating across borders; see the related editorial Shout out to intrepid women warriors.)
More and more working and oppressed people realize that the only choice now is to step up and push back. Interested readers can find FSP’s statements, petitions and videos, plus more information about the party, at socialism.com.