On Friday, March 8, an estimated 12,000 union members, activists and students convened at the capitol in Olympia, Washington. This was the largest pro-labor rally in Olympia in years and the possibly the largest in a state. The reasons for gathering were clear – Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire, has put forth a budget of nearly all cuts in the face of a $5.1 billion shortfall.
The mood at the rally was electrifying as working people from across the state stood together under the slogan: “We are union, we are one.” A striking posture of solidarity hurled at the legislators by evermore politicized rank and file union members.
The call from union leadership to have this rally must be commended. One of the major shortfalls of union leadership so far, however, has been a lack of clear next steps for building a movement that can close the budget gap and to save and expand social services. One week of rallying, building occupations and protesting will not be enough to sway corporate politicians from their $4.4 billion in cuts.
Unions must make the call and mobilize for weekly Saturday protests at the capitol as was done in Wisconsin. The demand must be made clear that we won't accept any excuses from politicians. These cuts could kill people. They will make education unaffordable for a majority of Washingtonians, and will further deepen the social crisis for working people. A social crisis defined by a lack of affordable, quality health care and education.
These cuts cannot be defeated without hitting corporations where it hurts – their wallets, which will require mass strike action. As a first step to build confidence and momentum for such actions, we need to organize workplace actions such as slowdowns and sickouts. Students also need to organize walkouts on campuses.
It is also time that the unions reallocate resources to viable anti-corporate, anti-cuts, third party candidates. The democrats have continually flaunted their corporate ties and proven their inability to stand against attacks on workers’ rights on both state and federal levels.
- No cuts to necessary social services – services to be saved and expanded.
- No layoffs.
- For unions to call for weekly protests, workplace slowdowns and strikes.
- For mass student walkouts to shut down schools.
- For unions to launch a massive organizing drive of private sector workers – we must stand together.
- For independent political candidates that stand against the cuts and against corporate control of government.