Editorial: Moving Forward TogetherJune 22, 2022
Our powerful fighting force renews itself for the challenges ahead.
Just as this edition is dropping into members mailboxes, 1199 will be swearing in hundreds of new Delegates to represent workers in the shops and officers to plan the strategic direction of the Union over the next three years.
It is critically important for fresh leaders to be elected regularly by members, to ensure that our movement continues to move forward.
That does not mean that we should forget the past, though. We can see how significant the “generational wealth” of this union can be with the historic win at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island. Two of the leaders of that campaign, Chris Smalls and Anjelika Maldonado, have mothers who were part of the 1199 family.
The union busting consultants employed by Amazon used racist slurs against the ALU organizers to try to divide the workers and undermine their union campaign. It didn't work.
Decades of building multi-ethnic coalitions— spearheaded by 1199 alongside other labor allies in New York—inoculated the Amazon workers against such tactics. Young people led the campaign, but one of the key factors in their victory was the movement built by their parents and grandparents in New York City.
Unfortunately, for corporations, applying these tactics is nothing new. Using racism to divide and conquer workers—sometimes described as “culture wars” when it is employed by extreme right-wing politicians—is one of the oldest tricks in the book. They do this to consolidate their own power.
Such schemes do not just threaten union campaigns, though. The racist massacre of 10 innocent shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, on May 14, is a chilling reminder of just how dangerous the manufacturing of racial divisions for corporate gain have become. The teenage gunman's "manifesto" makes clear that he had been heavily influenced by a white supremacist ideology.
The strong parallels between civil rights and economic rights have never been lost on 1199 or its allies. As hundreds of members board busses to travel to Washington DC on June 18th to take part in the next Poor Peoples March convened by Bishop William Barber, we must remember the historical underpinnings of this movement which was originally launched by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s alongside 1199.
And as well as continuing our decades-long fight for racial and economic equality, we now see new battles looming in some of the struggles that should have been settled for good. As this issue goes to press, the Supreme Court looks set to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which guaranteed a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion in all 50 states. Without this federal protection, many states will outlaw abortion, making it very difficult for women who cannot afford to travel to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason. Like many of the politically motivated changes to the law, this one will be vastly more dangerous for working class women of color.
No matter what challenges we face, history and our families teach us, there is no change without struggle. 1199 has grown into a powerful fighting force through struggle and triumph. If we are to continue to wield that power for good, everyone needs to get on board. It's up to all of us, both the old and the young, fighting and working together.