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General Strike February 17th

Uncommon in the U.S., is this strike real or just a Facebook post?

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 15, 2017

The strike is a unions last, final and oftentimes best tool for pressuring management to work with the union on their demands.  It is also the most dangerous and risky action the union can take.  Strikes cost union members money and allows the company to replace them with scabs. This is why strikes are often rare and only done with the overwhelming support of the membership.  Now activists opposed to Trump are using this same tactic by calling a number of General Strikes over the coming weeks.

The idea of holding a General Strike really kicked off after Bodega owners in New York City went on strike to protest Trump’s immigration ban in early February.  While the strike was limited to New York City, it did see 1,000 stores close for a day and got national and international media coverage.  Since then, a number of general strikes have been planned including one this Friday and one to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th.

According to their Facebook Page, the F17 Strike will take place in over 100 cities across the United States. Unlike the Women’s March, they are not calling on workers from across the country to join one big rally, but rather, hold actions in their own communities.  The purpose of the strike is to Stand up For Democracy and against a number of troubling issues that Trump ran on and is implementing like the attacks on Public Education, collective bargaining, prevailing wage and the deregulation of environmental protections.   

Today, the organizers of the Women’s March also announced that they are calling for a general strike on March 8th, also known as International Women’s Day.  The group which organized rallies across the world following Trump’s inauguration and that mobilized 7 million people worldwide, is calling it a Day without Women.  A similar strike was held in Poland last year. Other strikes are also being planned including a general labor strike that has been called by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Workers West for May 1st, International Workers Day.

While very uncommon in the United States, general strikes are often used in Europe and other developed countries.  Last year millions went on strike in India for better wages, Argentina saw a strike in 2014 over low wages and high taxes and Spain has seen a number of strikes over the last few years, largely fueled by unemployed youth.  The goal of general strikes is to protest the policies of the administration, while withholding a person’s labor. This creates an economic impact for not listening to the citizens.  While these strikes are only planned for one day, the economic impact of hundreds of thousands of people refusing to work will be large, especially if the strikes continue.

Currently, the F17 strike has 22,000 people who are attending and has commitments to hold strikes in over 100 different communities.  After the strike on Friday, we will see if American workers are ready and willing to put their labor capital on the line and usher in a new era of activism.

Brian Young contributed to this story.