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Editorial & Opinion

Refuse to Reopen, Refuse to Work!



This is a call to all workers in Rhode Island to go on strike! Strike for public health, Strike for a better world!

This past weekend Governor Gina Raimondo has allowed her stay at-home order to expire. Slowly, businesses and workplaces are resuming operations in accordance with federal guidelines.

We shall not mince words. What we are witnessing is the real time capitulation of neo-liberal governors, such as Raimondo, to the fascist street-movements and their abhorrent leaders inhuman desire to blindly march us to an unprecedented crisis that is avoidable!

“Essential” workers have been rendered as disposable humans, whose ability to produce is all that matters. This is nothing more than an affirmation of the age-old formula the bosses, landlords, and politicians have forced working people into. Are we going to follow the orders of the trump administration and willingly go back to work?

We must utilize disobedience without compromising our health. Refusing to work by calling out sick en masse, or by agreeing with fellow workers who are concerned to hold out from coming in to work.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state governments are too weak to challenge the trump administration through bureaucratic means. It is time to move beyond them and take it upon ourselves to obstruct the attempts to reopen America.

Can we please ask a favor?

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We are facing an unprecedented crisis and millions of people are at-risk! We cannot allow the government to continually bully the people into working. for weeks the government at all levels has shown its negligence, and now all of a sudden we’re ready to reopen?

The federal government is threatening to withhold aid to businesses and non-profits (like libraries). Essentially, the government is putting a gun to our heads and demanding that we work or our livelihoods will be stripped away from us.

This is a call to all workers in Rhode Island to go on strike! Strike for public health, Strike for a better world!

Use these steps below if you have been laid off or want to plan a strike, courtesy of Black Rose Anarchist Federation: By organizing now, workers can have a much more effective impact and can build the foundation for future workplace organizing to improve health and safety.

Here are some ideas for what we think furloughed or temporarily laid off workers can do to protect our health through building workers’ power :

  1. Get contact info for as many of your co-workers as possible.
  2. Check-in with them individually. See how they’re doing, what their struggles have been going through the quarantine, and what you and your co-workers can do to support them.
  3. Talk to your coworkers one-on-one about their concerns about returning to work before the virus is contained and risking exposure. Are they worried about infecting at-risk relatives? Do they think it’s safer to stay home with unemployment or family leave pay?
  4. Ask for a commitment to not go in to work if called back, and ask them to talk to at least one other corker about striking (and follow up!).
  5. Create a committee of your coworkers who show the most commitment to organizing and are the most effective at getting other coworkers on board. Start a group chat together, and have a virtual meeting together.
  6. Think about how your boss will react. Prepare your coworkers for that. Create a plan for how to talk with your boss (for example, agree to only talk with your boss collectively on a conference call, and not one by one). Think about what is going to happen after the first day. Agree on a plan for what minimum demands need to be met before you go to work, and how long you can stay out on strike together.
  7. Link up with other workers in your area or industry! Unite to bring up demands that go beyond your workplace, like extending unemployment to cover workers who refuse unsafe working conditions.

If you are starting to talk with your coworkers about resisting the return to work orders, we encourage you to think of this as just the beginning. The basis of all workplace organizing is the committee. So if you can create that in this moment, then you have a foundation for your next steps forward to continue transforming your workplace to be healthier and safer. Many of the health crises that plague our country are rooted in the exploitation, alienation and inequality of the capitalist economy. If, workplace by workplace, we can grow a new workers movement to overthrow this system, and radically restructure our labor without bosses, hierarchies or profit, then we can all live much healthier and happier lives.

As healthcare workers during this pandemic, we have been working hard to care for our community’s well-being. Now we are asking our fellow workers across other industries to use their power as workers to keep us all safe by organizing to refuse a return to work. Our bosses and politicians won’t put people before profit, so we have to rely on each other.

Additional Notes

If you are in a union: You can reach out to your union rep if you think that they would be supportive, but remember that this has to be your action. No one else can make it happen for you. Some unions like UNITE HERE have laid off much of their staff and others are more interested in working with employers to get their members back to work. The same basic steps for organizing apply whether you are in a union or not, because power lies in your organization and relationships with your co-workers, not with the paperwork and officialdom of the union.

If you are an office worker: If you are currently working from home but you’re worried about being called back to the office where the coronavirus could be easily spread, you can also organize with your coworkers to refuse to come back to the office, and demand more time working from home or additional safety practices.

If you’re a parent: Talk to your child about staying home if the schools try to reopen for the spring semester. Make a resistance plan together with the teachers and other parents.

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