VIDEO: Organizing in the Face of the Coronavirus

In the light of this pandemic, it is imperative that we protect workers immediately, prevent the exploitation of this crisis by management, and consider how to use this moment to advance demands that last far beyond the coronavirus.

How do we do this? What is happening and what can we learn from each other?

Almost 900 people joined a Labor Notes webinar to hear from educators, an Amazon worker, and a worker center organizer about their successes organizing in the face of the coronavirus.

This webinar was held on Thursday, March 19. It was facilitated by Joe DeManuelle-Hall and Barbara Madeloni of Labor Notes.

  • Jonathan, an Amazon worker from New York and member of Amazonians United, described how he and his co-workers organized a walk-out after a worker was diagnosed with the virus and management did not step up to their demands. He also reported on the international solidarity of Amazon workers, who are circulating a petition with demands including paid family and medical leave regardless of diagnosis, child care subsidies, and hazard pay.
  • From Rose Bookbinder of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Western Massachusetts, we learned how the center's previously designed rapid response network (for helping immigrants with problems including deportation) was able to bring restaurant and other workers together for a virtual “Workers Assembly” by phone. There, workers who had just been laid off as restaurants and stores closed their doors shared stories, got information about unemployment insurance, and reviewed the basics of organizing.
  • Educators across the country have had to fight to close schools and assure their well-being and that of students. Rosie Frascella, a New York City educator and member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, a caucus in the city's huge Teachers local, told how the caucus organized to convince Mayor DiBlasio to close the schools. After workers in two schools received positive tests results, the MORE caucus brought more than 500 angry teachers together on a Saturday phone call to discuss a sick-out the next week. Their pressure spurred the union leadership to threaten the city with a lawsuit. By Sunday night the Mayor had relented and agreed to close the schools.
  • Meanwhile, in Chicago, where the teachers union has been building power for a decade, through two strikes and tight community alliances, the Chicago Teachers Union won closure of the schools with full pay for educators. Together with community allies, the union is making demands for the “common good," including 15 days' additional paid family and medical leave for all workers in the state and a moratorium on evictions and mortgages.

While the panelists told their stories, the chat page was hopping with solidarity statements from Boston, Toronto, Washington, Australia, and more.

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In this moment when many are home alone and without, and others are in fear for their lives when they go to work, the connections across shared commitments to each other were palpable. As Rose and Rosie reminded us, we are fighting to win a better world.

We want to help! Find our Resources for Organizing in a Pandemic page here: labornotes.org/coronavirus.

Trying to figure out how to start getting your co-workers together, or approaching another hurdle? Contact us at organize[at]labornotes[dot]org.

And here are links to the documents panelists shared or discussed:

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