In 2017, DSA-LA mobilized over 200 members to join workers in the streets of our city to demand justice in our communities for all people, regardless of race, gender and gender identity, immigration status, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs, class, or age, and against forces seeking to further disrupt our communities by continuing the entrenchment of wealth in the hands of too few. In recognition of the importance of International Workers Day in the long history of our movement, and as a major organizing milestone in our own chapter, we ask you to join us at 12 p.m. this Tuesday, May 1 at the Northeast Corner of S Hill St & W 6th St (near Pershing Square), even if you are scheduled to work. Click here to RSVP.
Withholding your labor from the workplace or in the home is called a strike, and engaging in such a collective action should not be done lightly. However, we feel it is important for workers to disrupt the status quo in such a way that demonstrates our solidarity and the need for our demands to be taken seriously.
The history of strike actions in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of violence and sacrifice because a strike most potently demonstrates the power of working people in our economy, and it is therefore the action feared most by the economic elite in our society, who assume that they are in control. When working people—from those in kitchens, factories, and classrooms, to those driving semis, Lyfts, and the soccer team carpool—withhold their labor, those at the top no longer profit from it. In addition, elites fear the strike because they fear working people will recognize their widespread solidarity, and they know that when we embrace that camaraderie, rather than embracing the fear sowed by racism and misogyny, we will use our collective power to create communities which benefit all of us at the expense their ability to hoard wealth.
Because of this fear by the wealthiest, the choice of working people to withhold their labor has been met with extreme hostility, from gunfire in Ludlow in 1914 and in San Francisco in 1934 to billy clubs in Memphis in 1968. While we expect no such violence from this one-day action, asking for people to withhold their labor on this day without recognizing the work and suffering of our predecessors would be problematic. We must acknowledge that one day of action will not produce an immediate restructuring of social inequalities; only years of struggle, sacrifice, and solidarity can create that. However, we must use May Day 2018 to reaffirm the statement we made in 2017 , to economically and symbolically demonstrate the power of working people engaging in collective action and organizing for a sustainable future.
How to Participate:
- If you already have the day off from work or are unemployed, we hope you will join us.
- If you work from home and have a flexible schedule, we hope you will clear it to join us.
- If you have the ability to request off work to join us through personal or vacation days, we hope you will do so.
- If you are a stay at home parent, we know that managing children in a crowded, public space can be a challenge, but we hope you will join us and bring your children with you.
For those without such straight-forward options, here are some other avenues to consider, though these all have consequences of varying degrees.
Call out sick
All workers in California have the ability to accrue and take paid time off work if they are ill. Your employer cannot request documentation of your illness for your first three call-offs each year. If the state of our exploitative economy and the divisive nature of current political rhetoric has made you sick, and you have available sick leave, call off and join us.
Consequences: You will no longer have this sick leave available in case of other illnesses. (If you are in another state, the rules for documentation of illness may vary. Avoid posting updates from your local event on social media that could be tracked by your employer, which could lead to discipline or termination for dishonesty.)
Call off from work (unpaid)
If your employer allows you to make use of unpaid time off or callouts without affecting your ability to return to work, we ask you to call out and join us. We encourage you to clarify with your employer that you will only be out for one day. Consider putting this in writing, such as in an email.
Consequence: You will lose pay for the day which you may not be able to recover.
Coordinate a Group Call-off from work with your coworkers
Discuss the May Day actions with your coworkers and ask them to join you. If a group of workers at the same facility decides to participate in this action, write a short letter to your employer explaining that you will be taking the day off work to participate in these actions, and sign it jointly. Make sure this letter includes a clear date of when you will return to work without conditions. If enough workers are participating in the event, employers may be willing to close the workplace altogether. In 2006, some bosses realized they were better off accommodating the workers who were planning to march by closing their workplaces and rescheduling the work for later in the week.
Group action in a non-union shop in most of the public and private sector
If workers in your place of employment are not protected by a union contract, you have the legal right to participate in group actions to improve your working conditions, including striking. In drafting your group letter to your employer about your participation in the May Day actions, include a request of your employer to meet related demands, such as asking your boss to come out against deportations of undocumented immigrants or in favor of pay equity for men and women. Note that there are some specific types of jobs that have restrictions on the right to strike, including for workers in the fields of public safety (firefighters, police) and healthcare.
Consequences: It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for participating in actions to improve your workplace, but that’s why it’s important to include in your letter to your employer a demand for your employer to meet. You will lose pay for the day which you may not be able to recover. (In states other than California, not all public employees have the right to strike.)
Group action in a union shop
Most, but not all, union contracts include a “no strike” clause during the term of the contract agreement. This means that your local union will not call for your participation in a strike because they could face legal repercussions for doing so.
Consequences: Union members under a “no strike” clause in a contract face possible repercussions for participating in a strike against their employer, including potentially losing their jobs. You will lose pay for the day which you may not be able to recover.
This document includes some collective best practices which we hope will empower more people to participate in our actions on May Day. However, nothing in this document constitutes legal advice or should be construed as legal advice.