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Beating the Muslim Ban, with Bhairavi Desai

On January 28, as protesters rushed to airports around the country seeking to defend refugees and migrants against Trump’s travel ban, taxi drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance took the protest a step further and refused to pick up fares at JFK Airport. The taxi drivers’ strike caught the imagination of the public and even spurred a massive campaign to #DeleteUber after the ride-hailing app lowered its fares in an apparent attempt to break the strike. (Uber has since apologized, repeatedly.) But the taxi workers have more to teach us than just this one action.

It was amazing to see the outpouring of support. I think people were really touched that here was a workforce on the front lines of these hateful policies and also the economic margins of what we have seen is a growing sector of the economy which is piecemealing and turning a fulltime profession into part-time gigs. People out there know that taxi drivers are really hard working and that people really struggle day to day to make ends meet. The idea that they would put their incomes on the line and it would be a workforce that is so vulnerable, particularly in these times, to surveillance and deportations and further policing, that they would be the ones to stand up. It seemed to really touch people and we were so moved by their reaction. I think it was a beautiful start to solidarity with our movement.

Certainly, there are many reasons to be critical of Uber. Uber is a pretty horrible company. It is true we have been fighting for a long time to bring attention to Uber’s economic practices and the race to the bottom that it has created. But, however people were meant to come and take a closer look at us, we are ready to accept and, hopefully, from this point forward, folks continue with the struggle.

Up at The Progressive.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Building the power to bargain, with Ben Speight

Donald Trump played a divide-and-conquer game on working people this election cycle, attacking immigrants on the one hand while promising jobs and an end to bad trade deals on the other. But many labor leaders and organizers didn’t fall for the con. Ben Speight is organizing director of Teamsters Local 728 in Georgia, and he joined me to talk about what real worker power looks like.

We have not mobilized a national movement of workers in recent memory. If we propose a National Worker’s March on Washington or a National Workers Day of Protest, that would create the circumstances for us to really have the power to demand a halt to reforms that strip us of our rights and to demand expansion of basic workers’ rights on the job. We have the capacity to call for such actions and sustain such actions, because of our resources, to hit the corporate regime where they are the most sensitive, which is in the workplace. Overall we have to shift, both inside the labor movement and outside of it, and see the workplace as a vital political battlefield. Not just a place to post anti-Trump stickers or flyers in the break room, but to actually see it as a place that we are challenging the prerogatives of those who set Trump up.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.