In Quest of the May Day Strikes

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Sometimes when frustrated, I recall the famous New Yorker article by an author who thought he had a story about a bird in the woods, said to be extinct. But maybe not! So he found the local who thought they’d heard the bird’s distinctive, booming call, bought some yellow waders, hired guides and a boat, and set out through the swamps and the Spanish moss and the dripping and the stinging insects in search of the bird. Long-form story short, they never found the bird. So what’s the point of a story where you don’t find the bird?

I had intended to do a round-up of the much ballyhooed May Day strikes. (Here is a history of May Day in the Haymarket strikes in Chicago, 1886.) Unfortunately, to do a round-up, there has to be coverage to rounded up. In this case, the coverage of what was going to happen was much greater than the coverage of what did happen. I didn’t find the bird.. So let me at once appeal to readers: If you witnessed a May Day strike — workplace strike or rent strike — please describe in comments. Note that I’m not saying that nothing happened. What I am saying is that what did happen doesn’t seem commensurate with the degree to which the working class is being openly and nakedly abused[1]. There was nothing like the oft-called-for general strike. Maybe later!

Now let me aggregate what I have. First, I tried various left journals. Then I did Google searches on “May Day” + “strike,” and then “May Day” + “Amazon” and/or “Instacart,” since those were the firms most mentioned in the pre-May Day coverage. The results are pretty meagre, but this is what I have. Of course, newsrooms have been gutted (yet again) during the pandemic, there hasn’t been a labor beat for some time, and anyhow, it’s easier and more comfortable to quote politicians praising “essential workers” (and by implication disrespecting all other workers)[2] than to grant workers agency and go ask them what they’re doing. So I’m not saying the bird isn’t out there. Just that I didn’t find it.

A sidebar on the term “essential workers,” which has grown like kudzu all over everything. As is well known, we leave in a capitalist society. The purpose of capitalism is capital accumulation. To that end, all workers are essential. Workers sell their labor power to capital in return for wages (or salaries, commissions, etc.). They do that to purchase the means of subsistence so that so that they and those for whom they are responsible can survive. To those ends, all workers are essential. So, when liberals say “essential workers,” what do they mean? To be fair, they do refer in part to some professionals who really do (unlike, say, macro-economists) perform essential, socially necessary functions. But they also mean workers who are essential to them. Workers who deliver pizza to them. Workers who shelve groceries for them. Workers who deliver Amazon packages to them. Taxi drivers, for example, are not regarded as essential, even though they are essential to taking nurses home from late shifts. Cleaners, for example, are not considered essential, whether in groceries or in the hospital, because they are not visible when groceries are purchased or medical conditions are treated. But they are the ones who disinfect those spaces! And on and on and on. The loony right is correct on this, note well and beware: All workers are essential. End sidebar.

First, I looked at left publications, starting with Payday report, which has a regularly updated “COVID-19 Strike Wave Interactive Map.” There have been 173 strikes since March 1. Here are the strikes with “May 1” in their labels:

1 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

2 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

3 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

4 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

5 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

6 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

7 Amazon Workers May 1st strike

8 Walmart workers May 1st strike

9 Target workers join May 1st general strike

10 Whole Foods workers join May 1st strikes

11 FedEx workers join May 1st strikes

12 Instacart workers join May 1st strike

On the map, you can click each strike listed in the lefthand sidebar to get more information about it. There are in fact more than twelve strikes, because Shipt is known to have struck. Also, some of the strikes are listed at single locations (Amazon) and others are listed by firm (Target). (This is absolutely not a knock on Payday Report’s Mike Elk; I did a similar dynamic map for fracking protests, back in the day, and the work is time-consuming and finicky, the kind of job where you discover you’ve got the wrong data structure halfway through and have to start over.) Nevertheless, slice the numbers how you will, twelve is not large..

So then I went looking for other left publications. Jacobin: “Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, and Target Are on Strike and Need Your Solidarity.” This not coverage of the May Day strikes, but anticipation of them. Labor Notes: “The Worker Mini-Revolts of the 21st Century,” which is interesting, but not about the May Day strikes per se. The Nation: “Celebrating May Day Starts by Taking Workers Seriously,” another anticipatory piece, and “Demand Protections for People on the Front Lines” (today), a brief summary with no links to actual reporting. WSWS: “The COVID-19 pandemic: A trigger event in world history,” a transcipt of a speech by the chairman of the International Editorial Board of the WSWS. Come on, people. I want to know what the worker are doing!

Having quickly skimmed the left, I started to search. Amusingly, Google’s top hit for May Day was “Animal Crossing May Day maze: how to complete the New Horizons challenge, where to get tickets and how long the island is there.” Good job, Nintendo.

“May Day” + “Amazon” was totally polluted, but I had better luck with “May Day” + “Intstacart.” So here is a more or less random collection of reports from mainstream sources, in no particular order:

Wired, “Essential Workers [ugh] Unite for a May Day Strike. Is It Enough?“, expresses skepticism:

Even several groups of workers banding together may not be able to effectively withhold labor enough to force companies to meet their demands. Organizers say their bases number in the tens of thousands, but that represents a minuscule part of the overall workforce of these companies. And even reaching that level of participation may be difficult. One Instacart worker, who was asked by WIRED about Friday’s strike, said she’d never heard it was happening; another said she had seen shoppers talking about it on Reddit but had no intention of participating, “because Instacart won’t even blink.”

Vice, which seems to have gotten good for reasons I can’t understand, actually interviewed strikers (!) in “Amazon, Instacart, Target, and FedEx Workers Explain Why They’re Striking.” I’m picking out the one that most moved me, but the whole article is worth reading. From an anonymous Shipt shopper, which I have helpfully annotated:

I have been working as a Shipt Shopper since December of last year. When I started this job, I thought it would be perfect for my situation. I’ve had two failed spinal fusions, so being able to work a schedule of my own making and choose what I pick up was ideal. However, this job is creating a major issue in my life because Shipt doesn’t see me as a person. I’m a number on a body bag. They don’t care if I live or die working this job[a]. There are more people who can replace me. I loved this job. Being able to help people, shop at Target, and be paid. Yes, please. Now it’s a constant fight to get orders. They are lying left and right in their PR scheme. It’s hurtful to be treated with such little disrespect. I’m striking for hazard pay and for a more transparent pay scale. I need to know how much I’m going to make so I can continue to see my doctor, get my prescriptions, pay my rent, and all my other bills[b].

[a] This is the capital accumulation part. [b] This is the selling your labor power to buy the means of subsistence part.

Democracy Now has an anticipatory interview with Kali Akuno of Operation Jackson, “May Day People’s Strike! Target, Amazon, Instacart Workers Demand Safe Conditions & Pandemic Relief“:

[AKUNO:] So, we’re going to be out in force today. I think there will be many millions of people consciously and deliberately acting today. And I think it’s the start of a critical movement that we’re going to need in this country for some time to come, because after the crisis ends on the pandemic side, we know the economic dimension of it is still going to keep waging on.

Operation Jackson is neat, but “millions”? Hard to know.

Reuters has a roundup, “Amazon, Target, Instacart workers stage U.S. protests on May Day“:

The protests took place in New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and other states, organizers said in social media posts and interviews. Labor groups and unions involved include the United Food and Commercial Workers and Workers United. Workers across the United States were invited to join by calling in sick.

The number of workers that took part in the protests was unclear. Organizers said they were collecting signatures through Google Docs for a tally.

“The emphasis now is on putting pressure on our governments to take action against employers who are not doing enough to protect workers,” said Patricia Campos-Medina, co-director at union federation AFL-CIO’s New York arm, who helped coordinate the protests.

Not sure how much coordination AFL-CIO was doing if there’s no participant count.

From the Los Angeles Times, “Coronavirus energizes the labor movement. Can it last?

In Los Angeles, Glendale and Long Beach, thousands of laid-off janitors and hotel workers besieged elected officials with petitions seeking future job guarantees.

Nurses took to the streets in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Irvine and Oceanside to shame hospitals for failing to protect them against the coronavirus.

And from Oakland to Monterey Park, employees at dozens of fast-food outlets, including McDonald’s, Domino’s and Wendy’s, walked off their jobs protesting a lack of social distancing measures.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a wave of labor unrest across California and the nation. Unions, harnessing the fear and anger, are organizing many of the protests, rallying media coverage and successfully pressuring public officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Fascinating, because blows the “essential workers at Amazon, Target, and Instacart” narrative to smithereens.

And lastly, Vox, which in “The May Day strike from Amazon, Instacart, and Target workers didn’t stop business. It was still a success” administers a pat on the head to workers:

But regardless of scale, the protests were historic and, to a degree, effective. For the first time, organizers brought together a coalition of low-paid, non-unionized, often temporary employees from some of the largest companies in the US. They gained the backing of major political leaders like Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who tweeted in support of workers.

Lol. See note [2]. More:

And more importantly, their protests drew significant media coverage and public support at a time when the customers are more grateful and sympathetic than ever to the workers essential in keeping them supplied with food and necessary goods during the pandemic. Publications like the Washington Post, the Los Angles Times, and Vice as well as broadcast networks like CNN covered the event, and social media posts about it were shared widely.

Quite the theory of change, there.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since the 1930s — a crisis like this and workers who are hurting badly,” said Thomas Kochan, a professor at MIT who leads research on work and employment. Kochan explained that, in the past, times of severe crisis have led to workers gaining rights, and he thinks the current conditions will “wake up” the general public to long-standing labor issues.

I wouldln’t worry about waking up “the general public.” I’d worry about the workers waking themselves up.

* * *

Like I said, I didn’t find the bird. The coverage, no matter where I looked, is spotty. There’s little to aggregate, and what there is, is partial and contradictory. I don’t want to theorize in advance of my data. Clearly, however, there’s a lot of activity that we just don’t know about. But I would like to end on a note of hope, from a strike at Dollar General that didn’t show up anywhere else, including Payday Report’s map. Daniel Stone:

Read the whole thread. I found it inspiring.

I would imagine there are a few hundred Daniel (or Daniela) Stones out there. A few thousand, and things should start to bubble. Ten thousand? What would that take? [3]

NOTES

[1] It could be that I’m like the drunk looking for his keys under the lamp post (“this is where the light is”), and that the story is out in the world of podcasting, which is a non-searchable medium with no deep linking ability. I can see advantages there for organizing, but it doesn’t make my aggregation task easier. If readers can suggest podcasts on strikes (and, I suppose, direct action) that would be great. I like Chapo well enough, and love the Trillbillies, but they are not the source for this material.

[2] Here is a random selection of May Day encomiums from Democrats, ordered from most repellent to not repellent at all. Kamala Harris:

Sounds good until you focus on “essential workers.” You’ll have to pry complex eligibility requirements from liberal’s cold, dead hands. Also, they’re not “working tirelessly” (doubtless many are tired) “to get us through.” More than likely, they’re working to feed their families, not for your personal benefit.

Elizabeth Warren:

“Stand in solidarity” with essential workers. Not all workers. And you’re not “leaning on them.” You’re exploiting them.

Bernie Sanders:

At least Sanders mentions the strikes. But note the contradiction: Corporate greed applies to all workers; in that sense, all workers are essential.

Marianne Williams:

Williams mentions strikers too. But she hits home on the reality of wage labor in a way that Sanders does not. Even if corporations were not “greedy,” “having to strike in order to increase the chances of their survival” is the power relation in wage labor.

[3] It does seem to me that any diffusely organized movement will inevitably be decapitated by liberal Democrat NGOs. It’s the one thing they’re good at. One might draw a lesson from Occupy’s fate, there.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

49 comments

  1. flora

    An aside, of sorts, and please don’t instantly dismiss my notion.

    May Day has a long and lovely history in the US as the day when young people would leave May Baskets – simple baskets usually made of folded or rolled-into-a-cone paper or dixie cups with a string or yarn loop handle- filled with small candies or garden flowers on neighbors and friends doors. A happy custom. Now faded in practice, but not quite faded in memory. I saw a young – probably late teen years – lady carrying a May Basket filled with garden flowers to leave on a neighbor’s door this past Friday, and the sight made me happy and I smiled to think the tradition is not quite gone out of fashion.

    Changing the May Day meaning from friendship and life into struggle and conflict seems like a foreign thing, imo. Strikes for better wages and working conditions, yes. Associating it with May Day in the US at least seems a bridge too far. imo.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    1. flora

      adding: Yes, I’m well aware of the ‘Mayday’ distress signal, from the French m’aider. That’s a distress signal given at any time of the year, not just in May, when one is in distress and is understood for what is.

      Reply
    2. Off The Street

      May Baskets, May Poles, pretty soon you have infiltration and, gasp, awareness of fellow human beings. :)

      Reply
    3. John Richmond

      A refreshing change from the usual path of meaning, where political actions and personas have the political neutered out of them (see King Jr, Martin Luther; Keller, Helen)

      Reply
  2. Oso

    good compilation and i agree with the thrust of your post – what i believe to be that essential workers could have exerted far more pressure on employers due to present circumstances than arguably ever before.
    having said that, any strike i’ve ever been in literally involved masses of people. striking workers on the first day of a strike are there en masse. typically there are many other unions represented there. the one day General Strike in Oakland had as many as 80K throughout the day, shutting down the port.
    point is, due to covid 19 mass participations were not only impractical, they would have cost lives. We did have mobile caravans in Sacramento (immigrant rights) and Oakland.
    circumstances force those of us in at-risk communities to participate in spirit. this doesn’t mean the message didn’t get out and doesn’t mean people were not receptive. Mayday always has mass participation in Oakland and LA. this would have been a huge one, if present economic situations were duplicated but without covid 19

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > any strike i’ve ever been in literally involved masses of people. striking workers on the first day of a strike are there en masse. typically there are many other unions represented there. the one day General Strike in Oakland had as many as 80K throughout the day, shutting down the port. point is, due to covid 19 mass participations were not only impractical, they would have cost lives.

      Good point, but I wonder if a way to avoid that would have been sitdown strikes, which only involve the workplace. (Please forgive me remarking from my armchair at 30,000 feet, but at least I’m trying to focus :-)

      Reply
      1. Oso

        dam. yeah, that is a great point. got to give that some thought, not sure why that wasn’t part of any plans that i know. Safe travels, my friend.

        Reply
  3. Watt4Bob

    I’m surprised that it is possible to search for the word ‘strike‘, these days.

    I’d expect google, most search engines for that matter to return “What? I can’t hear you, quit mumbling!”

    We’ve become accustomed to media disappearing unwanted political candidates, and stories exposing the immoral, or illegal antics of the rich and powerful, why not coverage of sour labor relations at the corporations they own?

    Of course I understand the other possibility, that for what ever reason, nothing very newsworthy really happened?

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Of course I understand the other possibility, that for what ever reason, nothing very newsworthy really happened?

      That’s why I asked the readership for sightings.

      That said, the LA Times coverage vs. the “Amazon, Instacart, Target” framing makes it clear there’s a lot more going on than is being reported. There’s no reason to think that nurses other than in Los Angeles didn’t strike to, because the same issues are happening elsewhere. But what “a lot more” means…. I dunno.

      Reply
      1. John Richmond

        it is clear there are many, many times more strikers than there are those silly, lacking in self-discipline physical distance deniers agitating for ReOpening

        Reply
  4. ambrit

    American history has shown that people need to be very frightened to band together to do combined actions. The Bonus Army came about due to the dislocations of the early Depression. The coalminers strikes were generally spurred on by excessive greed on the part of the mine owners. Like today, when the level of inequality reached a point where people were dying, then conditions are ripe for action on a mass scale. The only other reason for such mass action I can think of is Religion.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        What I don’t see happening is an even semi-national unifying ‘demand’ by a political organization. There are plenty of legitimate ‘demands’ “lying around.” I imagine that we need both to occur simultaneously to “get traction.” For example, the nurses are striking in various venues for similar reasons. However, as you hinted at when descrying the failure of the Sanders Campaign to fund strikers, no visible national movement has come forward to visibly unify and, thus, amplify these discrete strike actions. My earlier Bonus Army mention related to a national scale demand for your oft mentioned “concrete, material benefits.” That ‘demand’ transitioned to an on the ground, literal, movement. It suffered a similar fate to the Occupy movement. Unlike Occupy though, the Bonus Army and it’s violent suppression led to the election of Franklin D Roosevelt on a “reform” platform. It can be argued that the Occupy movement, tied as it was to the Debacle of ’08-’09, died quickly from the suppression strikes by the Organs of State Security. The carry through of the Occupy movement seems to have been mainly lower level reform items. A version of “normalcy” was engineered to be seen as returning. However, today looks to be much more like the situation of the Bonus March, circa 1932. The conditions are not going to “get better” any time soon. As this coronavirus epidemic plays out over the next few years, more opportunities for propaganda and agitation will arise.
        We live in interesting times, and they are only going to get more interesting.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          From what I understand a lot of organizers were in Occupy and used their acquired skills to help at the Keystone pipeline protest and then onto Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Just like how veterans have been volunteering at protests like Standing Rock. The desire for change is there, but unlike the past where it was common to belong to social clubs, churches, unions, even regular visits to the local bar or cards every Saturday with the guys, there is not much civil society to build on.

          Then add that almost every large, successful, and powerful organizations like the three communist/socialist parties, unions, all the factories, the very busy ports and railroad workers, and the political power blocks that sort of acted as separate parties with in parties that use to strongly represent interests other than some form of neoliberalism that both nearly monolithic parties do now.

          So there are movements. Movement for reforms that have been increasing for twenty years, but the reformers have almost start from the very beginning unlike before. There is no framework to build on. Also, the news media is almost gone and what’s left isn’t going to report inconvenient facts.

          Reply
          1. Rod

            Just like how veterans have been volunteering at protests like Standing Rock

            .

            having seen this at Standing Rock, I agree Veterans are possibly the Best yet untapped resource that can be brought to bear in Public Protests and Strikes

            Lot of unresolved issues and frustration percolating there.

            Reply
  5. MaroonBulldog

    There is an interesting logic at work here:

    If all workers are essential to capitalism, but not all workers are essential, then capitalism cannot be essential.

    Some persons are doing the classifications: if, as you argue, they are classify workers into a class that is essential to them, and a class that is not essential to them, then capitalism cannot be essential to them, either. Who are these persons doing the classifications? Are they themselves essential, I wonder? They certainly must consider themselves to be, and classify themselves to be; otherwise, they would be locked down, not doing the work of making the classifications. And, by the way, the work of making the classifications must itself be essential, or it wouldn’t be allowed.

    Things that make you go “hmmmmmmm.

    Reply
  6. Jodorowsky's zoom

    Cheese and rice. A general strike during a pandemic? Counterpoint: the Seattle General Strike of 1919 and the German November Revolution of 1919, both unmitigated disasters which hobbled movements with the “stabbed-in-the-back” narrative to this day. In Seattle, warehouses blunted any material deprivations the owners may have faced, the bosses capitalized on a new bureaucratic ability to manage labor strife in an urban environment, and American right-wing politics got back up on its feet after the gilded age came crashing down.
    In Germany, even Rosa Luxemburg [no shrinking violet] was against a general strike, for number of political reasons, including requiring a vote held by some sort of body of national government, which did not exist at the time, and two, a general strike would abdicate workers’ ability to accept improvement to conditions in their own shops, thereby returning to work and setting precedent for further success, without breaking the general strike. I think more compellingly, it drove the army into the arms of nationalist putsch-artists because, at the time, Lenin was putting army officers against the wall during his strike. There are harder tactics for management with which to deal, and better press, than a general strike plus a trip to the NLRB amidst the 2nd largest pool of unemployed. It’s as if the 20th century never happened; that game has been played. A general strike would be a gift to boardrooms and ellipsoid offices; it lets them off the hook. – Last thing, futzing about “essential” is sort of petty; the word isn’t necessarily a qualifier. It can be adjective that applies to all workers [Essential workers = workers are essential.]

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Yes I am afraid strikes don’t work when the MSM can control the narrative. “Look, those people are not like you” is always the implication.

      Even when the actual take should be “there but for the grace of God go I…”

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > [Essential workers = workers are essential.]

      Come on, man. “Blue moons” = “moons”? You don’t add the adjective unless you’re trying to make a distinction, in this case an invidious one.

      > There are harder tactics for management with which to deal, and better press, than a general strike plus a trip to the NLRB amidst the 2nd largest pool of unemployed.

      On the general strike, I don’t recall advocating a general strike. I spoke of “scale,” but that’s not the same thing. Maybe instead of teasing us with “harder tactics,” you could list and describe them?

      Reply
  7. Philip Ebersole

    During the lockdown, all the workers who are being allowed to work are officially essential workers.

    It is the supposedly unessential workers who are locked down for the greater good.

    In an enlightened society, the first group would be highly paid and honored, while the second group, who are being required to stay home for the common good, would also be taken care of.

    Reply
    1. MaroonBulldog

      “During the lockdown, all workers who are being allowed to work are officially essential workers.”

      Yes, the classification of workers as essential vs. nonessential is an official classification, made in the exercise of some person’s discretion. Lambert’s thinking that the “essential” means “essential to them,” the officials making the classification, is by no means gainsaid by that observation: it is not onlythat such may classifications be made in arbitrary and self-regarding manner, based on political and ideological considerations, but also that it is difficult to conceive that they were made otherwise.

      The officials making the classifications are still working; they have no skin in the game. The workers classified as nonessential have skin in the game, and they are placed on the losing team.

      Better to ask whether the work is essential, than whether the worker is; all work is essential to the workers and others who depend for the sustenance upon it.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > officially essential workers

      I need to undertstand where the literal classifications for “essential workers” comes from. I think it’s done at the state level (as with a Governor’s proclamation for example). In my cursory search, I found workers deemed essential for national security purposes, but nothing in general. Have I missed this in the chaos?

      What’s confusing is that “misclassification” is when a person is classified as, say, an independent contractor, when in reality they are a full-time employee. This seems to be another kind of classification, and I am not sure if it done institutional or it is just a convenient political label. My assumption has been the latter, because the list of who is essential is fluid.

      Reply
      1. Stillfeelinthebern

        For local government, at least in my state, it is “first responder” that was the defining term. And the guidance came from the DOL. It is more people than you would think. Also very much left to interpretation for what is “essential.” Almost all local govt could be considered covered and the interpretation can vary from place to place. The question came about because of FFCRA and having to fulfill the benefits of that legislation. One way around that was to pass a resolution exempting the county from the act and then giving the County Ex the power to make the determination, which is what happened in my county.

        See this link question #57 https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions#57

        For the purposes of Employees who may be excluded from Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave by their Employer under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is anyone necessary for the provision of transport, care, healthcare, comfort and nutrition of such patients, or others needed for the response to COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, child welfare workers and service providers, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency, as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual whom the highest official of a State or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that State’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.

        Reply
        1. MaroonBulldog

          Lambert, here is the link I referred to in my earlier reply of May 7 at 12:06 am (still awaiting moderation:

          Reply
      2. MaroonBulldog

        In the county where I live, the initial order came from the Public Health Officer of the county, on March 16. The order did not define “essential workers” or any similar term. Instead, the order directed everyone to shelter in place at home, and not leave, except to perform “Essential Activities” or “Essential Government Functions” or to work in an “Essential Business,” all as defined and explained at length in section 10 of the order. I do not have a link to the order, but I do have a link to the webpage that will get you to it, if you scroll down in the “Latest News” section until you come to the information dealing with the March 16 press release and the orders that went with them. I will send the link in a separate reply.

        I thought this was a better way to manage the order: classifying the work to be done, rather than the worker, as “essential”.

        Reply
  8. Makesi

    These were not strikes, these were media events. Im glad we have labor-friend journalists who want to evangelize the workers and im glad that college kids will support that message online… but without the workers this is PMC left cosplay, labor stolen-valor–loser talk when workers need plan to win!

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the workers this is PMC left cosplay, labor stolen-valor–loser talk when workers need plan to win!

      I see the logic, but I went to the left publications first. If you are correct, I would expect to see lots and lots of articles by — let me grossly stereotype — adjuncts and non-tenure track academics from Brooklyn. Also, the Vice interviews don’t read like that.

      Reply
  9. .Tom

    On Friday I asked the FedEx driver who delivered packages to our house if there wasn’t supposed to be a strike. He answered, yes but that he had to work. I took that to mean that he couldn’t forgo the wages.

    Reply
  10. a different chris

    >So, when liberals say “essential workers,”

    Just a note, using a lower-case “l” for liberals and then talking about them as a class of, well what exactly would be the reaction of a one-time blog browser that happened upon this post. A east coast truck driver that was fine with his gay son. thinks government should have a role in society but thought stuff should be means-tested thinks of himself as a lower-case-l liberal. Lots, maybe most younger physicians would qualify. And so on.

    You used it 3 times that way, the final time you did link it to “Democrat” organizations. *We* know that’s roughly what you meant all the way through – but including also their fanbois-, but we should keep this very useful blog accessible to others and ensure we aren’t talking just to each other.

    Sigh. Although we might as well just talk to each other in this Age of Biden. I never felt so hopeless.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I should have said “liberal Democrats.” I doubt very much that the average truck driver thinks that way at all.

      Conservative Republicans have bad principles. Liberal Democrats have no principles, as the Biden/#MeToo episode shows all too clearly.

      Reply
  11. Tyronius

    When a strike happens in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?

    How much worse do things need to get before Americans realise that standing up for themselves is the only option left?

    There’s a tipping point for everything. Apparently 65,000 deaths from a disease outbreak that could have been prevented isn’t enough.

    Americans deserve the country they’re willing to fight for.

    Reply
  12. K teh

    Labor creates capital with real operational leverage. Real capital is legacy labor. What most people see as capitalism is corporations employing government to create property by force and thereby exploit nature. What they call operational leverage is really labor replacement, which is why they have to rely on ever greater debt to gdp, essentially assigning the debt to labor in the form of a tax on living standards.

    The strike in Warsaw was a real May Day Strike. Hitler collected the Jews in ghettos expecting the artificial “quarantine” to crush most, but what he was really after was those distilled, the “seed” of the next Jewish culture, to exterminate in the final solution.

    The algorithm of history repeats; it’s the symptoms that rhyme.

    Look at it from the perspective of the social credit programmers. The vast majority choose compliance when they join a tribe, out of fear or greed. It is then a simple matter of coding filters to determine the commonalities of the remainders, until all that remains is the unique keys. That’s the point of electronic money.

    If you do not accept the upside down world of nature as the enemy, you are the enemy, to be ferreted out by the peer pressure filters and quarantined.

    No, we are not all in this together.

    Reply
  13. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Obviously different than a strike but someone once said that if you want a revolution, you must be willing to die for it. I also believe that Dostoyevsky was later proven correct in his statement that things become very dangerous when they collapse too quickly.

    Reply
  14. Eureka Springs

    Over the last six days on three separate occasions I’ve ordered small but essential (to my work) items via amazon because there is nowhere else I could get them. Certainly not without driving a hundred miles or more. I’ve received email confirmation on all the occasions but money has not been charged nor have any of the items been shipped. All delivery dates without notice or explanation have been changed quite a bit.

    Something is causing delay. Most telling is they haven’t taken money for orders, which is always an instant act.

    Reply
  15. Matt Alfalfafield

    Here in my neighbourhood (Parkdale, in the southwest of Toronto) there’s been quite a lot of buzz about rent strikes. There are posters everywhere you go in the neighbourhood, online email and WhatsApp groups, graffiti, etc. It’s hard to get a sense of how many people are actually withholding their rent. I didn’t pay in April or May, and so far I’ve only received one polite phone call from my superintendent and one slightly less polite phone call from the building management company (which owns probably half of the buildings on my street).

    Parkdale is historically a low-income neighbourhood that’s been slowly gentrifying for the past ten to fifteen years as rents across the city have skyrocketed. There was a very successful rent strike here in 2017 protesting above-guideline rent increases and shoddy maintenance – you can read an overview here and an article about some specific tactics here – but coverage of the current rent strike has been about as spotty as the coverage of the May Day strikes you detailed in your post. The best coverage I could find is this round-up of Twitter posts in advance of May 1st, which doesn’t actually interview anybody.

    I’m connected to a few behind-the-scenes email groups, and I helped to flyer my building to promote the strike and a WhatsApp group, but I really couldn’t guess how widespread this is.

    Reply
    1. Matt Alfalfafield

      I should add that the Canadian/local media has been absolutely gutted in the past few decades and doesn’t really have the capacity to properly cover this issue, so lack of reporting =/= lack of a story necessarily…

      Reply
  16. John Anthony La Pietra

    I think you got just about everything I’ve seen myself, though I was going to look again at the end of the week.

    What with one thing and another (both of them executive orders here in Michigan), I didn’t promote this year’s May Day-adjacent Labor History Walk. It wound up being me, my wife, and our five-year-old daughter walking from one of Marshall’s pair of American Labor Landmarks to the other, cleaning up as we went. Some minimal video may be posted soon on my campaign blog and FB page. For now, you might get some flavor of the activity from this news release from last September.

    TBH, even when I have gotten some publicity out in past years (May and September), I’ve never managed to get any local unions or union members interested. (Maybe one reason for that is that I’ve never had much of a chance to be in a union — unless the State Bar of Michigan in my current and fourth career counts.) But I’m given to understand that spreading the word this year gave some encouragement to some young Wobblies in Chiagoland, and it may spread from there. If the idea interests you, please check out the “inventory” of landmarks linked in the release.

    Reply
    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      (BTW, the paragraph about the Farmers’ Market was supposed to end by saying the market would be open until 1pm.)

      Reply

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