North Texans took a step toward unity in action with a Solidarity Night event at UAW 848 union hall in Grand Prairie on Saturday, June 30. Leaders of real, ongoing, eyeball-to-eyeball fights spoke about what is happening and how the rest of us can help. Among the speakers were Teamsters, Communications Workers, Ironworkers, Doctors, OurWalmart Associates, and community leaders. North Texas Jobs with Justice sponsored the event. Kenny Winfree sang inspiring union songs between reports. Gerardo Contreras and his son did literally all the work in providing a festive cook-out meal.
The Teamsters are running simultaneous organizing drives at one company's facilities in Fort Worth and Dallas. One of the members of the "inside organizing committee" in Fort Worth told us how desperately the workers need dignity in the workplace and how adamantly the company refuses to allow it.
The Communications Workers are opening bargaining with Verizon on behalf of their members in the western half of the United States. In the Eastern Half, workers have already gone more than a year without a contract! The Communications Workers are also doing legal battle with American Airlines over management's recent maneuver to prevent customer assistance employees from having their right to organize.
The star of the program turned out to be Jorge, an Ironworker who is just joined a strike against the D'Ambra Construction Company. Speaking in Spanish with Gerardo Contreras translating, he told the audience about working up to 18 hours at a stretch with only one 30-minute break. He talked about working in the hot Texas sun. He talked about dangerous work with no health insurance and very little hope of any help from management in cases of injury. At the end of his brief description, the audience stood in the only standing ovation of the evening!
The main occasion of June 30 actually had to do with the 50th anniversary of Walmart. I understand that 10,000 demonstrated against this vicious worldwide employer at an event in California. Our Grand Prairie event echoed their insistence that management should allow the workers a chance to organize for dignity and better lives. The organizing drive of OUR Walmart is going on everywhere, and they need help everywhere.
"Unite and Fight" is one slogan that almost all seasoned activists agree on. They also agree that the most critical battles are those between those who work for a living (the 99%) and their bosses (the 1%). Unfortunately, they also agree that unity is hard to achieve. More events like "Solidarity Night" could help!