Wildcat Strikes Sweep Across the United States

by Autonomous Council of Northern California

Between March 1st and April 28th, at least 151 wildcat strikes[1] and a threatened national general strike by two transport unions have swept the US since march when the country went into lock down to stop the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. The organization and strike actions by workers has been breathtaking. From construction workers to nurses, warehouse, transport, meatpacking, call center, carpenters, fast food, trash collectors, prisoners, truck drivers, and a wide range of other kinds of workers, class struggle is suddenly back on the agenda in the US, and much of the world for that matter. Strikes aren’t the only form of organizing taking place, joined by short sit down work stoppages and demonstrations by nurses and doctors in seven states protesting the lack of critical safety equipment and petitions, and widespread media attention to the plight of essential workers.

In contrast, unions and NGOs are making some coordinated efforts to begin such preparation. The UNITE HERE union is organizing its members, nearly all of whom are out of work as the recreational sector has shut down, in Southern California and Nevada, as well as workers seeking out its help. The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America have teamed up with the Democratic Socialists of America to help workers seeking its help to organize wildcat strikes during the pandemic although it is paternalistic, top down and seeks merely to generate media attention and membership in the democratic socialist group. Recognizing that making call for a general strike is not organizing one, Cooperation Jackson has called for general strike and National Educators United and its California chapter have called for actions including strikes on May 1st. They will be joined that day by truck drivers, Amazon/Walmart workers, and Instacart, and Shipt workers planning to strike.

Capital is responding in kinds as well with mass layoffs, cuts in staffing and wages, and lobbying to allow wage cuts for mostly immigrant farm workers, now considered “essential” labor. The State has revoked, slashed, or stopped enforcing health safety protections at work, stopped all union elections, increased hours for transport workers, and slashed environmental laws. There is already widespread talk about making work through teleconferencing, which allows for further mass data mining and surveillance of workers, the new normal.

As unemployment has shot up 600% in the first week, doubling in the second, and totaling 22 million in the first four weeks, workers are refusing work even as starvation looms. The state has responded with at least $2.2 trillion in Keynesian fiscal spending on unemployment, paid sick and family leave, one time lump sum cash payment, and typical bailouts of corporations. Despite these measures, the wildcat strikes continue, organized by workers refusing to do extremely dangerous reproductive and logistics work, so called “essential labor, the same labor dismissed as unproductive “service” work until just 6 weeks ago.

Long popular among other workers, health care workers are seizing their moment to attack dangerous exploitative work and many are celebrating them with nightly howling at sunset. But it is the logistics and food workers, long thought to be unorganizable by the unions, that have applied leverage to disrupt the global supply chain, a disruption that is made apparent in the lack of much supplies such as toilet paper, meat, N95 masks, chemicals for virus testing, and other critical supplies. As disruption ripples through each choke point in the global supply chain, power is shifting in favor of the working class in the class struggle.


[1] A “wildcat” strike is a strike that is not legally sanctioned either by a union or labor law.

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