Here in Pennsylvania the labor movement took over the State Capitol with several thousand people and, at least for now, stopped the Koch boys efforts to destroy public employee unionism and break the political back of labor in this Commonwealth. Just in the last few days SEIU 1199 Pa put thousands of people on the street in zero degree temperature. We marched and rallied for two days to win a wage increase, a minimum of $15/hour, and the right to organize a union at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Those of us from 1199 in Philly and Newark were proud to be the largest contingent other than SEIU in that cold, cold march.
On March 11th Tennesseans will march on their state Capitol at noon with the United Campus Workers/CWA for a living wage, public education, and democracy.
And the struggle of fast food workers to win liveable wages and a higher minimum wage continues with wildcat strikes.
Perhaps all this foreshadows the kind of industrial struggle that forced the passage of America's labor laws that no longer work for workers.
If ever there were a time in American history for average people to fill the streets with a demand for wage increases, dignity on the job, social justice, and the protection and EXTENSION of true democracy that time is now. Our struggle against the Koch boys and the rest of the plutocracy and the racist xenophobic Tea Party cannot just be won at the ballot box, even though voting is an important part of the broader struggle. The powers we face must be met in the streets.
One who understands that as well or better than anyone else and is providing leadership in the struggle to try to create a mass movement is the President of 1199, Henry Nicholas. As James Spady once wrote of Henry:
"He is not an isolated figure dangling in history. Nicholas is a part of a rich tradition of struggle. For the last six decades, Henry Nicholas has been both a part of mass movements to bring about change and a visionary leader. America needs Henry now."But we need other leaders to call for an end to the retreat, to reform the ranks, and to charge forward. We need more leaders like Henry who take every opportunity to mobilize our ranks, to demand democracy and justice with our feet and our bodies, leaders willing to sacrifice the comfort of the routine for the energy of the struggle. Leadership matters and so does struggle.