General Strike Take Three

Union front groups say 350K will walk off jobs on May 1

Demonstrators protest for increased minimum wage at McDonald's corporate headquarters on May 25, 2016 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
March 20, 2017

After a February general strike fizzled, labor groups claim several hundred thousand service workers across the nation will walk off the job on May 1 to protest the Trump administration.

The California chapter of the politically powerful Service Employers International Union (SEIU) told BuzzFeed that many of its 700,000 members plan to participate in a general strike scheduled on May Day.

"We’re willing to take that risk [to protest] in order to be able to move forward in this moment, while the most marginalized are in the crosshairs of this administration," union president David Huerta told BuzzFeed.

The protest will focus on low-skilled and entry-level workers in the service industry, a group the union has long tried to organize. The union has spent millions of dollars in support of the Fight for $15 movement, which has staged rolling protests outside of fast food franchises. The May Day protest would be among the largest labor protests in decades, with organizers saying that as many as 350,000 workers could walk off the job.

The protests are being organized by a coalition of worker centers, controversial non-profit groups not bound by federal laws regarding strikes and transparency. Among these groups are the Food Chain Workers Alliance and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, both of which will participate in the demonstration. The former organization said the decision to strike came after a vote of their 300,000 members. The protest will focus on more than just labor issues and will take aim at the Trump administration's positions on immigration, the refugee bans, and policing, as well as "gender identity."

"Many low-income workers of color and immigrants will be participating in the strike to demand #NoMoreTrump," the group said. "Despite the risks, we will not sit by as families are shattered by immigration raids, Native sovereignty is violated, Muslims are banned, and Black and Brown communities face even more criminalization."

The Alliance, ROC United, and SEIU all failed to respond to requests for comment.

Protest participants and organizers plan to stage mass walkouts from workplaces across the country, targeting the food industry from restaurants to food packaging plants. They hope to replicate the successful turnout of the 2006 Day Without an Immigrant protest staged in Los Angeles, according to BuzzFeed. While federal labor law bars intermittent strikes—such as regular walkouts—by labor unions, worker centers are not bound by such rules.

The groups have already begun raising money to pay for legal representation and create an emergency fund for workers who lose their jobs as a result of the strike. The group is seeking to raise $100,000 through GoFundMe and had received about $1,850 in donations from 13 people as of Monday afternoon.

"General Strikes are hard and only work when as many people as possible can participate," the site says. "You'll be helping very low-wage workers decide whether to participate or not without having to worry about income they absolutely cannot afford to forego."

The May strike will be the third general strike organized by the president's opponents since Trump took office in January.

A Feb. 17 strike focusing on immigration managed to shut down a few eateries in large cities, and dozens of schools granted their students the day off during the March Day Without A Woman strike. However, neither managed to capture the success of the Women's March, which prompted millions of liberal activists to take to the streets the day after Trump's inauguration.

Published under: Big Labor , Protests