Labor Justice is THE issue now
By Irami Osei-Frimpong (October 8, 2018)
I’ve read that as a rough rule, political movements initially start out off as free speech movements. In campus life, it makes sense at first blush, especially when you’ve been to Berkeley.
But I think it papers over the social question. We still haven’t figured out how political freedom works while you still depend on some man’s check.
At first, we need the kind of leaders who are not afraid to lose a job. No revolution that includes justice for black communities should give any power to folks who aren’t willing to lose their jobs.
If you are serious about black people, you have to be more serious about black people than you are about your job, because your job will ALWAYS be at play as long as America runs on anti-Blackness.
Systemically, freedom demands that we aim at a world where one’s status as an employee does not distort political action and aims. A world where political insight and organizing doesn’t require such heroism.
This suggests to me that the first struggle at this stage is a labor struggle. We need to secure the political independence of employees, because the overwhelming majority of people are employees, and organizing unions are a great place to start to secure this status. This isn’t clear on a college campus because the students aren’t, by and large, worried about their jobs in the same way.
But in a town like Athens, Ga. white supremacy is held in place because the employers are unmediated White supremacists on one side, and mediated White supremacists on the other. By mediated I mean that, as the Klan knew, there are two ways to keep black people under control. You can go at them directly as Black people, or you can go at them indirectly and use “the protection of women” as a cover. The results are the same: White power.
Active political participation, aligned with seeking justice, depends on secure labor conditions. It’s a problem that will always be with us, until we take it seriously as THE problem.