The 2022 Labor Notes Conference, a gathering of “troublemakers” and labor activists from across the United States and beyond, took place in Chicago during a mild mid-June weekend. Attendance was a jam-packed whirlwind of panels, workshops, training sessions, and socials. Over 4,000 organizers and activists commingled – including educators, baristas, newsroom workers, Amazon warehouse organizers, and Teamsters.
Labor Notes marked an unforgettable four days of learning, connecting, and building solidarity between wildly diverse groups, and the lessons I learned from comrades across the country will stick with me for years to come.
Try to gain some insight into the size of the court organism and how, to some extent, it remains in a state of suspension, and that even if you alter something in one place you’ll draw the ground out from under your feet and might fall—whereas if an enormous organism like the court is disrupted in any one place, it finds it easy to provide a substitute for itself somewhere else.
Franz Kafka, The Trial
The Supreme Court’s last term ended with a batch of extreme right-wing opinions. The Roberts Court has lurched sharply to the right, but the Supreme Court’s fidelity to conservative elites is nothing new. Of all the counter-majoritarian mechanisms in our constitutional system (Senate, Electoral College, etc.), none has protected the minority of the opulent as reliably as the Supreme Court has. The only way to protect our rights is through mass mobilization outside of the legal system.
July 17, 2022 – Barely one month after winning their union election, Starbucks workers at Howell Mill are still fighting to have their voices heard by corporate. Early Sunday morning, partners went on strike against management’s refusal to respond to bargaining requests, retaliation in the form of cut hours, and unfair working conditions.
July 13th, 2022 – As the clock struck 7:00 AM early Wednesday morning, 15 Amazon warehouse workers walked out of the DTG5 Amazon fulfillment center in Doraville, Georgia just halfway through their Prime Day shift. Workers exited the facility in protest of management disregarding a petition signed by 60 warehouse employees demanding a $3 wage increase, more paid time off (PTO), and extended break time.
As workers gathered in the parking lot, they were met by excited supporters from Atlanta DSA, Unite Here, and Atlanta Starbucks Workers United—who recently won their own union victories at the Ansley Mall and Howell Mill Starbucks locations. Music blared as workers chanted and made signs calling for fair pay and dignity at work, while supporters set up breakfast and coffee on a folding table out front of the building.
Yesterday was Juneteenth, a day that is properly celebrated as the true day of liberation for black peoples in North America from the scourge of chattel slavery. Originating in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, the holiday commemorates the emancipation of black peoples held in bondage across Texas, years after the Emancipation Proclamation was actually ordered. Though chattel slavery would persist in two union states for several more months, the people of Texas were liberated from those slave owners who sought to preserve their property and profits—taking advantage of their remote location to withhold information from enslaved people about their legal emancipation. Along with this day comes the tried and true profiles of the Black Wall Street massacre, Maroon rebellion in the Caribbean, white supremacy’s permanence, and Nat Turner—as he and his comrades barnstormed from one plantation to another, liberating those in bondage with a bloody vengeance. That sense of vengeance has given new fire and breath to certain corners of the black population, and I’d beg to state that that sense of racial vengeance—being reminded of the cruelties and inequities overcome by our forebears—is the dominant way in which we as a nation consume and internalize this newly official national holiday. From this comes flarings of cultural nationalism and entreaties to buy black to support black businesses, regardless of whether that business empowers their workers or even provides a living wage.
Tuesday May 3rd, one thousand working-class Atlantans took to the streets in defense of abortion rights. Below is a transcript of a speech from an Atlanta DSA organizer outside the Georgia State Capitol building. To stay up-to-date on DSA’s protest mobilization efforts, follow us on social media at @atldemsoc and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Become a member and organize with us at atldsa.org/join.
I am taking on the challenge David Duhalde laid out in the Spring 2021 issue of the Democratic Left “Socialists Across Generations: We Need to Talk.” Duhalde contended that a vibrant DSA needed discussions and exchanges between younger and older comrades. In such a dialogue, newer members would learn from veteran comrades what it takes to be long-distance runners and older comrades could learn about new styles of organizing from younger activists.
On Sunday March 6th, over 20 Atlanta DSA members gathered outside of the Starbucks at Howell Mill in solidarity with workers fighting to unionize their workplace. Together, organizers flyered the neighborhoods and shopping centers surrounding the store to help raise awareness and build community support for the union as workers face increased pressure from Starbucks corporate.
Recently I stumbled upon a link to an AJC op-ed, published August 2021: “The Wendy’s fiasco: The one that broke the city?” The piece—authored by notoriously pro-police AJC contributor Bill Torpy—sought to portray Atlanta as a city rife with gang activity and lawlessness. Throughout the piece, Torpy paints a picture of a “Mad Max Atlanta”. In particular, he references the events occurring at the protester-occupied Wendy’s at which Rayshard Brooks was murdered by police during the summer of 2020. Torpy laments the position in which the Atlanta Police Department found itself during a time of increased scrutiny towards policing, and attempts to connect the violence which occured at the occupied Wendy’s to the larger “crime wave” of 2020—specifically citing the tragic murder of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner on July 4th, 2020 to make his case. Well, I was there too.
With the Starbucks unionization effort and the recent strikes at John Deere and Nabisco, labor activism in the Atlanta area has been extremely hot over the last few months. However, the upcoming union election for makeup artists at the Atlanta Opera attempting to organize under the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) will potentially have the most wide-ranging effects for workers and contractors nationwide.