DSA Report: The struggle for union solidarity

BY IAN RINGGENBERG

As a rapidly growing organization, the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has brought in many young members who are new to activism and labor organizing. Whereas once it would be assumed that a group of socialists concerned with labor issues would be dominated by union members, the questions raised at a January meeting to establish interest groups proved the opposite to be true: “How are unions organized?” “How can I help with workers on a strike?” “How can I join a union?”
With the American unionization rate now below 11%, nearly half what it was three decades ago, it stands to reason that an increasing number of those engaged in labor struggles find themselves on the outside of a union looking in. Yet with a number of high profile labor struggles in the past year—including the Minnesota Nurses Association strike at Allina and the Communication Workers of America’s 45 day strike against Verizon—the picket line remains central to the fight against income inequality and corporate power.
With that in mind, we founded a Labor and Economic Justice branch of the Twin Cities DSA to explore opportunities for solidarity with organized labor as part of our broader struggle to end the injustices of capitalism.
Although newly formed, the branch is already making progress in its mission. The attendees at our meetings represent multiple generations and perspectives on the labor movement. We have veteran union organizers with a deep history, hard-working activists, and  college students leaving their campuses to find a political home. In our meetings, we have discussed the importance of the Fight for $15 movement in Minneapolis and directed members toward local actions around immigrants’ rights and supporting retail workers.
Last week, members of the Labor and Economic Justice Branch attended a “Troublemaker’s School” training sponsored by Labor Notes, a left-leaning network of rank-and-file union members and organizers. At the training, DSA members learned strategies for organizing both within the workplace and in their communities. Organizations ranging from Centro De Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) to the St. Paul Teachers Union shared strategies for organizing in ways that engage the broader community in the plights of workers.
Looking toward the fall, Twin Cities DSA is looking to revive a decades-old program of Campus Labor Institutes, wherein young campus activists can learn organizing strategies and connect with local labor struggles. 2017 is a perfect year to make these connections. With SEIU organizing adjuncts, faculty and staff on multiple campuses around the Twin Cities and a mobilized base of young activists—many inspired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign—the time is ripe to find new energy for labor organizing. Members of the Labor and Economic Justice Branch are working with local union organizers and the newly created Young Democratic Socialists student group at the University of Minnesota to plan the event.
There is a lot of work to be done ahead in the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America. The agenda of President Trump stands counter to the principles we hold: to deepen democracy, eradicate racism, and end patriarchy. While efforts to resist that agenda are important and will occupy much of our time, we also seek to build a popular vision for a better society so that whatever comes after the Trump era will be more than a reversion to the neo-liberal mean. The labor movement is central to both of these goals. While many choose to fixate on a history full of gains for all working Americans—from overtime laws to safety regulations—its future is no less important. Unions provide a critical space for Americans to oppose the worst forces in capitalism and struggle to create a better world.
If you’re interested in getting involved in our Twin Cities DSA Labor and Economic Justice Branch, contact Ian Ringgenberg: ian.ringgenberg@gmail.com or visit our website (a work in progress) at https://www.twincitiesdsa.org/

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