Solidarity is a verb

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Source: Berniesanders.com

During our campaigns for president, I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution — to think big, not small and to involve millions of our fellow citizens in the struggle for human rights.

I stressed that real change never occurs from the top on down. It always happens from the bottom up. In fact, no real change in American history, not the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, or any other significant movement has ever had success without grassroots activism — without people standing up, taking on powerful special interests and fighting for justice.

Now, as then, change only comes when people demand it and are prepared to challenge the status quo — in the voting booth, on the streets in peaceful demonstrations, and at the workplace.

I am pleased to write to you today about a growing movement of workers all across the country who are sick and tired of the obscene corporate greed they are experiencing. These trade unionists are standing up, fighting back and are winning real victories against large and powerful corporations.

Striking workers at John Deere waged their first strike in more than three decades. They overwhelmingly rejected the first contract that was offered to them, stayed on the picket lines and eventually won a contract with decent wage increases, a ratification bonus and improved health insurance. They even fought for future workers, people they don’t even know, to preserve their pension options.

Striking nurses in Buffalo reached a tentative agreement that would raise their wages, including moving all workers above $15 an hour and reduce staff shortages — once again fighting for people they don’t know: patients and future colleagues at their hospitals. They went on strike for weeks — and they won.

Kaiser Permanente health care workers won a major victory after rejecting a contract that would have given new workers lower wages and fewer benefits.

Nabisco workers, struggling against forced overtime, inadequate wages and pensions and the outsourcing of jobs, recently ended their strike in victory.

And these workers are winning strong support from their fellow Americans who are more than aware of the growing income and wealth inequality that we are all experiencing. A recent poll in Iowa showed over 75% support for striking UAW workers at John Deere. And a national poll showed 68% of Americans now approve of labor unions, the highest Gallup has measured since 1965.

You’ll recall the teacher strikes in several states before the start of the pandemic where teachers fought not only for better pay and benefits for themselves but also to make sure that their schools were adequately funded and that their students received a quality education. They went on strike and in state after state, they won.

These workers did not wait for Congress to raise their wages or improve their working conditions. They stood up, fought back and they won.

These workers did not wait for Congress to demand adequate staffing levels or provide government funds to do it — they demanded it from their employer and they won.

These workers did not wait for Congress to pass a law improving their health care or helping them to retire with dignity after a life of work — they demanded it from their employer and they won.

These workers remind us that improving our lot in life, through government or at the workplace, is not a spectator sport. It’s something we have got to fight for.

But the struggle is not theirs alone. There are millions of other Americans in exactly the same position as these striking workers. Throughout the country, in every sector of our economy, they are working for inadequate wages, health care, pensions and working conditions.

As progressives, we all have a role to play in these fights.

Solidarity is a verb.

You’ll recall we raised more than $150,000 in small-dollar donations to support the strike funds helping John Deere and Kellogg’s workers maintain their strikes.

All of the credit goes to the workers who risked so much by walking off the job, but you helped lighten their burden even just a bit. Your support helped those John Deere workers maintain the strike they ended with their tremendous gains for workers at the company.

And it is no coincidence that after weeks on strike, Kellogg’s has now agreed to come back to the table with the more than 1,400 workers of theirs who are on strike in several states — a strike those who have contributed helped to maintain.

We show solidarity in these moments because these workers are not only striking for themselves and their co-workers, but for all of us. They are striking for an economy that works for all Americans, not just powerful CEOs and the 1%.

Everything is connected to everything. And it often goes unnoticed that the struggles of the working class in communities across the country ultimately determine the quality of wages, benefits, and the ability to retire with dignity in seemingly unconnected industries.

These are struggles we must continue to engage in and support.

We cannot have a moral society or a strong economy when so few have so much, and so many have so little. That’s the struggle workers are increasingly engaging in all across this country.

It is a struggle we must support.

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