Occupy Oakland: Labor and the Call for a General Strike
Excerpt, from a woman identified as Louise Michael of Occupy Oakland:
This Wednesday, Nov 2, the people of Oakland are going to make history once again as we shut down the city in a general strike and a mass day of action… The Occupy Oakland movement was sparked by a need to end police attacks on our communities, to defend our schools and libraries against closures, and against this economic system built on colonialism, inequality, and corporate power that perpetuates all forms of oppression and the destruction of the environment.
Occupy Oakland and the general assembly has no leaders and no political parties involved in our decsion-making process. The decision for a general strike was made by the people of Oakland themselves in a grassroots non-hierarchical process.
On Nov 2 the people of Oakland will strike and show our refusal to continue creating wealth for the 1 %. We also call for a day of action in which the circulation of capital is blockaded, students walk out of their schools, and people stage various occupations of schools, foreclosed homes, workplaces, and self-organize to take back control of our lives from the 1 %.
Occupy Oakland has called for all banks and corporations to close for the day of the general strike or demonstrators will march on them. Demonstrators also plan to blockade the port of Oakland on Nov 2. Occupy Oakland intends to picket or occupy any workplace or school which takes disciplinary action against strikers.
Another speaker, identified as Boots Riley (yes, that Boots Riley, Oakland hip hop fans) held up a piece of paper, saying that “I have an inter-office memorandum from City Administrator Deanna Santana in which she says that any workers who choose to take part in the general strike of Oakland will not face disciplinary action from the city.”
We left a message with the City Administrator’s office asking for comment but have not heard back.
The city’s condoning of participation in the strike by its workers was criticized in an “Open Letter to the Citizens of Oakland” sent by the Oakland Police Officers Association this morning.
(T)he Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.
That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against “the establishment.” But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?
It is all very confusing to us.
The Occupy Oakland site lists five local unions that have endorsed the strike, including SEIU Local 1021, which posted the following on its site:
To avoid misinterpretation: Occupy Oakland has called for a “general strike,” but SEIU 1021 is not asking any members to “go on strike” — that would be a violation of many SEIU 1021 contracts. Instead, we encourage members to use legitimate time off to stand in support of Occupy Oakland and join the day’s events at the “Peaceful Day of Action.”
SEIU 1021 also addresses the city’s view on employee participation:
City of Oakland Workers: The City has agreed that workers may use a day of comp time, vacation time, a floating holiday or leave without pay in order to participate.
We obtained what appears to be the memo from City Administrator Deanna Santana (pdf) that authorizes the time off. It is addressed to Agency Directors/Managers and says that SEIU 1021 requested that…
“…all represented employees be released to either participate in the “Stop Work” action or not be required to come to work for health and safety reasons. Although no other miscellanesous unions have approached me, this directive is applicable to them as well. After careful consideration, I have decided all represented employees who want to avail themselves of the opportunity to participate shall have the following options…
The memo goes on to list the type of paid time off that employees can use. It also says if employees have no applicable time off, they can use authorized leave without pay. Employees can also leave work early after 3 p.m.
The letter also cautions that “appropriate staffing for public safety personnel” must be maintained.
KQED’s Mina Kim talked to Josie Camacho, executive secretary and treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, about labor’s participation tomorrow. She said the council is “asking and urging our various members in our different unions to do various things within their ability.
“If you’re going to work, wear ‘we’re 99 percenters,’ Camacho said. “If you’re coming downtown to ciy hall, join the organized bank action. We’re converging at 5pm at city hall, and a number of our unions are going to be feeding everyone that comes.”
But what about actually going on strike, as the Occupiers are calling for? Mina Kim asked.
“I think what’s happening is that just like in the Occupy movement, there is a process of consensus. Each union, before they do call for a strike, is clear on what the issues are, they have tried everything they can to address those issues, and they take a vote. What we’re saying to people is we have a democratic process in our various unions, and just like in the (Occupy) assembly process, they need to have a voice in that decision-making. If workers just decided to walk off their job, certainly they can do that, but when they come back they may not have a job. And I don’t’ think that’s what the Occupiers want.”
Meanwhile, the city released an advisory yesterday stating that all city offices and services will remain open. “We are not urging businesses to close,” the memo says. “Instead, we advise that they use common sense precautions.”
The advisory goes on: “The City is addressing and monitoring all aspects of Occupy Oakland’s proposed activities for Wednesday in an effort to minimize disruption safety and to promote peace and safety. We are communicating with merchants around Ogawa Plaza and downtown businesses to let them know what precautions the city is taking and to encourage them to monitor the City’s communication channels…”
Yesterday Cy Musiker talked to Fred Glass, who teaches labor history at City College of San Francisco, about the history of general strikes, including one in San Francisco in 1934 and one in Oakland in 1946. Listen here or below: