Supporting the GND means backing striking workers!

It’s gearing up to be the ‘summer of strikes’. From transport workers to post office workers to barristers, lots of big unions are talking about taking industrial action in the coming months. And as climate and social justice advocates, it’s our responsibility to show our solidarity with the union workers who are taking a stand against workplace exploitation.

But why, you might ask? I’m sure we’ve all felt frustrated by strikes at some point - perhaps they’ve disrupted your journey to work, or delayed the arrival of an important package. I was personally disappointed to find out that I won’t be able to make it to a friend’s birthday celebrations this week due to the RMT strikes planned for July 27th.

But at times like this, it’s crucial that we remember that this level of industrial action is not something workers undertake lightly. It’s often a last-resort  to demand fairer wages and better working conditions after all other methods of negotiating with employers have failed. When a trade union calls a strike, you know things are getting pretty serious. This article provides a really great summary of exactly what strikes are and why they happen, and the reasons why we should all be supporting them.

Workers’ rights are central to the  Green New Deal. Fair pay, job security, and unionisation will be guaranteed across the board when we succeed in transforming the economy to serve the needs of people and the planet over profit, with a just transition strategy led by regional workers sitting at the core of our plan. The trade unionists taking industrial action to transform their workplaces are fighting the same fight as us - so it’s strategic that our movement gets involved with the strikes.

How can we get involved?

One key way to support striking workers is by showing up on picket lines, and a few of our organisers have already been doing this over the past few months. In June, I headed down to the RMT picket line outside the station in Cambridge after marching in solidarity with the trade unionists in a brilliant cross-movement demo. With a placard reading ‘Cut Profits Not Pay’ in one hand, a stack of leaflets in the other, four wonderful GNDR comrades by my side, I was ready to channel my anger at our profit-obsessed system into a hopeful demonstration of collective action.

Here I am on the right doing some outreach for GNDR.

Our GNDR strike guidance highlights the importance of understanding that you are there in solidarity with the striking workers, to be polite and friendly, and to clearly communicate that you are there to support them. If you’re going with a big group, it’s good to reach out to your local union in advance and make sure it’s okay for you to come, because there can be some legal issues when too many people join a picket line. In my case, this permission had luckily been cleared and the rail workers expressed how grateful they were to see different groups coming together to support them in the collective fight for justice. 

That day in June was the start of us building a powerful connection between our movement and the local labour movement - one which I will continue to develop when I head back down to the picket lines later this summer. These kinds of connections are going to be super important for us all going forward as we amplify our collective campaign for a just transition. That’s why we really want to encourage as many of you as possible to express your solidarity with the labour movement, both as representatives of our movement and as individuals who believe that everyone deserves decent pay and working conditions. 

The amazing team over at Strike Map UK have created this brilliant tool which you can use to find picket locations near you, and you might also hear about them through local connections. I heard about the RMT picket in Cambridge via a Facebook post shared in a local activist group chat, so keep your eyes on social media and other digital spaces. This might also help you find a friendly group to go to the picket line with! 

So gather your crew, take along some tea and biscuits for the workers on the pickets, rock your GNDR t-shirts, and keep some leaflets handy for anyone who wants to learn more about who we are and what we do. When you’re there, don’t forget to take lots of photos so we can share them on our socials and amplify our support for the strikes even further!