Chapter News

Fight Back!

Chuck Wynns
June 1, 2020

If you’ve been working through the coronavirus pandemic or are laid off due to coronavirus, you might think things are pretty bad. Give it two, three, four more months and things will be much worse.

Consider this: enhanced unemployment benefits will end on July 31, as will unemployment benefits for gig workers and individual contractors, many of whom still haven’t received a dime in benefits. Also, consider that Oregon’s emergency declaration ends as of July 6. At this point, some workers will be called back to work. These workers will have their unemployment benefits cut if they don’t return to work. Your employer will be following State guidelines, but is it really safe? What’s your employer’s track record with COVID?

Other workers will discover that their jobs disappeared in the COVID-19 crisis. These workers will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits, but they will be much reduced. Such workers will also be thrown into a job market with a current unemployment rate somewhere between 15% to 20%. And let’s not forget many people who don’t have job also have no health care.

Finally, many thousands of workers in Oregon and millions of workers nationwide will be faced with months of back rent owed once emergency measures are rescinded, back rent these workers  cannot pay. And only a fool would think the coronavirus pandemic is over. Texas had its highest number of reported cases on May 17, and cases of COVID-19 are still rising in Oregon. 

This is where you, the reader, come in. Have you had enough yet? Are you tired of constant insecurity, poverty, threat of illness? Are you ready to fight back? Or do you see no other option other than being victimized by an out of control system?

If you decide that you’ve had enough, you are not alone. There’s a  Democratic Socialists of America chapter in Salem. DSA is home to a number of members with rich organizing experience. The Mid-Valley Industrial Workers of the World wants to organize workers and is currently running a rent strike in Corvallis. The Oregon AFL-CIO is doing a great job around worker safety, worker benefits and political action protecting workers in the coronavirus pandemic. But you have to make the contact!

Those of us on the Socialist left have a long collective memory. We know how the working class fought back in the last comparable event, the Great Depression, and how the working class came out of the Depression in a much better condition than  when the Great Depression began. We can do this again! 

Here are a few tactics workers used in the Great Depression:

Unemployed Workers’ Councils: Unemployed Workers Councils organized mass demonstrations for relief and unemployment compensation. Unemployed Workers’ Councils also led rent strikes and organized teams to move evicted workers back into their homes after workers had been evicted.

Mass organization of workers into unions: Consider the sit-down strike. When workers were assaulted by their employers, they sat down, right there, on the job, and refused to move until the employer abuse, whatever it was, was rescinded. The sit-down strike was a national movement in itself and wonderfully created maximum disruption for employers across the land, a very effective tactic in workers asserting their power.

Political Action: Through mass political action, the Communist Party, other Socialists, trade unionists, rabbis, priests and Protestant ministers with working class congregations, etc., played key roles in organizing workers around working class and oppressed peoples’ demands. President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t create the New Deal because he was enlightened. The real  story is that the New Deal was shaped by working class and other oppressed peoples’ political agitation and demands. Were these demands successful? Consider a cable from a local government official to Washington D.C., "send money now or troops later."