Today on the prompting of Lauren Niedel, the Rhode Island State Representative for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I took a tour of various picket lines featuring striking Verizon workers. The day proved to be very educational in a variety of ways.
Over the past few weeks, I have ridden by Verizon pickets on a regular basis. Here is what happened one day when the marchers protested around a van with scab labor inside parked behind the central branch of the Providence Public Library.
I began the day at a coffee shop where Jobs With Justice’s Mike Araujo came in with his family. We are neighbors and friendly enough that we had a brief chat where he expressed pleasure at the idea of Sanders supporters marching the picket lines with workers, that the movement was using his candidacy as opposed to the other way around. This expresses something that is important to articulate, the fact that there are no disparate protest efforts, there is one movement. It has a long and interesting history here in Rhode Island where it has been called many names but it has always been one, organic, cohesive striving towards social and economic justice.
From the days when Moses Brown began to agitate for the abolition of slavery and when Thomas Dorr began to do the same for poor workers who wanted voting rights, it has existed in a continuity and been called the suffrage movement, the labor movement, the Old and New Left, the black liberation and civil rights struggles, the feminist movement, LGBTQQI rights, ACT-UP, the anti-globalization, anti-GMO organic food farmer markets, #BlackLivesMatter, the environmental and anti-fracking movement, all these and more are part of a whole.
Araujo often talks about how labor is like the Catholic Church, once you are a worker you are in forever, and while I loathe the tendency to equate politics with religion by default because it fails to say that the movement uses religion, as in the case of the Quakers, Malcolm X, or Liberation Theology, he is correct in more than one way. Like the Catholic Church, the movement also has an existence reaching farther back in time than to the life of Karl Marx or whatever persona can be selected from history because, at its core, it is not an individualist movement, it depends on diversity and multiplicity of the masses and in that sense today was, in my mind, indicative of its vibrancy.