As strikes go, there weren’t a large number of workers involved in the most consequential work stoppages of the past week. And professional athletes are often framed as something other than real workers. But make no mistake, when the players on the Milwaukee Bucks said they weren’t playing their playoff game on Wednesday in protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, that was a wildcat strike, and it turned into a seriously successful one.
In the tradition of unions organizing for the broader public interest—as when teachers in Chicago and other cities negotiate for services that benefit their students outside of school as well as in class, for instance, or when unions pour money into raising the minimum wage for all workers—the players of the NBA and the MLB and the WNBA and other leagues made advances for everyone. Turning arenas into polling places could help with voting lines in key cities around the country. And the players—the workers—highlighted a major injustice in this country peacefully though not without disruption, again challenging the “I’m in favor of peaceful protest, just not riots, except oh, by the way, I was really really mad at Colin Kaepernick” crowd. As Hamilton Nolan writes, the athletes also reminded workers that they, too, have leverage.
From that piece by Nolan:
Here I just want to make a simple point: these NBA players may be rich and famous, but in this case, they are not doing anything that you can’t do too. The power they are exercising here is not athletic power, but labor power. They are members of a union, the National Basketball Players Association, and that union has a contract with the NBA, and that contract prohibits them from striking. Yet they struck. And not only did they get away with it, but it was a spectacular public success. They pulled off a wildcat strike because they have leverage. Because they can. That is the only power that really matters in the workplace. Everything else is imaginary.
● MGM Resorts has officially laid off 18,000 furloughed workers. The company said it hopes to be able to recall workers as it reopens properties.
● Black workers are more likely to be unemployed but less likely to get unemployment benefits. A lot less likely.
● Reopening schools too quickly is a great way to end up with remote learning for most of the school year. According to the Harvard Global Health Institute’s Ashish Jha: “The bottom line is not whether you're pro open school or against it, it's do you have a sustainable plan for keeping schools open.”
● The failure to unionize the tech industry will eat the labor movement alive, writes Hamilton Nolan.
● Overturning Austerity 101: California's Prop 15 will tax the rich.
● Heat, smoke, and COVID-19 are battering the workers who feed America.
● That guy who cleaned your airplane seat feels sick and hasn’t had a COVID-19 test. Enjoy your flight.