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May 20, 20

This Is America #117: Out of the Firing Pan, Into the Fire

Welcome, to This Is America, May 20th, 2020.

In this episode, first we bring you an interview with Robert Ovetz, an autonomous anti-capitalist historian who speaks with us on the current spread of wildcat strikes and self-organized workplace actions which have grown in scale in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss current labor struggles and also how the Trump administration is moving to attack migrant workers specifically. Check out our interview with Robert on his book, When Workers Shot Back, here.

We then present an interview with Tapachula Migrant Solidarity, where we discuss the neo-colonial forces in the US and Mexico, which are drastically re-shaping immigration policy in both countries and making it even more dangerous for migrants and those displaced by neoliberalism, climate change, and US imperialism. Donate to support their work here.

We then continue our discussion on Trump’s push to re-open the economy and what the means for both daily life and the coming terrain of social struggle.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news!

Living and Fighting

  • The wildcat strike led by fruit workers across Washington has spread to more than half a dozen sites – with more expected to join as strike committees and assemblies are forming. At the heart of the strike are demands for safer working conditions to prevent the spread of coronavirus and better pay.

  • In so-called South Dakota, tensions have been building between the state government and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala O GLA LA Sioux Tribe who have exercised their sovereignty by putting up checkpoints in order to test for COVID-19. According to Indian Country Today, the “checkpoints [are] on federal and state highways that travel through tribal land. ” The South Dakota governor has issued several legal threats against the checkpoints, yet people have refused to budge in the face of colonial intimidation.
  • In Washington DC, tenants at Meridian Heights have a launched a rent strike, which is part of a larger campaign to demand rent cancellation in the area and across the so-called US.
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These banners are on their way to another building on #rentstrike very soon!!

A post shared by DC Tenants Union (@dctenantsunion) on

  • Meanwhile in Brooklyn, New York, tenants at a complex in the Flatbush neighborhood have also launched a rent strike. A statement on Twitter wrote, tenants “have had enough of their slumlord…They are rent striking for repairs and joining the statewide movement to demand” that rent be canceled.

  • Over the past several weeks, truckers have been on strike and holding noise demonstrations in Washington DC. Last Wednesday, an official from the Trump administration addressed a crowd of striking truckers, which is protesting low pay since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, telling them that Trump supports them and is aware of their grievances. Days later, blaring horns from the trucker’s protest disrupted Trump’s press conference, to which Trump replied that it was the trucker’s showing how much they “loved” him. Truckers were quick to push back on these claims as utter bullshit. According to Business Insider, around 75% of truckers polled in 2016 stated that they supported Trump, however many have recently recanted in the face of tax cuts and other attacks which have hurt truckers directly.

  • A new report from VICE shows that the FBI and National Guard aided in the surveillance and tracking of the recent University of California wildcat strike that broke out earlier this year. The report wrote:

California National Guard, the state’s federally funded military force, provided so-called “friendly force trackers,” a military surveillance technology used to track U.S. troops in military combat, to monitor pickets, according to emails dated February 11 and 13. Police responding to the strike also had access to LEEP, a federal surveillance portal operated by the FBI. The emails show that law enforcement was monitoring student protest groups and social media to plan its response.

  • In Winnepeg, Manitoba First Nations have set up several blockades against a “Hydro work site in Northern Manitoba.” The project is set to bring workers in from across the US and Canada. Native blockaders don’t want to risk the spread of COVID-19 yet have been hit with an injunction to remove the blockade by the colonial courts. In the past, outbreaks of coronavirus have been tracked from similar work camps into Native communities.

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