Opinion: Don’t you dare cross that strike line

Don’t cross picket lines of striking workers. It hurts their ability to negotiate with corporate and reflects poorly on you.


The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Smith

Organizers and protestors chant in support of laborers during a Labour Walkout event in Des Moines on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Organizations in support of laborers across Iowa such as Service Employees International Union, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and Democratic Socialists of America participated in the rally. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

This pandemic has hurt everyone — but some are more hurt than others. Service workers who are interacting with people every day while going about their jobs are in some of the most precarious situations today, and they are not being fairly compensated for it. In protest of unfair working conditions, hundreds of thousands of workers will begin a general strike May 1.

From retail work to food manufacturing, workers require proper wages for their labor in wake of this pandemic. They are risking their lives each and every day they go into work and are not being treated fairly, whether it be a lack of personal protective equipment or an absence of hazard pay.

It’s not as though these retailers and service providers are hurting either — Amazon alone has had its shares reach a record high at $2,449.05, with CEO Jeff Bezos’ fortune reaching past $138 billion.

Companies such as Amazon, Target, Walmart, and any other large brand can easily afford to provide for its workers. They just don’t feel the need to.

That is why this upcoming strike is so important. In order to make these corporations give the workers what they are owed for their labor, they must feel the pain workers do.

They must be made to understand that without labor, there is nothing. That to keep the labor they have, they must give their workers what is necessary to make it through this economic hardship.

To anyone who thinks this is an immoral act — to seek an increase of wages during a pandemic — I can see where you’re coming from. These are services that are required for society to function. Everyone has to eat, get supplies for work, and be able to keep themselves occupied during whatever stay-at-home orders you’re under during this time. What right do these workers have to hold these services hostage?

But I have to ask — what right do we have to hold workers hostage? We have to work to live, to have shelter, food, and water. These jobs may be all that allow workers to live, because without adequate social welfare, they will lose their homes and their ability to eat.

Should we force people to risk their lives at these mind-numbing jobs for a pittance of what corporate makes? Force them to risk their lives when it’s possible to make it safer for them?

I am not asking anyone to join in the general strike, although if you are interested, genstrike.org has an excellent May Day guide put together.

All I ask of those of you reading this is to please respect these workers’ rights to strike. Do not cross those lines come May 1.

If you believe this is just some minor action that won’t amount to anything, I urge you to reconsider, because such strikes are how workers won some of the most important victories throughout history. The eight-hour work day, weekends, minimum wage, the abolition of child labor, and more all came from the influence of labor unions and strikes.

We are on the cusp of great change. In the coming months of this pandemic, as our society continues to adapt, we must make conscious decisions as to how to spend our time, money, and effort.

Please, for the sake of your fellow human beings, respect the strikes. Spend your money at locations that give their workers protective equipment and livable wages. If you want to do more, then please, do more, but at the very least, respect what these workers are trying to accomplish.

Individually, your action may not mean much. But if everyone, everywhere respects the strike, we can help provide and protect fellow workers now, and into the future.