Erica Smiley: I’ll talk specifically about what we’re seeing in companies like Amazon and Starbucks – on the right, these worker upsurges. And when you ask workers what motivated them, yes, they want more compensation. Yes, they want to be treated with respect and dignity over their pay – and many of them have been radicalized by the murder of George Floyd.
For example, when you listen to Big Mike in Alabama, or even when you watch Chris Smalls, who was arrested for demanding personal protective equipment, many people who voted yes for the union voted yes against white supremacy, who basically said, I think it was Big Mike who said, “I realized this was our movement for black lives right here in the shop.”
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Subscribe to the NPQ newsletter to get our best stories delivered straight to your inbox.
And so, when we don’t center the struggles against white supremacy and patriarchy when we organize and support workers right now, we are missing a great opportunity. We lack the commitment of workers as whole persons. And we miss the motivating factor that allows so many people to take risks they might not have been able to take before, to stick their heads out.
And to be very clear, this big resignation, part of the reason why I think the framing is wrong is the relief that the workers got during this time, and through the achievement, the recognition of their roles as essential. And then, of course, through these other motivating factors such as their race, gender, and other identities, that workers aren’t fair, they don’t leave the labor market per se. There are some, isn’t there, who have retired, whatever, but a lot of workers just quit those three jobs and take one so that, God forbid, they can go to the football game and their kids’ basketball on Saturday mornings and experience a worthy life.