The movement by auto workers not to make cop cars, tech workers not to make surveillance equipment for repression, furniture workers not to supply ICE, GE workers to build respirators, and so on is a promising sign that the new labor militancy is not only around wages or benefits, but about workers reclaiming some degree of ownership over our work and a say in what we produce. Workers are seeing our work in the context of our community and demanding the right to make socially useful things. This is a crucial boundary for workers to cross and one that labor law and the conventions of our labor movement- even many "radicals" in the labor movement- insist we cannot or should not. Worker power can make and actually give teeth to social demands that activists have ineffectively lobbied for. Making demands around what we produce breaks down the role of the worker as an obedient provider of labor and asserts ourselves as people with agency and a political interest- as workers who could, with enough power, make decisions on what to produce entirely on what is socially useful. The new labor movement will not be apolitical or see the walls of the job site as the horizons of workers' concerns.
July 10, 2020