SEATTLE, WA — “It has to be brought to light,” insisted a white Boeing machinist as more than a dozen union members — black, Latin and white — prepared an anti-racist resolution to support the Jena 6. “I was just talking with my son about the way high schools are organized. Racism is everywhere.” The resolution now sits in the union’s executive board, but the struggle continues on the shop floor.
Before we entered the meeting, we knew we were in for a fight. We were not disappointed!
One low-level official described how he would shake his head at the roadblocks the union mis-leaders put up anytime our left-led, rank-and-file group raised racism. (He actively supported anti-racists during the battle to get the union to participate in last year’s May Day March calling for international unity.) “How can you run an organization like that!” he bemoaned.
Even as the resolution was tabled until next month’s meeting, debates broke out throughout the hall and in the corridors outside. “I don’t want to be a jerk, but what has this to do with the union?” asked one. We replied that anti-racism was crucial to answering the economic and political attacks on our members, like racist subcontracting. We pointed to the parts of the resolution calling for anti-racist, multi-racial solidarity in the upcoming contract struggle. The question of the class necessity of anti-racism was front and center at this overwhelmingly white union meeting.
We wanted to do more than engage in this useful debate. We planned beforehand to use this resolution to jump-start struggle on the shop floor. Jena 6 defense collections are now being taken in a number of buildings.
These “shop-floor” collections — in alliance with the collections taken among non-union subcontractor workers — can lead the way. There are many more black and Latin workers in the plants than at union meetings. Still more black and Latin workers suffer super-exploitation at the hand of vicious subcontractors.
CHALLENGE sales and mailings have increased modestly, spreading the revolutionary politics necessary to marshal this multi-racial force. We’re mobilizing to raise this resolution at various other meetings and conferences during the next month. We can measure the lasting value of this battle through the expansion and consolidation of our CHALLENGE networks here and among the subcontractors. Stay tuned!