Edward Snowden Had a Breaking Point, Where He Decided to Risk It All to Fix This Country -- What's Yours?
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Another big area of continuing and escalating activism is around labor. The week began with the Walmart shareholders meeting where a Bangladesh activist addressed shareholders about unsafe working conditions and Janet Sparks, a Louisiana worker, pointed out “our CEO Mike Duke made over $20 million last year more than one thousand times the average Walmart associate, with all due respect, I have to say, I don’t think that’s right.” Then she quoted Walmart founder Sam Walton: “Listen to the Associates!” Activists say the campaign is working – building consciousness among workers and consumers; and affecting sales at Walmart which have been stagnant. The number two retailer, Costco is seeing rising sales and rising stock values while paying employees good wages. On the contrary, Walmart workers need government services to get by.
Labor struggles are not only at Walmart. Target contract janitors announced they would be going on strike in Minneapolis. Photographers at the Chicago Sun-Times are picketing the newspaper after it laid them off. Labor leaders are calling for a boycott of Labatt beer as scabs have been working in place of workers on strike since April at the St. John’s brewery. General Motors workers in Colombia have been striking due to unfair working conditions. They literally sewed their mouths closed in hunger strikes and occupied in front of the US embassy as well as bringing their concerns to the Detroit shareholders meeting. More than ever, it is an imperative to rebuild an aggressive labor movement that is independent of the Democrats and stands for working people. In Europe labor unions are rallying on Juneteenth against austerity and for tax justice.
Like many cities, Baltimore has a problem with abandoned homes. In Baltimore, MD there are 40,000 of them. An activist group, Slum Lord Watch, is using an interesting tactic, artwork. They teamed up with an artist, Nether, to beautify the buildings and call out the owners in what they are calling the Wall Hunters: the Slumlord Project. They have 15 murals so far and each includes a QR Code which links people to information about the owner of the vacant building.
Another protest people may want to emulate is the Carnival Against Capitalism. This event began with the WTO protests in 1999, and is being used this year in the run-up to the G8 meeting in London. Activists worked in several sections of the city including taking over an abandoned police station.
More and more people are becoming active. What holds others back? Perhaps their breaking point has not been reached or they do not have the time or resources to understand what is going on. One of our jobs in building a mass movement is to educate people in several areas. We can start by listening and bringing facts to explain their feelings about how bad our situation has become.
Right now an issue that is driving some people is their concern about the security state. Conor Friedersdorf’s article explains that Presidents Bush and Obama have put in place all the infrastructure that a tyrant would need. The author says that his article “is an attempt to grab America by the shoulders, give it a good shake, and say: Yes, it could happen here.”
It also helps to show people that protest and campaigns of resistance work. There are so many examples throughout history. Harvey Wasserman provides a recent example, showing how the anti-nuclear movement worked to stop nuclear power plants and how the recent closure of San Onofre is part of an ongoing movement in the United States and around the world. And Bill Moyer wrote about the eight stages of a successful social movement.