Now’s the time to organize the unemployed

BY: CPUSA Labor Commission| June 15, 2020
Now’s the time to organize the unemployed


In response to the crisis in unemployment resulting in a large part from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Party has undertaken an effort to organize unemployed workers and their allies into unemployed councils. This was initiated by a trade unionist who spoke with Joe Sims about the need to organize unemployed workers to protect them in a safe manner when they return to work, to provide economic support on an immediate basis, and to provide them a greater sense of organization when they do return to work.

In discussion with the Labor Commission, we came up with some proposals which we acted on or are in the process of acting on.

1) Take out a Facebook ad with a phone number workers can call to get help and information about benefits as well as organizing unemployed councils.
2) Begin conversations with friends and allies about their ideas and level of support for organizing unemployed councils.
3) Hold a national town hall meeting on the crisis of the unemployed and what can be done about it. We are looking at a date in mid to late July.
4) The Party convened a meeting of the various workers centers around the country that we are involved with to discuss how they can assist in the organizing committees.
5) Have assisted a number of local organizing committees to get started, including Houston, Austin, New Haven, Chicago, Nashville, Colorado, and Oregon, and are starting in NY, Detroit, and others.
6) Have placed articles in the PW on organizing unemployed workers’ efforts in the past, including Lorain, Ohio, and JOIN in Chicago in the 1980s as well actions going on today.
7) The Party sent out a digital pledge card asking people to pledge to help with the organizing and have received over 200 responses.
8) The Labor Commission has set up a committee to specifically work on organizing the committees, and it has been meeting regularly and continues to develop new contacts.

We have not put together a specific program and demands because we are trying to build the coalitions first, but some issues have arisen that stand out. These are:

  • Full extension of the expanded $600 unemployment benefit
  • Health care for all and no cut-off of any benefit
  • No evictions or water shut-offs
  • Secure safety measures for those working now and those coming back to work as the economy opens up
  • Inclusion of undocumented workers in all benefits
  • Passage of the Heroes Act

This crisis is not going away. There are some industries like hotel and restaurant, airline and transportation, and some retail that will be permanently affected. Almost 100% of the members of Unite Here! in Chicago are laid off. And without some form of assistance, people will be left to starve—low wage and desperate. This is what Trump wants to do: reshape the economy and country to accommodate the corporations.

Our vision is the opposite, and if we respond right away, we can reshape the economy and the country in favor of working people. But none of this will happen without a fightback and struggle.

The unemployment crisis is compounded by the police brutality evidenced in the murder of George Floyd and others and the response of hundreds of thousands of people to racial injustice. The plague of racism impacts people of color in regard to both the Covid-19 pandemic and the unemployment crisis. The rates of infection and death are much higher in communities of color, as are the rates of job loss and wage cuts.

We have begun to respond. One other contribution the Party can make is on the ideological level. We need to understand the importance of uniting our entire working class in this fight. That means seeing that undocumented workers and unemployed workers are a crucial part of our working class, not a separate group, and it is our responsibility to point this out and guarantee their inclusion in receiving benefits as well as in leading these struggles.

Report given by Steve to the National Committee meeting, June 6, 2020.

Image: Unite Here! Facebook.


Related Party Voices Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer