The following statement was delivered by Arlo Hennessy on Labor Day 2020 as part of an action by the Southern Maine Worker's Center
They Vacation While We Die
by Arlo Hennessy
“They vacation while we die.” We are the workers- “When we talk about the Workers’ Center organizing for racial, economic justice and human rights, we use the term "worker" in its broadest sense. We understand that most people are workers, including those who are employed by the formal economy, hustling in the informal economy, taking care of their families, or unemployed due to the pandemic. Workers may or may not be protected by employment law. They may or may not be receiving wages. All of those who are struggling with the impacts of the global economy, neoliberal policies, and economic injustice-- key parts of a system that attempts to deny us our human rights-- are in essence workers.”
They are politicians, who are supposed to be working for us, but instead are on vacation. Time off from; squabbling, self aggrandizing, and lining pockets with business handouts. While the family cares & heroes act, collect dust, and Trump’s worker relief bill goes unchecked. Today, Maine workers at restaurants, resorts, ice cream shops and coastal businesses are exposed to COVID-19 so these same politicians can enjoy vacationland. If a vacation is the fruit of our labor, then right now it is a poison apple.
I want to highlight what was said today, the pandemic & subsequent labor crisis has hit black, latinx, native/indigenous, asain, and workers of color the hardest. Black workers are in the midst of another crisis, the state sanctioned murder of black americans at the hands of police. BLM has a platform that amongst many demands, is calling for the abolition of police as an antidote to violence, because as Gil Scot Heron once put it “America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey.”
Black liberation, decolonization, no borders- ending white supremacy needs to be a tenant of the labor movement, because without us there is no labor movement. The labor movement is the abolition of slavery, chinese rail workers, the latinx and philipino farmers of the chicano rights movement, Ai Jen Poo and the domestic workers bill of rights, the Somali warehouse workers organizing against trillion dollar multinational corporation Amazon. We cannot let the bastards win, by dividing the class and race struggle as if they were not one. That's why I call on my brothers and sisters of the labor movement to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and endorse their platform. To do otherwise, portends more violence, death and the further erosion of union brotherhood.
I end with a quote by Martin Niemöller, which illustrates how cowardice in the face of facism lead to the atrocity of the holocaust.
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. "
We are blocking traffic for a moment of silence, for the people lost to the pandemic and violence of this historic crisis, both directly and indirectly beginning with; the workers lost to COVID-19 and the disproportionate rates of fatalities that have claimed the lives of black, navajo, latinx, and poc workers across the country & Maine. Specifically the 125 + tyson chicken poultry workers and 499 navajo (data).
This moment is to honor the black lives matter movement, and mourn for our black lives lost to police brutality and white supremacy in America. We call for justice for James Blake & his family, and Breonna Taylor, for David Okat and Chance Baker Portland, Maine. Kawom Smith- Walker, Lincoln county Jail Auburn Maine. Too many more to count, Black Lives Matter.
This moment is for those who have died due to the housing crisis, lives lost from illness, overdose, or exposure in Portland Maine.
Lastly, this moment is for our & your loved ones in the labor movement who passed this year; Wayne Poland, Tina Malcomson, Juliet Holmes Smith, Steve Gordon, Mark James, Sandy Bishop.
Hold these people & uprisings in your hearts while we pause, beginning now.