The thirty-five-day Shutdown is currently on pause with a three-week continuing resolution set to expire on February 15th. During the shutdown, 800,000 federal employees were on furlough, and most were “forced’ to work without pay. Many of us were directly affected by the ridiculous showdown between the White House and Congress, but the longer a shutdown last, the more people it impacts. It is an understatement to say that we all watched closely with concern.
If you kept up with events that led to the Shutdown, you know it all centered around a border wall, not border security as the Trump Administration would like for you to believe. To further the absurdity of his wall request, President Trump insists it is necessary to stop dangerous drugs and suspected terrorist that come through our southern border. Anyone who follows our country’s war on terrorism and drug smuggling knows that a wall will not have much effect on either problem. Drugs are regularly smuggled into the United States by airplanes or through the legal ports of entry. Likewise, the “terrorist” suspects the administration is using as evidence for a wall have been found and detained mostly through airports.
During the shutdown, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer did not cave on Trump’s wall demand, but that is likely not why Trump backed down. Just when the Government’s closing felt like it was going to last forever, another narrative started to form.
If you follow me on Twitter or suffer through my timeline on Facebook, then you know about my recent tweets rallying for a general strike to the actor, John Cusack. I believe, like others who support labor and labor movements, general strikes are the real way to give power to our voice and demands. Speeches made from the floors of the House and Senate are not accurate representations of our collective voice. The President spewing propaganda from the Rose Garden is nothing more than hot breath. However, the workforce stopping and standing together, halting the infrastructure that makes America function from day to day, is power. It is the only power we have in this democracy.
What does that have to do with John Cusack? For starters, he is a famous actor who is loud and vocal about politics on Twitter. On the other hand, I am an underpaid, working mom and wife from a small town in Mississippi, who is equally as loud and vocal regarding political issues but to a much, MUCH smaller following. I cannot rally up people, and I cannot offer much support; mostly, I am powerless. But if a small-town, insignificant gal from Mississippi could get a politically-minded celebrity’s attention and start a conversation about the need for direct action during the shutdown, then there is no limit to what we can do as a collective group.
As it turns out, the direct-action conversation was already underway. Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Attendants-CWA, was already meeting and organizing. The shutdown put air-traffic controller’s ability to do their job at risk, which set the safety of everyone who flies or works in air travel in jeopardy. Along with others, Sara was organizing a strike amongst workers in the airline industry, and she publicly informed Trump of their intentions. Consequently, days later a couple of airline workers were forced to call in sick to work leaving air traffic control understaffed and incapable of running according to regulations. This absence in the workflow caused delays and canceled flights at LaGuardia, leaving many grounded. That afternoon, President Trump, announced that he would sign a continuing resolution to temporarily re-open the government.
How ironic that all it took was a group of airplane workers to crumble Trump and his wall briefly? Considering what we know about drug smuggling, terrorism, and airplanes; it was very symbolic that planes won out over a border-wall. I remembered that Cusack once starred in a movie called Pushing Tin about air traffic controllers.
In a way, our whole workforce is pushing tin in some form. Think about the power we hold merely by pushing every day. Now imagine how much more influence we gain by refusing to push. If a nobody like me can get John Cusack to retweet calls for a general strike, then imagine what workers could do if we all stopped pushing our metaphorical tin and stood together in solidarity. That is the real power, that is our power. We should never let the government use us as leverage again; we have far more leveraging power in our hands. We always have and we always will.