Bringing Children to the Picket Line is Like Holding Them Hostage or Using Them As Human Shields
I am one acquainted with the striking hotel workers picket lines at the seven struck hotels in Boston. I have walked in the line in sunshine and I have walked in the picket in rain. Some days were cool, some days were hotter. Drums and horns and clappers and tambourines give the workers picket lines a festive feel at times. People dance to the rhythms of the chants and the line can feel like a conga line as we move to the beat. There are bright red shirts and colorful head scarfs.
The Boston hotel strike of 2018 can feel a little like a powerful workers party.
A number of people have brought little children to the picket lines. I saw an toddler in a carriage on the picket line with ear muffs on to protect the child’s ears from the drum circle cacophony. I saw little five year olds on sunny days holding a parents hand as they greeted friends and co-workers. A labor union is a brother and sisterhood.
But…don’t bring small children and youngsters to a labor union picket line.
A picket line is not a protest. A picket line is not a photo opportunity. A picket line is not a publicity stunt.
A picket line is a physical challenge to the boss and owners of the capitalist rights to property. A picket line is a very serious denial of the free use of private property even when the picket line is deliberately or naively mislead and misorganized and misdirected. The physical challenge of a picket line on a property is met with a physical response from the bosses and owners and through their government. At every one of the hotels on strike there were two or three policemen with guns on their hips and handcuffs on their belts and communication devices to summon more forces. The hotels had security guards and private hired guns to protect their doors. There were usually four or five of the suit jacket wearing hotel security personnel.
The safety of any labor union striker’s little children visiting a picket line is very far down the list of what the armed agents of the state and the organized security team of the hotel are concerned with. Things have been calm at the Boston hotels and guests are allowed to casually stroll through the union’s picket lines. Cars and taxis are effortlessly waved across the picket lines to drive up to the hotel doors as the police, or sometimes the union marshals part the picket lines. Very peaceful, so far. I there hasn’t been one arrest.
Labor unions taking money away from a capitalist to increase wages and to pay for benefits is a direct drain on the capitalists profits. Capitalist want the largest profits they can get. The union makes part of its appeal to the public and the company based on what the union members need to have a decent life. The appeal is to the broad public to have sympathy for underpaid workers. There is some response and some support. Generalized sympathy means just about nothing. Thoughts and prayers are not going to wing labor union strikes.
(San Fransisco CA: 12 Oct 2018 – An Uber Driver is knocked to the ground by private security as he tried to deliver a petition asking for higher wages at the company’s headquarters)
There is also a section of the public that opposes labor unions. In general public surveys only 33% of white people support labor unions, while 66% of black people support labor unions. Throughout the time of the Great Depression of the 1930’s public opinion polls conducted by upper middle class magazines blamed the Depression on ‘laziness.’ The wealthy set said they believed that the 1929 crash and mass unemployment was caused by a sudden outbreak of sloth.
There is a large number of people who are indifferent to the unions moral appeal, or downright hostile. There are people who are associated with extreme Right Wing groups who are militantly hostile to labor unions and would consider attacking a labor union picket line. While the US has not had open Right Wing attacks on picket lines in recent history there are examples in the past, and in other countries today. Workers who challenge capitalist property rights should expect the capitalists to defend their rights by any means necessary. History is full of examples of upper class gentle folk with impeccable manners turning to armed Right Wing extremists to defend their property.
Bringing small children to or even youngsters is essentially saying ‘You wouldn’t dare attack me while my children are here.’ Would they?
In Italy after World War II, in the early 1920’s, Leftist would hold a workers rally with 200 people including women and small children; a group of six fascist armed with pistols would run through the crowd shooting randomly to create the maximum amount of terror. Leftist were outraged and appealed to public sympathy. The fascists won on the street, and the fascists took over the government.
Children in my own family have been on the Verizon Strike 2016 picket lines. The Verizon labor unions even had a special ‘Bring You Kid to the Picket Line’ day. But, I didn’t bring children to the picket line, and I would have patiently explained why I oppose this practice. Nothing bad happened to kids at the Verizon Strike 2016 picket line. Nothing bad has happened to the children brought to the UNITE HERE Local 26 picket line strikes.
A labor union picket line is a military situation were workers are putting their bodies on the line to impede a capitalist. Don’t trust the good instincts of a capitalist to protect the safety of your little ones. Don’t bring children to a military confrontation.