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18 March 2020
for Workers Action in Coronavirus Crisis
Class Struggle Workers – Portland and other
trade-unionists at 17 August 2019 anti-fascist
Our brothers and sisters in Class Struggle Workers -
Portland issued this call for action by the unions and
workers organizations on March 18:
In the current coronavirus/economic crisis, working
people – and particularly those who live paycheck to
paycheck – are being pushed into unbearable situations.
Many are forced to make agonizing decisions when it comes
to going to work, often with inadequate safety and labor
conditions. Those who are thrown out of work are left to
fend for themselves. Those least able to protect
themselves face financial ruin burdened with medical bills
beyond their means.
In this crisis, Class Struggle Workers – Portland
calls on unions and all workers to demand the following
in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis:
- All workers who are unable to work as a result of the
virus – including any who feel that their continued
presence on the job puts their health at risk – shall be
paid in full for all time missed until they are able to
return to work, with no penalty or disciplinary action
from their employer.
- All workers who continue to work shall be furnished
with all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary,
as determined by the workers themselves. All workplaces
shall adopt immediate safety measures including frequent
sanitizing practices, handwashing facilities, and
physical separation as much as is required to protect
- Unions must vigorously defend the health and safety of
their members and others, including in categories that
have been ruled essential services. Utilities workers
unions should announce that they refuse to cut off
services due to non-payment for the duration of the
- All testing and medical treatment should be free and
available on demand.
The current Portland Sick Leave law only allows employees
to accrue 40 hours of paid leave per year. As many
businesses have been ordered to close for at least four
weeks in Oregon, the situation for those workers is dire.
Without immediate assistance, they not only may lose their
housing, but also their health insurance. There should
be unlimited sick
pay at the highest level. The same should apply to
those who need to care for family members.
Labor must demand that working people must not be
sacrificed as businesses and services are shuttered. All
are affected. Portland schools closed, teachers will
continue to be paid, but the classified staff will not. We
protest this outrage, and demand that all staff be paid.
In Seattle, Teamsters are calling for all Uber and Lyft
drivers to receive $1,000 a week in compensation for lost
work. This should be a demand on employers and governments
across the country. The CSWP says, rather than vague calls
for relief, unions must immediately begin organizing to
demand full pay for all workers who have lost time as
a result of the virus.
Unions should also take the lead in forming health and safety
committees, to be elected at every workplace, both
union and unrepresented, to ensure that all safety
measures are being enforced for all workers, and that all
necessary equipment is available. Unions should make every
effort to ensure that unrepresented workers also have
access to every protection. No work should be performed
until these basic safety practices are in place.
Schools closing has put a tremendous strain on working
and low-income families, and women in particular, as
someone must care for the kids. Workers organizations must
high-quality child care facilities for all who need
them, including organized educational
The fact that everyone must have a home is even more
obvious and urgent during a pandemic. A militant workers
movement would work with tenants and homeless
organizations to stop
evictions, take over unoccupied apartments, investment
properties and second homes of the wealthy and
occupy hotel space to provide housing for the homeless instead
of the huge profits of speculators and price-gougers.
Many of the most vulnerable in this crisis are
immigrants, who face not only loss of income, lack of
medical care and their children being deprived of school,
but the ever-present threat of deportation. Now in
California, New York and elsewhere, I.C.E. is taking
advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to make more raids
and arrests. Unions must demand: Stop the raids and
deportations! Shut down the immigrant detention centers
(concentration camps) – Free the detainees to return to
their families and communities! I.C.E. out of Portland!
The ruling parties are exploiting this crisis, with the
Democrats whipping up hysteria on one hand, in a cynical
attempt to score points in an election year, while Trump
tweets out an image of himself fiddling as Rome burns,
exploits the crisis to push fear of “foreigners” and hands
out $1.5 trillion in free money to Wall Street.
The working class needs a party that can fight for free
healthcare for all, full paid leave for all workers who
are unemployed, displaced, sick, or otherwise unable to
work because of the virus, and immediate safety measures
to protect workers who must still go to work. The urgent
need for an international revolutionary workers party
could not be more clear as the pandemic unfolds.
A mass, militant workers movement with a class-struggle
leadership would establish workers commissions at workplaces
to decide appropriate measures, including shutting down
where necessary, with no loss in pay, or continuing
production with needed safeguards.
Ultimately, it will take a planned economy capable of
redirecting production and distribution of medical
equipment, safety equipment and basic necessities for a
large-scale outbreak, with workplaces organized with the
safety of workers as a central priority, in order to
effectively fight a pandemic. That means a fight to end
this capitalist system of profit-driven chaos,
incompetence, racism and exploitation, and establish a
With the lives and livelihoods of so many workers and
oppressed people in the balance, the only way forward is
class struggle. ■
The call is posted
on the Class Struggle Workers – Portland website, https://csw-pdx.org.
To contact the CSWP, write to firstname.lastname@example.org