“Where’s the Fairness?” chanted about 300 striking Summit Medical Center nurses and other supporters on May 1 in front of Alta Bates Hospital on the Berkeley/Oakland, California border. This California Nurses Association (CNA) event was part of a string of events for the Occupy movement’s call for a May Day General Strike (M1GS). Reporters, tweeters, and bloggers converged in downtown Oakland to report on more tear gas and arrests, but a broader analysis of May Day in the Bay Area conveys a different story.
Historically, successful political movements have a broad-based alliance of distinct groups engaged in their own struggles but which also come together under a common cause. On May Day, labor and community-based organizations, along with Occupiers, participated in a series of events which demonstrated the potential for this unity.
Yes, potential. When I mentioned this observation to some Occupy and labor activists, the reaction was that I was being, well, Pollyannaish. Indeed, two key actions that day created movement schisms. Nonetheless, it is because more organizations want to participate in this broader movement that these inevitable debates occur. Indeed, the organizing of diverse semi-coordinated actions that day by a variety of groups – Occupy, student, labor, immigrant, etc. – was a sign of the possibility of an alliance, however tenuous. Continue reading