Working for Change
Speech written for Local 372 DC-37 New York City Schools Division representing 26,221 members who work in elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools, Committee on Special Education schools and parochial schools, 78 NYPD precincts and hotels for the homeless.
Dear Sisters and Brothers;
Dear Members of DC-37, Local 372;
Dear fellow workers!
As I thought about what to say to you, a thousand thoughts flooded my mind.
I wondered about your children, and for some of you, your grandchildren. What do they know about Mama’s work, or Grand pop’s union?
Do they know, even by broad strokes, the history of how workers suffered, and struggled for a 40-hour workweek? For decent pay? For collective bargaining? For healthcare? For pensions?
Sadly, I’d bet most, if not all of them, educated in the public schools, know nothing of these things.
How could they? Drowned as they are in meaningless and punitive testing, how could they?
There’s no time for that.
This isn’t ancient history, yet it’s a lot like asking about the Trojan War.
Mostly, your kids don’t know because it’s simply not taught; it’s not considered important enough to learn, for workers don’t have the social power to make it so.
Yet, the Lords of Capital make sure this important message isn’t transmitted to youth, for it strengthens working-class consciousness.
More distressingly, kids acquire a false consciousness, inculcated by the corporate media, which centers their minds on things, instead of people. (You can call this “bling consciousness.”)
Such a viewpoint denigrates unions, despite their immense social contributions to the working class.
Over a century ago, a vast labor movement swept American cities, by the International Workers of the World, or IWW (called the Wobblies). The IWW wanted all workers united in one big union.
The capitalists, joined by its corporate press, waged a war of words against them, which set the stage for a campaign of legalized state repression that drove them from the stage of history.
Today, they are largely forgotten, just as your kids and grandkids have forgotten your efforts.
But imagine the world they could’ve built—where people are united across false lines of social division.
Imagine the social power they would possess!
Unions can’t stand aside, like kneeling priests while Rome burns; they must live and struggle in the world—this world—for social justice.
They must protest the incarceral state, which consumes your children’s futures.
That is our struggle –thank you!
—March 19, 2014
Write to Mumia at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM-8335
301 Morea Road