An Oakland General Strike Roundup


So, here’s something amazing.

Tomorrow, November 2nd, Occupy Oakland is organizing the first general strike in America since 1946.

Can we just stop and sit with that for a moment?  General strikes happened in France in 1968, almost bringing the Fifth Republic to its knees. Or Britain in the 1920s. Or the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, helping to bring down the Soviet Union. Things like this just don’t happen in America.

But now we’ve got one. And it’s smaller, and the unions have their hands tied a bit. But it’s here, and the idea seems to be growing organically, much like the Occupy movement that spawned it.

In Oakland, participants will be doing everything from protesting banks and closing down the Port of Oakland to going on stroller brigades. Here’s a calendar. And some amazing posters.

SEIU Local 1021—the largest union in Oakland—and  the Oakland Teacher’s Union have decided to endorse the strike and encourage employees to take a personal day, though, in what is kind of a sad state of affairs, SEIU can’t officially call for a strike because many of their members have no-strike clauses in their contracts.

One elementary school sent a note home to parents saying that school would be out for the day.(UPDATE: Now two elementary schools and one high school have closed and 182 teachers have requested subs.) The IWW, the Carpenters Union, and others have also voiced support. Here’s a complete list of union endorsers and their solidarity statements.

The Longshoremen, though also not legally allowed to strike, have vowed not to cross the picket line when protestors go to shut down the Port of Oakland that evening before the night shift. A similar action in 2003 resulted in a severe police repraisal much like what we saw a few days ago when police tried to shut down the Occupy camp.

Boots Riley’s Twitter seems to be a good source of information, as well as, of course, the OccupyOakland feed.

Historical fact: The last American strike was also in Oakland, and it sounded hella cool. There was food and beer and jukeboxes in the streets playing “Pistol Packin’ Mama, Lay That Pistol Down.

Not in The Bay Area and want to take part? Occupies all over are having marches in Solidarity, many are calling for a buy-nothing day, and, even if you’re elsewhere, you can still call in sick. Why the hell not?

UPDATE: Here’s a list of businesses and cooperatives honoring the general strike. 

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →