I know what the best form of self-care is. Unionising. The pandemic is widening the cracks in our society every day, and the divide between rich and poor has never been starker. But lo, light out of the darkness: Amazon workers in Chicago have won paid time off by forming the organisation Amazonians United and presenting a petition to upper management…
The theme for this month’s issue of Clitbait is Care – taking care of yourself, your loved ones, in the face of a pretty big global crisis! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and will take advantage of the resources that the team will be putting out over the next few days.
But we here in the Politics Department (it’s just me and my carefully crafted Twitter persona) were wondering what I could write about for self-care. Then it occurred to me: I know what the best form of self-care is.
The pandemic is widening the cracks in our society every day, and the divide between rich and poor has never been starker. But lo, light out of the darkness: Amazon workers in Chicago have won paid time off by forming the organisation Amazonians United and presenting a petition to upper management. On Monday, Amazon workers staged a walk-out of a warehouse in Staten Island in protest of the fact that the place had not been sanitised. Meanwhile, bin men in Kent went on strike to get personal protection equipment and won. 130 students in Bristol refused to pay rent until they were released from their leases.
In a way, Madonna was right: COVID is the great equaliser. If the choice is do your job as it is and get too sick to work, or refuse to work, why not strike? People around the world are realising that the services they provide are more essential than their working conditions imply, and are demanding better.
What can we do about it as individuals? It’s hard to imagine taking part in mass action when it’s just you, and it’s especially hard when we’re all supposed to stay inside. But you can get started: talk to the people around you. Don’t just tell them about your views, ask them how they’re doing. Ask them what they think. Find common ground, and then bring up the possibility of organising as a community.
I’ll be real – most strikes require funds, take months, and meet real, hard resistance. But reaching out is still worth it. Lots of people are struggling right now, and the opportunity to connect and to help one another can be as radical as any strike. Child-care, doings repairs, running errands, putting effort into the community will help to resist the forces of oppression. They want us divided!
And these things can snowball. Amazon has quietly fired the workers from Staten Island who stood up for their rights, but it didn’t stop workers across the US from copying them. It might be difficult but we cannot let things return to normal once the lockdown is over – we have to fight for what we are owed. So practice self-care during quarantine and ask your neighbour how they’re doing. It might change everything.
Caitlin Flavell, Political Editor
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