Erica Smiley: I’ll speak specifically to like what we’re seeing within companies like Amazon and Starbucks—right, these upsurges of workers. And when you when you ask workers what it is that motivated them—yes, they want more compensation. Yes, they want to be treated with respect and dignity in relationship to their wages—and many of them were radicalized by the murder of George Floyd.
Like, when you listen to Big Mike in Alabama, or even when you look at Chris Smalls, who was arrested for asking for personal protective equipment, many of the people who voted yes for the union were voting yes against white supremacy, who basically said, I think it was Big Mike who said, “I realized that this was our Movement for Black Lives right here on the shop floor.”
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And so, when we don’t center the fights against white supremacy and patriarchy when we’re organizing and supporting workers in this moment, we are missing a big opportunity. We’re missing engaging workers as whole people. And we’re missing the motivating factor that’s allowing so many people to take risks that they may not have been able to take before, to stick their necks out.
And to be very clear, this Great Resignation, part of why I think the framing of it is off is that the relief that workers have gotten in this period, and through the realization, recognition of their roles as essential. And then, of course, through these other motivating factors such as around their race, their gender, and other identities, that workers aren’t just, they aren’t leaving the workforce per se. There are some, right, who’ve taken retirement—whatever—but a lot of workers are just leaving those three jobs to work one so that, God forbid, they can go to their kids’ soccer and basketball game on Saturday morning and experience a dignified life.