WASHINGTON – The National Nurses Union led a coalition of U.S. unions that demonstrated in six cities on Nov. 30 to back British public workers, who staged a one-day strike.
The strike saw an estimated two million British teachers, nurses, public health workers, and members of 30 unions walk off the job to protest drastic cuts in workers’ and retirees’ pensions planned by the Conservative Party government.
“These actions are part of a global response to governments that are pursuing measures that shift the economic and social burden of the economic crisis further onto the shoulders of working people,” said David Cockroft of the London-based International Transport Workers Federation. “Alongside public sector workers, transport workers face demands for wage cuts, austerity, and reductions in social security protection, and suffer from the impacts of free trade agreements and attacks on trade unions worldwide.
“The crisis was the result of deregulated capitalism and was not caused by workers, their unions, social programs, and public sector benefits. That’s why the ITF, as part of the global labor movement, backs not only today’s action but will also support broader movements such as that of the Occupy protesters,” Cockroft added.
In Washington, the NNU led around 200 protesters on an informational picket line outside the British Embassy. It presented a letter to the ambassador protesting the cuts: “We urge the British government to stop its attempt to make public sector workers pay more and work longer to receive a smaller pension when they retire.”
Other demonstrations in sympathy with the British public workers occurred at British consulates in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Orlando, and San Francisco. Other unions joining the D.C. picket line included Teamsters Local 639, the Teachers, the Letter Carriers, SEIU, OPIEU, Pride at Work, and the Metro DC Central Labor Council.
NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, who presented the letter at the embassy gate, made British officials aware of the U.S. solidarity – and of the impact of the pension cuts. “If they don’t have a pension, they won’t be able to retire. They’ll be working when they’re 70” she said of British nurses “and there’ll be no jobs for younger workers.”
SEIU Vice President and Organizing Director Tom Woodruff told PAI there’s another reason for the U.S. workers to aid their British brothers and sisters. “Working people are under attack all over the globe, and they’re beginning to rise up,” he said. “It’s the same forces, the giant multi-nationals that are on the attack against all of us.”