Over 2 million workers walked off the job across Great Britain Wednesday in a 24-hour general strike. Tens of thousands more across the UK joined them in demonstrations against their conservative government’s draconian austerity programs and cuts. Public services were disrupted in England, Scotland and Wales. (story continues after video)
Here in the U.S., hundreds of union members and Occupy activists picketed the British Embassy in Washington and British consulates in Boston, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco and Chicago. (Chicago video below)
The United Steelworkers union and the National Nurses Union led the mobilization for the solidarity actions. Central labor councils and Occupy movements also helped turn out.
In Chicago, Robert Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, hailed the action of the British workers. The British Consulate is on Michigan Avenue in Chicago and Reiter reminded the crowd that 100 years ago, 70,000 workers marched down the avenue demanding the eight-hour day and workers’ rights. He said in that spirit, “We have to stand up for what’s right like they did. Let’s stand behind our brothers and sisters in Great Britain and let’s stand behind the Occupy movement and workers rights here in America.”
Jean Ross, co-president of the NNU, lauded the solidarity action. Nurses and hospital workers in Britain have been particular targets of the conservative government. Ross said, “We have to stand in solidarity with the British (workers), in solidarity with the French (workers) and in solidarity with every person in this world who works for a living. And we’re going to do it.”
Bill Gibbons, USW retired District 7 co-director, told the crowd that steelworkers stand in solidarity with those unfairly targeted public workers in Great Britain. And he lambasted the brutal austerity attacks on workers around the world and called for more global solidarity to stop the attacks.
Thirty national unions in Britain participated in the walkout in what has been described as the most significant union action in decades. The strike specifically targets efforts by the conservative government to cut public worker pensions affecting health care, transportation, government workers and other service workers.
Photo: Scott Marshall/PW