WORKERS’ RESPONSE TO POLICE BRUTALITY:
A NEW, FORCEFUL STRIKE AT FEDEX/TNT
Police brutality, aimed at bending the combative will of FEDEX/TNT workers, has resulted in the opposite effect: in the night of Wednesday, June 17, after an assembly of the night shift, hundreds of workers, also from other warehouses (including workers on strike from the Fedex warehouse in Piacenza), and a large number of supporting activists, mostly youth from social centres and left political organisations, have gathered at the gates of the Fedex/TNT warehouse in Peschiera Borromeo.
Several hundred people composed the picket in support of the strike for the reinstatement of the 66 dismissed workers, and to protest against last week’s police attack.
Many workers and comrades still bore the marks of that violence on their bodies, but their moral was high.
After the ride of 180 policemen inside the Fedex/TNT warehouse in Peschiera Borromeo to oust the workers on strike, who were occupying the plant, and the June 9 police attack on the picket, this labour dispute has grown into a political, working class mobilization, for two reasons.
First, because this is a pilot struggle against dismissals disguised as expiration of fix-term contracts. In the recent months they have been used as “essential workers” and put in harm’s way with insufficient protective measures and devices, only to be thrown into the dustbin a few weeks later, reneging a March 17 commitment to hire them all, after they struck on April 30 for safe workplaces and 100% wages. Tens of thousands of such terminations have already occurred, thwarting the ban on dismissals the government introduced until August 17.
The solidarity of permanent workers is an important achievement, which could not be given for granted, and which we haven’t seen in most workplaces. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is the most chanted slogan among SI Cobas workers.
The second reason is the ideal connection of this large picket with the wave of protests in the U.S. against racist police violence: Black Lives Matter could be read on a banner, together with “Workers’ Lives Matter”.
Here too the police exercised its violence against mostly immigrant workers, on behalf of the American multinational company Fedex, which boasts its union busting success in the U.S. Here as there racism is used to divide the working class.
The League’s chief Matteo Salvini is advocating the same white nationalism as Donald Trump, to shift the blame for this health and social crisis from the capitalist class onto immigrants – and foreign powers.
Here in Milan as in a number of U.S. cities white workers and youth are standing up together with immigrants, black, brown and ‘yellow’, against police violence. It happened on June 6 at the successful demonstration called by the Action Pact in the centre of Milan, on June 7 with thousands of youth in front of Milan’s Central Station to join the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
State violence, far from isolating a labour struggle, has brought together people engaged in separate routes, youth volunteering in the emergency brigades to provide food and essentials to the people this crisis has left with no means of subsistence; young activists trying to solve the housing problems with occupations of empty spaces, and/or struggling to improve their neighbourhood’s liveability and environment; healthcare workers thrown on the front line, aware of the contradiction between profit and life, together with SI Cobas and other militant union members.
FedEx is a powerful corporation, capable of pushing the Italian Interior Ministry into sending one or two hundred policemen to serve its interests against workers. It has budgeted millions to get rid of 66 workers after they have been working at its warehouse for five years through a temporary employment agency even offering them golden handshakes; it has probably budgeted even more millions to get rid of the SI Cobas union, as it is its practice in the U.S., in order to have a free hand in carrying on its restructuring plans aiming at less permanent, more temporary workers, i.e. maximum flexibility, and job cuts in the “national” business.
We are also fighting to prevent that this FedEx model doesn’t become the standard, anti-union model across the logistic, transport and delivery industry.
But it has not reckoned with the solidarity between workers, both within the Peschiera Borromeo plant, and at warehouses across Italy, with strikes in Brescia, Piacenza, Parma, Bologna, Turin, Rome, Naples, and with the wider movement in support of workers. FedEx is not yet willing to sit at the table. On next Wednesday, June 24 Fedex workers hold a sit-in at the Prefecture of Milan.
Our adversary is big and powerful, and when you engage a battle, you can win or lose. If you don’t fight, you’ve already lost.
The outcome of this pilot struggle in the Covid-19 crisis will depend on the determination, unity and endurance of workers and of the wider anti-capitalist movement in an ideal connection with the U.S. Black Lives Matter movement and the international solidarity protests.
SI Cobas International Solidarity Committee
June 21, 2020