On Aug. 27, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor in Game 5 of their NBA playoff series. While this action is being called a “boycott,” what really happened is a strike: labor refused to participate in work. The NBA may say that it “postponed” the rest of the games, but that was a concession to the fact that other teams were likely to strike as well.
The Bucks’ strike also produced clear results. Within three hours of the work stoppage, they were on the phone with the attorney general and lieutenant governor of Wisconsin. Their actions also set the example that other professional athletes followed. The strike spread across other professional leagues, and by the end of the night, professional sports games had been “postponed” in women’s basketball, baseball, and soccer.
The strike needs to continue to spread. It needs to spread to the teachers being sent back into unsafe conditions. It needs to spread to the parents who rely on them for free child care while they work at jobs that don’t pay enough. It needs to spread to college graduates facing student loan burdens they may never pay off. It needs to spread to families who have had loved ones snatched away for deportation. It needs to spread to people who have had their votes taken away from them. It needs to spread into poor Black communities and poor white communities and poor Hispanic communities and poor Asian communities and poor Indigenous communities.
The strike needs to spread because of the horrors of racism. The strike needs to spread because women make up nearly 51% of the population, but only 23% of Congress. The strike needs to spread because the federal minimum wage hasn’t risen since 2009. The strike needs to spread because nearly 180,000 Americans are dead from the coronavirus. The strike needs to spread because Jeff Bezos just passed $200 billion in personal worth in the same month that boosted unemployment benefits ended. The strike needs to spread because there are hungry, homeless Americans even though there is more than enough food and housing.
The strike needs to spread because these conditions have been perpetuated by more than 40 years of both Democratic and Republican leadership. The strike needs to spread because while the largest protests in American history have been a response to police brutality, one presidential candidate has made “law and order” the centerpiece of his re-election. The other wrote a crime bill that exploded prison populations and chose a former prosecutor as his running mate.
The strike needs to spread because the most powerful thing that you can say to someone is no. No, I will not put my life on the line for the economy. No, I will not work for less than I need to live a decent life. No, I will not allow fellow human beings to be murdered because of their race. No, I will not stand for the abuse and degradation of women. No, I will not accept these conditions from anyone, regardless of what political team they play for.
The Milwaukee Bucks said no, and everyone stopped and listened. One team with a platform showed what solidarity and action look like. We can do the same thing. A general strike is the only way we can talk to a bipartisan political class which values money more than our lives.
Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.
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