AuthorJaffe, Sarah

On the afternoon of September 27, as British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer prepared to deliver a speech at the party's conference in Liverpool, a group of dockworkers from the nearby port marched on the conference, chanting, "If you won t stand on the picket you're a scab!"

The dockers had been on strike for a week at that point, and the Labour Party had been in town since September 25, but Starmer would not visit the strikers. Plenty of other Labour Members of Parliament (MPs) had. On the previous morning, I visited the lines myself, having interviewed several of the strikers previously, and crossed paths with Labour MPs Zarah Sultana and Richard Burgon, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and the previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But Starmer, in his bid to push Labour back to the center, had even refused to join striking transport workers in his home London constituency, and had removed a member of his shadow cabinet for appearing on a picket and speaking to the media in favor of the strikers.

The strikers' anger at Starmer was particularly poignant because this summer and fall saw strikes across the country. Waves of workers--most of them the essential workers who kept laboring through the pandemic's worst days--demanded raises in keeping with spiraling inflation, and with equally spiking corporate profits. As the Conservative Party slid into utter meltdown, crashing the currency and spooking global markets with policies apparently too market-friendly, the Labour Party attempted to ignore the demands of those who should be their base. Working people took matters into their own hands, organizing around the cost of living crisis in workplaces and in the streets, and chalked up wins as the political parties stumbled.

The Liverpool port wasn't even the only port on strike--workers at the port of Felixstowe, Britain's largest container port, were on their second multiday strike the day the Liverpool dockers marched on Starmer. The two ports are owned and operated by two private companies, but the workers are members of the same union, Unite, which also represented striking bus drivers in London and Kent, Northern Ireland Housing Executive staff (who remain on strike), aerospace manufacturing workers at Honeywell, and hospitality workers in Scotland, who won back pay and a say in how their tips would be distributed, among others.

Listing all the strikes would take up more space than this column allows--Emiliano Mellino's The Week...

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