The Biden administration has apparently determined that it is helpless to stop the rollbacks of pandemic unemployment assistance in red states. Republican Governors in Arizona, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere have eliminated the $300 weekly payment to unemployed workers, included in the American Rescue Plan out of a mostly-unfounded belief that the benefit was causing a labor shortage. As a result, workers will be left holding the bag, “as they are left to collect only as much as their states allowed before the pandemic, which in some places falls below poverty-level wages. Millions more will lose all of their unemployment aid, since states generally did not pay benefits to self-employed and gig-economy workers before last year.” Despite Congress authorizing the $300 weekly benefit, the federal Department of Labor (DOL) cannot actually force states to pay it because the national unemployment system delegates so much authority to states to implement their own systems. Instead, the Biden administration believes that any solution would have to come from Congress.
As Jason wrote Wednesday, Palestinian workers fought back against the Israeli assault on Gaza and oppression of Palestinians across the country by staging a general strike. The strike and its aftermath demonstrated the degree to which Israel is reliant on Palestianian labor. In Modi’in, a city in central Israel, a hundred street cleaners – who have to pass through two IDF checkpoints each morning to arrive each morning for work at 5:30am – did not report for work Tuesday. Modi’in residents wrote to city hall expressing their fury that the cleaners did not report for work. “This is the perfect time to fix this distortion and start to employ only Jews! Or Arabs who are loyal to the State of Israel and declare so openly,” Haaretz reported. The strike had an enormously high participation rate in most sectors. In the construction industry, only 150 of 65,000 Palestinian workers reported to work, causing nearing $40 million in losses for Israeli builders. The vice president of Israeli Builders Association simply said “[w]e cannot build without them.”
And it is not only Palestinian workers standing up against Israel’s destruction of Gaza. In South Africa, dockworkers in the port city of Durban refused to unload cargo from an Israeli ship. This comes days after a similar action in Livorno, Italy. A supporter of the Durban dockworkers said “[w]e salute our dockworkers and will continue to work in struggle with them to ensure that South Africa becomes an ‘apartheid free zone.’” In this country, on the other hand, the assault on Gaza is having an impact on workers and their ability to speak freely. Emily Wilder, a junior reporter for the Associated Press, was fired after a cynical right-wing campaign highlighted her past pro-Palestinian activism while in college. Wilder was assured she would not be fired after the conservative media machine started its offensive against her, but the AP did not live up to that promise and fired her Thursday. “They told me that I violated their social media policy and would be terminated immediately, but they never said which tweet or post violated the policy,” Wilder said. “I asked them, ‘Please tell me what violated the policy,’ and they said, ‘No.'”
Finally, a benefit concert has been organized for tomorrow to support the striking coal miners at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood, Alabama. The Alabama Strike Fest will start tomorrow at 12pm CT; attendees will be asked to make a $20 donation to the miners’ strike fund, but the event is free for miners and their families. The concert will be livestreamed on the Valley Labor Report’s Youtube page. Lee Bains III, one of the performers, told Rolling Stone “[u]nion miners helped to build our home towns of Birmingham, Bessemer and the surrounding areas, and were on the front lines of struggles for workers’ rights, integration, children’s rights, and incarcerated people’s rights. There is a deep, rich history of Alabamians fighting against power structures for themselves and each other, and it’s so inspiring and galvanizing to see Alabamians reclaiming that heritage.”