SEIU 1021 members and staff join in civil disobedience at APEC protests
No on APEC Coalition protesters blocked CEOs from entering the CEO Summit
At the break of dawn last Wednesday, November 15, SEIU 1021 members and staff were already convening downtown with other local unions and community organizations, preparing to take over the intersection of Mission and 5th Street in San Francisco.
As they reached the intersection, they fanned out, linked arms, and formed chains around the intersection, which was a main entrance to the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.
The summit brought together 21 world leaders and 1200 multinational corporate CEOs to craft free-trade economic policies. These policies have devastating impacts on workers around the world, most of whom do not enjoy the workers’ rights unions have enshrined into law in the U.S., and some of whom risk prison or even death for trying to organize unions.
“It was really important for us to be out there, putting our bodies on the line to show our solidarity with workers in the countries impacted by the policies these government officials and CEOs are making without their consent,” said SEIU 1021 San Francisco Vice President Kristin Hardy, who was part of one of the human chains blocking CEOs and their staff from entering the CEO Summit happening that morning.
“These policies harm American workers trying to make a decent living; they actually kill and enslave workers, including children, in some of the countries affected. We can’t stay silent. They need to know we’re watching. We will keep speaking out, standing up, and fighting back whenever they get together to plan the suffering they are going to inflict on their own people. People over profits!”
“I’ve worked 50 years as a server, as a nurse’s aide, as an RN. I’ve worked for the city. I’ve worked for private hotels. I’m in the musicians’ union,” retired SEIU 1021 member Martha Hawthorne told the San Francisco Chronicle. “As a worker, I am committed to stopping CEOs from wrecking our lives and controlling our politicians.”
Protesters kept the entrance and intersection blocked for over four hours, as leaders of various community groups and organizations took the mic to share how the decisions made at APEC and similar convenings impacted people around the world.
Later that afternoon, union members, organizing gig workers, and other labor supporters joined at Union Square for a labor rally against APEC.
Members of Starbucks Workers United spoke out about their struggle to get a first contract; gig workers spoke to their low wages and their need for a union; striking hotel workers explained their issues and invited attendees to join them on their picket lines.
Alejandro Negrete of the Teamsters Joint Council 7 spoke to the damage Amazon has inflicted on communities: ”We need to take on this monster and giant called Amazon. During the pandemic while people were hurting, dying, and losing their livelihoods, Amazon grew and grew and grew in their profits up to now being worth $1.3 trillion. While they’re investing in their CEO, what are they not investing in?
“Whenever they move into an area, their business model depresses wages in the warehouse and delivery service industries. It’s been proven. These jobs are not careers, and that’s part of Amazon’s model. They have a turnover rate of about 150%. If they keep people on too long, they’re a liability for them. We’re here to tell Amazon that workers deserve safe jobs and fair pay.”