Who do you build solidarity with?

If the early Trump era has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t afford to be siloed in our work to build power for the precarious. The Administration, along with its allies in Congress, has proved that they are able to carry out multiple attacks on our hard-fought victories–sometimes within the span of a single day–even while managing a news cycle that seems to explode hourly with new signs of the president’s slipping grasp on reality.

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March (and of course, of the inauguration that preceded it), which kicked off a year of massive mobilization to demonstrations, hearings, town halls and rallies across movements. And of course, we’re also about to hit the 50-year anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign, which is being revived for the 21st century by Rev. Barber and many others.

It’s got me thinking a lot about the concept of solidarity and how it is practiced (or sometimes just given lip service to), in the US–particularly for unions who, in earlier decades, fought the fights that brought the majority of their members into the middle class.

I’d challenge all of us to ask ourselves, our leaders, and our friends the following questions:

  • Does your practice of solidarity require you to enlist your middle-class members in the #fightfor15?
  • Does your practice of solidarity require you to educate your white members about why #blacklivesmatter, and to get them in the streets?
  • Does your practice of solidarity require you to recruit the men in your membership into fighting sexual harassment? And to understand why reproductive justice is an economic issue, as well as a health care one?
  • Does your practice of solidarity require you to confront your US citizen members with the need to defend the undocumented and the DACA-mented?
  • Does your practice of solidarity require that your abled members stand up for the disabled, on and off the job?
  • Does your practice of solidarity require you to press your straight members into fighting for LGBTQ rights?

For progressive, membership-based organizations, the practice of solidarity requires political education of the members. We won’t get to where we need to be until we start talking to our members about our analysis of power–how it is created and held, how we are complicit in it (some more than others), how we are going to fight it and win.

We can’t build a movement for economic justice unless we expand our concept of solidarity beyond the borders of our own organizations. Nor should we keep spouting the word “solidarity” without actually showing up to do the work that makes it real.

For the next year, at Hack the Union, I’m looking to highlight stories of solidarity-building–and in particular, to delve into the strategies that organizers are using, to build alliances across difference. If you know of an organization that’s doing great work in this arena, send me a tip.

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