From February 6 to February 11, 1919, Seattle workers, demanding wage rises after World War I, walked off the job; for five days, the business of a city halted. Though the strike was nonviolent, the Government moved to suppress it, viewing it as revolutionary, which, combined with union pressure, led to the strike ending. Mayor Ole Hanson called the strike revolutionary: “The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted revolution. …The general strike, as practised in Seattle, is of itself the weapon of revolution.”
Not all opposed the strike. On February 19, 1919, an anonymously-written article supported the strike, quoting journalist Anna Louise Strong: “We are taking the most tremendous move ever made by Labor in this country, a move which will lead – no one knows where!”
History has shown where “where” is. In the 1930s, general strikes, in Toledo, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, provoked unionization throughout the United States.
Exactly one century after the anonymously-written article came to press, Scott Slawson, President of striking UE Local 506, thanked Bernie Sanders for his “unwavering support” for the striking workers. As in the 1930s, when Governor Frank Murphy ordered the National Guard protect strikers at the Flint Sit-Down strike, Slawson seeks pro-labor politicians to support unions. And as in the 1930s, the outcomes of stronger unions are obvious; one Princeton and Columbia study found unions limit inequality, while one International Monetary Fund study found limiting inequality leads to economic prosperity.
Bernie Sanders understands the importance of strong unions, having promoted the Workplace Democracy Act – which would remove restrictions on union activity and expand union rights. Likewise, he champions other reform measures, such as Medicare for All – which economist Gerald Friedman estimated would save $570 billion in healthcare expenses – and early childhood education, which one Rutgers study found produced economic returns of 9 times the costs.
In both cases, Sanders’ stances are not ones of mere political expediency. They are ones taken long before they have become popular, notably introducing legislation establishing a single-payer system in December 2009 and supporting a childcare program in 2011. Likewise, although numerous candidates profess support for Medicare for All, many, notably Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, either declined to comment on policy specifics (Warren) or opposed eliminating private coverage. (Booker) In effect, Booker supported a program closer to means-testing rather than universal social programs, like Bernie Sanders champions. One study found means-tested programs more vulnerable to attack than universal ones; consider the popularity of the universal Social Security and the unpopularity of the means-tested Aid for Families with Dependent Children, the latter of which no longer exists.
Bernie Sanders’ policies reduce economic inequality, save hundreds of billions in healthcare expenses, and reap massive educational and cognitive benefits in the form of early childhood education. In short, they would lead to unprecedented, revolutionary economic prosperity in the United States.
“Revolution… doesn’t need violence” – Ole Hanson.