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Solidarity with Workers’ Occupation of Harland & Wolff Shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland Bring the Shipyard into Democratic Public Ownership!

On behalf of working people in Seattle and the United States, we salute the workers courageously occupying the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and send you our full solidarity and support. 

We support the members of Unite and GMB trade unions that started the occupation last week, to defend their jobs and demand that the government bring the yard into democratic public ownership to safeguard its future. It is imperative that the wider trade union movement and working-class communities rally behind these workers.

Through my Council Office, I will be asking leaders of the trade unions here in Seattle and around the United States to start sending messages of solidarity and support of the occupation and the workers at Harland & Wolff. My organization, Socialist Alternative, which includes elected union leaders and many rank-and-file union members, will be joining us in this effort to build solidarity for your action.

I join the Socialist Party in Ireland in urging the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to immediately call for a major demonstration in support of the Harland & Wolff workers’ demands, but also in support of civil servants, healthcare workers, and other workers fighting against low pay, and linking together all these struggles. Only united can we win!

Large sections of the workforce in Seattle and the US are facing similar conditions of stagnating or declining living standards, privatization or closure of public infrastructure and services, and attacks on our unions. In the auto industry across the world, workers face massive cuts in jobs and benefits. We are all confronted with the reality that unless the bosses can squeeze profits from our labor, millions of workers and their livelihoods will be thrown on the scrapheap.  

Over the past year, we have had an outright revolt of hundreds of thousands of teachers and teaching staff across the country fighting chronic low pay and underfunding of public education. 

Like the shipyard in Belfast, the logic of the capitalist market demands that these highly skilled and unionised jobs be lost, ensuring a low wage, precarious economy. Here in the US, since the Great Recession most new jobs offer little in the way of long-term, stable employment. 

Your struggle demanding to nationalize the shipyard, and bring it into democratic public ownership, is extremely important for working people across the globe. As Susan Fitzgerald, Socialist Party member and Unite elected leader, put it from the beginning of the dispute: “Harland & Wolff has the largest dry dock in the UK, it is the envy of shipyards across Europe, and the UK government must look at nationalising the yard to protect the skills that exist today in Harland & Wolff for the future.”

We need to fight for a society based on the needs of the majority and not myopically on the greed of the billionaires. The bosses are driven by short-term, immediate profitability, they are unable to plan and develop industry in any sustainable way. The skills of industrial and skilled workers from steel, shipyards or auto could perfectly well be used in order to rapidly move to a public green energy infrastructure to create jobs and avoid climate catastrophe.   

The election of Donald Trump here has signaled a series of vicious attacks on working people, shameful corporate tax cuts, and an emboldening of the current of dangerous right-wing ideas. Likewise, the election of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and new Prime Minister will mean a continuation of the Tories’ attacks on working-class people if he gets his way. 

Your struggle is the same as ours here in the US: We need to defend jobs, housing, and the environment with a Green New Deal for working people.  

What unites us is the common needs of working people globally and the inability of capitalism to meet them. There are massive resources in our society, and enormous creative potential, yet trillions internationally sit idle while workers are left struggling. We need a socialist economy, run democratically in our interests, not for the insatiable greed of a few.

Solidarity!

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Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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