To the tune of RuPaul’s Cover Girl, which you may know from RuPaul’s Drag Race, a large contingent of socialists and labor activists chanted “Socialists, put that bass in your walk! Unionize, let the whole workplace talk!”
This was the spirit of the Left and Labor Coalition at the Queer Liberation March, an initiative by Left Voice. It brought together revolutionary socialist organizations, including Left Voice, Socialist Alternative, and Tempest. Starbucks Workers United-Astoria also sponsored the contingent. This store is one of 150 Starbucks locations across the country planning to strike against the company on Friday for taking down Pride decorations.
Other unions who are currently in struggle helped organize the contingent: the Amazon Labor Union, which is in the midst of fighting for a contract, and the REI union in Soho, which is fighting to get pay restored after the company cut pay for the Soho store. The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), public school teachers who are in the midst of a campaigning for a “No” vote on the austerity contract being proposed by New York City were part of the contingent.
Several higher education unions marched as well, including the CUNY Professional Staff Congress (PSC), Student Workers of Columbia – UAW 2710, Fordham Faculty United, SEIU Local 200 United, and Rank and File Action, a CUNY caucus fighting for rank-and-file power over the PSC.
The contingent was also led by dozens of trans youth organized in NYC Youth for Trans Rights, a group of youth who have organized multiple trans rights marches and walkouts over the past few months, including thousands who gathered on Trans Day of Visibility.
This Left and Labor Coalition was part of the thousands of people who marched in the Queer Liberation March which was organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition as an alternative to the corporatized New York City Pride. Its goal is to reclaim Pride’s roots as a protest, particularly as Stonewall happened in response against the police and state violence against the LGBTQ+ community. The march has no corporations and no cops, understanding that Pride is a protest.
As NYC Youth for Trans Rights member Ravin explained, the march “allowed me the space to be my full queer self without worrying about what the people around me think because they have the same experiences.” Another comrade from NYC Youth for Trans Rights, Misa, explained, “I feel the difference in socialists’ support compared to capitalist support. It’s one month a year versus full support year round. The capitalists want to play out my sexuality as a money making scheme. So it’s an easy choice to march with socialists.”
This is an especially important year to march as the Far Right is escalating its attacks on trans rights around the country: over 500 anti-trans laws have been proposed and roughly 80 have been passed. Most attack the right of trans youth to access gender-affirming care, while others ban drag shows. This is part of a broader attack by the Right on bodily autonomy, including the right to an abortion. One year ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
As Michael from the Amazon Labor Union said, it’s essential that we continue to fight in the face of these attacks: “Let’s continue to show up for one another, send the message that we won’t back down, we can do this while not staying quiet when faced with injustice and when our coworkers and loved ones are targeted.”
These are primarily attacks on trans people, but they are also attacks on labor. They attack teachers’ right to support their students and to teach history, to talk about LGBT issues, and for queer teachers to be themselves at school. They are an attack on healthcare workers who wish to support the bodily autonomy of their patients, and increase the workload in states where abortion and gender affirming care are legal.
It is clear that queer issues are working-class issues. Queer issues are union issues. An attack on trans rights is an attack on workers’ rights. That’s the spirit behind the Labor and Left contingent.
As Enid Brain, a rank-and-file union organizer, trans woman, and member of Left Voice said in her speech to the march:
We as workers have so much power. We can shut shit down, we can grind the entire economy to a halt. So let’s follow the example of Starbucks workers who are striking across the country against the hypocrisy of rainbow capitalism and the example of the NYC Trans youth who walked out from schools for trans rights, let’s organize in our workplaces and schools to fight for our rights because we are here and we will not be eliminated.
But we have to go further and build a world where we can do more than just survive. We have to unite our struggles — the struggle for Black Lives, for abortion rights, for bodily autonomy, for unions, and against the entire capitalist system. We need to build something, together. We need to build our own organization, that unites us all that fights for our struggles collectively.
We need to build a party.
In this spirit, Left Voice marched with a sign that said “Unite Our Struggles: Build a working class party that fights for socialism.” We are proposing a manifesto for discussion among the Left and the vanguard of the labor and social movements about building a working-class party that fights for socialism.