Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Roe Is About to be Overturned: Organize With Your Co-Workers to Fight for Abortion Rights

Roe v. Wade is about to be overturned, marking the biggest defeat of the feminist movement in the past 50 years. We need to organize in rank-and-file committees to mobilize for reproductive rights.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

June 20, 2022
Facebook Twitter Share
Protester holds a sign that reads "Pro Union, Pro Choice"
Photo: Luigi Morris

After the Supreme Court leak, we all know: it’s a matter of days before abortion is made illegal in at least 13 states across the country. 

 The Right is on the offensive: in addition to taking away abortion rights they’re also attacking voting rights, trans rights, and especially trans youth. This right wing won’t stop at overturning Roe — it will also come for abortion pills and for abortion all over the country, and wants to take away the few rights that have been won by trans and LGBTQ+ people.

The situation is dire. 

Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March are essentially absent from the struggle. While they organized a big march when the decision first leaked, they are nowhere to be seen now.

Some unions have issued statements in support of abortion rights and a few brought small contingents of workers to the marches organized by Planned Parenthood. The vast majority of unions, however, have said and done essentially nothing as a large swath of their members lose the right to bodily autonomy. This includes the two biggest unionized forces in the US– teachers and nurses who are disproportionately made up of women.  It’s not surprising that unions have done so little — so many “business unions” see their members as at best clients to provide services to in order to stop any radical activity while using workers’ money and energy to tie those workers to the Democratic Party. These top down unions tied to capitalist politicians aren’t fighting forces for the working class.

If we want to defeat these attacks on our rights, the rank and file have to take things into our own hands in this struggle. We can’t wait for union leadership, and we certainly can’t wait for Planned Parenthood or the Women’s March. 

Rank-and-file workers must form rank-and-file committees to fight for abortion rights: Teamsters for Abortion Rights, Starbucks Workers for Abortion Rights, Teachers for Abortion Rights, and more. These kinds of committees can and should organize other workers to take to the streets in protests — getting out more people than the small handful that the union leaderships moved last month. These committees can organize workplace actions, from small ones like wearing green, to bigger ones like a 13 minute work stoppage for the 13 states with trigger bans, or even a walkout and full day work stoppage for abortion rights. On the day the decision comes out, these committees could organize an action, a work stoppage. They should mobilize their members to join the action on the day the decision comes out. 

These kinds of committees are meant for action, but also for discussion. They are a way to build community, build political agreement, and discussion amongst co-workers. 

These committees aren’t just another activist group. They are important for two primary reasons. On one hand, they have the ability to mobilize new sectors — the over 60 percent of people who agree that Roe v Wade should not be overturned, but may not have taken the streets or any action. Our task needs to be to move those people, and what better way than to discuss it every day with co-workers — the people we have to see five days a week for work either way. 

But the most important reason for this kind of organizing is because the working class is immensely powerful. All profits come from our labor. Everything runs because of our labor. And that means that we can really shut it down, not only in the streets, but in the place it hurts our oppressors and exploiters the most: in our workplaces.

On a small scale, Left Voice has begun organizing in this perspective at CUNY. CUNY for Abortion Rights was formed shortly after the leaked Supreme Court decision came out to organize students, faculty, and staff. Members include students and faculty from the DSA, NYC for Abortion Rights, Left Voice, as well as the union caucus Rank and File Action and other groups. Over 200 people from all CUNY campuses have signed up to participate and so far, the group has organized a walkout at Brooklyn College and support for a protest by Staten Island students. Political science students organized a panel on abortion rights including Jenny Brown, author of Without Apology, Hennessy Garcia from NYC for Abortion Rights, and Tatiana Cozzarelli from Left Voice. 

These kinds of rank-and-file committees aren’t a substitute for unions; we must demand that our unions take action and these committees can be a mechanism to force them to do so.

These kinds of committees also mean that we don’t have to wait for when the Supreme Court decision drops or when bans are implemented — we can organize with our co-workers now. If you have three or four co-workers who want to form a rank-and-file committee, do it! Put out a call, get folks to sign up, and organize an action in the workplace or a contingent at a march. If you need help or ideas, get in touch with us ([email protected]) and we can help! 

Rank-and-file committees can also be put towards fighting for other issues within and outside of the workplace, and strengthen our ability to fight for a good contract — an organized workplace is a workplace that is dangerous to the bosses. They can fight for higher wages, longer break times, better healthcare and other workplace demands. They can fight for full reproductive rights and healthcare, like the Jezebel workers did when they demanded trans inclusive healthcare at their job. They can mobilize in the Black Lives Matter movement or in solidarity with other struggles. They can also morph into or support other groups like the “women’s commissions” organized by the socialists in the early 20th century, or those currently organized in unions around the world. (A Starbucks worker in Chile will be speaking in NYC at May Day space about organizing a women and non binary commission at her workplace.) 

As the Right advances, it is clear that no one is coming to save us but ourselves. It is up to us to put up this fight, so let’s get to it. And let’s do it in the place we are most powerful: our workplaces, the very heart of what makes capitalism run.

Facebook Twitter Share

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

Labor Movement

Hear a Striking Minnesota Nurse Speak Out about the Exploitative Working Conditions Nurses Face

Below we share the text from a speech a striking nurse gave to others on strike in Minnesota. Those striking are fighting against hospitals and a healthcare system that continues to put profit over people’s lives.

Maryam Alaniz

September 14, 2022

Now More than Ever, the Working Class Needs Independent, Democratic Unions

Recently, discussions about unionization have become a national conversation. New workplaces are unionizing and the question of how to ensure their democratic functioning is the order of the day.

James Dennis Hoff

September 14, 2022
A crowd of about 100 workers and their allies, many of them dressed in SEIU purple, gather with signs in front of Columbia's Butler Library to demand bigger raises

SEIU Colludes with Columbia to Push Through Contract for Staff

The proposed contract would provide raises of only three percent per year, an effective pay cut. Workers are waging a “Vote No” campaign.

Olivia Wood

September 1, 2022

Fighting for Union Recognition and Quality Care: An Interview with a Madison, WI Nurse

Left Voice member and NYC healthcare worker Mike Pappas interviews a nurse from Madison, Wisconsin about his and his coworkers’ lengthy fight for union recognition. Nurses are currently preparing for a potential strike if the hospital continues to deny recognizing their union.

Left Voice

August 31, 2022


Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni gives a speech, an Italian flag covers the podium

Elections in Italy amid Political Crisis: Interview with an Italian Socialist

The right wing is expected to win in Italy’s snap elections on Sunday. An Italian socialist explains the origins of the current political crisis, the rise of the right wing, and the tasks for the Left.

Left Voice

September 21, 2022
Detroit protesters hold green banner that says "DTE" Affordable Renewable Energy Now

Detroiters Say ‘Hell No!’ to DTE’s Proposed Electricity Rate Hike

Detroiters are confronting regulators who are deciding whether private utilities can extract more profits from the working class during energy, inflation, housing, and climate crises.

Lee Palmer

September 20, 2022

Say Her Name! Protests Erupt across Iran after Police Murder of Mahsa Amini

Iran has erupted over the death of a young woman in police custody for "improperly" wearing the hijab. In the context of a deep economic and political crisis, Iranians are also questioning their deeply unpopular regime and its brutal oppression of women.

Maryam Alaniz

September 20, 2022
US President Joe Biden stands in a suit wearing a mask, but is taking off one side of it.

Despite What Biden Says, the Pandemic Isn’t Over

Joe Biden and the bourgeoisie may be ready for the pandemic to be over, but that doesn’t mean Covid-19 has gone away.

Olivia Wood

September 20, 2022