Southwest Airlines canceled over 1,000 flights this weekend. Thousands of passengers were left stranded in airports across the country on Sunday, after a quarter of all flights never took off. Southwest blamed air traffic control issues for the cancelations, but to many, they seemed connected to Southwest’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which its pilots asked a court to block. Were the canceled flights the result of a “sick out” on the part of pilots refusing to get vaccinated? The pilots’ union denied it, but when Amtrak started canceling trains Sunday afternoon due to “unforeseen crew issues,” the idea that a general strike is brewing started to circulate, a response to the mass firings of other working-class and middle class Americans—nurses and police officers—who have refused the vaccine.
You might have expected that the Left would be championing what looks like it might be a powerful form of collective action on the part of working-class Americans. There was a time some can still recall when the Left stood for labor and collective power. Instead, you saw prominent Left-wing voices denouncing Southwest employees as terrorists and demanding they be put on no-fly lists; many others defended the mass firing of nurses and cops. And it was Republicans and conservatives, infamous for their laissez-faire free market policies that favor the rich, who were cheering the striking workers and tweeting the hashtag #GeneralStrike.
This inversion of the politics that ruled the U.S. for much of the 20th century didn’t happen overnight. Most recently, it’s an extension of the COVID lockdown class divide that separated those who could work from the safety of their homes—accountants and bankers and lawyers and project managers and, yes, journalists—from those whose jobs required they brave the pandemic to support their families—grocery store workers, deliverymen and women, drivers, pilots, small business owners, and of course, healthcare workers. This was a class divide as much as an economic divide—the college educated vs. the working class. And you can see where each side of the political aisle sees its base by which position it took on this divide: Democrats favored lockdowns while Republicans took the side of those whose work was either outside the home or eliminated.