Red Shirt Wednesday
Thousands of union members wear red shirts on Wednesdays as a sign of solidarity. When a sea of red shirts greet management, it’s a way to let them know that the workers stand together.
The modern tradition dates back to 1989 with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) whose members wear red on Thursdays. Gerry Horgan was a CWA chief steward for Westchester County in New York who died in August 1989 while he worked a picket line. He left behind a wife and two daughters. The vehicle that struck him was driven by a scab and the teenage daughter of a manager who was never charged for his death. CWA members wear their red shirts on Thursdays to remember Horgan and the sacrifices he made protecting the picket line.
Wearing the red shirt to show solidarity took on extra meaning during Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s relentless attacks on labor. Unionists around the country wanted to show solidarity with Wisconsin and donned red shirts once a week. Today, it remains an act of showing unity – both to one another and the world. It’s not anti-management; it’s a positive statement of workers standing together.
Tips for organizing your own Red Shirt Wednesday
- Announce the action well in advance and remind co-workers that Wednesday is for red shirts.
- Bring a supply of red bandanas for co-workers to wear if they don’t have a red shirt.
- Start small: concentrate on a department or area. Since the idea is to show a sea of red, 15 people in a department of 30 wearing red is more powerful than 15 people in a spread-out worksite of 200.
- Let people know why you are wearing red; it’s a great conversation starter.
- Post pictures on social media and share the stories. Accompany them with quotes about why members wear red. Check out what local 292 does on RSW – they use it as a chance to get to know one another: