Class struggle unionism is based on a very simple idea, which is that workers create all wealth. Through the employment process this wealth gets separated from the workers and flows to a handful of people in society. That is why and how we get billionaires. This view of employment is very different from business unionism, which was the main competing form of unionism to class struggle unionism. Business unionism sees itself as having a very narrow role of negotiating the sale of labor. The view can be summed up with the slogan “a fair days wage for a fair days work.” Business unionists see themselves as narrowly representing a group of workers at a plant or industry and do not see themselves as part of a larger class struggle between workers and the billionaire class.
This year has brought a lot of stirring labor victories, a pace of union campaigns and strikes so frenetic that it’s easy to collapse in a puddle of undifferentiated cheering for stuff. The most important trend, though, has been the sudden rise of independent unions — organizing drives at untouched companies led by the workers themselves, not affiliated with any existing major unions. The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has been the biggest example of those, and an endless stream of others seem determined to follow in its footsteps. An independent union drive succeeded at Trader Joe’s, and they’ve popped up everywhere from Apple to Chipotle to Geico. Geico! The rise of all of these independents is inspiring. It is the flowering of seeds that were planted by 40 years of rising inequality, and by the work of an entire generation of labor movement activists pushing unions as the solution. If we are being honest, though, the story of these independent unions is also a story about the brokenness of organized labor’s existing institutions. If we ignore half of the story, we won’t learn anything from this moment.
In 2012, I joined thousands of my fellow public school teachers in Chicago and walked off the job. After facing 30 years of corporate education “reform” that demonized teachers and led to massive privatization of public schools across the United States, teachers everywhere were ready to fight back. For many of us in Chicago, ahead of the 2012 strike, political developments had shown a range of possibilities for what that fighting back could look like. We had watched intently as protesters took over plazas in Tahrir Square to demand the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the crowds occupying the Wisconsin statehouse to oppose Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union Act 10.
If you feel like your union needs a jump-start—whether you’re a longtime shop steward or just started your first union job—this book is for you. The impulse you have (“This union could be stronger and better, and I want to help change it”) makes you part of a long tradition—what we at Labor Notes affectionately call the trouble-making wing of the labor movement. One basic principle unites us troublemakers. We believe democracy, meaning broad member participation at every level of the union, is the heart of union power. The Chicago Teachers Union’s 2012 strike didn’t just put the union on the map; it gave a jolt of hope to the whole labor movement.
New York city, New York - Starting at 8:00 a.m. on September 1, workers and allies began to congregate at the steps of the Metro Queens UPS facility. The rally built on two-days of tabling, where dozens of coworkers posed for solidarity photos and encouraged coworkers to sign a petition defending “all fired activists.” Veterans of the 2014 ‘Maspeth 250’ wildcat strike, a struggle against the unjust firing of union militant Jairo Reyes, were quick to show their solidarity. So far, approximately 150 workers from the two Maspeth UPS buildings signed the petition, with plans in place to get many more signatures.
This summer I went on strike at Dollar General in Holly Hill, South Carolina. My coworkers and I were standing up for our rights and fighting back against a company that put our safety at risk, stole our wages, and made it impossible for us to take care of our families. Our organizing started when my coworker Tara Thompson called us to a meeting at her house. I said, "I don't feel safe at work," and everyone nodded. The store had been robbed three times since I've been here. One day a customer came into the store with a gun, having some mental health problems and talking about how he can't trust anyone. I called the police for help, but they never came. And my Dollar General manager reprimanded me for calling them. My coworker was robbed at gunpoint, and just 10 minutes later management was pushing her to reopen the store.
Gains are being made in the unionizing effort at different Starbucks locations across Canada after a flurry of activity in the U.S. that saw more than 200 Starbucks locations join unions this year. A handful of stores in B.C. and Alberta are joining the United Steelworkers (USW) union to win better working conditions. According to a release by the USW, Starbucks workers are joining in hopes of winning higher wages, more paid hours to avoid understaffing and better health and safety measures. In June, only one Starbucks location in Canada was unionized, according to Canadaland. Now, the USW says they represent Starbucks workers in Calgary, A.B., and Victoria, Surrey and Langley in B.C.
Organised workers are on the move. After years of stagnancy, UK trade unions are starting to ramp up activity again. Needless to say, there’s been little help from the Labour Party. But the waves of strikes are unmistakeable signs of rising working class militancy. The increased popularity of trade union leaders, such as the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch and Unite’s Sharon Graham, suggests the post-Corbyn hangover is easing. At the launch of the Enough is Enough campaign on Wednesday 17 August, Lynch told the audience: “The working class is back.” Enough is Enough (EIE) is a new force in the class war. Its supporters include a number of socialist MPs, such as Zarah Sultana and Liverpool’s Iain Byrne. The Tribune, Acorn and the Communication Worker’s Union (CWU) are also backers.
New York - Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center just outside of Albany filed petitions requesting a union election, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed this week. The Amazon Labor Union, the group of former and current employees that formed Amazon’s first union at a warehouse on Staten Island, filed to represent roughly 400 workers at the facility in Schodack, according to Kayla Blado, a spokesperson for the NLRB. The NLRB will tally up the union cards in the coming days to verify the union surpassed the 30 percent threshold required to hold an official vote, Blado said. “We are incredibly excited and proud,” said Cassio Mendoza, a spokesperson for the ALU, in a statement. The group planned to address the public outside the NLRB offices in Albany on Wednesday afternoon.
Steel production in the late 1800s used to require one crucial step: a 20-minute process called the “blow” that removed impurities, strengthening the metal. It was not unheard of for union members to go to the supervisor at the start of the blow and demand that some important grievance be resolved. According to old-timers, it was amazing what the company could accomplish in those 20 minutes. These workers had found their employer’s vulnerability— and they used it to make the workplace safer and more humane. Think about where your employer is vulnerable. For some companies it might be their logo or their image, which they have spent millions of dollars cultivating. For others it might be a bottleneck in the production process, or a weakness in their just-in-time inventory system.
The American labor movement finds itself in a “good news, bad news” situation — which is better than the standard “bad news, bad news” situation, but just as perilous. This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that in the past nine months, petitions that workers have filed to unionize with the agency have risen by 56% over the previous year. This is a clear and tangible sign of what public opinion polls have already told us: In the aftermath of the pandemic, with a union-friendly president in the White House, workers are more enthusiastic to form unions than they have been in many years. Organized labor is always pining for a moment of opportunity, and that opportunity is here. Right now. Then there’s the bad news. In the same press release trumpeting the boom in union election filings, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo made a pointed case that the institution is starved for resources.
The budget for the National Labor Relations Board for fiscal year 2022 was $274 million, which might sound like a lot of money. But it is the same amount as the Board’s budget for Trump-era fiscal years 2021 and 2020, and that is a problem. In fact, the NLRB has not had an increase in funding since 2014, the year that the Republicans took control of Congress during the Obama administration and reignited their decades-old campaign to deep-six workers’ rights to unionize. No increase “means a cut to the agency’s funds, due to inflation and other factors,” explains Burt Pearlstone, president of the NLRBU, the union representing workers at the agency.
As she considered striking at the grocery store where she had worked for a decade, the dozens of moments that had pushed Ashley Manning to that point flooded back. She vividly recalled the indignities she endured throughout the pandemic, starting with child care. When schools shut down, no one could watch her 12-year-old daughter. She wouldn’t allow her elderly grandmother, Ruby, to do it, fearing she would get sick. And her store, a Ralphs in San Pedro, California, where she is the manager of the floral department, refused to work with her schedule, she said.
“Seven months ago if you asked me about a union I would’ve said, ‘I don’t know, cops have them?’” says Sarah Pappin, a shift supervisor at a Seattle Starbucks. But on June 6, she and her co-workers voted unanimously to join Starbucks Workers United, part of an upsurge of organizing by younger workers with little union experience that is breathing new life into the labor movement. Now they’re dreaming even bigger. “We want to not just open the door for the rest of the food service industry, we want to kick it down,” said Pappin, who’s worked full-time at Starbucks for eight years.
On June 27, The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 Majority took the extreme step of denying an existing constitutional right by overturning Roe V. Wade. This decision to deny women the right to an abortion is an attack on all women, is an attack on all working people The statements below by numerous labor organizations all make that point and all point to the necessity to resist and to organize. The Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded in 1974, the year after Roe v Wade confirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The CLUW founding mothers believed in a woman’s right to a safe termination of her pregnancy and we still believe every woman has that right.