There has always been a fundamental tension in the organized labor world between people who think that unions exist to counteract the self-serving tendencies of businesses, and people who think that unions should copy the self-serving tendencies of businesses. The gap between the view that unions should change capitalism and the view that unions should just help working people get their piece of capitalism is not just fodder for theoretical arguments — billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and the entire direction of the post-neoliberalism economy could ride on it. We’re seeing that tension painfully demonstrated right now, at the grocery store. Last week, Kroger announced its plan to merge with Albertsons. That merger would create a $25 billion grocery giant that would control more than 15% of the American grocery market, second only to Walmart.
Mike Kelly has worked at The Record for 46 years, and until Gannett acquired the New Jersey newspaper in 2016, he saw little need for a union. But that changed once Gannett arrived. Kelly, a columnist for The Record, says Gannett chopped the newsroom’s staff from 190 in 2016 to 100 today and fired many of his fellow journalists in demeaning, callous ways. “Our nationally known baseball writer was fired just eight hours after the last out of the World Series,” Kelly says. “One of our best investigative reporters — a Pulitzer finalist who was one of the first to expose Trump’s questionable deals in the New Jersey Meadowlands — was given just a few hours to clear out of the building.”
It seems eons ago, the youth-led climate strike of September 20, 2019 that brought four million people onto the streets worldwide. I was on the sidewalk outside Seattle City Hall, watching thousands of school-skippers march by. And then behind the teens came waves of exuberant people, no more than a decade or two older, their homemade signs held aloft: tech workers, including hundreds of Amazon workers who had stepped out of their comfortable cubicles and palatial glass towers to join the global walkout. They had every right to step lightly. Just a day earlier, the budding Amazon Employees for Climate Justice had forced CEO Jeff Bezos into an extraordinary concession, pledging to move the company to 100 per cent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions.
It’s no secret that the U.S. funding model for journalism is broken, and that this had terrible consequences for our democracy, but it may not be without repair. As advertising revenue newspapers once relied on has increasingly ended up in the pockets of big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, many have shut down their presses, while others such as the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have turned to billionaires to fund their papers, resulting in a model that has turned journalism into a playground for the uber rich that conceals the economic plight of most of the population.
When the Department of Justice successfully broke up the AT&T monopoly into regional companies, it needed Congress to pass a law to open up the regional companies (known as Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers or ILECs) to competition. To do that, the Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that established bedrock competition law and reaffirmed non-discrimination policies that net neutrality is based on. The law Congress created a new industry that would interoperate with the ILECs.