Posted on April 2, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Kas Schwerdtfeger
Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Finding the way to beat it is next.
Taking an honest look at the labor movement, it doesn’t take a genius to find it at a low that hasn’t been seen since the early thirties. Unions are taking a beating from politicians, who rather than taxing the ultra wealthy, take the “easier” road of demanding cuts on government workers. At the same time, private sector employers scrape more and more from the workers in order to maintain massive profits. No-strike agreements and open shop clauses in the private sector, and right-to-work legislation and restrictions on collective bargaining in the public sector, strike right at the heart of what’s left of organized labor’s gains. In that sense, I applaud the public statements of President Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO in their recent meetings that recognize the fact that labor needs to change course in the US.
Changing course is not only the right thing to do; it has become necessary. According to the March 3rd In These Times article, the new AFL-CIO plan is searching for “new forms of worker representation,” including Working America, Workers Centers, and a general low-wage worker campaign at Wal-Mart and in the general service industry. It is a mixing bowl of good and bad ingredients. The approach labor takes with the ingredients will determine if what comes out is any good. (more…)
Filed under: Organizing, Uncategorized | Tagged: AFL-CIO, Our Walmart, Richard Trumka, workers centers, Working America | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 29, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Laura Clawson
While Walmart has added 455 stores in the past five years, it has cut its workforce by about 20,000. Workers complain that they’re too short-staffed to move products from the stockrooms to the aisles, while customers complain that they can’t find basic goods, leading some to shop at competitors. Diarist FishOutofWater highlights a contrast with a competitor that’s taken a very different approach to its workers:
Costco’s CEO recently argued to raise the minimum wage, but Walmart management is attempting to keep labor costs at rock bottom levels. Apparently Walmart’s efforts to minimize labor costs are backfiring. Costco’s better paid employees are happier and more productive. Higher worker productivity at Costco is making up for the difference in wage rates.x
Filed under: Low wage workers, Organizing | Tagged: Our Walmart, Walmart | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 4, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Street Heat
I participated in the Black Friday action. No workers struck at my location but dozens of supporters held a spirited and effective action that a) received really good media attention that highlighted the demands of the Wal-Mart associates and b) successfully rattled the cage of store management. All in all a fun day. Nationally the picture was much more varied from strikes with dozens of strikers and hundreds of supporters to a single supporter or striker (yes one striker) picketing a store by themselves. I wanted to share some thoughts on the implications of the Black Friday strike and protests.
- The strike was a successful escalation. The number of workers participating increased. A new layer of leaders seems to have stepped up since the earlier strikes. A broad spectrum of allies showed up to support the workers. Wal-Mart desperately tried to dismiss the actions as tiny and irrelevant. The key was to for OURWalmart to successfully show thatWalmarts intimidation campaign had not pushed the Associates back, in fact that new additional leaders stepped forward to carry out this series of strikes showed the capacity or OURWalmart to grow despite management’s campaign.
- The strike was a watershed moment for labor. Not because any Wal-Marts were shut down or not, but because WalMart’s image as a benevolent employer has been effectively challenged in American public discourse. Illustrated by John Stewart on the November 27 Daily Show
[To watch the John Stewart segment, click here.]
The degree to which the strikers and the supporters were portrayed as leading a just fight by many media outlets was a critical blow to anti-worker PR in general.
- The notion that changing Wal-Mart was key to change America and creating a new economy is now firmly established among American progressives. Before there was tepid support among many liberals who perceived the Wal-Mart struggle as just another union “pet issue”. It is now common wisdom among the progressive blogosphere and academia that Wal-Mart’s role in the supply chain is a key roadblock to economic justice for ALL workers.
- This is where I piss people off. I was disappointed when I noticed that a broad swath of the labor movement sat out the Black Friday action. I was mortified to find out that some large UFCW locals opted to not build or participate in actions. The more this campaign is seen as simply a project of the UFCW International by local UFCW unions, the more difficult it is going to be to build the grassroots infrastructure needed to expand the campaign. The active support and participation UFCW local unions and the full support of labor councils and other labor organizations are key to generating community support and protection for the OURWalmart activists that will give them the much needed “breathing space” to continue to organize and grow. Bureacratic abstention, Grudges and petty divisions blocking particpation in these HISTORIC actions are the equivalent of high treason in the moment of both peril and opportunity for our entire movement.
There I said it. Let me have it.
Street Heat is a a union activist in the south, He blogs at It’s About Power Stupid! Thinking Strategically About Labor’s Survival,
Filed under: Strikes and work action | Tagged: Our Walmart, UFCW, Walmart strikes, Walmrart | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 28, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Jim Nichols
(Nov 24) So I’ve got final papers for class to write so I don’t really have time to do the kind of in-depth structured/well-edited blog post I want to write on yesterday’s historic Walmart strike and the solidarity picket lines held all across the country.
Instead I’m going to throw out some of my thoughts and some of the pictures I shot from yesterday’s action here in Atlanta. Hopefully it’ll come out clear and coherent enough for you.
Pardon my ramble…
As someone who was watching the Occupy Wall Street movement quite closely from right out of the gate I can say that I’m feeling the same level of excitement with what transpired all across the nation yesterday that I felt with Occupy.
I remember sitting at the Occupy Atlanta General Assembly the weekend before OA voted to occupy the park being simply overwhelmed with enthusiasm.
I also remember quite clearly driving back into the suburbs that evening to meet up for dinner with the wife and some friends and being struck with internal confusion about the fact that neither my wife nor friends could really care less, nor quite catch on from my slight pokes and prods about the reasons for my jovial excitement in regards to what was about to blow up here in Atlanta.
I feel a similar sense of excitement about the efforts by employees at Walmart @ForRespect.
Filed under: Labor and Occupy, Low wage workers, Organizing | Tagged: @ForRespect, occupy, Our Walmart, Walmart, Walmart strike | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 25, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
Although written a day before the historic Black Friday strike and support actions, this post by Street Heat makes some really important points including this whether Black Friday could be “‘tipping point’ that both validates a new model of organizing large service sector employers and leads to a new upsurge in organizing and worker militancy?”–Talking Union
by Street Heat
(Nov. 22) Tomorrow, “Black Friday”, Walmart Associates across the country will be walking off the job to stand up for their right to organize and to protest management retaliating against their members for standing up. No one really knows exactly how many people will walk off the job during the busiest shopping day of the year, but whatever the number, it is clear that Black Friday has brought the issues the workers face to the forefront of the public consciousness. In that alone they have one victory in the bank.
Filed under: Low wage workers, Organizing, Strikes and work action, Uncategorized | Tagged: Our Walmart, Walmart strikes | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 23, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Amy Dean
United Food and Commercial Workers’ Pat O’Neill talks about the difficulty of organizing retail and the new tactics that have been developed, shoppers’ support and Walmart workers’ extraordinary courage in the rolling actions leading up to Black Friday.
This fall has witnessed a wave of rolling strikes and other employee actions at America’s largest private-sector employer: Walmart. The actions, spread across more than a dozen cities, have been the first in the retailer’s 50-year history. This week, things are set to get bigger: Walmart associates across the country are now promising pickets, leafleting, and creative flash mobs on and around Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.
One of the main groups involved in planning the actions has been OUR Walmart, a labor-community organization for Walmart employees, backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Rather than going through the arduous process of forming a traditional union by signing up majorities in each store, they have developed a more flexible process for employees to get involved early on. Smaller groups can use OUR Walmart to take collective action to advocate for rights and for better conditions. Such advocacy harkens back to the early days of the US labor movement, before the labor laws of the New Deal institutionalized processes for collective bargaining. It may also be a bellwether for future employee action, reflecting an age in which labor law has again failed to catch up with the reality of the American economy.
To get inside insight on the new activism taking place at Walmart, I talked with UFCW Organizing Director Pat O’Neill. We discussed the rolling strikes, the revived use of “minority unions,” and why OUR Walmart is not calling for a boycott.
Filed under: Low wage workers, Organizing, Strikes and work action | Tagged: minority unions, Our Walmart, UFCW, Walmart strike | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 20, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Marc Norton
Over seventy Walmart workers and supporters silently marched single-file through the Walmart store in San Leandro near Bayfair Mall on Wednesday, November 14. Several marchers placed a small memorial to a recently-deceased worker outside the employees’ lounge. Management and security, unsure how to react, attempted to block the numerous cameras that had come out, proclaiming “No video! No photos!” This was a useless gesture that demonstrated just how clueless Walmart is about handling the wave of protest that has engulfed them in recent months.
Several Walmart workers at the store had walked off the job as part of the Wednesday protest. Later, outside the store, the group rallied and some of the workers, dubbed “associates” in Walmart-speak, spoke to the crowd. “I am not afraid,” one brother said. “Love and unity is the answer. Walmart will learn to treat us with respect, either by choice or by whatever it takes.” The striking workers then returned to work, accompanied by a delegation of supporters.These are fighting words, coming from some of the 1.4 million workers at Walmart, who struggle to survive on poverty wages and in the face of deplorable working conditions. There are no union contracts at any Walmart store.
Filed under: Low wage workers, Organizing, Strikes and work action | Tagged: Our Walmart, Walmart, Walmart strikers | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 17, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Mike Hall
Walmart workers around the country are mobilizing for a “Black Friday” strike to protest working conditions, wages and retaliation against workers who speak out. Meanwhile workers and their allies at a Walmart warehouse are picketing and rallying today in front of the Riverside County, Calif., facility following Wednesday’s strike by some two dozen warehouse workers.
Walmart store workers are asking people nationwide to support them on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. They ask that supporters take action that spreads the word about their strikes and demonstrates to Walmart a wave of support for workers who are speaking out about poor working conditions, low wages, irregular hours and more.
Filed under: Low wage workers, Strikes and work action | Tagged: #walmartstrikers, Black Friday, Change Walmart, Our Walmart | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 30, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Street Heat
Since my last post, we have witnessed a series of events that can only be seen as vindication of those of us who have rejected the notion that the death of the labor movement is a foregone conclusion. Also vindicated is the perspective that labor must begin strategically targeting and organizing in such a way that can shift the balance of power in whole markets in order to win.
It would seem there are more than a few in labor who are determined to turn things around. They are proving the crisis of labor is in fact deep, but not insurmountable.
The Chicago teachers strike pitted the third largest teachers union in the country, the 25,000 member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) against Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual. The stage was set for a confrontation between CTU and their newly elected militant leadership and Chicago’s Democratic Party establishment. Known as a ruthless political opponent, Emanuel was outmaneuvered by bold and aggressive organizing that framed the issue successfully and truthfully as a battle to save public education for Chicago’s children. The CTU was able to maintain public support throughout the strike and were both aggressive enough to win substantial gains as well as pragmatic and saavy enough not wage an open ended strike, resulting in making concrete improvements both in conditions for Chicago’s students as well as working conditions for the Teachers. By rejecting the pro austerity narrative and controlling the framing of the struggle as one for justice and fairness the Teachers defeated attempts to isolate them. All in all, a solid win in an age where strikes are seldom planned and even more seldom won.
Filed under: Organizing, Politics | Tagged: Chicago Teachers Union, CTRU, Hyatt Hurts, Our Walmart, Walmart | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 15, 2012 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Laura Clawson
After walkouts spread to Walmart stores in 12 states Tuesday, one of the groups organizing workers told Steven Greenhouse that they have no intention of stopping:
Mr. Schlademan, director of the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign, added that more than 200 employees were traveling to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to stage a protest on Wednesday during the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts.He warned that disgruntled Wal-Mart employees, joined by labor unions and community groups, might stage a combined protest and educational campaign the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
Filed under: Strikes and work action | Tagged: Black Friday, Our Walmart, Walmart, Walmart strike | 2 Comments »