Seeds of a New Labor Movement ?

Harold Meyerson.

Mother Jones, American labor activist.

Mother Jones, American labor activist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sit down and read. Prepare yourself for the coming battles.  Mother Jones.

 

DSA Honorary Chair Harold Meyerson has written the following important long form piece on the US. Labor Movement for the American Prospect. This piece merits discussion.

Excerpts:

“The path to collective bargaining has been shut down in the United States,” says Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and head of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Committee. Where Rolf differs from most of his colleagues is in his belief that collective bargaining—at least, as the nation has known it for the past 80 years—is not coming back. In a paper he distributed to his colleagues in 2012 and in commentaries he wrote for several magazines (including this one), he argued that unions should acknowledge their impending demise—at least in the form that dates to the Wagner Act—and focus their energies and resources on incubating new institutions that can better address workers’ concerns. “The once powerful industrial labor unions that built the mid-century American middle class are in a deep crisis and are no longer able to protect the interests of American workers with the scale and power necessary to reverse contemporary economic trends,” he wrote in his paper. “The strategy and tactics that we’ve pursued since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments [which narrowed the ground rules under which unions may operate] are out of date and have demonstrably failed to produce lasting economic power for workers. We must look to the future and invest our resources in new organizational models that respond to our contemporary economy and the needs of today’s workers.”

This October, with funding from his local, from the national SEIU, and from several liberal foundations, Rolf will unveil The Workers Lab, housed at the Roosevelt Institute in New York. The center will study and, in time, invest in organizations that, in Rolf’s words, “have the potential to build economic power for workers, at scale, and to sustain themselves financially.” Whatever those organizations may be, they won’t be unions—at least, not unions as they currently exist… Continue reading

A Historic Victory for Target Janitors

by Lucas Franco

After four years of struggling for fair working conditions, workers who clean local Target Stores and organizers from the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), announced a breakthrough policy agreement that will be implemented between Target and the companies it sub-contracts to clean its stores.

This victory for workers comes after a long and arduous struggle. The sub-contracted janitors at local Target stories have faced poverty wages, rampant wage theft, and health and safety hazards for years. In cooperation with CTUL, workers have led three strikes against cleaning companies. Their organizing efforts pushed Target to the bargaining table. Over the last year the cleaning companies have been in dialogue with the Target Corporation. In the face of this sustained pressure, Target has agreed to unprecedented contractor policies that will provide significant protections for workers.

“This is the first policy of its kind in the retail janitorial industry,” explained Veronica Mendez, co-director of CTUL, in a news release. “It’s a victory not just for the estimated 1,000 retail janitors in the Twin Cities, but for all the low-wage workers of color fighting for a place at the table in deciding the future of work.” Continue reading

Fast Food Workers Organize Globally

by Paul Garver

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

The international coordinated actions of fast food workers on May 15th represent a new and unprecedented level of global labor solidarity.

Activists have long called for international labor solidarity to confront global corporations. The global fast food industry presents an excellent example of an industry dominated by a few giant corporations like McDonalds whose chief executives receive 1200 times higher pay than their fast food workers. The industry takes in over $200 billion annually, while employing tens of millions of low paid workers in hundreds of countries.

Continue reading

Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn?

If Seattle’s agreement sticks, SEIU’s David Rolf and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray can claim credit for devising a form of collective bargaining that benefits workers with no ties whatever to unions.

by Harold Meyerson

Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle  (15 Now Seattle)

Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle (15 Now Seattle)

We have seen the future of collective bargaining, and it just may work. It should work brilliantly in Seattle if the city council doesn’t screw it up.

Last Thursday—May Day, for the nostalgic among you—Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that a business-labor task force he appointed had agreed on a plan to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour, over four years (with annual incremental increases) for businesses with more than 500 employees, and up to seven years for smaller businesses. By the end of the process, tipped employees would have an assured hourly income of $15, not counting whatever tips they received on top of that, and the wage would thereafter be indexed to the rise with the cost of living.

Business, labor and the mayor having agreed, the plan now goes before the city council, whose members, like Mayor Murray, have backed the $15 hourly rate, but who may yet change some elements of the proposal. If enacted, Seattle will have the nation’s highest municipal minimum wage, just as Washington state currently has the nation’s highest state hourly minimum ($9.32). Continue reading

College Adjuncts Union Scores Victory at Maryland Institute College of Art

by Bruce Vail

MICA-Part-Time-Faculty-Celebration_250_187BALTIMORE—Part-time college faculty members at the historic Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) scored an impressive win on Tuesday when they voted overwhelmingly to bring a labor union on campus for the first time since MICA’s opening in 1826.

In secret ballot voting supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the pro-union votes number 160, compared to 75 anti-union ones, reports Katherine Kavanaugh, one of the leaders of the faculty group. This unofficial count has been confirmed by a NLRB spokeswoman, who adds that the agency normally takes about a week to confirm an election of this kind. Once the election is formally certified by NLRB, the part-time college instructors will be represented by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Service Employees International Union Local 500. Continue reading

Banning BART Strikes Is No Answer to Labor Disputes

On Friday Nov. 2, BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] employees at SEIU and ATU  ratified the deal negotiated last week and the following day BART’s Board of Directors will likely vote to approve it. Apart from a few crazies on both the left and right who were hoping that the strike or the dispute kept going, most of us BART riders will be extremely glad that it is finally over and hoping that we never have to go through this again. It’s not surprising, therefore, that some politicians have attempted to exploit public frustration. Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, who is running for the California Assembly, has tirelessly promoted his campaign for change in state law to ban strikes by BART workers. It’s an easy time to call for coercive legislation but a strike ban is the wrong solution for the Bay Area and it wouldn’t work. Continue reading

Demands for Immigration Reform Produce Nonviolent Direct Action at Capitols

 by Duane Campbell

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

October 8, thousands of people from across the country  gathered  in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the rally at the National Mall and march to the U.S. Capitol, two hundred of the attendees – national and local community and labor leaders, impacted immigrants, civil rights and faith leaders, and Members of Congress,  follow the event at the steps of the U.S. Capitol with nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at underscoring the urgent need to vote and pass fair immigration reform this year. Speakers at the rally include Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), civil rights leader Julian Bond, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. Other Members of Congress, national and local community, faith, and labor leaders will be standing on stage during key moments before the march begins.

Some of the national and local leaders participating in civil disobedience  include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor,  New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. For more on the Washington events go to www.AmericasVoice.com

These arrests follow the arrests of Women Activists for immigration on Sept.13, and union activists on Aug. 10.

ImageIn Sacramento the California Republican Party headquarters across the street from the State Capitol was the site of a demonstration by Unite/Here and  SEIU members as well as community activists.  The Republican party was confronted with a message of,  “ We will remember your candidates in  November.” Continue reading

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