Organized Labor Should Spend 2015 Training Workers How to Fight

BY David Goodner
While the labor movement is in some of its more dire straits in over a century, 2015 is also shaping up to be a big year for unions. The “Fight for $15” strikes held in over 200 cities on April 15 indicate that a mass movement for worker justice may be on the verge of exploding, one that blends the best of organized labor, community organizing, Occupy Wall Street and #BlackLivesMatter. Oil workers, truck drivers, and dockworkers also went on widely publicized, confrontational strikes this year, and LA teachers at both public and charter schools are preparing to take action on the job, as are graduate students at the University of Washington and several other campuses.

Today, May 1, a Bay Area local of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down its ports to protest the racism and police brutality against black and brown people, providing a classic example of what “social movement unionism” looks like in practice.

Unions are also fighting hard to block looming pension cuts and derail fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But labor’s “Right to Work” defeat in Wisconsin in March was a huge setback, while the results of the April 7 Chicago mayor’s race were mixed, at best. Taken as a whole, the small upsurge in labor unrest in recent months has not been enough to slow down, much less stop and reverse, the steep historical decline of the trade union movement.   Continue reading

Longshore Workers Walk off the job

ILWU logo.

ILWU logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ILWU members walk out in Oakland

 West Coast Longshore workers have been without a union contract since July. Now management is complaining that the workers are slowing down on the job.

Dockworkers at Los Angeles-Long Beach and Seattle-Tacoma picked up their productivity a bit this weekend, but the situation turned bad in Oakland when members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off their jobs for three consecutive shifts.

U.S. retailers appealed to President Barack Obama [1] to intervene in contract negotiations between West Coast dockworkers and maritime companies after a work slowdown spread to the nation’s largest container hub ahead of the holiday shopping season [2]. Continue reading

Bold Action Isn’t Always Best—at Least at First

by Mike Elk

Mike Elk

A few months ago, Ezra Klein and I got in an argument about former SEIU labor organizer Stephen Lerner’s idea of a mass strategic default on mortgages, in which many Americans whose mortgages are “underwater” would default on their mortgages in order to hurt big banks and force them to deal with the foreclosure crisis. Klein wrote: “It’s unlikely that the union movement would actually adopt Lerner’s plans, or that they’d even have the power to make good on them if they wanted to adopt them.”

Aside from radical farmers in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, a a strategic mortgage default campaign is practically unheard of in American history. Unions have never tried this, and it would be unlikely they could cause enough defaults to hurt the banks. Unions rarely are successful in significantly hurting the profits of major corporations when they threaten boycotts against corporations. But the threat of a boycott (rather than the actual boycott) can be a powerful tool in forcing a corporate executive to negotiate because of the negative publicity boycotts can produce, and the anxiety an unpredictable corporate campaign of escalation can produce for executives.

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New report and protests blast Rite Aid union busting

riteadiprotestAug10.2009Boston – Supporters urging passage of the Employee Free Choice Act took to the streets on Monday to back warehouse workers at Rite Aid’s massive distribution center in Lancaster, California. They released a new Jobs with Justice report about how management there has aggressively interfered in workers’ freedom to form a union.

The 12-page report: “Rite Aid, Oliver J. Bell & Associates, and the Case for the Employee Free Choice Act” documents how management employed union busters and violated labor laws. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board was prepared to charge Rite Aid with 49 unfair labor practice charges before the cases were settled out of court.
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