Chris Brooks

Strikes are won by workers—often with a little help from their friends.

During their two-week strike, West Virginia’s salaried classroom teachers still got paid, because superintendents closed schools. The days missed were treated like snow days to be made up later. But workers paid by the hour or day—such as substitute teachers, teaching aides, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers—weren’t getting paychecks. Few had much savings to fall back on.

Before It All Melts Away

Will this spring’s wave of teacher strikes lead to stronger unions? Not if their unions return to business as usual.

The motor force behind the strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina is teachers’ deep frustration. Educators are feeling the pinch from decades of funding cuts that their unions have been unable to stop.

The Alligator and the Auto Worker

Income inequality is higher today than any time since the Great Depression. One reason why is the widening gap between pay and productivity—a graph that resembles an alligator’s mouth.

Rising productivity is due to more than just robots. Work has intensified through lean production, where fewer workers are pushed to perform more work in shorter times. Workers are electronically monitored so that companies can squeeze maximum profit from every second.

Two years ago the Auto Workers (UAW) broke new ground when skilled-trades workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant voted 108 to 44 in favor of unionizing.

It was the union’s first victory at a foreign-owned automaker in the U.S. South.

But the success was short-lived. The UAW went on to suffer several high-profile losses, including at Nissan and Fuyao last year.

Viewpoint: Don’t Fall for the Members-Only Unionism Trap

One of corporate America’s next big goals might surprise you: passing legislation to prevent unions from having to represent workers who don’t pay dues. This is just the latest of many business-friendly labor law reforms proliferating across the country.

Jersey Day Spooks Kroger Management

According to Kroger, sports partisanship on the job is OK but union partisanship is not.

The grocery chain has long allowed employees to wear team jerseys of their choice on designated “game days.” NASCAR and NFL teams are among the honorees.

But when Kroger workers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio began wearing UFCW Local 400 jerseys to work on game day, as part of their campaign for a new contract, the company abruptly announced that only Kroger uniforms were allowed—nationwide.

It's a truism that for unions to preserve their gains they must organize the South—but as the recent failures at Volkswagen, Boeing, and Nissan made clear, this is easier said than done.

There's no sugar-coating a loss this dramatic: 2,244-1,307 against the United Auto Workers, after a 12-year campaign to organize the mile-long Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.

After four attempts, the UAW has yet to win a plant-wide vote at a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.

Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work' Tennessee

At Labor Notes trainings I hear lots of reasons why union members think their co-workers aren’t involved: They don’t understand labor history. They don’t appreciate all the union has done for them. They watch Fox News. They’re scared or apathetic.

I always say, “Remember what inspires people to organize a union in the first place. They join and stay involved when they experience what it means to wield collective power.”

Pages