The sad outcome of the United Auto Workers campaign at Volkswagen reminded me of when I entered the labor movement 15 years ago.
Back then the national leaders of the Service Employees (SEIU) had diagnosed labor’s big problem: we weren’t organizing fast enough. As the percentage of unionized workers in the U.S. slipped, so did unions’ influence.
If only we could regain sufficient union density, these leaders said, we would have power. Then we could start winning gains for members and change the political climate.
I spent an exhilarating week in the midst of the Los Angeles teachers strike—the first strike in 30 years by the second-largest teacher union in the country.
Of course wages and benefits were central to the teachers’ fight. But like many successful strikes, theirs was about something bigger—that the district should invest in public education as a public good, rather than stripping schools of their value and selling them off as parts.
Who will pay for a 5 percent raise, smaller classes, and more nurses, librarians, and counselors for the Chicago public schools? “Rich people,” Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Gates told the press.
Their contract expires in June. Meanwhile, fresh off the first charter school strike in history, the union set a February 5 strike date at another Chicago charter network.
"Right-to-work" laws and the Supreme Court's Janus decision don't have to mean game-over for unions.
In July, Labor Notes published an expanded special issue highlighting examples of how workers are building powerful unions despite a mandatory open shop—in schools, factories, buses, hospitals, oil refineries, grocery stores, post offices, and shipyards across the U.S.
How did states with high-profile union fights fare in the 2018 midterms? The elections were a mixed bag.
Wisconsin union members (and yours truly!) got to vote out the state’s number one union-buster: Scott Walker. He survived a 2012 recall and a 2014 re-election, but the third time was the charm. The governor who rose to the national stage by kneecapping unions was narrowly ousted in a high-turnout election.